In 2012, college students Jake Abell and Danny Nassar received grants for an extensive agricultural community needs assessment for the Bethlehem Home community. The study was designed to identify the the attitudes, practices, and vision of the farming elders of Bethlehem Home. This project goal was an expression of our core philosophy at Straw To Bread: that meaningful solutions in farming, as in all other areas, ought to be in direct response to the needs that are identified by the community members themselves.
After the annual trip in May of 2012, a portion of the team remained in Kenya and lived among the members of BH for two months, conducting a number of research projects which included in-depth interviews about farming with 25 elders in the BH community. Additionally, eight non-Bethlehem Home community members were interviewed in order to gain information about agricultural practices of people who are not a part of the BH community. To help administer these interviews in the local language of Dholuo, the team employed local Kenyan high school and university students as translators.
In another facet of the research, the team contracted Crop Nuts, a Kenyan soil analysis company, to run a full chemical and nutrient profile on the farms of BH elders.
The study yielded an enhanced understanding of local market economics and their impact on BH farmers. It also identified the hopes and goals that BH farmers foster for their farms, along with the obstacles to those goals. The study also generated a host of data about what people grow, when they grow it, and why.
All of this information is now being analyzed. Within a few months, Straw to Bread hopes to implement further development projects on BH member farms that respond to the data collected from this study.