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I just had the opportunity to develop a few training manuals for a client in Malawi, which I would like to share with you as well. I hope you enjoy them and I am looking forward to your comments and suggestions!
The last couple of weeks Kenya and Tanzania were extremely dry, the effects of El Niña being felt strongly. Many people suffered from the dry heat and the enormous amounts of dust that were in the air. With the sudden onset of rains viral infections become widespread. This is the time of the year when people start suffering from eye infections, cough and flue. Quite a few people have recently asked me for a natural cough remedy and I would like to share with you what we do when we are suffering from coughs. But let me start with a word of caution: if your cough don't seem to get any better by itself after a few days PLEASE go and see a doctor! You don't want to develop a full-blown bronchitis or pneumonia and you also need to make sure your cough isn't in fact caused by an allergy or hay fever.
Our all-time favourite cough remedy (actually I am sipping one right now while I am writing this) is a brew from freshly ground ginger, some lemon or lime juice and a spoonful of honey topped up with boiling water. This will draw a sweat and is also a great remedy for flue. Best taken at bedtime or whenever your cough doesn't want to stop. The lemon juice will give you a good dose of Vitamin C and boost your body's selfdefense. The ginger helps in fighting bacteria and inflammation and the honey is a natural antibiotic. All three together make a powerful natural remedy against cough and flue.
Peel and grate a piece of fresh ginger 1/2 the size of your thumb.
Squeeze a the juice from 1 small lemon or lime.
Add 1-2 teaspoons of natural honey, depending on your taste.
Top up with boiling water. Stir and let brew for a moment. Then drink as hot as possible.
Sometimes when you have a cough, especially the kind that is caused by dry heat and dust like we experienced recently, you feel more like drinking something cold to get relief. In that case pineapple-mint juice is my remedy of choice. The pineapple juice provides me again with a good dose of Vitamin C and acts as an anti-inflammatory. The peppermint works as an expectorant, which means it helps to loosen and cough up the mucous. And tastes absolutely delicious and refreshing. If you can only invest in one kitchen machine, I suggest you buy a good juicer. Fresh, homemade juice is just sooooo much better than anything you can buy in a carton and it also saves you a lot of money. Right now is the time of plenty (regrading availability of suits) here in East Africa. Make the best of the season and store as much juice or fruit pull as you can. I will poet a few more recipes for that in my next blog post. I promise!
With a good juicer you don't need to cut off the peel. Just rinse 1 fresh, ripe pineapple with water, remove the leave crown at the top and the stalk at the bottom. Cut the pineapple into 1/8 lengthwise and run them through the juicer.
Wash a bunch of peppermint or spearmint and run them through the juicer together with the pineapple.
Dilute with clean water to your own preference. Refrigerate the juice for a while and enjoy every time you feel like you need some cold drink to give you relief from your cough. Make sure your family doesn't finish it before you. That is the danger of it being soon good!
These few ingredients can of course also be used in other combinations.
This syrup can be diluted with cold or hot water to taste.
2 Tbls fresh ginger, finely grated
1 Tbls fresh or dried mint, crushed
2 cups of water
Mix all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Let simmer over low heat until liquid is reduced bu half (5-10min).
1/2 cup of natural honey.
Stir in well until completely dissolved. Fill into a bottle and close immediately. Keep refrigerated and take 1 tsp full whenever needed (every few hours).
Other natural remedies
Most of all - drink enough! Especially in this hot and dry weather help your body to stay hydrated. This will also help to loosen the mucous. If you find some liquorice tea simply add a fews sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme) and brew yourself s cup of tea from those. Sweeten it with natural honey if you like. The thyme will help to relax the muscles and bring relief if you suffer from cough spasms. The liquorice soothes the throat and also aids in loosening the mucous. So in case the ginger-lemon tea is not after your taste, this is a nice and soothing alternative.
One home remedy that often also works wonders is a steam bath. This is a bowl of steaming hot water over which you bend your face as closely as you can bear and cover your head with a towel to catch as much of the steam as possible. This helps hydrating and soothing your respiratory tract. It also applies heat to your sinuses, something that also helps with a blocked nose and sinus pain.
