Monday, January 28, 2013

Spread the Word! And the Eggs...

This past week was quite eventful for Hens for Haiti and the Gros-Morne Poulaye.  I just got home from 10 days in several different parts of Haiti and only now am returning to reliable internet to explain everything that has happened! 

For two days I visited a town call Bas Limbe - about 15 minutes west of Limbe and 30-45 minutes south of Cap Haitian, the second largest city in Haiti on the north coast of the island.  I was requested to conduct an assessment for the posibility of constructing a hen house to provide eggs to the local market as well as larger Limbe and Cap Haitian clients.  I had never been to that part of the country and I was floored by its beauty.  I thought Gros-Morne was green and full of life, but Bas Limbe changed my perspective.  There was no trouble of rain in the area, trees and even GRASS were all over!  The small town was only about a 10 minute drive from the beautiful Caribbean.  I would have no problem working here... :)  My hosts seemed very excited to get started and explore the feasibility of a hen house.  We are now in the process of gathering information for market trends, determining appropriate facility construction, and developing a business plan to propose to the Catholic parish twinned with Bas Limbe in Kokomo, Indiana.  I'm exctied for this opportunity to expand the concept of local egg production!

During my absence from Gros-Morne, the Haitian Minister of Agriculture made a visit to the town and even passed through our proud Poulaye.  He was impressed with the success that we'd had and mentioned that more places should invest in similiar projects.  Guy Marie took this opportunity to discuss with the Minister our challenges with water and feed sources.  We are not holding our breath for any immediate changes, but it was nice to have acknowledgement from Haitian leaders outside of the immediate community.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Feeding - Cafeteria Style

I've realized that determining the proper ingredients and proportions for chicken feed may be above my pay grade.  Instead of mixing the perfect ration, I was introduced to a method called cafeteria feeding.  Even if I cannot determine the proportions of each ingredient needed to sustain the proper nutrition for layers, the birds can find what they need from the food made available.

Over the next month, we will seclude 12 hens to test this method with local ingredients and an abundance of treated water.  Depending on the season, local feed could include crushed corn, millet, rice, sorghum, barley, wheat, bean meal, peas, fish meal, and dried leaves from the moringa tree to provide minerals and vitamins.  If the trial period proves successful, this could greatly reduce our dependance on imported feed and reduce production costs, therefore increasing profit. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

First Look at Business Progress

The hen house has been operational for over 9 months and this is the first time I've had the chance to see the progress.  Honestly, I was expecting the worst.  After all I'd heard of sickness, heat, decreasing egg prices, moldy feed, increased feed costs, etc. I wasn't sure what I'd be faced with walking back across the river to Kanpech.  Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised. 

The building looked the same, there were hens clucking and walking around inside, there was clorinated water to greet me upon my arrival - all looked well.  I was very impressed with how the local agronomist took the initiative to build a separate small house to quarantine ill birds, started two compost piles for the disposal of litter, planted trees along the border of the property to keep the area cool, and even started a small tree nursery on one side to grow moringa - a tree with great vitamin value in the leaves.  Any doubt I had about the management of this place during my absence was washed away.  Guy-Marie and his staff were on top of things, brain storming solutions to each and every problem that came their way.  A truly Haitian attitude...

Unfortunately, there were still issues that needed to be addressed on a larger scale.  The road leading out of the river and up the side of the bank to the hen house had gotten worse since my last visit.  With each rain, the banks were slowly eroded away, washing out the road as well as the neighbors' gardens.  This will be our next major focus - to reinforce the riverbank with gabions and reconstruct the road.  We have always directed our projects tailored to community needs and desires.  And this is a true need. 

The second challenge that we will need to tackle is the production of local feed.  Because of droughts in the US, corn prices within Haiti have increased dramatically over the past several months and therefore affected the price of chicken feed.  Our goal is to find a formula composed of locally grown ingredients that could satisfy the needs of the hens, decrease production costs, and benefit the local farmers by buying locally.  This may be a larger problem to solve, but I am determined that it must be done in order to make the hen business sustainable.

Stay tuned, the best is yet to come.