By Ronica Lu
Organic farming work being done on the Dago Dala Hera orphanage property.
(Photo Credit: Patrick Odoyo)
Name: Patrick Odoyo
Affiliation: Program Coordinator, Dago Dala Hera Orphanage of Kenya
Biography: Patrick Odoyo is the program director and coordinator for Dago Dala Hera Orphanage in Dago Kaminasuo, Kenya, a children’s center and home offering the services of education, skills training, and room and board for children affected with HIV/AIDS. He is also a guest lecturer on African studies and his life experiences at the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation and the University of Michigan.
What are the day-to-day operations like at Dago Dala Hera?
There are 114 children who attend the day school at the orphanage and 36 girls who permanently reside there during the day and night. The day is a mixture of residential activities centered on the main component of education and schooling for the children.
How successful have your fundraising events in the U.S. been?
Fundraising in the U.S. has been difficult but we have been active in organizing church meetings and creative fundraisers. Due to donor fatigue and the fact that we are not yet a 501k organization, it has been difficult to get people to donate. But our soccer tournament has been very successful—it started in 2008 from the planning efforts of village volunteers. The annual Kick it with Kenya soccer tournament held in rural villages all across Western Kenya, brings vital public health education on HIV/AIDS to its youth, and earns proceeds that benefit the orphanage operations.
How does intensive organic farming benefit the Dago Dala Hera?
Through organic farming we teach ways in which students can be self-sustaining. Planting Moringa trees benefits residents because the trees provide immense medicinal and nutritional value in addition to water purification properties the seeds provide. Our vegetable nurseries provide nutrition and nourishment while at the same time saving the residents money. Instead of buying produce from vendors or the market, residents of the orphanage can grow them out of their small garden, sell the excess, and make money at the same time. The money is also used to pay for their schooling beyond the 8th grade, which comes at a fee for children in Kenya.
How do volunteers from Kick it with Kenya, help in Dago’s day-to-day operations?
They service many aspects of the operations and come from all professions—teachers, nurses, doctors—who visit the orphanage to deliver health care services, critical medicines, and educational courses. Volunteers also help by taking on care-taker roles for the children. But one area that is lacking is volunteer help in our agricultural initiatives. And we do need help in that sense.
What is the current infrastructure of the land plot and farming operations like?
We currently have three and a half acres of land but are looking to purchase 11 more. In terms of tools, we use what is currently on hand in the local shed, such as hand ploughs, hoes, and rakes. We rely on cows to plow a particularly large plot of land for planting, so we don’t have any big equipment like tractors, cars, or big machines.
What types of farming skills do you teach your students?
We advocate for organic farming that comes with the reduction or turning away from artificial fertilizers. The orphanage makes use of cows and their manure for agriculture. We teach students how to use the manure as a natural fertilizer for farming and also how to glean biogas (a natural form of energy) from it.
How has the communal seedling nursery project contributed to local basic daily food security at Dago?
The communal seedling nursery project has enabled everyone in the community to have an ample source of seedlings. It has enabled residents to plant kitchen gardens, thus enhancing constant food supply for immediate needs and is a source of food security for the orphanage. The project helps so many people—about half of the members of the community have grown their own fruits and vegetables, including pears and tomatoes. So by being self-sustaining, they can focus on only buying the other smaller essentials like sugar, flour, or oil.
What results have you had so far in terms of self-sustaining the food supply of families?
Most residents now can rely on their own small kitchen gardens as a way to sustain their basic food needs, thus reducing the poverty levels and increasing the awareness that small kitchen gardens can sustain or at least reduce the daily budgets. More people are embracing the new system, and more community members are becoming self-reliant when it comes to producing their own foods.
Ronica Lu is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet Project.
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