This is the post excerpt.
I am beginning my venture into blogging. Several people have asked me to write and post pictures while I am in Ethiopia as well as my work in Haiti. I am calling it Loafing Around the Farmers Table for reasons I should explain.
During the winter months or rainy days as a boy in Boswell, Indiana my Dad would take me to town with him to loaf. Loafing to him wasn’t the traditional meaning of loafing like in lazy. For Dad it was stopping by the grain elevator to talk for awhile and in the winter eat some peanuts from the hog feeder on display.
Then maybe the gas station or implement dealer to do more of the same. Then on to the Hub restaurant for (for my Boswell friends this was pre Farmers Table Restaurant) for coffee. We would usually sit around the lone round table in the back where the talk was usually too much rain, not enough rain, low price of corn and beans and the usual joking about which color tractor was best. I learned many things around that table so it was meaningful to me and appropriate as I travel working with farmers to use that name. And also in some way it is a way for me to honor my Dad. So…..here goes.
I submitted the final draft for my business plan for the Duparc Farm Project in Haiti on Wednesday for final review before printing and submission to the complete board. Much, much more to come on the details but basically I am writing a business plan to operate a 127 acre crop and livestock farm in Haiti. It has been fallow for several years and will needs fences, clearing, cleaning etc., etc. But, the first step is getting the business plan approved by the owners of the farm, The Good Shepherd Orphanage. I am so excited for them because this could be such a blessing to all the amazing ministries they do.
My vision for agriculture ministry began in the 1980’s when I was a young farmer in Indiana. The vision became focused on Haiti two years ago and this specific business plan has been a year in the making. I have had an amazing group of advisers and encouragers supporting me. From the beginning this could only have been a vision orchestrated by God. I have reconnected with friends and mentors from years ago as well as new friends who have been invaluable to me. I found that I have been able to not only draw from these friends but also on personal experiences from throughout my career.
My vision is that this farm will not only provide financial resources for The Good Shepherd Orphanage but also become a teaching and training center for the Duparc community. We will implement modern production methods in the field as well as working to reduce post-harvest losses. We will teach animal husbandry, disease and parasite control, and humane animal handling and transport. My vision is to develop quality herds of goats and hogs fed high quality feeds produced on the farm. We will develop facilities that are modern and sustainable, operated completely off the grid. We will also research and develop value added products such as gluten free flours.
I have been very anxious today about my friends in Haiti. People who know me know I have had a heart for the “the people of Haiti”. But this burden has become more personal the more I become involved in peoples lives. As Hurricane Mathew begins bearing down on Haiti I think not only of “people” but on Alix who asked me for money a few months ago to replace the tarp he and his mother were living under with an actual house. Unfortunately I told him I couldn’t at that time. I think of the family outside Jacmel we worked with last year to begin a house for their daughter and son in law. I don’t know if it was ever finished but either way the parents are living in an 12 x 16 A-frame hut with a thatched roof that will not withstand a hurricane. I think of Pastor Jouldane and his family who do have a new roof thanks to Mays Chapel United Methodist church who gave money. And all of my friends who I served with – praying that they will be safe. And all of the others whose names I might not remember but whose faces I see as I worry and pray. It all has suddenly become very real and personal.
I read about the bloodshed in Ethiopia as protestors in Oromia have clashed with police and 52 have already been killed. Many of the students and staff I worked with at the college in April are from Oromia. It has suddenly become very real and personal.
This is a burden for me because God has allowed me to enter peoples lives and have a relationship. So, what to do with it. How can I do anything but pray?
I came back from Ethiopia and a quick visit with Quincy loaded with ideas and information for our work in Haiti. My work in Ethiopia was not a ‘stand alone, random assignment’ but one I intended to augment plans for the farm in Haiti. More info on that soon. Pics of a couple of those ideas:
I’m sitting in the Addis Ababa airport (airport code ADD but that’s another post) writing my final post from Ethiopia. I have learned so much in my 20 days here. My “TOP TEN” (actually 9)
1. When your hosts ask “how do you find the air condition?” the proper answer is:
a. I haven’t found it yet.
b. How do you turn it on?
c. It’s great I love this weather!
2. The fine for hitting a camel on the road…..$350 + the cost to replace the camel + a totaled Land Cruiser……..our driver told me this as we were sitting on the highway waiting for 3 camels to amble across in front of us. As he said – “Don’t hit the camels.”
3. Take a power strip next trip – when the power is out for long periods and there is only one generator maximize – especially if you have to use a 220 adapter for every socket.
4. Baby wipes are the greatest invention…. ever….seriously.
5. It’s hard for a left handed person to remember to only use only the right hand when eating. The only thing I can say about the origin of this custom is ewww ….. you can look up the reason.
