Family Translates Everywhere in the World

05.28.2015 - Leasea Butler


Trip #4 to Tanzania and I'm still amazed and in awe of the entire experience. Sure, I'm more acquainted with my surroundings, but I'm amazed with the people and perseverance.

I find myself humbled by my experiences and opportunities, those that I was either born into or those that I have gained. Those that know me know I grew up in conditions that were not always what we would consider optimum in the U.S. However, I was blessed at the same time. First of all, I was blessed to have those experiences that I can pull from. Second, now I have the opportunity to use the skills that God gave me.

We all have skills, but it's whether we decide to put them to use. I came from a farm and plumbing background. I then worked through and paid for college resulting in my poultry knowledge. However, God blessed me with two additional skills that I didn't realize were skills. Until recently I thought they were "conditions" of life. However, they are skills of life.

To be a mother. To be Mama Baylie. (In Tanzania when you become a mother you take on the name of your first born daughter.) Wow, what being Mama Baylie has meant over the last 15 years. Now I have been blessed with three daughters. The skills to be a mother/parent translate well in Tanzania. Today we asked a group of mainly women what their goal was. They said, "To improve our standard of living". Isn't that what every mama or daddy wants, or should want for their family. You seek to improve the conditions for your family. We work to support our family. The skills to protect, the skills to give, the skills of patience (still really working on this one...definitely not perfected)!

Family translates everywhere in the world.

Family is much larger than those we were born into or those we give birth to. We are brothers and sisters. We are called to love. To love everyone.

Love. Another skill of life that is not a condition. Love of my husband is not supposed to be conditional. We are taught in society that certain "loves" are conditional. It is not. Love is meant to be unconditional. We may all be called to love, but sometimes we struggle to act upon it. (Me included.) I chose who I married, now I actively seek to show him love. Before I think I expected love and thought love in return would come. However, now I believe it's just the opposite. I chose to marry him. I actively work to love him. We can chose to act with a loving heart. Maybe this means a tough conversation or tough love, but if done through love the result will be much more understanding. Show love, don't seek love and love will come.

Agape (look it up). It's hard work, and God knows I get it wrong, but look it up.

So what does this have to do with chickens in Tanzania?

A great deal! Through love we are found to work for a company that has a global heart. Over the past few days we were approached by two different groups from the U.S. also doing work in Tanzania. Their first thought upon seeing the Tyson logo on the sleeves of our shirts was that Tyson was "setting up shop" in Tanzania. When we further explained our mission their demeanor changed. Their hearts opened. Both instances resulted in, "that's pretty cool!" To the point that we may seek advice or give advice to one other project down the road. The road to "a better standard of living" for Mama Linda. The road to a better living for Mama Linda's children and Grandchildren through chickens.

We are called to love. We are called to use what God has given us. You have the skills that God has given you. You may not see those as translatable to this task at hand and that's fine. However, there are so many tasks at hand...take one of those on. Don't procrastinate.

Help feed the poor. Give advice to a troubled teen. Clean up a park. You have skills. I promise you have time. You have time to love and apply that love with the hands and heart that God gave you. Whatever speaks to your heart apply it. Don't live life with a bucket list of giving you wish you had done. It's not always about money. How many times have we been told time is money? Well if you can't give time with money, give it with heart and hands.

Turn your heart of want into a heart of doing. I knew God was leading me down this path. A path I didn't always agree I should be on, but now that I'm on it once again his plan is better than mine. My plan wasn't this hard, but it wasn't as rewarding either. Your path is not one of circumstances, it is one of opportunity and listening. There's something along your years that was planted and you didn't water. There's no better time to water it, act upon it.

His plan today is for Ray, Jay and myself to lend a hand to Mama Linda, Mama Kuku, World Vision and whoever will have us in "improving the standard of living in Tanzania". I don't know what the plan is for tomorrow, but that's ok. I'm going to listen a little better to the plan that's being whispered in my ear. The one that has led me to be Chris' wife, my three daughter's mama and helping in Tanzania.

Sarame Mountain

05.28.2015 - Ray Ables

Sarame Mountain Today we went to the foothills of the Sarame Mountain, which separates the Savanna from Tarangire National Park, to the village and sub villages of Sarame. These villages are remote and cause challenges for people in the area. Today we used a land cruiser and continued driving on the trails after the road ended. Most of the driving was on paths where people walk that are only wide enough for a group of cows. Our driver, Calvin, stayed on top of the trail, but often neither tire was touching it. Sometimes the trail gave way to dry creek beds, dry washed out ditches and smaller excavations where the rocky ground prevented further water damage.

