To prepare for meeting potential Momentum farmers we decided to go through the village elders once again. They are the people who know the area best and also all of the villagers. They are a good way of communicating to a large, geographically dispersed group of people. We met with the village elders last weekend and from the moment we had finished presenting our project, their questions told us that just because we think this project is a good idea, doesn’t mean people in this area will automatically think the same. They had several concerns and doubts. So, taking some clues from the village elder meeting we decided to focus our villager presentation on the importance of teamwork, the benefits of our project, our precise target group and why we want to do this. We also decided to allow an open discussion to get the villagers’ feedback and suggestions.
On Wednesday it was time for the meeting. We had decided that our team of three locals would do the presentation as they will be Field Officers, meaning they will be the ones the farmers will work with and receive training from. We spent the morning getting them ready as it was important that they were confident the first time they met the farmers. Our team is very young and most of the people we will be working with are seasoned, so our team had to have an air of confidence and knowledge about them for the villagers to respect them.
The meeting was to be held at 14:00 at a barazza (outdoor meeting area, usually under a tree) in Segere village which is halfway through the sub-location. When we arrived a little before 14:00, there were only 20 people there. Even though I know by now that a fixed meeting time doesn’t mean the same to most Kenyans as it does to me, my first thought was that the village elders had disliked our project and not told their villagers about the meeting as we had agreed. But I was wrong. People kept coming and coming, and at 14:45 we decided to start. At that time about 100 people had showed up. At the end of the meeting we counted 150.
It was a mixed group that came. We had asked for two people per homestead – the primary person who tends to the land and a young person under the age of 30. At the meeting about 80% were elderly women, which fit our criteria as those are the people usually taking care of the land. They all sat in front of us on the ground (we had been given chairs). To the right of them the young people sat. They accounted for roughly 5%. All of them were men and all drove a boda boda (motorcycle used as public transportation) as a way of making money. They had come because they had heard we were looking for young people and they were interested in farming. So, even though they were few and only men (though to be fair we had not specified gender) it was a good start. The remaining 15% were older men. They sat off to the left on a higher ground.
One of the older men led the group in prayer at the beginning of the meeting. Then one of the village elders introduced us to the crowd, afterwhich I welcomed them, then Christian said a few words and so did Robert. Then one of our team members led the crowd in a song, which was amazing to watch. Everybody was singing and the mood was fantastic. After that our presentation started and every member of our team did amazingly. They were confident, they smiled, they engaged the crowd, they asked questions, they spoke loud enough for everybody to hear them and they held everybody’s attention for the duration of their presentation. It was great to see! After the presentation came the questions: what will you do about the termites eating our maize crop, how can you help with killing the striga weed, which ruins many people’s crop every season, how can you help get rid of the monkeys eating our crops, how will you take care of the birds eating the sorghum, etc. The questions were good and plentiful. Some we could answer on the spot, some we asked for their suggestions, and others we promised to take a look at before the next meeting on Thursday.
So, despite physical and mental obstacles, meeting our potential farmers was a great experience. I can’t wait to see what the next meeting brings!