Project Update

My time in Kenya has dwindled down to less than two weeks. It’s been a crazy adventure, full of tragedy, challenges and triumphs. At first, it felt like my trip would continue forever. But as the cliché goes, time flies and I’m left with many things still to accomplish. I also felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of our project, but realized that there is no other way than to take things one step at a time. As we’ve faced difficult times and challenges, I have often been reminded of Cormack McCarthy’s quote about writing. “I’m not interested in writing short stories. Anything that doesn’t take years of your life and drive you to suicide seems hardly worth doing.”

As you might know, I am here in Kenya starting an aquaponics farming business at a church/school property in urban Nairobi. Calling it Uzima Farm (Life in Swahili), we are attempting to create something green and healthy and profitable in a Nairobi slum community, introducing a new technology and employing locals in the process. Hence the overwhelming magnitude of our project.

Our greenhouse and aquaponics system has been built, despite a weeklong setback when our greenhouse manager’s wife suddenly passed away. Today, we finished putting the pond liner in our grow bed and added water. After that, we will add catfish and be ready to start growing food. We also have a soil farming section, where we have laid drip irrigation lines and mixed soil with manure. I apologize for being a bit technical – basically we are encouraged by our progress and hopeful about the possibilities.

Filling up the Grow Bed

Filling up the Grow Bed

There is, however, still much work to be done. The real proof of our concept is whether my business partner Jacquie and I can remotely help locals manage the aquaponics farm, grow healthy organic food and make money. We don’t want to be another non-profit project in Africa: we want to be a business that creates jobs, grows food and restores dignity to places where before, there was only charity. We don’t see Kenyans as helpless victims to be saved, but as intelligent, hard-working individuals to be trained and given the opportunity to prosper.

It’s funny, 3 years ago as a Senior in college I wrote about building infrastructure rather than giving food aid to increase prosperity in Africa. See my article in the Other Writings section of this blog. Through this journey, I feel that God has brought me full circle, making me put my money where my mouth is and testing to see if I am really committed to creating change. It has been much more difficult than writing a paper. I don’t know about the outcome of our project, heck I don’t even know when I will return to Africa, but I’m glad I stayed the course and saw this through. I leave you with some wisdom from Theodore Roosevelt:

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Thanks for reading and joining us on this adventure at The Food Source. To read more and receive email updates, please click on the “subscribe” button on the right side of this page.

Kinangop

Whenever I leave Nairobi, my attitude towards Kenya improves dramatically. Fresh air, fresh food, greenery and lack of traffic all contribute to this improvement. Stuff happens in Nairobi, but if I were to live here again, “upcountry” is where I would want to be most of the time.

Yesterday I got to visit an aquaponics project in Kinangop, at the base of the beautiful Aberdare Mountains. The day before, I looked up YouTube videos of aquaponics projects in Kenya, called the guy and arranged to have him drive us the 2 1/2 hours to go see it. Since we’re looking for a manager for our Food Source aquaponics project, I took our strongest contender for the position, Kennedy, he took off work and we were good to go.

The next morning, Edward instructed us to meet him downtown at 10:00 AM. He called at 10:00 saying it would be 11:00, then at 11:00, apologizing but telling us it would be 12:00. At 12:00, he told us he was having car issues and wanted to meet us across town at 1:00. We took a matatu (mini bus) there, called him when we arrived, and he said he was stuck in traffic. At 1:30, he finally arrived and we began our journey North. With only a quick stop for Nyama Choma (grilled meat, intestines and all) along with some roads that had probably not been re-paved since independence, we made it without much ado.

Posterity Farm was beautiful. At an elevation of around 8,000 feet looking up at Aberdare National Park, it felt like a cool autumn day in Colorado – perfect. Everything was a vibrant green and I felt like I could breathe again. Life is simple and people make a lot less money than Nairobi, but I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. People already have many of the things you can buy with money – and some you can’t. It reminds me of the Mexican fisherman story in The 4-Hour Work Week. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Posterity Farm with Aberdare National Park in the background

Posterity Farm with Aberdare National Park in the background

The business includes a dairy farm, a trout farm, some soil farming and of course, aquaponics. The aquaponics greenhouse contains 5,000 fish (including 1,000 catfish), and grows strawberries that are sold to grocery stores in Nairobi. Although they were fighting a slug invasion – many of the strawberries had lost the battle – it was awesome nonetheless and Kennedy began to see the potential for aquaponics in Nairobi. It was cool seeing him light up, ask questions, and think about growing high-quality produce like this in Nairobi.

Kennedy and I feeding the fish

Kennedy and I feeding the fish

These were delicious

These were delicious

After a quick tour of the trout farm and dairy farm, we hit the road again by sundown and trekked the 2 1/2 hours back to Nairobi. Long day, but extremely interesting and informative.

I wanted to try mile straight from Bessie but even the Kenyans thought that was a bad idea...

I wanted to try milk straight from Bessie but even the Kenyans thought that was a bad idea…

Pilot Project

Once again I find myself at the edge of the unknown. This time I’m leaving Colorado and returning to Kenya for two months to work on an aquaponics pilot project in Nairobi. I’m excited and nervous, hopeful that our project will be success and feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things that I still need to figure out. Not a bad place to be really – life will not be boring in Kenya, of that I am sure.

Last year my business partner and I started a company, The Food Source and raised over $8,000 to help start a business selling vegetables to higher-end grocer stores in Nairobi. Thank you so much if you supported our project and if not, check it out Here. In Kenya, we’re partnering with Transformational Ventures as well as a school/church property in Nairobi to build and operate the greenhouse. We are so thankful to our partners who have helped us along the way and made this opportunity possible!

I will be updating this blog during the entire project, so please subscribe and read about the adventure. We always appreciate your support in thinking, praying and connecting us to like-minded people who might be interested in taking this elsewhere. Thank you and see you in Kenya!