It‘s 4:00 a.m. as I pull up to Trey’s home so he can take me to the airport for the first leg of the journey. First stop is
The ride to
Sunday morning we left the hotel for a 10:00 a.m. flight to Kisumu where Mathua picked us up from the airport for the 1½ hour drive to the farm.
There is massive drought in
The farm looks good with around 1,400 acres under crop with several hundred more acres to be planted when weather permits. Lush green fields of rice stretching across the previous swampland will help feed a desperate corner of the world. It’s always exciting to be back and see the progress. Lunch was ready and then Steve and I had to get to work on so many issues. He was to leave on Wednesday for two weeks of well-deserved vacation time, so much had to be done before then. The usual frustrations are always there to deal with, from shortages of supplies, equipment breakdowns and personnel difficulties. Little in
Early on Monday I was up before sunrise and in the fields with Ronald Boone to go over as many details as possible. Most fields look very good, but only after months of preparation and hard work. The first paddies of this season will be harvested in November and we pray for good yields, no hail and no equipment breakdowns. Our stocks should hold until the end of October but we may run out of inventory during the first two weeks of November. The rest of the day was spent going over fish farm construction details and modifications. The first 8 green water fingerling ponds are nearing completion with 60,000 fry already transferred into the first one. We will add 60,000 more to the new concrete ponds every two weeks. Two of the youth buildings are roofed in and about to receive their plastered walls. Barbara and Coleen were off to visit the girls of a secondary school. It was a holiday but they came to school anyway just to hear her speak to them.
Tuesday was devoted to working on fish farming issues. The farm has made lots of headway over the past six weeks. The breeding system is operating smoothly and hundreds of thousands of fry from around 80,000 selected mothers are now hatching. Our fish are highly sought after by locals to use in their own small ponds and the Government has requested 500,000 fry each month. Five years of breeding and research have resulted in a fast-growing, high meat-producing, durable fish. Our genetic strains are now well established and are being further improved with each generation. These are intellectual properties to be safeguarded at all costs. No females are ever sold. Enos has done a good job and we appreciate him.
Our aquatic plant production has proven up to the task of supplying high-protein food for the fish. The aquatic plant fields look extremely attractive with row after row of long thin ponds teaming with rapidly growing tiny plants flanked by thousands of banana trees (to shade the ponds to reduce water temperatures). So far we have 10,000 banana trees of every variety known. By the time we are finished, we will have 500 acres of banana and aquatic ponds. These are all very expensive to build but are highly productive for the organic production of fish feed. Aquatic plants are tricky to grow but produce organic food that is consistently high in protein. We’re close to mastering that system.
Our experimental aeration systems are exceeding our expectations for adding oxygen to pond water. An
On Wednesday morning Barbara and Coleen headed for
For me the day was filled with meeting after meeting to plan the next few months. Steve was leaving for two weeks leave in
Thursday I was back in the fields early again after a good rain the night before. It was muddy, so work was halted until the sun dried things out. By noon Chris and I were headed to Kisumu for a talk to the
Friday I met with some of our rice distributors who were concerned about our looming rice shortage. We have stopped all bulk sales which is hurting our cash flow - as well as theirs. This all relates back to a devastating hail storm which ravaged the farm in January of this year. It took out 350 acres of mature rice that was ready to harvest and destroyed the productivity of the following crop due to the volume of seed that was driven into the ground by the hail. In all, 700 acres of crops (350 x 2) were lost or severely diminished.
At noon busload after busload of school children began to arrive from around the province, some of which were expected and many of which were not. We took them all on a tour. I talked for 4 1/2 hours standing in the hot, blazing sun, explaining everything from rice farming to land leveling, banana production, fish farming, and rice milling. There were many good questions from many students, all eager to learn. By the end of the day I was burned to a crisp and now reap the consequences.
As we traveled about the farm I was on a bus from a girls’ school whose students appeared to be around 14 years of age. I was shocked to learn they were actually in their senior year and aged 18 to 22 years old. Most had barely developed from little girls into teenagers by outward appearances. Poor nutrition and continuing illness such as malaria and HIV/AIDs have obviously taken their toll on these young lives - and to think that soon many will become second wives to old men so their fathers can acquire an extra cow in the trade. Very sad! Many wanted to become involved in our out-grower training program and we promised they would be welcomed back as the program develops. There is such an urgency to intervene in these vulnerable lives.
On Friday Jack O’Neil died of AIDs. He had worked for us as a tractor driver until a few months back when he fell asleep while driving and ran into another tractor, putting it out of commission for some time. He was relieved of his position but was still a friend. Now just a few months later he has passed on, leaving three wives and several children who may be infected. More tragedy is on the way.
It is now mandatory for every pregnant lady to be tested for HIV/AIDS before giving birth, so the baby can be potentially protected. This is done at the local clinic just a couple of blocks from our complex. The latest results show that 9 out of 10 pregnant women are testing HIV positive. What will happen to their children?
Saturday I went to Siaya looking for some equipment and to meet up with our rice distributor there. He bought me lunch and then I asked him to show me where the trailer was located. As we rounded one corner there was a strange three-wheeled little car that I wanted to stop and see. It was from
Sunday morning I went around the farm with our new crop duster pilot, Andries, who has only been there a couple of weeks. We worked on designs for a hanger and load-out equipment, and then went to look at the fields.
We must be careful where we spray, especially near the perimeter of the farm and around our gardens, fish farm, and aquatic ponds. By 9:30 Mark and I were on the way to Kisumu to go to Church. It was good and the message spoke to me. Mark liked it and says he will go back. We encountered a massive thunderstorm on the way home and were driving some times at only 5 mph but the sun was shining on our farm. We need three more weeks of sunshine to get all the crops in before the rains come in earnest. With God’s favor we will get it.
Monday morning was packing up time and a brief meeting with some local officials. One last trip around the farm and a stop on the hill beside the cross and it was time to head for Kisumu to catch the plane to
Tuesday morning came early with a flight to
As we leave the continent of
The days in
Saturday night I made it home to hundreds of email and piles of work, but it’s home and it’s the best place in the world to be.