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.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Big Day

We rise, before the sun, ready to get to work.  Walking out to the facility site, we come across three men working on the road.  Two volunteers stay behind with a shovel and a pick to make sure that the large truck can make it through the road out of the river.  The two remaining volunteers continue to walk.
7:15AM - We arrive at the hen site.  Greet the guardian, wash boots, fill water barrels, and wait for the hens arrival.
9:00AM - The estimated arrival time of the hens from Port-au-Prince.  There is no sign of birds and no word from the driver.  Guy Marie makes some calls through Gonaives to find a phone number for the driver.
11:15AM - We make contact with the truck driver.  They are not yet to Gonaives.  Kelly, Eleni, and Gina walk to the house.  The rest of us wait.
11:45AM - Haiti Broilers veternarian of Gonaives arrives in Gros-Morne.  He inspects the house for the arrival of the hens and approves that everything is ready. 
1:20PM - Kelly, Eleni,and Gina return with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, ice water, and a piece of chocolate for Christie.  Christie eats her lunch in the street where she met the three ladies along their walk.
1:32PM - A large truck enters into the yard of the hen facility.  The doors are opened.  Guardian and manager of the hen facility wash their feet and walk inside.  Crates are unloaded from the back of the truck and brought into the house - 12 birds in each crate.  The crate latches are unlocked and birds fly overhead.  Birds perch on the houses, poop on the water troughs, run out the doors.  Just another Haitian kind of day...  The birds are counted as they come out of the crates and the empty crates are counted for verification that all hens are present.  1426 hens are unloaded from the truck and let loose in the house.  One lays still.  Two cartons are overflowing with eggs that are found in the crates.  It's starting to be a good day.
3:15PM - Volunteers and the sisters pile in the land rover to head back to the house and take showers.  Feathers in hair, droppings on feet, and smiles on faces.  The team relaxes and awaits tomorrow when 75 hens will be delivered once more and the sales can begin!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ala Bel, Sa Bel

"Ala bel, sa bel" (This is truly beautiful), these were the words of Mayor Beauger of Gros-Morne during the benediction of the Poulaye this past Friday. The mayor was joined by Caritas Gros-Morne and members of the community to celebrate the benediction of the newly constructed hen facility on the outskirts of town.

The ceremony started with a reading and blessing from Fr. Claude of the local parish. This was followed by remarks from the director of Caritas, Gros Morne, the mayor of the town, and Guy-Marie, the Agronomist for local Caritas projects, and visionary of this project. The speakers took advantage of the opportunity to encourage the community to protect the hen facility and to make it their own. They were reminded of the benefits from local egg production including the boost to the economy and the availability of local nutrition. All parties stressed the importance of working together and supporting the effort. The mayor in particular showed tremendous energy when expressing his happiness in hope for the community and for the growth of Gros-Morne.

After remarks were made, a red ribbon was cut by Hens for Haiti President, Christina Newman, along with Mayor Beauger, Guy Marie Garcon, and Fr. Claude. As a well deserved finale, a bottle of champagne was popped open and shared with all in attendence. The ceremony was broadcast live over three local radio stations to spread the word of the Poulaye and to encourage residents of Gros-Morne to buy eggs locally.

Last minute preparations are in full swing as the team prepares for the arrival of the 1500 hens on Tuesday morning, March 27th. All are praying that the heavy rains hold off until the trucks have crossed the river to deliver the load. The team looks forward to a successful launch to the Poulaye project.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

An Island in the Sun

There hasn't been much to report lately. After completing the foundation of the larger facility, construction was put on hold until Peter could come up and assess the work and plan for the continuation of the walls and roof. This process was delayed a little by anticipation of the election results and possible riots. But luckily, Peter was able to travel up to the project site last week with his father to make plans for their work this coming weekend. In preparation, the workers in Gros-Morne have raised concrete beams to support the wooden structure to come.