To make a steam bath more effective you can add a number of different herbs or etheric oils to the hot water. A great relief for dry cough is in that case chamomile, which soothes and relaxes. Other good choices are peppermint or eucalyptus leaves. If you use a steam bath to mainly help with a blocked nose and flue, a few sprigs of fresh marjoram or a tablespoon of dried marjoram added to the hot water do an excellent job.
Natural home remedies are excellent helpers to prevent a cough or flue from getting worse or settling in your body for prolonged periods. Start using them as soon as you experience the first symptoms of a cough or flue coming. Use them several times throughout the day as often as is convenient for you. Besides that always remember that some symptoms and illnesses need to be assessed and treated by a doctor. So never keep on treating yourself if you feel the situation is not improving.
2017 is promising to become an exciting year. I personally have moved back to Tanzania, the country that has been "home" in my heart ever since 1997. Together with a few close friends we started Mama Chakula Foundation and plunged head on into our new task: enabling people to transform their lives and communities. To impact society through this transformation. Access to relevant information and knowledge is key, but just as important is growing as individuals who respect each other as equally although uniquely gifted and important human beings. This is based on the deep understanding that everyone is created for an individual purpose with different gifts and resources. That we all belong to the human race through fulfilling this purpose, through using OUR unique gifts and resources. We won't all be Nelson Mandelas or Maya Angelous. There are and there will always be people called for huge tasks. But nevertheless we can all keep it with Maya Angelou's poem:
"Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise."
This is my wish for you and for all of us in these challenging and exciting times, that we all may rise. Together. Hand in hand. Let us be as great as we are meant to be.
The move to Arusha, the new year, all good reasons to get organised. Here in Arusha we have a 1 ha demonstration farm. We started by making compost :-) We need to get the soil into top shape as quickly as possible. But I also started planning. The dairy goat house, the chicken house, the green house, the water catchment and irrigation system. So much fun to think of the best possible design. And then the vegetable beds. Where do they go, what do we want to grow.
I brought a ton of seeds with me, all in small sealable ziplock bags, labeled with name and year. Now I am starting a seed inventory to be able to see what we have, what might no longer be viable and what we might need to buy. As many of you might want to also start harvesting and using your own seeds or keep stocks from last season, I decided to share my inventory template with you to make your life a little bit easier.
You enter the date on which you harvest or purchase the seeds. Purchased seeds usually come with a code. This is the product ID. It will make it easier to identify the same seeds again later, if you want to restock. In column 3 you note if it is you harvested the seeds yourself or you write the name of the seed company from which you purchased the seeds. Under name you write the common name of the plant and in the next column the botanical name if you have it/know it. This can also be useful to identify seeds later again. Under quantity you can either write how many grams, seeds or seed packages you add to your seed bank. That depends on your personal preference or the kind of seeds you keep. Keeping records in grams can be useful if you have larger stocks and want to be able to calculate the acreage for which this quantity of seeds is sufficient. Simpler systems will also work with just the number of packages you have. To provide yourself with some more information at a glance you can add in the next column if the seeds are for annual, biannual or perennial plants. The next column is very important but needs a bit of knowledge or research. Shop-bought seed packages sometimes also provide this information. "Viability until" gives you information about the time frame in which these seeds will usually germinate. Some plants have seeds that are viable for several years if kept properly, others will germinate only for a very short while after harvest. This information in your inventory will help you keeping your stocks well-organised. Seeds that are beyond their viability date can usually be thrown away. If they are very valuable you can of course always do a germination test before planting.
Then last column gives you space for your own notes. Anything you want to copy from the seed pack, any information regarding the plant, anything you want to remember regarding these particular seeds.
Companion planting is one of the good agricultural or horticultural practices. It is based on the principles of intercropping where plants are grown together based on the fact that they have
- different nutrient needs and therefore don't compete for nutrients
- grow in different spaces (above ground/ below ground) and therefore don't compete for space
- have different root systems (shallow/deep rooted) and therefore don't compete for root area
- take different times to germinate, grow and mature and therefore are not in the same area at the same time or for the same time.
