Week 5, filming the Hardest Harvest

Hi all , welcome back to our weekly blog. Firstly I would like to thank all involved in last Fridays concert at the church at Cannons Cross in Iniscarra for such an amazing evening, such a generous donation to Our Maasai family. The talent at the concert was truly amazing .
Last week we gave you all an insight into what was involved in the lead up to filming the documentary & also some detail about 2017 as a whole.
Early November arrived, we were busy on the farm, weather conditions were poor here & workload was hectic as we were also buffer feeding the cows silage, cows needed to be dried off & heifers were in early as ground conditions were bad.
The crew arrived on a Monday morning to start 2 days of filming on farm, it consisted of interviews , filming us doing work. Its not easy to get a days work done with a film crew in tow the whole time but we got it done. We also had a meeting to confirm travel dates, originally I was supposed to go in October which would have suited grand as workload was less then on farm. 11th November , departure day confirmed & flights booked, this wasn’t going to be easy as it was Petes birthday , my birthday & my mothers anniversary while I was away. We had a week to ourselves to get organised. The day before I travelled was horrible , we were all missing each other already. A courier delivered an irish rugby jersey signed by 28 out of 30 of the squad, my gift as a symbol of Ireland to the community & organised by a very good friend of ours. It was horrible leaving the girls, heartbreaking but Pete was driving me to Dublin airport . Saying goodbye at the airport was hard too, how do you say goodbye with a film camera stuck in your face. Absolutely everything got filmed throughout the whole process but I left Pete & on a flight too Addis Ababa in Ethiopia & then a connecting flight too Nairobi arriving at a hotel at lunch time Sunday where we met the Kenyan film crew & packed the jeeps ready for a long drive Monday morning too Maparasha. 4 hours south of Nairobi, travelling dirt tracks out into the wilderness & I arrived at the village, what an amazing welcome I received, yes I was nervous but settled quick as the people were so friendly. So here I was , a little tent, no electricity or water. It was hard to get used to the quiet at night time, everyone goes to sleep once darkness arrives & then no sooner was I asleep & the dogs would start barking as wild animals come closer to the village, dogs barking all night long , so tiring.
5am comes quickly & its up helping the women with daily chores, milking the cows & goats while also preparing tea for the men when they wake at 7.30 – 8 am , it was far from the cup of tea Pete brings me every morning in bed.
The first day I went out with the men grazing cows , the chief presented me with a Maasai knife as a form of protection from wild animals, 8 hours out walking cows in search of water & food in the seering heat. I was also the first woman to be presented with a Maasai knife. Day 2 & we headed for Bisil market with the chief, he accompanied me just to see how I would be received by the locals, I would be welcomed once he was with me. On day 3 I went working with the women, they were a little stand of ish as they were never allowed to go grazing cows etc, I suppose they saw me as a threat & wondered why I was being allowed to do work with the men, I had to break down a barrier here & connect with them, show them I was one of them & work hard. We walked for water, 5km each way with a 25litre container, the women told me I walked to fast so it was back to their pace. The following day I went cutting timber with the women to build my house. The women build all the houses & this is where we really bonded, such amazing team work, we had some great craic building the house.

Grandas birthday took place at the end of the first week, what an amazing man at 103 years of age. There was a huge party planned & a goat was slaughtered in his honour too add to the feast.

Week 2 saw me going hunting with the men & this was done to help protect their own livestock. An interesting day, the thing that struck me most was the speed of the men, they are faster than the dogs even.

By now I had really settled in & was a part of the community making an amazing bond with Moipei & all the women. Moipei is married to a man in another Boma & has 8 kids but doesn’t live there as her husband threw her out. Then the bombshell hit, she asked me would I accompany her too that Boma as she hadn’t seen her kids in quite a while, 90 minute journey further out into the wilderness & we arrived, what a difference, the men were more standoffish, the women & children looked very sad, clearly a different atmosphere in everyway. I met her husband, quite frankly I didn’t like him but respected him for her sake although I did speak my mind & eventually agreement was made that we would work towards reuniting her with her kids.