Sarame MountainBesides your typical chickens, cows, donkeys, sheep, goats, dingo looking dogs (we saw a dozen and they all looked the same) and one Paca (outside cat), people also have pigeon peas, corn, sunflower, peanuts and lablab beans. People in the area are so remote, they may only see a vehicle once a year during harvest. On the way in we saw the beautiful scenery of the rolling Savanna plains that ran up the mountain sides. I saw lots of doves and pigeons, some interesting long tailed birds, some small blue birds, white crested black crows and ants. There were termite mounds 6 feet high and 6 feet wide trying to swallow a tree. There were tons of Acacia trees and the gigantic storied Baobab tree. As we drove along the paths, that I was certain we’d never see many people on, suddenly there was a towering acacia tree with 15 or so school children underneath. The children sat on the ground on makeshift benches made from a tree branch. Among them I saw a teacher with a whiteboard leaning against the tree and I saw that they were doing arithmetic. Class was interrupted and they waved to us as we passed. We also saw planted fields, not well defined perfectly straight rows as you see in places where a GPS guided tractor is used, but fields done with a small plow and hoes on unleveled ground. A lot of work went into cutting the thorny acacia tree branches and weaving them into a pile that is stretched over a hundred yards to defend the crops from wild hogs.

Farmer Buucus

05.28.2015 - Ray Ables

Farmer Buucus The first farmer we came to was Lura Buucus. He had been living in a concrete square house with an open roof and drapes for doors, since 1979. He has had chickens of some kind since 1987, and now lives here with his wife and 10 children. There is no grass around these houses because the cows, chickens and other animals live so close to the house that grass is eaten or stepped on. Beside the house is a mud brick and stick hut called the kitchen. This is where a constant small fire is burning underneath an iron pot holder. Connected to the kitchen is another tree branch enclosure that houses goats and a few young cows. A motorcycle sits in the backyard with two yellow, five gallon used vegetable oil containers strapped to either side, which are used to haul water. Down the hill, a ways from the back yard, is a cattle lot that is barricaded with a three foot high woven acacia branch fence. These cattle do as they are told and are handled every day, all day. As we began to start talking, a rain shower forces us into the house and we sit for a while and talk about his operation. He has 10 chickens, a couple of roosters and three baby chicks now. He used to have eight, but five had died within the first two weeks. The birds do not have a pen, but are free range until nightfall when they go into the kitchen. He says the chickens will sometimes hug close to the hot coals after the evening’s meal preparation. They are given supplementary feed of millet, maize, bran and forage for the rest of their needs. He never vaccinates or uses any kind of medication on the birds. He does use aloe vera on occasion, but doesn’t have a set prevention or treatment plan for using this. He said if he did ever use anything he would have to go to Magugu to get it. That’s 5km to the road and 5 km farther once on the road. He said he does have more sick birds during the rainy season. Right now he gets three eggs per day, but would like to have 50 eggs per day so he could sell them in Magugu. He’d also like to have some meat birds to sell and have for special occasions and guests. He showed us a young chick that had a blood clotted skin laceration on its head where the skin was peeled back. He pointed to little black specs on the bird’s head that were hardly visible and said they were insects that are killing birds. We thought the birds were either scratching at their head or other birds were pecking at the bugs trying to help preen them off. After some google searching later in the day, Leasea points to a picture of a bird that has sticktite fleas. It looks like it’s the same condition. We told him we would find a suitable insecticide to get rid of this problem; Ivromec. It and others vaccinations are available in the market. Besides his milk cows, chickens and goats, he also harvests maize, millet, sunflower, lablab beans, pigeon peas and sweet potatoes. The only water close by is rain water in a barrel. There is a tap about 1 km away that he can pay to get clean water from if it doesn’t rain, or if they need particularly clean water for some special reason. When the roads became impassable because the washouts were too deep and paths too narrow, we made our way on foot to the next farms.