Companion planting however takes intercropping a step further by also looking at positive synergies between different plants. Crops from high Nitrogen need can benefit from Legumes (beans, peas, etc.), which are Nitrogen fixing. Onions and carrots grown together both have a strong smell that can deter each others pests (onion fly and carrot fly), other plants have just through observation and experience shown that they benefit from each other in one way or another.
The table above gives a comprehensive overview of positive as well as negative effects of plants on each other. To read the table choose a plant from the rows down and check it against plants in the columns across. If the crossing square is marked with a + these the plant in the column has a positive effect on the plant in the row. If it has a - it has a negative effect on the plant in the row and should not be planted close to it.
The underlying concepts are:
While preparing for an IPM training I came across these very useful links that allow you to download fieldguides for chemical free growing of several tropical crops. I thought I'd share them with you:
All thanks and credit to PAN Germany.
On their website you can also find pictures of pests and descriptions of diseases here:
It is definitely a website that is worth checking out!
On Sunday we went to check on the 4 new bee hives and to stick the yellow sticky trap onto the legs of the frame. To our surprise we already found two of the hives teaming with bees although it isn't the main swarming season. I reckon with so many old trees being cut down in Karen these days, many swarms are surviving in less than optimal conditions and as soon as their scouts had found our new hives they decided to move! Great for us. This brings the number of our beehives up to 7!
Yellow sticky trap
We use yellow sticky traps to keep ants out of the hives. The easiest to use is the sticky traps that is sold for greenhouse use. It comes in a 100m roll and is 15 cm wide. It is easy to wrap around the legs of the frame as it is a softer material than the usual sticky trap cards. It is also very useful in the garden to trap whitefly and fruitflies. Hier in Kenya it is available from Koppert as yellow rollertrap https://www.koppert.com/company/subsidiaries/kenya/
A piece of yellow sticky trap is tightly wrapped around the legs of the frame. It is then covered with the empty water bottle to prevent bees from getting stuck on it.
The finished set up with 2 Langstroth hives and 1 Warre hive. Notice the sticky yellow trap already fixed on the leg in the back. The bees moved into the hive in the front and the second hive from the back. The Warre hive will be attractive to larger swarms. We are hoping to get one soon and to see all 4 hives filled. After the cold season is over we will place "supers" a second storey on the Langtroth hives. It will be separated from the bottom box by a Queen excluder. This way the bees will start storing only honey in the upper box, while brood will be in the bottom box. This way the beekeeper can harvest the upper box without disturbing the brood in the box underneath.
The Warre hive works in the opposite direction and doesn't use a bee excluder. It uses the principle that Queens only move a certain distance from the brood and that bees build from from the top down. In a Warre hive you always add a new box underneath and remove the one on the top.
I had originally planned to build 2 rabbit hutches over Easter, but then we got a call from someone in Karen who has constructed an artificial lake from a swamp and wanted to attract some bees to the area. After inspecting the site and finding the surrounding underbrush teaming with bees we decided to set up 3 - 5 beehives on the plot. Today I would like to share with you how that can be done quickly and easily and in a way that keeps your hives ant proof.
- This is the site we had identified for setting up the beehives. So we needed to carry all necessary materials down to the lake:
- 4 old buckets filled with 4 volume parts sand and 1 part cement
- 2 pieces wood planks, 2 inch (5 cm) x 4 inch (10 cm) x 15 feet (4,5 m) long
- 12 feet (3,80 m) metal water 1/2 inch pipe cut into 4 pieces of 2,5 feet (80 cm) and 2 pieces of 1 foot (30 cm). The long pieces need each a thread on one end and the two short pieces need threads on both ends.
- 4 x 90* female connectors (1/2 inch)
- shovel and spade
- spirit level
- 8 x 1 inch (3 cm) wood crews
- battery powered screwdriver
- 4 pieces empty water bottles
- 2 small pieces of wood 1 inch (3 cm) x 0,3 inch (1 cm) x 1 foot (30 cm)
- a saw, a chisel, a tape measure and a pencil
The ground on the site was already cleared. It is important that on the site where you want to set up your bee hives no tall plants (grasses, weeds, etc.). Any part of a plant (even a branch of a shrub or hedge) that touches the hive will build a bridge that ants will use to invade your hive. Therefore keep the ground clear and any taller plants nearby well pruned.