 

My final challenge was here, walking a cow & calf to Bisil market 36kms of a hike & Id be the first woman ever to sell at the market. It was an amazing hike through the night but lets be honest, I was going to find gaining respect at the market & it was also a somewhat volatile place for me to be at. But persevere I did & eventually sold the calf, the purchaser refused to shake my hand as I was a woman but I had succeeded & of back to the Boma proud as punch to show the women that it could be done, they gave me such an amazing welcome & then we began cooking through the night preparing for my leaving party.

 

Leaving was so tough, mixed emotions knowing Id miss my new friends but also ecstatic knowing myself & Pete would be reunited & Id see my girls again. I presented the chief with the rugby jersey, gave little treats to all the kids & it was tearful hugs & goodbyes. Yes I hadn’t showered in 2 & a half weeks, my hair felt like straw & Id imagine my odour would empty a bus load of people in 5 seconds flat but I did truly miss the Maasai lifestyle. 4 hours drive back to Nairobi & a step closer to being reunited with my family. Its  a subject Ill revisit in time to let you all know what it was like meeting Pete & the girls again, for now thanks for reading

Week 4 , starting the hardest harvest


Hi everyone & welcome to our weekly blog. This week I decided to share some of what was involved in doing The Hardest Harvest & also some detail of the hectic year we had in 2017.

So the process started in early June just after myself & Pete won the Zurich Independent farmer of the year. Pete got a phone call from a TV producer saying they were interested in making a documentary & would I be interested so he gave them my number. A few phone calls later & a meeting was arranged on farm with Brian Gray . Funnily enough the day he visited we were at silage so he got stuck covering the silage pit, what a lovely experience for him. Anyway an afternoons interview plus a little casting video & Brian headed of back to Dublin to discuss everything with RTE.

The powers that be must have been slightly impressed in RTE as in late July a crew were sent down for a day to do a full casting shoot. It was a fun day, interviews for us all, loads of filming during milking & around the farm. All that footage had to be edited and re presented to RTE.

The summer was hectic, having all those meetings going on while still keeping the farm going & also organising an openday for charity. We got the openday sorted with great crowds attending along with heads of all the companies involved & also Minister Michael Creed, MEP Sean Kelly & EU Vice President Mairead McGuinness. It was a fantastic day & we managed to raise €15000 for Aware & Breast Cancer Ireland, 2 great worthy charities.

 

Late August arrived & we got a call from Brian Gray, I was picked, how soon could I get to Dublin to start health screening & vacinations. My mind was running overdrive, originally the plan was that I was going to Mozambique to a farming community but on the first trip to Dublin in early September for vacinations I was told it was now Kenya which I was heading for & they were organising a farming community there. The health consultant really was super & gave me great advice while also ensuring was health was prioritised from start to finish. 3 more visits to Dublin for vacinations, in fairness Pete came with me most of the time so we could share the process.

September & October were caotic , we also had 2 days of interviews at the National Ploughing Championships aswell as the West Cork Farmer of the Year awards where we were runner up in the Dairy Farmer section. We also had The National Dairy Show where the girls were showing Jersey calves .

Ear To The Ground rang in  late October to say they would like to do a days filming at start of November. That was a load of fun , Darragh McCullagh is now a good friend of ours & the whole crew were great craic. No sooner were they finished filming when The Hardest Harvest Crew arrived, 3 days filming on farm aswell as arranging travel dates etc. The presidential elections were on in Kenya at the time so tensions were running high over there & it was hard to plan travelling.

So that takes us up to the actual start of documentary filming. 2017 was hectic, myself & Pete were starting to feel tired, all the running around had taken its toll. Ill do another blog in the near future detailing the documentary filming , what it was like leaving home, travelling & some amazing stories from Kenya. Thanks for reading & hopefully you will check in next week when we catch up with the Maasai community again.

Week 3 blog, a kenyan dairyfarmer

  1. Hi all & welcome to our weekly blog. This week we want to introduce you to a very good friend of ours who has a dairy farm in Kenya.

Peter Kariuki has a small farm north of Nairobi in Kenya. It’s a 1 acre farm with a small tributary river on the boundry. Peter purchased this land 5 years ago & has since proceeded with building a house for his mother who lives on the farm full time. He also built a small unit to house cows, all Holstein cows essentially & now has 4 cows along with 3 maidens & a heifer calf born recently so the herd is growing & in time he hopes to purchase more land .

