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Ann Savage, Jacqui Sheldon, Debbie Keeble and Susie McIntyre with women from the AFULA group after a day's digging Ann Savage, Jacqui Sheldon, Debbie Keeble and Susie McIntyre with women from the AFULA group after a day's digging

Welcome to Posts from the Pond, Dig for Good's official blog.

This is where you can read about how 14 senior women executives from the UK's food industry worked shoulder to shoulder with a team of Kenyan women in a remote rural village, digging a huge fish pond the size of a swimming pool. The fish pond will be a source of plentiful fish and income for the community for years to come.

Dig for Good is part of Farm Africa's Food for Good initiative which is bringing together the food and hospitality industry to solve one of the world's most pressing problems: hunger.

We hope you enjoy the women's story as they put their backs into an enormous challenge under a blazing African sun. The posts were written by Farm Africa's Victoria Rae, who travelled with the Dig for Good team.

A bumper first harvest for the Dig for Good pond

June 2014

Almost exactly a year ago, a slightly nervous group of women from the UK food industry set off for the shores of Lake Victoria in western Kenya to undertake what was to be a life-changing challenge. Dig for Good is part of Farm Africa’s Food for Good campaign; an initiative which is bringing the industry together to end hunger in Africa – for good.

The task was to dig, by hand and with local tools, a swimming pool-sized fish pond in just three days. The African sun was blazing down, the earth was sodden and heavy and the group had no specialist tools or equipment. It was going to be tough.

But the women were aware that the challenge facing farming families in Kisumu is much more real and one which has to be faced every day of the year. Fishing is important for food and income in this part of western Kenya, yet over-fishing in Lake Victoria has decimated stocks meaning that many local families struggle to get enough food for their daily needs.

From the moment the group first sunk their shovels into that waterlogged mud, they laboured shoulder-to-shoulder with the Afula women’s group who had been supported by Farm Africa to learn how to set up and run a fish pond business. Despite the women's vastly different experience and lifestyles they bonded as a group and they knew that, together, they would succeed.

And succeed they did! After three back-breaking days the pond was completed and the group left confident that it would provide a livelihood for the Afula women that would last well into the future. 

We are very pleased to report that confidence is something the Afula group is feeling too. The first harvest of the pond took place last month, and the results were every bit as good as the group had hoped. The group netted 238 kilograms of healthy tilapia fish that will provide a much-needed source of white protein and fetch a good price at market. Their confidence is so high that the Afula women have jointly decided to invest all the profits from this pond back into their fish business and are currently restocking three more ponds. The hope and ambition of these women is what the Dig for Good group’s hard work last year was for. To see a trebling of the Afula group's fish farming business in just one year is the legacy that the Diggers all worked for.

This is one small but typical example of the life-changing work that Farm Africa is doing across eastern Africa and which is being actively supported by the food and hospitality communities here in the UK.

You can watch a short film about the Dig for Good harvest here:

Industry colleagues return to the  pond

February 2014

This month, four representatives from the UK food producers Barfoots and field marketing agency Cosine UK visited Kisumu, western Kenya, to see first-hand what their support for Farm Africa’s work with smallholder farmers means to local communities.

Since 2011, Barfoots and Cosine UK have been generously donating their time and funds to Food for Good, the Farm Africa fundraising initiative that brings together key players from the food and hospitality sectors in an industry-wide effort to end hunger for good. People from across the Barfoots and Cosine UK families have thrown themselves into some pretty extraordinary, and occasionally hair-raising, activities to raise money, including scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, trekking across the Tanzanian Highlands, completing the Tough Mudder challenge and running the 2013 Virgin London Marathon.

To see an example of what difference their support is making, Sophie and Rebecca from Barfoots and Lauren and Emma from Cosine visited fish farming groups at Farm Africa’s acquaculture project to see how their lives are being changed for the better.

Rebecca from Barfoots said, "We have had such a friendly welcome and the country side is lush here in Kisumu. We visited Saul, the owner of one of Farm Africa's aqua shops here. He was a total inspiration and a great example of what hard work can achieve. With the training he provides, fish farmers have been able to increase their incomes from a single harvest of 2,000 shillings to around 40,000 shillings!” 