Farmer Sanaree

05.28.2015 - Ray Ables

Farmer Sanaree The second farmer we visited was a young lady named Nara Sanaree. She had two buildings made of mud and sticks with thatched roofs. She had 25 hens, chicks and naked neck roosters. She had 19 large breed hens and six small. All the poultry looked healthy and plump. Four hens were escorting around a handful of chicks a piece. We asked Nara about the chicken’s mortality rate. We always ask this question. “If you had 10 chicks born today, how many of those chicks would make it to adulthood,” we asked her. We think this is a fair question to ask as a general survey and it helps us understand a lot. Most of the time the answer we get is between four and six chicks out of 10 will make it to adulthood. It is survival of the fittest. Her answer was between seven and nine. She says one of her problems with getting chicks is the eggs not hatching, but once she gets them livability is pretty good. She says most mortality comes from a careless act when one of the children leaves their washbowl outside, and a chick accidently climbs in and drowns. She also said sometimes eagles or kicheches (ferrets), will steal the chicks. There is also a young, gray cat lurking around. We keep prying into what her secret on livability is. She does not vaccinate but may use aloe. She also doctors her birds with antibiotics from time to time as the need arises. She showed us some tetracycline powder that she says she will mix with maize, bran and water to make a paste. She force feeds this to baby chicks at least once a week for four weeks. She gets her water from the tap 1km away. We went on further to talk with her about the use of antibiotics and discussed the withdrawals required for egg consumption or meat consumption. She also gives the birds maize, sunflower seed (not the hull) and millet. Her other hens are giving her about 10 eggs per day. The overall visit to her farm showed that she is very interested in making her chickens successful, although she does not have any good outdoor confinement for them, except for her kitchen. She has good success in spite of the fact that she doesn’t vaccinate. This is the desired location for the WV test project for the village.

Farmer Sanaree Next we headed back down the trail, crossed over the dry creek bed, and went back up the hill. We turned left where two children had been sitting for an hour as our lookout guides to deliver us to the next farm. We passed within 50 yards of a big tree that had logs six feet long hanging out the bottom by rope. This was a traditional honey bee hive that was used before people figured out that honey comb boxes were the way to go. The tree log method takes about 18 months to get honey because it takes the bees awhile to find the location. Once discovered and harvested, the hive has to be destroyed to get the honey, and they have to find a new place.

Farmer Sanaree After another hundred or so yards of wilderness trail we came to a Baobab tree that looks like its 3,000 years old. The local story of the Baobab is that a long time ago it was growing big and tall and beautiful in the sight of God, and it began to boast about its beauty. After a while, God grew tired of hearing the Baobab boast of its beauty and so one day he plucked it from the ground, and replanted it upside down so he didn’t have to listen to it anymore. So today, this massive tree looks like it is planted upside down, with its roots in the air and sparse leaves of six. I’m not sure if it’s the same tree as the Walt Disney tree of life, but it sure looked like it. The base of some of these trees is as thick in diameter as the length of the land cruiser. Below, on the ground, you could see where some of the fruit from the tree had fallen. The fruit looked like a hard pod about the size of an ear of corn. We picked up a couple and talked about them until we got to the next farm of Mr. Sanaree, who happens to be Nara Sanaree’s father. His ancestors are from the Chagga tribe, but his family moved into Arusha before he was born so his offspring are now known as the Arusha tribe. He has lived there since 1984 because he said he likes being out on his own, and away from people. If he wants to graze his cows over there he can, if he wants to graze down there he can and nobody cares.

Farmer SanareeWe still had the Baobab fruit in our hand, so I asked him whether there were seeds in there and if it was worth anything. Pamela said it is fruit you can eat. I asked Staford to ask him in Swahili about the fruit and how it is eaten. We moved over to a Mucus berry tree and sat on some homemade wooden stools as Mr. Sanaree took the pod over to a rock and struck it a couple times like he was busting a coconut. After a few whacks he began to peel it in half, leaving a boat like outer shell in both hands. The hard outer shell revealed the dry, stringy, yellowish white powder caked along the sides and down the middle. They held odd shaped seeds about the size of a piece of bubble gum coated in this powder. We all took out a few seeds and let the powder dissolve on our tongues like candy. It was a taste of something close to a sweet tart. Almost like dry sweetened lemonade powder. It was good! Pamela said some people scrape out the powder and mix it in water and it is kind of like lemonade.

Farmer Sanaree The farm we were looking over had mud and stick houses spaced out about 50 yards with barren ground between the houses that were kitchens and temporary cow and goat holders. It turns out that Mr. Sanaree had close family in some of these houses, all still living close by in harmony with children of their own, and all still handling a piece of the farm duties. We admired several chickens in the lot and began our questioning about how he does things. It turns out that he does things exactly like his daughter on the last farm. He said if he buys medicine he has to travel to get it from the extension agent. We asked him what he wanted to do with his chickens. Did he want to sell meat, or sell eggs or what? Translated from Swahili Pamela laughs and said he is funny. He said what he’d really like to do is have more cows, that if he takes on more chicken work it would take away time from his cows. I asked him where his cows were now and he said grazing, but they would be back at six o’clock. “How do you know they’ll be back at six, do you blow a horn or ring a bell and they come back or they just know to come back?” I asked. He said, no, my children are herdsman and they will bring them back precisely at six o’clock. He talks about two to three minutes more and Pamela translated that he never has done a whole lot with the chickens, and that they get a few eggs and eat one every so often.

