Growing up, my family had a garden, and we would grow and sell produce at a market in the city. My experiences in harvesting corn, therefore, come mainly from picking sweet corn, which consists of getting up a few hours before the sun for some of us to carry a basket between the rows of corn as another one of us picked the corn and threw them into the basket.
So my first experience harvesting corn in Kenya was an experience that looked a little different than what I was used to!
Corn here is somewhere in between the sweet corn and field corn we have in the US. It is a bit tough to chew, but is sold as a snack by those who grill them alongside the road. It is hard enough that it can be used after it is dried, when it is ground into flour and used for ugali (a starchy, corn flour-based food which is a staple of most meals here in Kenya).
Harvesting day starts with more than 100 of the high school students piling into the wagon of the tractor for the drive to the farmland.
Some of the older boys start off by using a machete like this one to cut the stalks of corn off at the base. Then, the rest of us carry the stalks to lay them in lines stretching from one end of the field to the other.
Once the stalks are in rows, we start picking the ears of corn off the stalks and husking them so they can be thrown into the back of the tractor for transport to the compound, where the next steps of the process can begin.
Once back at the compound, the corn is sorted, and the sacks are emptied into a machine that separates the kernels from the cobs.
The kernels of corn are then set aside so they can begin being laid out on the ground to dry for a few days.
Because there are so few resources available, those that are available are used in whatever way they can be so that nothing is wasted. So instead of throwing them away, the now kernelless cobs are dried so they can be used for fueling the cooking fires in the kitchen.
The days worth of work by the 100 or so students from the center will be able to feed the children for around 3 months! Another farmland owned by Omwabini will provide a similar amount of corn, so that the children will be able to eat for more than 6 months!
Because I love baby animals, here is a picture of Flora, a volunteer, and myself with two new baby goats that were just born at the farm where we harvested the maize! They were so cute and soft and I fell in love!