So what is dairy farming like in Kenya , well last year Peter produced 10,000litres from 2 cows on essentially a TMR diet as the cows are housed all year & also milked by hand. Feed consists of Maize stalks purchased in from a farm that grows baby sweetcorn , he also grows a little Nappier grass & also purchases in this grass too. concentrate feed consists of Maize germ, wheat bran, sunflower seed cake, cotton seed cake & fish meal. The long term goal is to produce & store maize silage which would last for 6 months & drive production per cow higher. All the cows are AI’d so he has access to good genetics , it is his vet who inseminates the cows & he hopes to use sexed semen in time to help grow the herd

Peters current milk price equates to 30 cent a litre, his milk isn’t tested for fat% or protein% but it is randomly checked for water content & impurities. He is part of a local group of farmers who pool their milk & sell to a small processor who then produces yoghurt & cheese. The farm has 2 full time employees as Peter does not live on the farm currently.

Peter & his wife & children live in Nairobi so he regularly travels too the farm. His wife works full time although her passion is still with the cows & she enjoys the farm visits . Peter himself trained in film production which he worked at full time till 2010 when the company he worked for ceased trading. He now works free lance on film projects. He was the Kenyan producer on The Hardest Harvest when Paula got to know him & we have all become great friends since having many great conversations about dairying in both countries. He really enjoyed working on The Hardest Harvest as it was his first time working with such a community. He also found it quite tough seeing the animals struggle through the drought. He is also our direct link with the community since & we are very grateful for all his help. He will also accompany us when we visit Maparasha in August & we are really looking forward to meeting him & also visiting his farm.

If you have any more questions that you would like answered by Peter on his farm then please message us.

 

Week 2 blog, update on Maparasha

Hi all

Welcome to our weekly blog. Busy day ahead today as we head to TV3 for the Six O Clock show to chat about The Hardest Harvest.

The community in Maparasha has a total of 187 people, large community dealing with tough conditions . This is made up of 67 women, 31 men & 79 children. 37 of the children are in school. 25 of which are going to primary school. 10 are in secondary school & 2 have just completed secondary school & hope to go onto college. William has started his computer course this week , he says he is really enjoying it & he hopes to go to University in the future along with his brother Andrew . The interesting thing is that primary school education is free in Kenya . The only cost involved to myself & Pete sending Moipei children to school was purchasing uniforms & paying the school for paper , pens etc , it only costs €50 approx. to send a child to school every year in Kenya, small cost in comparison to Ireland & at least facilities are improving in the schools with toilets & running water being added the whole time. Children are also taught to grow market vegetables in some schools. Education certainly is a great way to give them a better chance at a better future.

In the documentary I chatted in depth with William about the livestock , how large the herd had been & the effects of the drought. The herd had originally comprised of 96 cattle. This week due to further losses since I was there in November they now have 18 cows, certainly a dramatic reduction & a very small herd for such a large community to live of. They also have 40 goats & 17 sheep. Before I left Kenya I purchased 6 goats ( shoats ) for Moipei so as she would have her own piece of the herd & thankfully I got great news this week as 1 of them gave birth so her herd is increasing. As you can see from the video above it’s always great to see new life but this must be protected too in such a hostile environment & I’m told there is a lot of Hyennas about near community at the moment & they have to go hunting again at the weekend . Sad in some ways but a reality of life in Maparasha .Thankfully the flooding has eased slightly & conditions are more pleasant there this week with a small about of rain & temperatures are good .

Hopefully you will get a chance to see TV3 @ 6pm this evening . I will be bringing my Maasai knife & there’s a good little story attached to it. Thanks for reading & hopefully you will check in with us next week .

Community wiped out in Kenyas Rift Valley

This is so saddening , we recieved a phone call from a friend who farms in the region telling us the death toll is now over 50 people.

https://amp.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/may/10/dozens-killed-many-feared-trapped-kenya-patel-dam-bursts-rift-valley?__twitter_impression=true