They serve a purpose now and then, but he doesn’t make much money on them. I asked Pamela to tell him that Leasea and I have devoted our careers to chickens, and that if it’s done right he can do well. “How many chickens would you think you’d want to have if you got tired of your cows?” I asked him. He said he’d like to sell about 200 eggs per day in Magugu market if he had time. So Leasea and I got the calculator out and determine he would need about 400 hens to keep it rolling on 200 eggs, and if he sold those for 300 shillings each (fair market value) he would have 60,000 shillings per day. Considering that feed costs about 40,000 per 50 kg bag, and that he’d need about 280,000 shillings worth per week at 125 grams per hen, not counting the egg flats supply cost he could clear about 140,000 shillings per week /1660 = $84 US dollars per week. So then we asked Mr. Sanaree if he made more than $84 per week with his cows year around. He said he could sell milk during times of the year and get about 40,000 shillings per week. His conversation turned and he was getting more interested in chickens. He said he loses about 50% of his birds to ferrets and eagles. He said the eagles will take chicks, pullets and hens but not the roosters. He said he was willing to construct a pen and feed them right too, like we had suggested. He has enough land to do it, he has rainwater and tap water down the way, and his daughter will be community poultry leader and trainer. He said if we would help him, he was ready. After some triple handshakes and Asante’s and Asante Sana’s (thank you and thank you very much) we made our way back down the 20 minute path to the truck for another off road experience.

Farmer Kisali

05.28.2015 - Ray Ables

Farmer KisaliThe next farm was the home of Mary Kisali (Mama Pendo) as was written on her white cement house above the wooden door. She had a small chicken flock with six hens, some chicks and two roosters. She did not have a coop, so the birds came into the house with her at night. She said the birds are quiet until the rooster crows at 4 a.m. She doesn’t give any vaccinations, but does know how to use aloe, however she never does. The only medicine she uses is Sevin dust around their nesting area inside her house to keep the ants away. She said out of 10 chicks, five or seven will survive and the rest will die to Newcastle and flying predators. She feeds the birds maize and bran, but they also scavenge. She grew and sold peanuts (they call them ground nuts) and they were harvesting and drying. For her chicken sales she doesn’t do much. If a hen had 14 eggs she would take out three or four and eat or sell them, and let the hen hatch the other 10. She would like to sell more eggs and meat. 20 to 50 broiler sales per month and 90 eggs per month would suit her fine. Leasea and I calculated that 10 good laying hens can fit this desire if she pens them up, gives them a good place to lay, feeds and waters them and vaccinates. She said she was ready for a confined space and commercial feed.

Farmer KisaliWe left her and walked on down the path another 20 minutes where we crossed paths with a livestock parade of about 20 young cows, 30 goats and 5 donkeys, all followed by about a seven year old boy whipping them all into shape with a piece of cane. We stopped and let them pass through and continued on to the home of Fatuma, and her young daughter, Miriam, in a sub village of Sarame. It was there that government workers camped while the work was going on to eradicate the tsetse fly, which was the cause for the African Sleeping sickness and was very dangerous, but successful work.

Farmer KisaliFatuma has 7 hens and 5 roosters that stay outside, unless she has a hen go to nest. If so she gathers up the eggs and brings them into her house. One room of her house does not have a concrete floor, so she is able to dig a hole and pad it with grass and move the eggs inside for the hen to nest. She believes that she has bed bugs here that bother the chickens and people too. She feeds the birds maize and they scavenge for the rest. As we sit on stools in the yard we watch 2 hens about 6 feet away pecking at some Ugali in a water dish. Ugali is a cornmeal paste that people eat. You take hot scalding water and mix in some cornmeal to make a paste and eat it with other foods. What was leftover was put into the birds water dish like a big mound of wet cornbread. The chickens were enjoying it. Of 10 chicks, she said 7 survive to market unless the hawks get them. Local people buy her birds for 7 to 10,000 depending on size. She wants to sell meat. This may be one of those farms that have a few sitting hens to keep some chicks coming and they feed the rest out as fast as they can in another pen.