To understand the importance of their support the visitors also travelled to Lake Victoria to experience first-hand the difficulties of traditional fish farming, which Emma from Cosine UK found eye-opening:

"It’s been amazing to see the traditional method of fishing and to realise how hard people work without landing much fish, and then to see the impact Farm Africa is making through fish ponds. When we met the Afula group we could sense they were going places and had big plans about what they would do with the money they make from the harvest. By investing their money back in the ponds I could see they were moving their lives onto a sustainable footing.” 

Dig for Good revisited

22 August 2013

Farm Africa recently caught up with Faith, one of the Afula women who took part in the dig in April, to ask her to reflect on her experience.

She spoke very fondly of the 14 senior women executives from the UK's food industry who came to dig the fish pond, shoulder to shoulder with the Afula women's group. 

Kili chefs visit the 'Dig for Good' pond

20 August 2013

Yesterday the AFULA women’s group welcomed some new guests to their fish pond when the #Chefkili team made a visit to the area. The team of four leading chefs and restaurateurs are on route for Tanzania where they plan to climb Kilimanjaro in aid of Farm Africa.

Yet before the climb, they were keen to see the impact Farm Africa makes on the ground. They spent time hearing from the AFULA women about the difference the new fish pond is making to the community, before getting stuck in with the fish feeding themselves.  

Despite having to cut down the much loved shady tree near to the pond because bats were stealing the fish, the pond area is flourishing nicely and the AFULA women are confident they will have a good source of both food and income.  

Asante Sana! 

13 August 2013

Afula women receive their photobooks from Dig for Good.

Farm Africa recently caught up with the AFULA women to present them with their photo books from the Dig for Good fish pond project which took place in early May. They were delighted to receive them and joyfully expressed their gratitude with calls of 'asante sana!' - the Swahili term for 'thank you'. The gift brought back some wonderful memories of the dig they took part in alongside fourteen other women from the UK food industry.

The progress of the fish pond project has been really impressive and it continues to go from strength to strength. The water quality of the pond is at optimum level for fish growth and the fish are very active and responsive to feed, weighing a healthy average of 23.4g each - that's almost five times more than when they first entered the pond around two months ago!

Watch our video on aqua shops to find out more about Farm Africa's fish projects in Kenya.

Please click the link if you would like to support Dig for Good by making a donation.

Woman and Home Magazine features Dig for Good

9 August 2013

Woman and Home Magazine has just published an article by Digger, Teresa Wickham.  In the piece, Teresa looks back on four days of sweat, hard work, joy and achievement as fourteen women from the UK helped the Afula Women's Group in Kisumu, Western Kenya to build a fish pond that will be a lasting source of food and income for years to come.

And now watch the video ....

1 August 2013

... following the successful efforts of the women to dig the fish pond.

Video produced by Sue Parkhill 

Stocking the pond

4 June 2013

Women preparing to stock the fish pond with young fish

After all the hard work put into digging the pond, it's now ready to be stocked. These women are releasing young fish (fingerlings) into the pond, where they will grow into adult fish for the community to eat and sell.

So what now?

1 May 2013

A fond farewell from the Afula women and the UK Dig for Good team

So what now for the pond we've dug? Victoria Rae sets out what happens next in this, her final post from the pond:

"Next steps are to drain off the water, apply lime and fill the pond with water. After seven days the AFULA women will fill the pond with 1500 fingerlings so that a week after that the pond will be stocked and ready for the fingerlings to grow into healthy tilapia fish.

"We fly back to London tonight with the beautiful sound of the AFULA women's singing ringing in our ears. It's been hard to say goodbye to our wonderful new friends. We've shared so much with them over the last few days.

But out of our shared endeavours comes a pond that will serve this community well for years to come. It really is incredible to see what we can achieve for ourselves and our communities when we come together in a spirit of fellowship and common purpose."

Day 4: They did it!  Communal meal rounds off pond success

30 April 2013

The team all together

We have just heard that the AFULA women and UK diggers have realised their dream of building a brand new pond that will be a source of nutrition and income for the community in Bumala village for years to come.

