In a lonely place

I’m in the Farm Africa office in Mwingi, eastern Kenya. I asked to use a laptop so that I could send off my monthly GC report, not being able to get any signal on my iPad.

Yesterday when we met the Vice President of Kenya in Nairobi he insisted that when we arrived in Mwingi we must visit his constituency office – this is his home patch – and sign his visitors’ book. (They are very keen on visitors’ books here, they’ve produced them at every village we’ve been to). So the others have supposedly gone round the corner to do that, but that was rather a long time ago…. and I’m beginning to wonder whether they’re coming back for me.

Mwingi is a semi-arid region, very different to Kisumu where we’ve been over the last couple of days, which is absolutely beautiful, full of amazing plants and trees, though the soil isn’t that fertile. We’re here to see Farm Africa’s dairy goat project, and visit some farms and irrigation schemes. Irrigation is, as you can imagine, a huge issue here, and if they could capture the rainfall it would make all the difference.

Last night at dinner with Farm Africa I learnt rather more about artificial insemination of goats than I perhaps need to know – th0ugh I’m looking forward to absolutely bamboozingly Jim Paice at next Defra questions. Farm Africa is trying to breed hybrid goats here, the ideal being 75% Toggenburg goats and 25% the local breed. (Toggenburgs because they produce much more milk, and a bit of local because they’re tough enough to handle arid local conditions). So that means cross-breeding twice, first time to get a 50-50 mix, and second time 75-25. The problem is that since BSE there’s been a ban in Kenya on importing live animals from the EU, even though goats don’t get BSE. And there’s a danger the goats in Mwingi are becoming rather inbred, so they need new Toggenburgs in the mix. Hence the discussion last night about AI and importing Toggenburg sperm from the UK instead. Although apparently goats are much harder to inseminate than cows (which led onto a rather graphic discussion of insemination techniques, thankfully before the food arrived).

I have the feeling this topic may only be fascinating to me, and no-one else. And now the others have arrived back from signing the visitors’ book, so I will leave you with this link, which tells you all you need to know about goats.

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  • RichHL  On September 17, 2010 at 7:48 am

    As one of Jim Paice’s constituents, I look forward to you bamboozling him.

  • turningbristolred  On September 17, 2010 at 8:50 am

    I wish I wasn’t reading this whilst eating my porridge… but I am… … …

    *chucks porridge in the bin*

    Keep up the good work… and can’t we have a content warning next time please?

  • Invictus_88  On September 17, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Are the farmers in Kenya not unionised? If they had a stronger voice, I doubt the Kenyan government could have passed such a problematic law in response to a strictly bovine disease.

  • Marigold  On October 3, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Your problem is that you do not recognise corruption. You people go around Africa waffling on about goats and kids in schools funded by DFID. All this does is reinforce a negative and demeaning perception of Africa. Then, you tolerate corruption in this country. I have lost count of the number of time sorrowful platitude merchant Dougie Alexander has lectured Africa on corruption. Yet you people are just as bad, if not worse, what with your expenses and all that. You are even stupid enough to have some fireman that lives over 50 miles away from the ward in St George as your candidate so that some Michael Barrymore type individual has more of a chance of getting a winnabale constituency due to the iron law of oligarchy. You also go around getting pictures with Somalians all the time which i think lacks sincerity. There must be loads of members of the Labour Party in places like Bristol East that could stand in wards like Lawrence Hill yet you people push for increased white middle class and male representation on the council. I am also not impressed by Brenda Hugill. Why don’t you show some integrity and push for the representation of Somalis on the council to give them a voice instead of listening to racists like Helen Holland and the Michael barrymore man in their efforts to get fireman in so that they can benefit from the iron law of oligarchy. You could even try to find some somali fireman that live in the area onto the council. There are plenty of somalis living in your constituency that could represent the wards in the area better than a fireman that lives in Wiltshire. You must act to increase ethnic minority representation otherwise I think readers of this blog should conclude that you are a vile and corrupt racist.

