I just received a call from Tarekegn, the manager of the farm in Chencha. He called to ask me to arrange for the shipment of more feed for the 300 hungry chicks that I brought to the farm a few weeks ago. He also reported that the difficult excavation for the new hatchery building has cost us some time, but is almost complete.
I am back in the big city after spending the past two weeks in Chencha on the farm. It was such an exciting time! This trip marked the true start of the hatchery project. We now have the beginnings of a new hatchery building, 300 chicks thriving at three weeks old, a confident and encouraged staff, and a community that is excited and praising God for what’s going on.
When we planned this grow-out trial I didn’t realize the full significance of what we were planning. I knew that it would be important, but I was only thinking within the context of our own project and its staff. However, I never realized how important this might be for the community there.
We picked up the chicks on April 13 and brought them home. That night Dawit was so excited to have 300 baby chicks staying in our living room. He pulled up his chair and insisted that we read books to the chicks. Bright and early the next morning, Jess helped me load up the chicks in the car and off I went to make the 9 hour drive to Chencha. Upon arrival in Chencha we had only lost one chick. The rest were tired and thirsty, but after a night of rest they were bouncing off of the walls. Three weeks later, to everyone’s amazement, they continue to thrive. Our primary poultry technician, Tadese, now has lots of experience feeding, watering, and vaccinating young chicks. The guards have worked out the kinks for operation of the new generator, which is essential to keep the chicks warm on the chilly nights when the power is out. Our farm managers, Tarekegn and Aregahegn, have figured out how to organize the farm to help protect the chicks from disturbance and disease.
This trial was intended to be small and to primarily benefit the project and its staff. However, it has turned out to be big for the community on an emotional and mental level. We took something that was firmly planted in the realm of impossibility and made it a possibility. As we were planning this trial literally everyone discouraged us, saying that it was impossible to ship day-old chicks to Chencha. I persisted knowing that every year millions of chicks are shipped around the US without incident. Of course, I knew that it would be much more difficult here, but not impossible. So we prayed and just went for it. I thought that it hadn’t been done simply because it hadn’t been tried. However, I came to find out later that it has been tried multiple times by the government and several large organizations without success. Every time they have tried to ship day-old chicks to Chencha they have all died in transit. Ours is the first batch of chicks EVER to make it to Chencha alive. So the nay sayers had good reason for their doubt, but we had one thing on our side that the others didn’t, God! I believe our chicks are the most prayed over chickens that the world has ever seen.
As I prepared to leave Chencha I sat down with the staff and stressed that they should take extra special care of this batch of chicks. If this trial were to fail it would be no big deal to us. We’d just try again and correct any mistakes, but this trial has grown bigger than ourselves. The people of Chencha are hanging a lot of hope on it and we can’t let them down.
The second big objective of my trip was to oversea the groundbreaking of the new hatchery building. It was so exciting to see that first shovel full of dirt. This was the culmination of over a year of prayer and planning and the contribution of thousands of people through the Chicks for Change Campaign. There before my eyes it was finally becoming real.
I must give a lot of credit to Tarekegn here. I really wasn’t needed for much. He had arranged everything in advance. I mostly just gave a nod at each step as he asked for my approval.
Our conversation sounded a bit like this:
“This is the site we’ve chosen for the building.” (Tarekegn)
“Looks great!” (me)
“The materials are scheduled to arrive tomorrow.”
“The builder is ready. Can he start tomorrow?”
I stayed through much of the difficult initial excavation for the building. The clay soil is dry and rock hard due to the drought. Everything is done by hand with shovel and domma, a special digging tool that is kind of like a mattock. In spite of the long, hard days no complaints could be heard from the workers. They were happy to be able to bring a little money home each day. This is one of the most immediate benefits to the community. Fourteen men and women who would otherwise be unemployed now have steady work while the building is built. Then there are the 8 guys who worked to deliver the materials for the building, as well as, the business owners who employ these people. This is a big boost to the local economy. Of course, the biggest boost to the local economy will come once this building is completed and we can help local farmers start producing poultry.
Next steps & Prayer needs
Now that everything is moving along in Chencha the next big step for me is to finish the work on my home made incubator. Initial testing was successful. The next step is to finish installing the egg racks and do a real test with real eggs. If we have a successful hatch then we are off to the races.
I only have a week left to finish up the incubator and start the testing. Jess will have to monitor the eggs for the first couple of weeks. I am taking a quick trip to Uganda on April 9. I have to make this trip to complete the process for my work permit. However, I’m really excited that our friends from Water for All are working there now. The two weeks that I’ll spend in Uganda should be productive, kind of like a short term mission trip. I’ll be helping dig wells and brainstorming some community level agri-business possibilities. The downside is that I’ll be leaving my family again while I travel.
After Uganda I’ll start the arrangements for importing breeding stock for our hatchery. The hatchery building is just a first step. Good breeding stock is critical to the hatchery operation. We have teamed up with the International Center for Poultry to get some really great stock. These guys have done an excellent job selecting their breeding stocks and I’m really excited about this partnership. In the coming months I’ll be filling you in more about what the International Center for Poultry does. In the mean time check them out on the web at www.centerforpoultry.com.
Prayer requests are mingled all through these lines:
- Everything going on in Chencha and on the farm
- traveling mercies and more family separations
- bureaucracy issues, especially about my work permit
I’m back with my family in the city after a very successful trip to the farm in Chencha. I arrived in Chencha to a staff and community that were excited, but at the same time skeptical and hesitant about what was about to begin. Just a few weeks later attitudes have changed. Now there is just excitement and anticipation about what lies ahead.