You can see what it means to the women from Kenya and the UK to have left this extraordinary legacy in this clip:

Their success did not come without the odd challenge along the way, however, as Farm Africa's Victoria Rae describes in her latest post from the pond:

"Torrential rain in the night turned our pond into a mudbath. We learned today that mud is hard work, we learned about determination and perseverance in the face of setbacks. We also learned that our UK digging team are fantastic organisers to get a team working smoothly.

It wasn’t easy – boots sinking knee-deep into clayey mud, heavy sacks but we shifted vast quantities of mud today. The tree stump that was holding us up and refused to be hacked out, is now burning.

The result is a hole, constructed to the right dimensions and depth which will soon be prepared ready to be filled with tilapia.  A legacy that we have helped create and leave behind for the community to harvest hope from.

We celebrated the momentous moment together – cooking, eating and dancing as old friends. We did traditional English – cottage pie and trifle and were treated to delicious tilapia from Nafula’s pond, chicken stew, ugali  and cow peas. It was an emotional moment.

Judith spoke for all of us when she said: ‘I wasn’t quite prepared for how much we would change as individuals after four days.’ We have shared so much and found so much in common with our AFULA friends.'

The AFULA group are strong women, fired by entrepreneurial spirit and ambition for themselves and their families. They will live up to their vision to be the leading fish farmers in the community, in the county and even beyond."


Preparations for the group meal

Victoria Rae: "It is great to sit down together and eat our meal as a team. As diggers, we are serving British cottage pie and trifle. The AFULA ladies are treating us to chicken stew, tilapia (from Nafula's pond), ugali and cowpeas. This truely is a feast".

Day 3: Sweat, storms and more mud

29 April 2013

The ladies working hard at the pond site

Day 3 of Dig for Good is drawing to a close in dramatic fashion, as Farm Africa’s Victoria Rae describes in today’s post from the pond:

“We are making such great headway and the end is in sight. But as Helen Naliaka, Chairlady of AFULA said today:  ‘This is just the beginning. I am so excited that this is the beginning of our pond. When we are able to harvest a high quality fish it will help all of us lift up our standard of living and have money for school fees and our homes.’

And now, as night descends, there is a huge storm, with the power going on and off and no internet. This is really frustrating as we are desperate to shout very loudly we have so very nearly done it. There is just some finishing off to do at the pond tomorrow apparently.

The  AFULA women have welcomed us into their lives for these days – they are strong and driven by the vision of success that working together gives them. Helen expressed it so well: ‘We don’t want things to be done for us and we hate to be carried on backs. This group is very happy to have had training and be able to do fish farming for themselves.’

We heard there was a bit of doubt before we came about whether we would be up to it, but that doubt is gone. Everyone's support and retweets have been great motivators. We are all proud diggers!

It’s been another day of hard work, mud and lots of companionship and laughter. A tweet yesterday about compacting the earth being fun when you danced was strangely prescient as today we all danced the earth down with a wonderful song which was all about welcoming guests to the home. That says it all.

But there is a deeply serious core thought. Each woman we speak with, talks of the importance of their children going to school. One, Everline, who is Secretary to AFULA sums it up. Next week when we will all be back in the UK she has four sets of school fees to pay for the new term. It’s a tug of war is how she describes it  - saving enough from all the jobs she does, going without herself in order to be sure her children get an education.  

It reminds us that what we are doing will we hope bring greater financial security for these enterprising women.   

It has been tough there’s no getting away from that but with an amazing sharing spirit. The last word today can be Helen’s from AFULA: ‘You are wonderful people. I hope we keep our friendship for a very long time’.”

Teresa thanks her sponsors and shows the work she has been doing.

The Afula women teach their sister diggers from the UK a dance to help compound the earth in the pond. 

 Day 2: Blisters, sunburn and mud

 28 April 2013

Rosie Boycott shows excellent digging form on Day 2 of Dig for Good.

Team leader Judith Batchelar describes how the team has been getting on in its first full day of digging.

A great day digging. Compacting is more fun when you dance.

