By: Jana Russell
Junior agricultural science major
This July, myself, ten other Cal Poly students, and two Cal Poly professors had the opportunity to travel to Kenya as part of Cal Poly’s extended education program. The purpose of our trip was to help develop the agricultural farm and propose a business plan for a childrens’ home in Kikuyu, Kenya.
Children of Hope (CoH) is an organization that helps orphaned, abused, abandoned, and neglected children in Kenya by providing them a home and supporting them educationally. CoH has one fully functioning home in Kitale and recently took over the management of a second home in Kikuyu. This site consists of three buildings that house the children, along with 55 acres of farm land and several guest cottages the organization has been renting out for additional profits to support the children. One of the CoH organizers reached out to Cal Poly’s own President Armstrong and asked him if he would have some students who would want to come out and help develop a business plan and give recommendations on different aspects of the site. And so the discussions and plans to visit began.
When we arrived in Kikuyu, we were greeted by our amazing hosts at CoH. The first morning in Kenya we got a tour of all the facilities on site to determine what key areas we needed to focus on. As mentioned earlier, the property included 55 acres of farm land, six guest cottages, and several barns that housed cows, chickens, and a couple of goats. There was also an empty barn that had housed pigs prior to the change in management.
Before heading to Kenya, our group met with the two professors a couple times and somewhat split into the two separate tracks of the trip. Dr. Ashraf Tubeileh from the Horticulture and Crops Department was the head of the agriculture group and Dr. Keri Schwab from the Experienced Industry Management Department was the head of the business and tourism group.
Going into this trip, most of us were quite unsure of what we would actually be doing or how we would be spending our time there. But looking back, the unknown proved beneficial because we had no expectations and were always flexible with changing plans.
Most of our days were spent on site working on recommendations or around the town of Kikuyu. We toured different hotels and farms, depending on which track we were on. I began the trip working as part of the tourism track but soon took over the empty hog barn as my own personal project because I was one of the only ones with much experience in the swine industry.
When we were not working on site or taking small excursions to other sites for inspiration, we went on several amazing adventures during our time in Kenya. We went to a giraffe sanctuary, a baby elephant rescue center, a factory that employs single mothers to crafts beads and other ceramics, Hell’s Gate National Park, and my personal favorite, the World Championship Under 18 Track and Field meet in Nairobi.
Throughout the trip, we were learning the ins and outs of Kenyan culture and different agricultural practices, while also teaching the locals about our own culture and practices. One of the most memorable parts of the trip for me was on one of our side excursions to another local farm, I had the opportunity to teach several small-scale Kenyan farmers how to castrate piglets. Something as simple as piglet processing is a skill that arguably all swine industry members in the states know, however it is not very common in rural Kenya due to lack of resources and education.
This trip has inspired me to look past the normal career path of my major and explore what I can do with what I have learned from Cal Poly. Although I know I still want to earn my masters in Agricultural Education and eventually teach back at my own high school, I now want to pursue international agriculture and teach those who do not have the same opportunities that we are lucky enough to have here in the states.
Asante sana Kenya! (Thank you very much Kenya!)
More pictures of the trip below.