Although things have been moving a little slow, not to worry, I found things to occupy my time. Guy-Marie and I advertised, interviewed and choose a full-time production manager for the project. When the business gets going, Wilson will be in charge of overseeing employees, controlling cash flow, purchasing feed, replacement hens and the general dealings of everyday production. Guy-Marie will be available for oversight and to answer any questions, but he will not be on-site everyday. I have already started to train Wilson in the ways of animal husbandry and the vision for this operation. The three of us together will sit down tomorrow and discuss options for a guardian and other facility workers.

Another side project that started was the digging of a second well for use by the community. The well that was dug in August is located inside the facility security fence and will be off limits to the outside community once hens are on the property. Because we want the community to also benefit fromt the development in the area, we decided to dig a second well near the community school/church. The land was once again donated by a local farmer and the community has already agreed to father rocks, sand and gravel as necessary building materials. I am encouraged by the enthusiasm of the community and their desire to participate in the development. Through my interaction with the people in the last several months, I am confident that they will continue to support and protect the new Poulaye project.

And finally, my time waiting for things to move forward was well wasted. Jean (Bob) had the chance to come visit for a week or so with his gregarious cousin George. I took him to visit the hen house, the ravine correction, construction of additional classrooms at the Fon Ibo school and of course Tiden's beach/bar. After spending a few days in Gros-Morne, we took a tap-tap to OKap to visit his family. We even spend two days sleeping on a local beach, aptly named "Paradise". It was a great time to see him and try to give him a taste of my daily life in Gros-Morne. Although short-lived, I took advantage of my break from work and my opportunity to spend time with him before his deployment.

And now things are starting to pick up again. Although I will be returning to the US after a few more weeks, the project will continue to advance. I will return in May to attend my brother's graduation from the University of Arizona. After spending a month or so with friends and family, I will most likely return to Gros-Morne to continue working: installing solar electricity, finish setting up water and feed systems and purchasing of hens. I am looking forward to ice-cream and Chipolte, but I also know the my work is far from over.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Long Time Gone

Good news from this end, the foundation is finished! It took 36 people 2 full days to pour the floor...but 210 bags of cement later, I have my very own, shallow but wide swimming pool!

So what next? Well, to finish the construction of the facility, I am waiting for Peter and the Kembe Foundation to bring materials from Port-au-Prince the first week of April. They did a great job with the guardian and storage houses back in December and have been anxiously waiting for the next chance to come to Gros-Morne. In the meantime, the nest boxes are almost finished and the water and feed systems are under construction.

Guy Marie and I are also in the process of selecting a manager to run the operation. I want to make sure I have the chance to train at least one individual before I leave in May to know that the project is in good hands. Tomorrow morning I will be conducting my first Haitian interview. As usually I am not the one asking the questions, I don't really know what to ask. This is where Guy Marie comes in I guess.

In other news, the road hasn't been an issue lately because it has not rained in the last month. I am anxiously awaiting what may happen when the rainy season does come. Of course I hope it holds off another week or so until after Peter comes and is able to drop off his materials, but I know the farmers in this area are praying for the opposite. Because the funds are not available at this time for complete road re-construction, I am focusing my efforts on moving forward with the Poulaye project and training a manager and technicians to take over after I leave. For this I am also leaving behind an instructional booklet specialized for our operation as well as several books on the basic care and health of poultry. It looks at this point that I may have to return to continue the project once again. When I leave, in May, the operation should have everything it needs in terms of structures, materials and employees. The only thing that we will be waiting on is electricity and the hens themselves. We do not want to bring in hens before there is electricity, and this may not be until June.

None the less, we are working hard and pressing forward. I will accomplish all that I can before the time comes for me to leave. I am in high spirits and already can see the effects of this project as a success. People are asking when they can start to buy eggs, other people are asking if there will be job opportunities, many people in the community are just happy to have water. The whole town of Gros-Morne is watching and waiting to see what will come of this Poulaye. Just as I know many people are doing in the United am I. I trust in God.