"Day 2 of our dig and the first full day. When we arrived at the site it felt like meeting old friends, yet we only met yesterday. The work is bringing us together and there's plenty of singing, laughter and the odd fall in the mud.

"Faith of AFULA group said she is proud of us. We are making more progress than we ever thought and it's starting to look like a pond. Judith is seriously impressed with all of our techniques. We are learning from the AFULA women and learning fast and enthusiastically. There are a few blisters, some sunburn and did we mention the mud?

"Overall a very happy team of diggers."

Day 1: "We are here to leave something everyone will remember"

27 April 2013

Judith Batchelar and Helen from the Afula Women's group symbolically break the earth and the dig begins!

Judith Batchelar and Helen from the AFULA women's group get Dig for Good started by breaking the earth.

‘We are here to leave something everyone will remember. Now let’s just do it.’ – we are a focused group of diggers spurred on by Faith K Buluma. Faith is a busy woman – founder member of the AFULA group, fish farmer, owner of the Farm Africa Aqua Shop nearby in Funyula which helps set other farmers up with advice, and wife to Mr Tom Buluma whose land this latest fish pond will be dug on.

Before we arrived we’d been encouraged to put aside any cultural shyness and make friends. As we turned the corner into the community a wave of singing, ululating and dancing broke out – smiles and laughter and there’s no alternative but to be straight in there – laughing well and dancing not so well.

We were assigned implements, hoes and shovels and walked through planted fields of cassava and maize towards the site about 10 minutes away. Curious children watched the strange procession.

The women already each have their own fishpond and this one will be shared by the community – all putting labour in and all gaining benefit as a result.

The site is pegged out and we started by digging a trench to divert water. This trench will form the edge of the pond. Then we start digging in the middle – enthusiastically and well although to be honest if we’ve got a way to go to match the hoe-swinging techniques of our sister diggers.

Blazing sun did not seem to daunt them but we worked on until the early evening when it was cooler. I worked alongside Helen Chairman of the AFULA group and Justine, a tiny woman who tears through the work, shovelling and clearing earth to the side.

At the end of the session, what’s the verdict? We’ve done more than anyone expected so a great start. Happy and tired diggers.

Find out more about fish farming and Farm Africa's Aqua Shops project.

Follow all the action on Twitter using #digforgood.

Day 1: Travel to Kisumu

27 April 2013

Women from the Afula women's group who will lend a helping hand to the UK diggers.

The team has been fired up by a great briefing from Erica, Farm Africa's Country Director in Kenya. Erica emphasised just how ambitious the women from the AFULA women's group (picture) are to achieve something special and life-changing for their community. The women diggers from the UK will be working with the cheery Afula group to build the pond in just four days.

The UK women diggers have flown this morning from Nairobi to Kisumu in Western Kenya. From Kisumu they will travel on to Bumala, a remote village where the dig will take place. This afternoon they will meet their fellow diggers from the AFULA group before the dig begins in earnest tomorrow.

Arrival in Nairobi!

26 April 2013

The team of women diggers have arrived in Nairobi and suddenly Heathrow seems an age away. Every member of the team is really excited. There's a palpable sense of anticipation. They've had a great welcome from Erica, the Farm Africa Kenya Country Director and from Susan Otieno who is our guide to all matters fish farming.

KARIBU!! A typically warm Kenyan welcome from the Farm Africa team in Nairobi.

Farm Africa's Victoria Rae sent an update from the diggers' hotel in Nairobi: "I asked my sister digger what she was most looking forward to. Straight away she says 'meeting the women!' I share that excitement. These are women who will be a huge part of our lives over the coming days. And we are ready to learn from them and put our backs into digging this pond. Bring it on...."

Destination Nairobi

26 April 2013

The ladies taking part in the Dig for Good challenge left London Heathrow for Nairobi at 10.45 this morning. Dressed in matching TU clothing and Farm Africa hats, the Dig for Good team arrived at Terminal 5 and had their photo taken for the British Airways magazine.

The team of diggers proudly display the banner showing all companies sponsoring Farm Africa's Food for Good campaign





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