|Walking away from the community pond, we found a wild beehive that someone had found and raided for honey:
Malaki, a skilled beekeeper, had no fear of getting stung. He stuck his face right into the hive with my camera, took several pictures because it was difficult to see, and remarked that the bees were still alive and well.
As we continued to walk, they pointed out how much the land has been cleared here, relatively recently. The Kenyan prime minister, Raila Odinga, is from Bondo and in a country as corrupt as Kenya (i.e. just a hair less corrupt than failed states like Somalia or Sudan), that means tons of political favors and money are heading to Bondo right now. There's a brand new university across the street from Amy and Malaki, and land prices have skyrocketed. Many people sell an acre of land, thinking that the money they get for it will pull them out of poverty. Only with no practice in managing money, they spend it all quickly and they are left with little to show for it.
When the land is sold, it's often fully cleared and then a fence goes up. If you look at the older, more traditional farms and homesteads, parts of it are cleared but often some of the native vegetation is left for various reasons - shade, fencing, privacy, or the usefulness of the plants as food, fuel, animal fodder, etc.
Native vegetation on land that hasn't been cleared
Newly sold land and a fence
Fences are going up around the newly sold land, and houses are being built out of "modern" construction materials like bricks and metal. The more permanent housing material means that Luo traditions and rituals are changing quickly, because there are many traditions around building a house that are based upon biodegradable houses that must be periodically rebuilt. For example, one would never live in a dead person's house before. You'd just stop maintaining it and it would fall apart. Many of the new, permanent structures are rental units, because the university is expected to bring an influx of students and teachers who will need housing.
Traditionally, there was a business of bicycle taxis in Bondo, called boda bodas. But in the past few years, cheap motorbikes have become the rage. Amy and Malaki fear that people are selling their land - something you have forever - to buy motorbikes, which are only a temporary possession since they break down at a certain point. Now you can travel by matatu, boda boda, or motorbike within Bondo.
As we walked, we found several goats, all eating whatever they could find. Some goats ate up all of Florence's (Malaki's mom's) sweet potatoes. When the weather gets this dry, people stop tying up their goats and let them just wander wherever to eat what they can find, since there's no one place to tie them that will provide enough food.
Surprisingly, Malaki showed me a plant with seeds that look identical to the huayruro seeds I brought back from Bolivia! They aren't eaten, but he thought they might have a use in beaded jewelry - which is what they are used for in Peru and Bolivia too!
At last we came to our destination: the Grow Strong Learning Center
You can hear Amy describe her plans for it here. Because farmers aren't used to traditional classroom education, they want most of their work to be hands on, and anything that is classroom based will be held somewhere else, like at a local church. This will be a site of more active learning, with an oil press for sesame, a honey centrifuge, and a video library. They hope to pair up U.S. interns with local Kenyans so that both can learn from one another.
Amy and Malaki built the learning center before they left Kenya in 2005. They got a grant from the U.S. Ambassador's Self-Help fund to do it. It is set up for rainwater harvesting, and they have room for a few garden plots on the property. Since they left, an enterprising Kenyan began using the place as a gym. Now it's full of exercise equipment, and it's pretty worn down. They are currently working very hard to get it fixed up so they can begin using it.
The oil press and honey centrifuge - way in the back
Another way to store rainwater. The land is sloped so the water will flow into here.
Nearby, you can see Malaki's uncle's rental units, as well as another relative's passionfruit operation:
After they showed me the learning center, we all went home and had lunch:
Eggs and tomatoes