The first step is to dig two holes 3 meters apart. Each hole should be big enough to bury two buckets next to each other in it. These buckets will be filled with concrete and hold the legs of the frame on which the hives will be placed.
The concrete should not fill the bucket completely. Leave about 3 inches (10 cm) from the rim empty. This space will be filled with water later to form a barrier to keep out ants.
Attach two long and one short metal pipe to each other using two 90* connectors in such a way, that it forms a U-shape as shown in the picture above. These are the legs of the frame. Build two such legs.
Cut the bottoms off the water bottles and shove one bottle over each long pipe so that the neck of the bottel is nearest the corner (connector).
Push the legs into the concrete inside the buckets so that they form a 90* angle with the directions in which you want the wooden planks to run.
Use a spirit level to ensure the top of the leg U (the short piece of pipe) is straight/level horizontally.
Fix the second leg in the same way at a distance of 10 feet (3 m) where you buried the second pair of buckets. Place a wooden plank across both legs and ensure they are also level to each other (at the same height).
When both legs are firmly in place and level leave the concrete to set overnight before you continue.
The next day it is time to place the wooden planks across the legs. They need to be secured safely to ensure that the hives won't fall off. Start by placing the planks across and marking on the small side of planks the position of the cross bar of the legs with a pencil. The planks will later be standing "upright", meaning the small edges will be facing the pipe and up.
As the pipe is 1/2 inch (1,5 cm) thick and needs to be buried in the plank, you need to mark also 1/2 inch (1,5 cm) up on the side of the plank. This is the mark up to where you have to cut the plank.
Repeat this for both legs and both planks. Always make sure that the planks are still level lengthwise and to each other. If not make adjustments to the depth of the cuts. In the end both plank should be safely sitting parallel to each other on the leg frames.
Use the screws and the battery screw driver to fix the small pieces of wood underneath the pipes against the planks in such a way that the planks can no longer move. This is easiest done if you half-screw in the screws first before you tighten them underneath. Otherwise you will end up crouching under the frame constantly dropping screws into the dirt :-)
Once you are all set and both planks are safely in place you can place your bee hives on top of them. Mission accomplished! In our case we used Warre hives. You can find more information about Warre hives here: https://thebeespace.net/warre-hive/ and a construction plan to build your own Warre hives (or have them build by a carpenter) here: https://thebeespace.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/warre_hive_plans_english.pdf
The base or floor of a Warre hive is loose. It needs to be placed on top of the planks in such a way that the entrance is flush with the plank. The plank in this case forms part of the entrance hole.
The first box is placed exactly on top of the floor board. It is important that all edges match and no crevices or holes remain between walls and base. These holes would allow the wax moth to enter the hive. Wax moth caterpillars are extremely destructive and can kill an entire hive or force bees to leave their hive. Always make sure your hive is closed tightly except for the entrance hole, which will be guarded by the bees.
The frames are placed on top of the first box. They need to be straight and tight fitting to encourage the bees to build their wax sheets straight. Otherwise you risk that wax sheets are connected to each other and impossible to remove from the box without damage.
The second box is placed on top and also filled with frames. Again ensure that you don't create holes between the two boxes through which pests could enter the hive.
On top of a Warre hive is always a box filled with wood shavings. This helps to keep the temperature in the hive stable and avoid a draught. If the temperature in the hive fluctuates bees get stressed and need to use a lot of their numbers to raise or lower the temperature. By freeing them from these tasks they are able to do other tasks like tending to their young and queen or collecting honey.
This top frame has a cloth attached to its bottom that allows air circulation and it is then filled with wood shavings that serve as an insulation layer.
The hive is finally covered with a roof.