The Market

05.28.2015 - Ray Ables

The MarketTwo more items on the list that day were to go see Babu in Matufa to see about him changing his broiler starter ration for us and how much it would cost, and to go to the market to look for a few things. We first stopped by the live market. This market in Mwene happens every Wednesday, and it looked like an open field where 2000 people just decided to stop at and sell or buy what they can. In all these markets there are some live birds, except at these smaller markets you have buyers, not sellers. People in the villages bring a chicken or a few and try to sell to the local trader, who will usually give 7 to 8,000 for hens and 11 or 12000 for roosters. That’s how a lot of these people at market have money to buy something with. On the grounds of the market you can buy all kinds of grains and vegetables, clothes, shoes, house furnishings, steel or aluminum pots, plastic dishes, knives, and all kinds of cooked food. The whole place smelled like burning charcoal. There was also a few higher end items, like a pickup truck with some solar panels laying out on the grass powering up a radio. Out a little farther and separated from the main group, about a hundred yards away, were more tents and tables set up with 200 people or so gathered around. We were told that was the gathering spot if you had any homebrew for sale. We talked to the chicken traders a while about what they were doing, offering a share of my boiled peanuts I had bought and watched how these transactions took place. There were four or five traders that work together.

The MarketThere was a “tenga” – bamboo basket on the ground with about 80 hens in it, and three or four stringers of roosters laying on the ground with another smaller tenga just having roosters in it. As we approached some other guys had just loaded a full tenga on top of the van and left out headed to Arusha where they would expect to have two or three out of 100 die on the way, but sell at a higher price than they had just bought them for. They did negotiate the price here and gave a little more if the bird was fleshed out well, and looked at the vents on the rooster to see if it’s a good working bird or not. After we made a sweep through the market looking for something cheap to make a chick drinker out of, or a clay pot to make a brooder with, finding none we decided to go search in Babati. We found both. The minidrinker was 3500 shillings (about $2) and the clay pot was 3000 and a great price. We also got some pricing done at a lumber yard on Main Street. A 2x6x12 untreated and rough is 12,500, the same price for a 1x8x12. A 2x4x12 is 8500, and a 4x4 cannot be found. A 2.5 x 10 foot piece of corrugated sheet metal is 16000. It looks like our pens need to be no wider than 10 feet to match up with our available materials. We may need to just make it longer. The takeaways are that we’ll need a few more easy to understand models from different perspectives and sizes to help people see the value in chickens so that they can take advantage of it. We’ve got enough material pricing now to at least figure the costs of the upper portion of our pens and we have some example equipment to use tomorrow as we travel to more villages talking with farmers. One thing we needed to do is experiment to find out more about how much we will expect to spend burning charcoal brooders for at least 12 hours a day for two weeks.

Involve Me and I Learn

05.14.2015 - Jay Smith

“If you don’t like something Change It, if you can’t Change It Change your Attitude.” - Maya Angelou

Before I left for Africa I thought about why I was going. “If you are going to do something then you better be doing it for the right reasons,” I insisted. And what I had decided by the time Leasea and I made it to Kilimanjaro was that my personal manifesto for this work was to give others what I have always taken for granted. The list of things that I have taken for granted is quite extensive, let’s narrow it down. I am talking about security and the opportunities that having security provide to a human being.

My parents never sheltered me from much; I have a bunch of scars to prove it. The product of this is a very rational relationship with fear. I know when I need to be scared and when things just seem scary. I know when I am injured and when I am hurt. My parents also never left me exposed needlessly to trouble or worry. I was secure, and that security allowed me to try new things and to fail a lot. At tremendous expense to my parents I experimented and behaved recklessly at times, but I was only able to do so because they had my back. And that is what I wish to pass along. Yes, it will be food that is the catalyst for change but what I wish to provide is an opportunity for a kid to expand their mind because their family is secure. If a parent who lived their whole childhood hungry and wondering where their next meal might come from has a child, who spends their whole childhood wondering if they are the fastest in school or how the Apollo missions landed on the moon that is success. That’s my threshold.

Achieving that level of security is a far cry from the current situation in Tanzania where we have begun our work. In fact, some situations I have found the need to be dire, and perhaps beyond the reach of our work. Or so I thought. When you look at such a daunting task, increasing village income by 200% being the task, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. I know I did. But then you get to start doing what you know, for Ray, Leasea and I that is poultry, and you forget that your surroundings are different, but the work is the same. Maybe a little more difficult but still the same. The trick is to not do it yourself, even though you know you can and it will be much faster. Resisting that urge and letting the World Vision team work and make the normal mistakes is the most crucial piece.

