Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Self-Reliance in Kenya

Being farmers, we are used to taking care of ourselves:  We grow food.  We store food.  We know where food comes from.  Living many miles from a store (in southern Alberta, Canada), we depend on ourselves to store what we need of both food and non-food products.  It's a good feeling to know we can take care of ourselves.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always encouraged its people to be self-reliant both spiritually and temporally.

We learned a good lesson in self-reliance lately when we visited the small banana farm of Branch President Okila of Kisumu.  He grew up on this small 1 1/2-acre farm but later moved to the big city of Nairobi to find a "real" job.  Life in the Kibera slum was not easy nor pleasant and jobs were hard to come by.  But it was in Nairobi that he met two Mormon missionaries who treated him with kindness and respect and shared the gospel with him.  He was baptized, becoming the 10th convert in Kenya.

President Okila soon returned to his small farm near Kisumu, married, and lived the gospel as best he could without the benefit of an organized church unit.  Seven years ago, in 2010, he happened upon missionaries who had come to Kisumu to look for members so they could start a branch of the church.  President Okila was called as the first branch president and is still serving today.  And he loves to teach his congregation about the blessings of being self-reliant.

President and Sister Okila in the small house they built themselves using materials from their own farm -- trees, dirt for bricks, cow dung, straw.  Sister Okila helped build the house right alongside her husband and she has turned a house into a home.

President and Sister Okila with a family photo.  They have 5 children and an adopted son.  Their twin daughters are both serving missions right now, one in our Kenya Nairobi Mission and one in Ghana.

Elder Torrie and President Okila hit it off right away as both are farmers.  And they both have great senses of humor.  Elder Torrie has enjoyed the friendship of all the branch and district presidents he has met in the past year.  Good people!

Here's Sister Okila outside the house they built themselves.  Next to this house is their unfinished dream house that they are building as they can afford it.  If all goes well, they may be able to finish it within the next year.

Was fun to go on a tour of their farm.  One and a half acres doesn't seem like much until you walk all around it and know that you need to weed, water, nourish, and harvest everything growing on it.  They are standing near one of many papaya plants.  They called it a "papa" plant.  They also grow sugar cane, bananas, avocados, and many garden vegetables.

The sugar cane is really tall!

They have planted 300 banana plants.  Lots of work picking and selling the bananas but they will bring in the cash to finish their dream home and provide a living for their family.

I was blown away with the beauty of this farm -- so much lovely green in all shades and shapes.

Banana plants, row on row.

We learned more about banana culture but we were also able to share something about bananas that they didn't know:  Some people eat the flowers.  It's quite a delicacy in some cultures.  I saw some of those big purple things (as in the photo) at our local Carrefour store.  I asked the girl who weighs everything what you do with them and she explained a bit so I bought one.  Then I asked google how to prepare it and I followed the directions but got tired of doing it after half an hour and so ended up throwing it out.  Too much work for me.  But many cultures definitely eat the banana blossoms.  See the following youtube video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVAk_9usn-8  Some people will pay quite a lot for the blossoms.  That was news to President Okila.

Now to show you how fast trees grow here in Kenya.  See the tall trees with skinny trunks behind the Okilas?  They planted these trees in January.  This is August.  Sister Okila is about my height -- just over 5-ft tall.  Look at the height of those trees!  We almost didn't believe them but they are honest people and if they said that is 6-months' growth, then it is.  Unbelievable to us from southern Alberta, Canada where we grow trees with blood, sweat, and tears and hope that our grandchildren will enjoy them!  It's no wonder that President Okila could harvest the lumber from trees he planted as a boy.

And now for what grows under the ground . . . ground nuts.  On further examination, we found that they are what we call peanuts.  I remember trying to grow peanuts many years ago when my kids were young.  It was a failure.

Here's a peanut, ready for roasting!

Buildings are made with the daub and wattle method.  A lattice of sticks forms the structure (the wattle) and then it is covered (daubed) with a mixture of wet soil, clay, animal dung, and straw.  It can be left like that, as in this building used for farm tools.  Or it can be covered with another mixture to make the walls smooth, as the Okilas did in their house.  We see these daub and wattle structures all over Kenya.


This is the back of their house, with the daub and wattle being covered to look nice.  Dish doing and laundry takes place outside.  And why not?  The weather is good all year round.

Now we're inside the unfinished dream home.  President and Sister Okila made these bricks themselves.  Truly impressive!

And these roof trusses are made from lumber from trees President Okila planted as a boy.  Windows in Kenya always have bars on them.  They look decorative but they are for safety.  No one can get in through a window.

I'm here with Sister Okila beside her "kitchen garden."  They grow all their food and that's impressive.  I grow a large garden at home in Alberta and I know how much work it is.  These people work extremely hard to provide for their family.  Very impressive!

Even though President Okila is almost young enough to be one of our sons (he's a little bit older than our oldest), he and Elder Torrie are "kindred spirits" (see Anne of Green Gables -- a set of wonderful books by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery).

Now we've left the Okilas and are on our way back to Kisumu.  First on narrow red dirt roads that are not on our GPS and then to bigger dirt roads and then finally to little paved roads.  Okilas live a long way from the church and it's a real sacrifice of time and money to travel to Kisumu regularly for their duties in the church.  Here's another daub and wattle structure we passed along the way.

This is the church President Okila attended as a child but couldn't be baptized in because he didn't have 1000 Ksh (which is about $10 in today's currency).  He had to wait until he was much older to be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

If you click on this picture to enlarge, you'll see that it is a pond covered entirely with some kind of water lilies.  Very lovely.  Did you know you can eat the bulbs of water lilies?  They grow them for that purpose in China.

And now we're back into the rice paddies or at least what I think are rice paddies.

This truck was piled high with mattresses or sleeping pads. We often see large loads of mattresses.  Takes a lot of mattresses to sleep this many people I guess.  I've been surprised at how comfortable my Kenyan mattress is.  More so than I thought it would be.  I was prepared to have to pay big bucks (as we do at home) to get a better mattress but it's been surprisingly fine.



1 comment:

  1. So interesting! Thanks for taking us to the Okila family farm!

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