  • Marigold  On October 3, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Dear Kerry,

    I have to say as the MP for Bristol East you should be doing more to recognise the cultural achievements and contribution of your substantial Muslim constituency. Instead of having your picture taken with victims of the Pakistani Earthquake (Doom & Gloom) what you should be doing is recognising the culture of Muslims in the constituency. You should be making sure that this M-shed abortion at least includes exhibitions that recognise the culture of Muslims. What we need in this M-shed is pictures and archives of Muslim history such as the Alhambra, Dome of the Rock, the mosque at Qarawayn, Taj Mahal and images of Somalia. Also, please don’t forget Bob Marley ! I fear all we will get is 19th century white blokes hanging around the docks. Please sort this out ! The problem with the young people in your constituency is that they all walk around like Clowns from American Ghettos because we are constantly swamped by cultural rubbish from America in every medium; T.V., Film and radio. These young asians, Africans and west indians need positive images of their culture and heritage in abundance.

  • kerrymccarthy  On October 4, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Marigold, I’m not sure how to respond to your comments, not least because I don’t think they’re rooted in anything more than a very superficial view of what my work over the last five years has entailed (eg your refs to Somalis and the Pakistan earthquake) not to mention some rather strange leaps of logic – from DFID funding of possibly corrupt regimes to the fact the St George West by-election candidate didn’t live in the ward. For the record, Kev was in my view an excellent candidate, knew St George like the back of his hand having grown up there, spent most of his life there, his parents still live there, and he’s based at the Speedwell fire station – so he was perfectly eligible to stand. Also, I don’t choose candidates, local party members do, and we will be fielding more BME candidates this time. We have tried to encourage Somali candidates to come forward and I’m pleased that we now have quite a few Somali members. NB Lawrence Hill ward isn’t even in my constituency.And I have no idea who you’re referring to as the Michael Barrymore man! I have no say in what goes in the new museum – it’s a council thing – but I was given a tour of the site earlier this year, and I think there will be plenty of content which reflects Bristol’s diversity – but in the context of it being a museum about Bristol’s cultural heritage.

  • John  On October 5, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    I work with Kev, the candidate describes as a “fireman”. Kev is steeped in St George life as Kerry has described. I am not aware of any Somalian firefighters despite lots of effort being put into positive action programs by the FBU and Avon Fire Service. Work that is under massive pressure of being scrapped by the cuts of the coalition. The Union will continue to do all we can to increase under represented groups in the fire service but we need the help of all BME groups to achieve this.

  • Marigold  On October 6, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Well Kerry, thanks for your reply. I am only going by what Gary Hopkins has blogged abour corruption in the Labour Party and it was in the paper that the fireman lived in Wiltshire. Having worked in somalia as a midwife i appreciate somali culture and think that more needs to be done to help the somali community. As for Jon’s comments i think he needs to do a lot more to attract minorities ( i am not sure what a BME groups is) into the fire service. What if you ring to report a fire and can’t speak english? As for world vision their campaigns could be a lot less demeaning than they currently are !

  • kerrymccarthy  On October 6, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    I wouldn’t recommend that anyone pays much attention to Gary Hopkins, especially not when it comes to Labour matters! I’ve done a lot with the Somali community, including setting up a Bristol-wide Somali forum so that all groups can work together. Also had several meetings with Somali women who were very unhappy about their treatment at St Michael’s hospital; I brought them together with NHS reps to discuss how maternity services could be more responsive to their needs. Sadly it seemed that there was a degree of underlying racism on the part of some midwives, which is now being addressed.

  • marigold  On October 6, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Hi Kerry,

    Thats good ! However, why should the somali community and other minorities that make up a significant part of your constituency have to rely upon you to do to do this. there must be a number of other issues regarding language, racism, access to services etc that affect minority communities that make up a large part of your constituency that need to be considered. It is no use you saying it is not your problem ! of course it is your problem, you should make sure that more members of minority communities are represented on the council to give a voice to these concerns. Our pal on the fire brigade says ‘there are no somali fireman’, well blow me, there are no somlai councillors. You people are good at getting members of your own family in, why not minorities ! Even your own rule book has a commitment to increasing minority representation ! Please justify your racist position ! next year there will not be one somali Labour candidate ! if respect managed it why can’t you ! If you can get in relatives of senior members of the T & G why can’t you get minorities in ? if you can get fireman in that live miles away from the ward why can’t you get minorities in? If you can get middle class, middle aged white women in why can’t you get minorities in? please, please, please show some integrity and get more minorities in to make the council more representive or people in the somali and other minority communities should conclude that you are a corrupt racist !

  • kerrymccarthy  On October 11, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    marigold, maybe you don’t mean to express yourself in the way you do, but I actually find your comments very offensive – accusations of corruption, racism… are you trying to engage in genuine debate?

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