Two Remarkable Men

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about all the people who give of their time, treasure and talent to The Mama Ada Foundation. Our organization’s heart beat is made possible by people in the United States and Kenya and other parts of the world coming forward to give in so many ways. We’d like to especially tell you about two remarkable men who have been a sheer joy to work with for the past year.

Last summer, we called a friend named Steve Clarke. Our board chair, Jim Cook, and I had met him at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We knew him to be an agriculture consultant, having done international work for many well-regarded organizations such as the University of Minnesota, Land O’ Lakes, Millennium Development Corporation and Compatible Technology International, among others.

mock mock Steve Clarke .............................. Lewis Kamiri

In our conversation, I told Steve that we’d just learned that the corporation of Syngenta was having a contest to solicit “big ideas.” I then told him that we had a big idea at The Mama Ada Foundation – to bring a team of agriculture experts to our farm friends in Kenya. Our friends in Kenya had been asking for farming information and ideas and we wanted to bring it to them.

The contest was there; our big idea was there….but we did not have the agricultural knowledge to write an entry. I asked Steve for his help to do so. I’ll probably remember Steve’s response for the rest of my life; without hesitation, he said, “I’m in.”

And “in” he has been. For the two weeks following our conversation, we worked to write a proposal to Syngenta’s Good Growth Plan – which turned out to be the winning one. Our partners at Syngenta loved our idea of a team of independent agriculture experts partnering with local communities to address the critical issues of food insecurity and low farm incomes that wreak tragedy in Kenya and around the world.

Shortly after The Mama Ada Foundation received the award from Syngenta, Steve recruited a colleague named Lewis Kamiri to join this team. Lewis joined our work with equal love and excitement, knowing personally of farms in Kenya as he was raised on a farm near Nairobi. Like Steve, Lewis has worked around the world, now as an independent agriculture consultant. While he has lived in the United States for many years, his heart beats strongly for his beloved homeland of Kenya.

"If you want to walk fast, work alone; but if you want to walk far, walk together"- African Proverb
One value of extreme importance to us in designing this five-person team was that three of the members be Kenyan. We placed an ad in the Daily Nation (a large Kenyan newspaper) and received an enormous number of applications (135 in fact!). Since January, Steve and Lewis have worked hours and hours of volunteer time to ensure that the people chosen will bring excellent skills and strong hearts to the team’s work.

The three Kenyan team members have recently been named and are now preparing for the field work in August. We will soon provide more information about these people who will bring their knowledge and their hearts to farmers in Western Kenya. It will be with great excitement that we share news of their journey with all of you.

For now, in the words of Joel Sawe, a dear friend and partner in Kenya:

“We hold this opportunity (of the team’s visit) so dear to us as we’re prayerful for a positive outcome which can dramatically transform our small holder household by offering sustainable food security. There’s an African proverb that says ‘if you want to walk fast, work alone; but if you want to walk far, walk together’. Friends, The Mama Ada Foundation will walk far, because we’ll walk together.”

Yes, indeed, Joel. Yes, indeed.

- Julie Keller