Before I narrate the story behind Caro’s chilies, here is the conversation that informed my writing this time;
On Friday the 28th of February, 2020, my colleague Veronicah Kisilu and I brought to fruition a unique event in Nairobi’s Jericho Social Hall: the Makadara Sub County Food and Farm Market. This bazaar focused on children, youths, urban farming, local food and culture. It was a continuation of the “GROWTH” project that we were part of during our Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship (QES) last year at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), in British Columbia, Canada. Professors Cherie Enns of UFV, and Samuel Owuor of the University of Nairobi (UON), Kenya, were our supervisors throughout the process. To make the market blossom, Veronica and I mobilized a multidisciplinary team of Masters students and QES alumni from UON, which is the link between UFV and QES in Kenya. And what a harvest! The market was a success, attracting a great turnout, including my friend Carolyne Mutuku (the “Caro” mentioned in the title), an urban designer who’s now become an ‘amateur chili farmer’, thanks to plants from one of the vendors. My other friend, Quin “Malkia” Ogwe, a financial expert, also invested in a trip to the market, and her cooking will now profit from her own chili crop! ☺
I was excited about what Veronicah and I had accomplished with our team, and I was looking forward to continuing to grow our success by joining the Global Community Lab in Tanzania this month for a similar project. Thanks to COVID19, that’s not going to happen — at least not soon.
And speaking of coronavirus, a week ago, I was a guest speaker in an online pandemic class hosted by UFV. Asked to talk about the food systems situation in Nairobi during the changes brought on by COVID19, I told them kitchen gardens and balconies (vertical gardens) are now more appreciated than ever. I shared my own experience, where my neighbour has given me rosemary and kale and Caro and Quin could have brought over chilis as well! Although, it was a close call with Quin’s spicy crop: while she was away, her sister was caring for the plants and watered them too much, almost making the planters into a swimming pool! Luckily, the chilis made it but the tomatoes didn’t. With the current global state of affairs, any positive news — especially when it involves delicious, locally-grown produce — deserves a celebration!
Meanwhile, the program officer for Universities Canada’s International Scholarships, Partnerships and Programs section reached-out to me a few days ago asking for the best three photos that describe my QES experience. Just three? I told Veronicah I have a thousand of those! Enjoy a few from Nairobi’s edition of Growth……
In the end it is not what we didn’t do, but everything that we did passionately to impact the lives of everyone directly or indirectly through our learning process.