When I applied for this position I quoted Benjamin Franklin in my essay. “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” My philosophy of learning echoes Benjamin Franklin’s. I don’t want to lecture at people, I want discussion. Questions fuel learning in my opinion and asking the right questions is paramount to success. Learning is making mistakes. There is a certain amount of pain involved in doing anything new and scary. I hope that the growing pains our team in Tanzania are undoubtedly going to experience emboldens them to do great work. My fear is that they will become discouraged, and I am actively looking for ways to calm that storm if it were to arise. My dad has told me always “it is ok to screw up, just don’t screw off,” this is the message I pray the Tanzanians will hold onto the way I have. It truly is all you need to be brave enough to try.

A small side tangent really quick about my fellow Food Fellows. Leasea and Ray are truly phenomenal people. Between the two of them there is over 40 years of experience in poultry. This is an invaluable asset for both the Tanzanians and myself. My professional life has deviated from the live side of our business, and that means I rarely talked birds anymore until I made it to Africa. Being able to talk poultry with Leasea and Ray is like talking baseball with Bobby Cox or Basketball with John Wooden. There is no one more knowledgeable than these two people on the subject.

From my experience I know that there are a bunch of mistakes coming in the next days, weeks, months and years and I am excited for every one of them. Each is an opportunity to teach and train, each failure a lesson that will have a lasting impact. As time passes, this mission will either flourish or wither. It will not be the Food Fellows or Tyson Foods Inc. that will determine the result. In the end the result is in the hands of the people on the ground in Tanzania, which is exactly where it should be.

Toys of Tanzania

06.06.2014 - Leasea Butler

childOne of the first experiences we had in the villages on this trip was a group of kids coming over to us while we waited to go into the village. They were calling us “Mazunga” or teacher. They wanted us to take their pictures. They each had a toy or were playing around with something.

One of the oldest had a rusty nail, one a rounded piece of wire. They all were playing on the large mound of dirt where we were standing. The smallest boy, I’m guessing three or four years old, was also shy. He was the last to approach us, timidly looking around at another child I’m assuming was his sister. As he approached, I noticed he had the coolest toy, the plug-end of a phone charger that had been cut off. He crept toward us until he was settled enough to walk up and start playing on the mound. I looked down and my heart skipped. He also had half of a rusty pair of scissors. As a mother I wanted to protect him. I so wanted to reach down and take it from him. This, however, was a prized possession to him. I couldn't take that away, and I couldn't communicate with him.

My own children came to mind and the ridiculous amount of possessions they have. I thought about how, when I took a pile of toys away from one of them as a punishment, there were still a ton left. If I took this child’s toy away, it would have been a punishment, and a cruel one at that, since I couldn’t explain why I was taking it, that I was trying to protect him.

That interaction stuck with me all week. I prayed for each village in the evenings. I prayed for rain for those who needed it. I prayed for these children’s safety. I don’t know what happened to the scissors, but I was happy when, as we passed thru the village, on another day, Ray saw the little boy playing with a box. As Ray told me about this, I thought, "I’ll pray tonight that his momma found the scissors and took them away from him.""

Pamoja Project Trip 2

06.04.2014 - Leasea Butler

Leasea, Ray, FridaWe've visited six villages this week. Each had a different circumstance around their poultry production and different needs and wants in general for the village. We've seen everything from chicken coops that need just a little modification to those that have just a few chickens running around the yard. Most chickens in the villages here stay in the house at night -- a side room or kitchen, or maybe with the cattle. During the day they forage for their food and water. The chickens are a secondary “thing.” If the family has a special occasion they may eat one, or they may sell it for money. If they happen to get eggs, they may eat them or sell them. There’s no real structure behind the poultry system in most villages. There’s not a lot of input, so not much output.

It's pretty basic economics -- a little in yields only a little out. There is virtually no cost, except for those who buy chickens that later die to disease or predators.

Ray and I have bounced back and forth for 6 days now about how to make the poultry production models work here for each village. The first few villages were pretty easy. Their sales price for chickens and eggs were both good. They had some housing that needed modifications, but the models we had worked on from our previous trip worked. The next few villages had no housing really, but had some biosecurity advantages. But the math was not working out very well because of sales price. Then, in the last two villages, things started to get even messier. Their sales prices were even worse for chickens and eggs. They had no chicken coops at all, so they would need to make large capital investments. If they coop them up, they have to provide feed, water, vaccinations and heat. All of which costs money.

As I type this I just heard a warthog grunting around outside my room! It’s splashing around from the rains and has made something else mad… I’m currently in a screened, canvas “lodge” listening to frog and insect music. Really cool, but disturbing at the same time!