The last task is to fill the buckets up with water to prevent ants from climbing up the frame. The water forms a good barrier and needs to be refilled if about to dry up. The bottles will deter them further as they find it difficult to move around the shape of the bottle. We usually also place a yellow sticky trap underneath the bottle. The bottle will ensure that no bees get stuck on it accidently, but ants will be stopped by the sticky trap. You should inspect your hives at least weekly to ensure that no fallen branch has breached this barrier. You also need to check that ants have found no other way into the hives. Ants will invade a hive in the thousands and steal honey and larvae. This is a very stressful event for bees and can force them to leave the hive. In any case it will cause huge losses of honey and you will find nothing to harvest. Once a month you should also carefully open the hive (best done in the evening) and check that no moths or other pests have invaded your hive. It will also help you to monitor their development and decide on the right time to harvest honey (when a good number of frames are filled with honey and covered with wax). Never harvest honey from frames, which aren't covered yet. Uncovered honey is immature and will ferment.
The frame has space for 3 - 5 hives. You can also buy the normal Langstroth hives from several providers in Kenya. See the following links for sources: http://www.africanbeekeepers.co.ke/index.php/products
or you can call a Fundi in Lenana who builds excellent hives. His number is: +254(0)724-424 400
Now that I have finished the drawings I can have them build (or build them myself over Easter may be?) I am planning to keep Angora Rabbits. The plan is to keep always two females in two hutches next to each other, so that the offspring of the two grow up "together" and are used to each other. This way they won't fight when they are sharing the same rabbit run. The two hutches will be placed inside a rabbit run as I don't like the idea of keeping rabbits caged full time. The smell in a barn full of rabbit cages is also something I don't fancy. So here are my drawings. Pictures will follow once they are build.
The back wall and the hay feeder
Nestbox and plan for cutting the wood
The side walls and how to place the two hutches next to each other
The rabbit run
The two hutches will be placed in a rabbit run that needs to be fenced well to keep the rabbits in and predators out. I will probably even cover the floor with wire as rabbits tend to dig their way out. The grass can easily grow through the wire. The run will be 6 m wide and 5 m deep. In front of the hutches I will place poles on which the doors can rest when fully open.on the side of the hutches I will construct a ramp that will allow the rabbits to climb in and out of their hutches,
Hutch with open door and ramp at the side
The length of the ramp needs to be 2 m long to allow for an angle that isn't too steep.
The roof needs to be a plywood sheet that covers both hutches, completely including the hay feeder and nest box in the back. It should also have a bit of overhang on the outsides (not on the inside where the two hutches touch) and the front. Therefore the plywood sheets need to be 130 cm x 130 cm. This plywood sheet can then be covered with a bati sheet, tar paper or a strong plastic sheet to make it water proof. I plan to attach a gutter to the back side of the roof to prevent water from running into the nestbox and also to collect rain water.
Rabbits need to have access to drinking water at all times. Inside the hutch it is best provided with a bottle that is fixed to the wire wall to avoid that the water gets dirty. These can be purchased in a pet shop.
But there are also some simple and cheap and some more sophisticated homemade solutions available. An instruction for a more sophisticated solution that includes water storage can be found here: http://theadventurebite.com/rabbit-watering-system/
The rain water that will be collected in the rain gutter at the back of the hutch should be collected in an underground cistern so that it can be fed into a kind of basin from which the rabbits can drink while outside the hutches. A small solar pump can be used to pump the water up from the cistern. I hope you can make sense of my drawing...
It is basically a shallow concrete basin above a concrete cistern. The basin has a hole in the side wall that allows the rain water that comes down from the gutter via a chain to overflow into the cistern, once the basin fills up. The edge of the basin is made out of mazera slabs. A pipe goes from the bottom of the cistern up into the basin again and is connected with a small solar pump, that pumps the water from the cistern back into the basin .
