Bachelor Navy Dr. Andy's Field Report: Sustainable Farming and Eating in Africa

By , Contributor

Dr. Andy Baldwin

I've mentioned my friend Edward before. He's the 40-something sustainability expert/skinny farmer who made sure I had breakfast to eat that first morning after my first brutal run with Isaac. Edward manages the Agricultural Training Center for Empowering Lives International at Chebaiywa and teaches both children and adults sustainable farming methods. He has a fantastic sense of humor, a truly generous soul, and we have become very good friends. I'd like to share a little bit about his life with you.

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This past weekend I had the chance to visit Edward’s family home in Kapsabet. On Saturday morning after I had run a grueling 30k, William Kiprop, Edward and I drove via Eldoret to the higher elevation, lush and tropical area of Kapsabet where tea grows best. As we approached Kapsabet you could literally feel and see yourself getting closer to the clouds. Seas of green stretched out for as far as the eye could see. Farmlands Rift Valley.jpg

This area reminded me of the windward eastern side of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands where I have a house in Kaneohe. The only difference was that in Kapsabet we were at close to 8000 feet of altitude and Kaneohe is at sea level. Some of the best runners the world has ever seen have come from Kapsabet area. Edward pointed out a dirt road which led to now-American star runner Bernard Lagat’s home.

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We turned down a small dirt road just before the town of Kapsabet and Edward was clearly eager to see his wife and children and to show off his farm. Honored to have become his close friend, I was really excited too! “Wait!” Edward suddenly said. “Stop, I want to get some sweets for my little girls.” William stopped the car and Edward rushed into a small store and bought three lollipops. I used the opportunity to snap some photos. Soon we were on our way again and Edward directed William through the back roads.

As we arrived at his gate to his property two smiling girls pulled the gate back. Edward jumped out of the car and they rushed to hug their daddy. He gave them the suckers and they immediately put them into their mouths. The joy of a family reunion, daughters hugging their father, is something precious to witness.

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Both William and I were amazed at the size and obvious work that had gone into Edward’s farm. He had several acres of tea, meticulously groomed, as well as various fruit trees, cows, a house that he had built himself. Out of this house emerged his smiling, beautiful wife Regina. She was wearing a blue T shirt with the state of Tennessee on it, saying something about a U.S. Representative from the state. She quickly said she had no idea what it meant, but she was just glad to have a shirt on her back. I chuckled.

Edward took us around his farm, and William and I snapped photos. I learned how to pick tea, and learned about the growth cycle, and what an excellent cash crop it is here. William, a seasoned farmer, took photos of the plants, the animals, and the soil. He was mentally taking notes, you could tell. “What are you doing at Chebaiywa?” William asked Edward, which was an obvious question, given the value of what he had here on the land. “I need to put my two older boys through their secondary education,” replied Edward. Again, I realized the sincere dedication to fatherhood that clearly drives Edward.

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“Kuja!” Regina yelled, the Swahili word for “come”. It was time for lunch. We entered the modest sized home made of mud, and since reinforced with plaster. There were inspirational sayings and verses from the Bible hung up around the living room. It was international handwashing day, so we all honored this and did what we all should do before eating! Then we said a prayer for the food we were about to indulge in.

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We were treated to a joyous family lunch of ugali, pumpkin, avocado, bananas, passionfruit, and fresh pineapple juice all from Edward’s farm. It was the most delicious meal I have had in Kenya to date. So good! So fresh! I confirmed right then and there, “I want to be a farmer! I want to have some land here to grow such fresh food.”

“We will help you, we will teach you,” both William and Edward replied in unison with big smiles on their faces.

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A man, raised in poverty, with a hard work ethic, and solid Christian-based values had learned the art of farming from his father, and had put it into practice to raise a family of six, and when times were tough he went to earn extra money by driving a bus in Qatar, and teaching agriculture to students at a faith-based training center far from his family.

I saw a different side of Edward this day, not that of a man taking care of me as a visitor to Chebaiywa Training Center, but that of a proud man, farmer, father, husband, in his element at his own home, on his own land, there in Kapsabet. I know it meant the world to him that I came to see his home. And I am so thankful that I did.

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For more information on the Sustainable Agriculture Program click here.

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U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Andrew Baldwin, M.D. is a physician, humanitarian, U.S. Navy diver and media personality currently serving as a family medicine resident at the Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton in Southern California. Prior to his current position, Dr. Baldwin served at the Navy's Bureau of…

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