Anyway, the villagers do not have the money for capital investments. That is what the savings groups that World Vision has helped set-up is for. They can get loans that they must pay back in one year. In my previous blogs, I mentioned the weight of having to help them increase their yearly income by 200 percent. If they need capital funds, funds to purchase chickens, and funds to buy feed and coops for the chickens, it becomes a really difficult problem. Especially, if you whittle down their sales price.

This has weighed heavily on us, both the last trip and again, on this trip. These folks are so eager to start, especially after Ray and I talk about the potential. They want to get started now. We know, however, that there’s a lot to solve to reach the potential reward.

For instance, the last village we visited had no coops and hadn't really kept chickens for any sort of business. They were eager to start, to the point of wanting to spend money today. It’s just such a large investment, and one that could go south quickly if they don’t vaccinate, and they have a  Newcastle disease outreak, or they don’t give them enough feed or water, or get the sales price that we anticipate. The list of concerns go on and on…

What we are coming to realize is that each village has its own set of problems that we must address and tackle one at a time. This is not going to be as simple as plugging in an all encompassing model.

Out of Left Field Under a Tree

06.02.2014 - Leasea Butler

My husband has told me for years that we should adopt a left-handed boy, jokingly of course, because he’s a huge baseball fan and we have three daughters. But over the years, we have seriously considered adoption. Seeing the different orphanages made me think about this, and I mentioned it to Ray at some point this trip. At the end of the trip, it came back to visit me...

After we visited the last village of the trip, we stopped for a late lunch on the side of the road. Ray noticed two boys watching us from under a Baobab tree (look it up they are amazing). We were tossing ideas back and forth trying to make poultry production in Tanzania work, at least in our heads. The boys kept watching us. After we finished eating, Ray decided to take the leftover food to the boys on the hill. Ray and I walked up the hill to the boys and handed them the five un-eaten meals. Then Ray asks them about the Baobab fruit. I pick up the shell of the eaten fruit. The fruit of a Baobab tree tastes sour and sweet at the same time like popular kids' candy in the states. It hangs from the massive tree and must be quite a chore to pick. However there are quite a few of the shells around. Once the boys realize what Ray is asking they start picking up rocks and start chucking them at the fruit. Ray laughs and says, “Too bad they’re both right handed.” For just a second, I did the "questioning head tilt," then it dawned on me Ray was referring to my husband’s desire for a lefty. We both got a really good laugh out of it, and then we all joined in to throw rocks at the Baobab fruit.

As I watched the boys, it brought on all kinds of thoughts.

  • I thought about how well communication happened between these two boys and us. It was basic, but we all understood each other.
  • I thought about how much fun it is to be a kid, no matter where you are in the world.
  • I thought about how simple life is, yet also complicated.

These boys will truly learn how to survive. They will have life skills that are being lost each day in other cultures. They also enjoy life, though. I bet what they see looking out of their eyes is not what we see looking in; it never is. There are a lot of assumptions made by people looking into the Tanzanian culture. I tell Ray that this is an experience that all four of us will hold onto our entire lives.

This little glimpse into these boys’ lives makes me realize there’s just as much fun to be had under a Baobab tree in Tanzania as on a baseball diamond in Northwest Arkansas.

As we walk away, I look back and see the boys smiling as they begin to eat, enjoying the fried potatoes in the lunch bags we've given them.

Getting some technicalities out of the way

02.16.2014 - Leasea Butler

I’m not really moved to write this, but I believe for stories to come I have to write some technical pieces, too. For your sake maybe not too many.

Ray, the World Vision team, and I did a lot of industry searching the first few days. Trying to help us understand the markets, availability of inputs, etc… We had seen birds in the markets of Arusha and Babati, but we had not seen any farms yet. Ray and I being from live production backgrounds were itching to meet some of the folks we are destined to work with to help improve their poultry value chain.

After a lot of window time (my tail end burning from hours of bumpy roads) we finally arrived at a farm in the Morogoro region where they have already started working on improving their poultry value chain. The Babati region has not started working on their project yet (that’s going to be our project) so there was nothing to show us in Babati. The people of the first village had been waiting in anticipation of our arrival maybe even more so than our anticipation of meeting them. They greeted us with open arms.

A group of villages.
This one is obvious, but I put it here because it’s a layer to the puzzle.
This is a group of 20-30 people that work as a savings group/working group within a village that have pooled their resources together. For instance, they go to market with chickens from everyone in the group so they can demand a higher price, which allows them to increase their value chain. These groups also now have micro-lending and micro-savings capabilities that also give them more power as a team. World Vision serves as their bank.