Plants for the rabbit run
The fence around the run should be covered with plants so that the rabbits can't be disturbed by cats and dogs on the other side of the fence. These plants can add protection like blackberries, raspberries and roses, but they should also all be feed sources for rabbits. The floor of the run should also be covered with grass and herbs that are favourite rabbit feeds. The main feed source for rabbit while in the hutch should be hay. It should be given ad libitum (meaning available to the rabbit at all times) and it needs to be free of mold. The rabbit run should provide as much other feed sources as possible to reduce the feeding cost (rabbit pallets are not the healthiest but certainly the most expensive option) and also to give the rabbits a range of free choices according to their needs. This way they can be easily kept healthy. See the list of plants below:
Underneath the rabbit hutches I want to have containers on wheels that contain earthworms. The rabbit waste that will fall through the wire floor of the hutches will collect in these containers and be composted by the worms (vermibins). This will serve as excellent potting soil. The containers should have a tap at the bottom and be filled with a bottom layer of gravel, which is then covered by a net, and then with some soil and organic materials to get the worms started. The earthworm urine will seep through the layers and collect at the bottom from where it can then be harvested through the tap.
From time to time the vermibins can be removed and chicks can be kept for a few days under the hutches. They will scratch through any waste that has fallen to the floor between the containers and feed on insects that will have started to collect in there. They can share the run with he rabbits for some time. This way the area under the hutches and in the run can be kept clean easily.
I designed this record keeping sheet to help me keep track of the rabbit breeding. I didn't like other designs that I found on the web as they kept information on the same animal in several separate sheets and sometime included more info than what I needed.
The picture below shows blackboards I want to make and fix on the outside of the rabbit hutches to keep easy track of tasks needed around raising kindles.
After I just wrote about growing of horseradish you might wonder how to use it in the kitchen. Horseradish is a condiment that is eaten mainly with smoked fish or smoked meat or roast beef. For this it has to be preserved first and then, whenever needed it is mixed with whipped cream to the desired strength. Before you get started let me warn you - horseradish is spicy and it's stingent etheric oils will bite your nose and eyes if you are not careful. The green wasabi paste that is served with Sushi is also made from a horseradish variety. Just to give you an idea of the kind of spiciness you have to expect. But it is nevertheless delicious and healthy and shouldn't be missing from any good kitchen.
How to get started:
Harvest horseradish by pulling or lifting it out of the ground. Cut of the leave tops and discard them. Wash the roots with clear water and a brush. Don't wash the thin plantlets you have laid aside to re-plant later.
Using a very sharp knife peel the roots thinly. Cut out any hollow or black parts.
You end up with nice white roots. Discard the peels and any roots that were too thin to be peeled sensibly.
What to do next:
The hardest part is grating the horseradish. It needs to be grated finely. That can be done with a grater or a kitchen machine. Both is possible. Be careful as the vapours that are released during this process are strong and hurt your eyes and nose if you come too close.
If you are using a kitchen machine you need to cut the roots into thinner and smaller pieces first so that the machine can cope with them. Horseradish is quite hard, dry and elastic. Take care not to put too much strain on the machine. Therefore it is advisable to work in small batches.
Grate the roots as finely as possible. The end result should look something like in the picture below:
The next step:
Measure out the amount of grated horseradish you have gained. For every 100 g of grated root you need:
The last steps:
Use some clean old jam jars. Smaller ones are preferable. Sterilize them by standing them head over in a large pot filled up to 2 cm with water. Bring the water to a rolling boil and leave the jars plus their lids in the boiling water for about 2 minutes.
Spoon the horseradish mix into the jars and compress it, to remove as much air as possible. Clean the rim of the jars with a clean tissue paper or napkin.
Place the lids on the jars and close them tightly.
Heat your oven to 200*C. Bring the water in the large pot that you used to sterilize the jars again to a boil. Place the filled jars inside. Set the pot with the jars in the oven and sterilize them again for 15 min at 200*C.
After the jars have cooled down completely the jars will be tightly closed by the vacuum that forms inside the jars. You can store the horseradish preserve for several months, preferably in a cold and dark spot. Whenever you want to use it, mix a few teaspoons of it into 100 ml whipped cream and use as a condiment. The more horseradish you mix into the cream the stronger and hotter it will be. Once you opened a jar you need to store it in the fridge and use it in the next couple of weeks.
Anja Weber is the chairperson of Mama Chakula Foundation, a members' organisation dedicated to rural transformation through education & exchange; honouring old principals while embracing new technologies. She came to East Africa in 1997, when she set up the food processing units at Irente Farm. She has since worked as manager for different companies in East Africa.