6. The effects of altitude are real especially when I drink a beer after years of not.
7. The travel guides tell Americans to try to not stand out when overseas. When visiting the Hot Springs and you’re the only pale skinned person…..especially in the crowded pool or in the showers that consist of pipes coming out of the hillside and as many men standing under it as can get wet……There’s no way to blend in Boss! At the pool heads were turning like they were doing the wave.
8. Driving on a dirt road across the Rift Valley in a Land Cruiser feeling like Marlon Perkins……Priceless!!
9. I love the sound of monkey chasers in the morning – especially when the monkeys are sitting on the roof eating their stolen mangoes.
Wow, in some ways it has flown and in some ways it seems like I have been here forever. This week we have spent touring some of the programs in other departments. This morning we toured the Natural Resources Department and saw some amazing things. They have a project which growing silkworms and producing silk. It was fascinating to see the process from start to finish.
This afternoon we toured the apiary and the dairy farm. It was a little frustrating because our tour guide spoke some English and understood almost none. That’s pretty much been our experience here to varying degrees. There’s one thing I have learned in my travels here and elsewhere. When you say something to someone or ask a question and they say “ok, ok or ya,ya” that actually means…”I have no freakin’ clue what you just said but I don’t want to admit it and want it to stop.”
Usually when I have been in another culture for this length of time I can say I have begun to peel back the onion but I have to say this time I’m not even sure I found the onion. I can’t quite figure it out. The college sits on over 10,000 acres of land although I’m not sure how much total is under some sort of production. They have a dairy facility with a capacity of 1,000 cows – a milking parlor with 20 milkers and a closed milk handling system all the way to pasteurization. The milking system is not working and they are down to 108 cows milking by hand and using all the milk for butter and cream – and I wouldn’t eat any of it. The same thing with the silk worms. The Chinese have an expert running the program up to producing the cocoons but none of the machines which spin the silk are working. They have an amazing swine facility with 2 – 20 sow farrowing houses and are producing some nice pigs. But in Ethiopia well over 50% of the population does not eat pork for religious reasons my question is – why do you even have a swine program? Apparently there is a good market for pork to the growing Chinese population but I’m still confused. And my poor colleagues in Plant Sciences have nothing to work with at all. They are thoroughly covering theory but the field experience is sorely lacking.
So, I can’t put my finger on the whole situation. When I have asked the younger staff they recognize the problem but have no idea why it is what it is. Today we asked a seasoned staff member and he gave a wry smile and said “you’ll have to talk to the Dean”. Ah, nothing more need be said as the saying goes.
So, I have to write a report to turn in to the bureaucrats and walk away wondering how much good I have done. It has been amazing and amazingly frustrating at the same time. Maybe I need some distance and time to really come up with a conclusion. Maybe it was enough to just be. On my first day here one of the instructors said “you left utopia to come here to teach us. You are a good man.” I guess that should be enough.
Classes are finished and now it is time to write reports and hopefully take a tour of some of the other departments here at Alage. This afternoon we toured the Donkey Welfare Training Center which is a joint project with ATVET Alage and The Donkey Sanctuary which is a charity based in the UK. I’ll post pictures when I return home since I can’t download pictures from my phone to the laptop. At the Training Center they train students in proper handling of donkeys and the various pack saddles to use to prevent injuries to the donkey. Just as with our students in plant sciences these students will go back into their communities to be agriculture agents. One of the requirements for completion is to design and make a prototype pack saddle to take with them.
The Center also provides veterinary services for farmers in the area to bring in their donkeys and occasionally cows and goats. A donkey with a colt came in while we were there to be treated for a hyena bite. Dr. Yohannes Mulatu, one of the three veterinarians on staff gave us our tour which ended watching him examining the donkey. He said they treat at least 20 donkeys per week at no charge.
Saturday was the college graduation and we were surprised to be ushered up onto the main stage to be seated with the Deans and Department Heads and Clergy. It was very cool to see the priest from the Orthodox Christian church sitting in the same row as the clergy from the Muslim community. Truly it was one of those ‘pinch myself’ moments. The ceremony lasted about three hours and featured music and native dance and of course speeches. At the luncheon afterwards the Dean of the college apologized for not giving our names (he had been away and didn’t know our names) when he simply introduced us as guests from America.
The luncheon was truly a celebration feast with all sorts of Ethiopian food in a buffet. One of my favorites was kitfo which an Ethiopian delicacy of raw meat marinated in mitmita which is a chili powder made of mixed spices. I said “YOLO” and spooned some on my plate. Very tasty and no bad effects! We have become accustomed to eating with our hands and the luncheon was no different. No forks, spoons or napkins. Being left handed I have had trouble remembering to eat with my right hand which is proper. As we were about finished one of the staff seated at our table brought a roll of toilet paper and tore off a few sheets for each person to wipe their hands. There was plenty of Ethiopian beer flowing and the woman serving it was making sure everyone had more than enough. The day ended with a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony which we were lucky enough to be seated in front the area. It was interesting to watch the lady roast the green coffee beans and then pound it into a powder with a mortar and pestle. Then the powder was spooned into the clay coffee carafe and boiling water poured over it. As I have said before I have quickly grown to love Ethiopian coffee.
