Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Horticultural and dairy farming in the SOS Children's Village Eldoret

Uasin Gishu District is well known for its wide production of food for the nation due to its favourable weather and soils that contribute to the food basket of the country at large. SOS Children’s Village Eldoret is privileged to enjoy these conditions in terms of farming and other socio-cultural activities within the community.

At the inception of the Eldoret children's village enough space was set apart for horticultural farming. Every family house was allocated space behind the house to grow vegetables so that children may learn the need and relevance of work in the community. It was all beauty, and fun to see children take part in farming, though on a small scale.

Way back in the year 2000, Samuel Cheboi, one of the village handy men, was employed to tend the cows that had just been bought. He narrates that he started with two animals that grew to four during his reign and that produced 24 liters of milk per day. Mothers were lavishly treated with creamy milk that was given at a subsidised price from the farm. In addition there was a poultry farm that daily gave 20 crates of eggs that were sold to the family houses at a reasonable fee.

In addition to animal husbandry the children's village also practised growing food crops. Young farmers in the village collectively participated in the growing of maize, tomatoes, onions and so forth. Most of this produce was locally consumed. All these activities contributed to local fundraising programmes for the management of SOS Children's Villages in Kenya.

Richard Korir is currently in charge of the animal husbandry. He coordinates the daily operations including feeding, milking, artificial insemination and treatment of the cattle. The cows have become handy in producing milk especially during the dry season when milk becomes scarce on the market and the family houses are the key beneficiaries. It’s unfortunate that the weather conditions have been unfavourable affecting supply of food from the market; even the village farms have not been tilled to date. It’s our hope that rains will resume to facilitate farming once again for Uasin Gishu District to regain its glory as the food basket of the Kenyan economy.

by Simon M Mudi
Youth Leader

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Negotiating at a Dowry Ceremony

The entire week before the village director left for Nairobi for other assignments, we were held up in an SOS family meeting with one of our girls on her future prospects. She informed us of her intention to get married and indicated that there was a man who had proposed to marry her and that she had consented, but needed our blessings.

The next morning I received a call from the Village Director asking me to facilitate in the negotiation on his behalf. He informed me that the elders from the man’s side had sent word that they want to visit and have a meeting with the SOS Family. Because he was held up elsewhere, he was requesting that I stand in his stead. Unsure of exactly what I was going to do and what sort of questions to ask and expect, I put on my suit.

Again I was unsure of the day’s events and got fairly obscure explanations when I asked, so by the time I arrived in Mama Ngudi’s living room I decided I should stop asking questions and just go along with whatever was going to happen.
The entourage comprised 12 members from the man’s family and elders of the extended family. They were met by the SOS family who had also by that time called their group of elders led by the school Principal and another teacher, as part of the negotiation team from the girl’s side. The visitors brought small gifts of dry foods such as rice, wheat, sugar, tea, cooking oil, etc. This is a common practice when one visits any family, and so this is not part of the dowry.

The SOS family house was modest, fairly furnished with large sofa sets. A small radio sat in a large wooden shelf, playing gospel music. I found a comfy space on a couch next to the Principal who was chairing the meeting. Soon it was time to file up and fill our plates with food. After washing our hands in some hot water, then plates in hand, we walked down the row of dishes, having heaps of local favourites piled high on our plates.

After the food and the warm welcome, the elders of the man said something like this. We have an interest in one of your "sheep", and we would like to bring her to our homestead. This is when I got my first inclination that the event was more than just an eating y and familiarization activity. The talking was done only by the elders and it is a taboo for the young man to speak and in doing so, he could seriously jeopardize the negotiations.

In the cause of the negotiation, I learnt that dowry is not about buying the bride from her family. It is a test for compatibility. Compatibility of the two families involved. It proves that the two families can discuss, even argue about an issue and come to a consensus. It also shows to what extent the groom is willing to humble himself before his in-laws and how much he is willing to sacrifice for his love.

Hardly any wedding takes place in Africa with no dowry having been paid. Even church weddings are a culmination of successful dowry negotiations. In fact some churches in Africa will not officiate a wedding if the groom has not paid bride price or the bride’s parents have pending issues.

by Fredrick Ochieng - youth leader coordinator