Making progress and giving thanks
by FHF President Wendy MacDonald
As spring approaches, we reflect on the turbulent and challenging six months since our last newsletter –
but we also take comfort in what has been accomplished and feel hope for the future. We are grateful
for your continued support, and we are working to make the most of the opportunities that change
Since our previous newsletter last November, both Canada and Kenya have experienced two further
major waves of COVID-19. While in Canada the third wave is still underway, in Kenya cases peaked in
late March and are concentrated in Nairobi and surrounding counties. At that point, Kenya intensified
its control measures to help limit the level and spread of COVID. As a result, our staff has shifted from
group training back to one-on-one approaches. Widespread access to vaccines in Kenya is not expected
We are glad to report that, in recognition of these impacts and delays, Global Affairs Canada
has approved a one-year extension to our project, More Food, Better Food, to November 2024.
In such uncertain times, Farmers Helping Farmers’ work is more vital than ever, and your support helps
make it possible. Once again, the Holiday Campaign set a new record, topping $100,000 for the first
time, and far surpassing our previous high of over $70,000 in 2019.
As well, Global Affairs Canada provided additional project funding of almost $150,000 for the first three months of 2021 to deliver further supports to project families and their communities. These contributions are benefiting hundreds of families and thousands of students in many different ways.
Last fall, restrictions began to ease in Kenya as their first wave abated, and our staff was able to return
to the group training and other activities set out in the project plan.
It was a productive six months:
By late March 2021, when restrictions were reinstated, our two dairy training staff had
completed over two-thirds of the topics in the dairy training curriculum with the 23 dairy clubs,
reaching almost 400 farmers.
Staff worked with 124 women farmers to establish vegetable grow bags on their farms, building
on their progress in summer 2020. By March 31, 194 women had one grow bag, and 140 women
had two bags. In the coming months, the final 60 women will receive their first grow bag.
Last fall, gardens and screenhouses were established at the five new project schools, and
gardens at 16 existing schools were planted to prepare for the return of students.
Tree nurseries were established for two women’s groups in late 2020, and with funding from
GAC, tree nurseries were also established for the remaining six women’s groups in early 2021,
growing a range of tree seedlings for food, fodder, fuel and timber adapted to each region.
Cookstoves with chimneys were acquired for all members of the seven women’s groups, and
were fully installed for all members of four of the seven groups by the end of March.
Fifteen biogas digester systems were established, one for each dairy club associated with a dairy
co-op, to demonstrate the use of cow manure to create cooking gas fuel and a high quality soil
Work began to increase the productivity and nutritional value of staple crops, initially focusing
on high quality seed potatoes rich in iron and zinc, high iron bean varieties, and orange sweet
Nutrition training was provided to mothers of young children, women’s groups, dairy clubs and
Our Kenyan staff worked long hours and showed tremendous dedication and commitment to
implementing project activities in the required timeframe. Due to their hard work, a great deal was
accomplished before COVID restrictions returned in late March.
In November 2020, Kenyan schools began to reopen, welcoming back students in Grades 4, 8, and 12,
and in January they opened fully. The $10,000 raised by Chef Emily Wells at her Thanksgiving dinners
helped this happen safely in Meru County. Almost 5,000 students and their teachers received two
masks each, reducing financial burden and barriers for families, and 21 schools each got a 20-liter bucket
of liquid soap.
Looking forward, FHF is working to tap the growing potential of digital technologies. Almost all of the
small farmers who make up FHF’s partner women’s groups and dairy co-ops own at least a simple
feature phone, and a growing number have smart phones.
An app is being developed to allow delivery of training messages and reminders to all project participants. FHF staff and volunteers are working to develop messaging on dairy management, horticulture, and nutrition, and FHF staff will work to populate the app with databases of names and cell numbers.
Future possibilities include crowdsourcing of weather and crop information from project participants to guide pest management and other farm activities.
Here at home, work is also underway to prepare for the future. During the pandemic, FHF has
significantly changed its practices and approaches in order to continue its work. A number of those
measures hold potential to make FHF more effective, such as virtual meetings within the organization
and with our Kenyan staff.
Looking ahead, it may be some time before FHF can resume visits to Kenya to oversee projects and to engage its volunteers in learning and giving. It is timely to consider our mission and our model. In January 2021, the Board established a Visioning Committee to advise it on this work. The Committee is working to identify what FHF should aim to be in 2025 and in 2030, and how it should get there. Elements of this work include research to articulate FHF’s model of development, surveys, and a fall workshop. We welcome your involvement in this work and will be
reaching out to you during the coming months.
As always, thank you for your continued support and generosity.
Wendy MacDonald - President, Farmers Helping Farmers