Today is our second Monday in Ethiopia and starting the second and last full week of classes/trainings. Today we complete training with instructors and tomorrow we begin training the students. We have decided to divide into two groups of 50. Adaamah (the other person from CRS) will do the lectures while I have field sessions. It will all be difficult with such large groups but that is what we have. Truthfully more than a farmer to farmer role I feel like I am an adjunct instructor which is a little more work and stress. I think I am the one getting the education. Our instructions were to train on modern methods of vegetable production which seems simple enough but the problem is modern compared to what? So I contacted the college and asked for more information. They asked me to fill the “gaps” in certain areas. I received an email identifying 5 major gaps in their systems. I have come to the conclusion that it is hard when “they don’t know what they don’t know”. So, most of last week was spent trying to get to that. And I just found out an hour ago that our “point of contact” who sent me the emails and met with us when we arrived is not even in the Plant Science Department. No wonder we haven’t seen him in a week.
Yesterday we had a day off to do some sightseeing outside the college. We had borrowed a car from the Chinese folks and hired a driver and we also hired Wegene one of the Senior Instructors from the Plant Science Department was our guide. We went to Shashamane and Awassa and back. Shashamane is the location of the Rastafarian community in Ethiopia. I could never understand the connection between Jamaica and Ethiopia and Haile Selassie. Briefly, Selassie donated 500 acres of his own land to establish a Rastafarian settlement for Rasta’s repatriated from Jamaica. Much more to the story if you would like to google it.
Where the college is located is about 1500 M above sea level (4,950’ ) and arid. The period we are in now is the lesser rainy season or Belg which is autumn. Beginning in June and ending at the end of August is the main rainfall season or Kirempt. This is when the main crops of maize (corn) and wheat are planted. The rest of the season is suitable for more drought tolerant crops. Most farmers have a small herd of cows, and a few goats along with oxen for working the ground and donkeys for transportation of crops and water. The farmstead is a round mud house with a thatched roof, a building for grain storage all surrounded with a fence of thorns. All of the corn stalks are collected and either stored in a stack surrounded by a thorn fence or in some cases up in the trees out of reach of the animals. The animals graze during the day and in the evening are brought back and fed a few stalks of corn. Yesterday as we traveled the road from the college to the paved road most of the farmers were out plowing. Wegane explained that it is important to plow about a month before planting season and they plow after a rain to make it easier. It was interesting the differences in how different farmers approached the plowing. Some had two teams of oxen in the same field other only one, some laid off a large area other small.
It has been about 36 hours since the CRS staff said goodbye and drove off back to Addis Ababa. So, here I am…..20 km from a paved road with people not only do I not know but I can’t understand, the only person who looks like me in I have no idea how many km, in a country I have never visited, on a continent I have never visited and I am strangely ok. I had prepared myself for the feelings I used to have when my parents dropped me off at camp or even at grandparents for an extended period. Yup I admit those times usually involved tears.
In addition to all of the above firsts, we are now at 24 hours with no electricity, no running water, no cell service and no internet. Not only can we not communicate with home but we can’t even communicate with staff in Addis. ISOLATED! It’s amazing what that can do for a person. I have no idea who won the Wisconsin primary, who is leading in the polls nor frankly do I care at this point. Today I sat and talked to one of the young junior instructors for almost two hours about agriculture….farming…..loafing around the farmer’s table. It was awesome. His English was very broken and I only know “thank you” in Amharic sometimes but we did it. I am really becoming aware of how fast my speaking is. I need to be really aware of that tomorrow when I have to give my first two hour lecture to 36 junior and senior instructors on Integrated Pest Management (anyone who wants go ahead and get in line now and I’ll be happy repeat it when I get home – it’s thrilling).
Today we after our “mandatory rest” after lunch which translates “can you just leave us alone for an hour” I went to the house at the entrance to turn in my key in at the security house so Mrs. Tarafu can get in to clean. The folks who live there were making coffee over a small wood fire. They offered me a cup which of course I accepted….for two reasons. It was graciously offered and in just two days I have become an Ethiopian coffee junkie. It’s about a triple shot in an espresso cup with three heaping scoops of raw sugar a small spoon. Let me tell you this stuff is amazing. My CRS associate has threatened to ban me from the coffee.
Our typical day will be breakfast at 1 1/2 (which is 7:30) and class at 2 1/2 (8:30). Our driver picks us up and drops us at the VIP room at the restaurant for eggs and coffee and then picks us up at 8 to go to the Plant Science Department.