I had the recent fortune to experience the hospitality of one of Susan’s close friends who lives down the “road” from Samaria clinic. Esther is a farmer and has about 3 acres of land of which she farms about 2 ½ acres. She started off as a secondary school teacher but returned to her family roots of farming. She is married to a secondary teacher and has three children.       

Esther belongs to a micro finance group of woman farmers who work together to grow and sell snow peas, French beans, flowers, corn, carrots, spinach , garlic, onions, potatoes and kale. Although snow peas are not a vegetable consumed in Kenya, these women grow snow peas for export to Asian and European markets. The group used their resources to have their soil analyzed for optimum growing and have established some relationships with wholesalers for their produce and flowers. They also are working to provide direct sourcing for Nairobi supermarkets and hotels. As a result of their efforts, they have seen up to a four times greater yield and moving toward more control of pricing and understanding market needs.

Esther and I had an interesting discussion about prospects for the children and young adults in the area around Samaria and Ndathi.  I understand that the previous generation was squatters on the land and in 1992 or there about the government issued each family a half acre of land. Although that land may sustain the immediate family’s needs, a ½ acre cannot be divided among the children and their families in any meaningful way.  Many of the young adults do not have role models for education beyond the 8th grade, and this is reflected in their limited education level and aspirations. Ester agreed that the priority for this community needs to be education, so that the children have opportunities here and elsewhere. I try and ask the teenagers about their plans after secondary school and many have aspirations, but paying school fees to complete secondary school is a huge challenge for most of the children’s families.

Susan’s sister Nancy oversees a small library that was set up on the compound with the backing of a young friend of Susan. The Kubaru Library is open most afternoons after school and during school breaks also in the morning.                                                              

Nancy in the library with a student who is studying for end of term tests.

I spoke to a couple of kids who come after school to read and study. They would like to have access to more books that support their curricula and some novels about other places. School is now out for the term and even so there are a passel of students who come to this library. Sometimes they have to set up benches outside as 30 kids can be there at any one time. It is heartening to see how many kids want to have access to more and will take pleasure in what we would consider limited.                                                                        

I am struck with how much the women in this community look for ways to support their families. You can see it in the number of micro lending groups in the area and women participation in road projects. Susan’s daughter Njeri manages Kihiga Kirakana Foundatioon Company Ltd. (Burning Bush micro lending company)that has about 25+ groups of women (15-30 in a group) participating in the merry-go-round lending for projects that each group identifies. These women meet weekly to make payments to the loan and discuss opportunities and challenges of meeting the loan payments. The loan repayment among these groups is 99%+. The group meetings also is an opportunity to promote health education, children’s education, and family planning, as well as discuss other community issues.

Additionally, the women of the nearby communities are working on the road development, sadly not the road to Samaria! Instead of road machinery to do the work, the contractor is using local people. Although this produces income for some, it is felt by the men of the community it is too little to make it worth the backbreaking work, resulting in 90% of the workers being women. Hmmmmm.

Waiting for the screening.

Things at the clinic perk along. We had cervical screening day with free IUD insertion and contraceptive implants. Susan is part of a family planning network called Tunza and one of their nurses came to help us for the day. It was a busy day. I did the VIA/VILI screenings and Susan did IUD insertions and Joyce the implants. Women of all ages came and were eager to take advantage of the 60 cent screening and free IUDs and implant services. You may recall from my last entry that VIA/VILI screening is done to determine if PAP smears need to be. The VIA/VILI screening with white vinegar and Lugol’s iodine are used to identify any cervical epithelial changes. By the way, Zesta vinegar is the vinegar of choice! We saw a lot of cervicitis and unfortunately several abnormal findings that required referrals.  For many women this was the first or one of a few screenings that these women had ever had.