Back to the story: Most indigenous birds in Tanzania are left to roam around and fed occasionally. They are ready for market in a year or so. This subgroup that we are meeting with is one of the five subgroups in this village. The differences in what they are doing and what they used to do are small improvements. These improvements allow them to get to market in about seven months--already 42% more efficient with growth. They are almost getting the ability of two flocks of broilers to market a year, which is 100% more than before.

They have improved their feeding to three times a day in addition to letting them forage. There is now a system to how they work with their hens to produce chicks and how they manage the brooding of chicks after they are hatched by the hens. Keep in mind this is still nowhere close to modern brooding, but its improvement.

One of the biggest improvements in this subgroup is their bargaining power. When there are enough people in the subgroup with needs for cash (time to pay taxes, pay school fees for their children, a wedding, etc…) they have a meeting and everyone decides how many birds they are individually going to send to market to come up with a total for the group. The group leader then contacts the buyer and negotiates what the group will be selling the lot of their chickens for.

Before, each individual farmer would sell to a broker in town, who then sold to another broker, then to another broker, until the bird finally made it to the end customer. Their new system allows them to take out some or all of the brokers. So they get a better price. For this subgroup they are able to make 2,000-3,000 more Shillings per bird. Which is $1.25-1.88 more per bird.

Enter Mrs. “Sandy”, she’s a very open lady with such pride over her cash crop, her kukus (Swahili for chicken). Mrs. Sandy explains to us her system, very excited about the improvements she has made from true free range foraging to her improved methods. One curious thing that Ray and I learned was how they have treated for Newcastle disease for years. This particular village has not vaccinated. Mrs. Sandy tells us that they use Aloe and some peppers ground up and feed this to sick chickens to help with Newcastle disease. We find out later this is the practice everywhere we visit in Tanzania. I don’t know the science behind this, but I’m curious to research it…

After visiting with Mrs. Sandy, we venture farther into the village to see Mr. and Mrs. “Jack’s" farm. Mr. Jack’s farm system is different. He does not do much around brooding, but his improved feeding is in place. He also shows us yet another plant that can be used for medicating a kuku’s cough. It’s a long stemmed cactus plant. They roast it and then feed it to the affected kuku. Mrs. Jack finds some of the plant and hands it to Ray. Ray starts to investigate it and the ladies start showing a lot of concern. Come to find out it is poisonous and Ray has been playing with the milky substance that flows from the stem. We all get a good chuckle, but Ray quickly rubs it off on the ground.

We move on to another village. Unfortunately, it’s so dark when we arrive at this village that we cannot go to see the chicken coops. Mrs. Greta is the group leader here. She tells us much of the same story that we heard in the other village. This is also a subgroup of 30 people. The entire group is standing in front of us telling us their story. A story of the budding of prosperous living. A story of change.


02.16.2014 - Leasea Butler

This is the story of a small kuku and her journey into my heart.

We are wrapping up our technical visit at the first village in the Morogoro region. Mr. and Mrs. Jack tell us they want to give us a gift. Mrs. Jack goes to the chicken coop and removes a small red kuku that may weigh 1.5 pounds and ties its legs together with a piece of black fabric. Mrs. Jack holds it delicately as she hands it to me.

They are giving us a kuku! Here we are, we have done nothing of real value for them except ask questions for our own gain of knowledge and they honor us with something that is worth $6-8. That’s five days of their income. My heart sinks knowing we HAVE to accept this kuku that we later nicknamed Drumstick. The technical side of me knows we shouldn’t accept the bird due to disease risk, but the human in me is completely moved knowing the honor they are showing us. Knowing the wealth they are giving us. Not a monetary value. A selfless giving of acceptance, love, honor.

This was not the only instance of such generosity. Mrs. Sandy gave us an ornately hand woven-bowl with peanuts in it. (Which everyone has been eating on the past few days in the car.) She has put so much work into this beautiful bowl. I don’t know its value, but the heart value is priceless that she has bestowed on Ray and me. At the next village Mrs. Greta gives us a bag of hulled peanuts and two eggs. Again and again we are given items of significant monetary value. Amazing, loving, open people everywhere we go. Wanting to teach us about their kukus. Actually teaching us humanity and humility.

We didn’t know what to do with Drumstick. She was placed into the back of the Land Cruiser and we pondered on what to do. When we arrived at our hotel it was determined that we should do with Drumstick as Mr. and Mrs. Jack would have wanted us to do. We gave Drumstick to the hotel clerk as well as the two eggs and asked her to have the chef prepare them with our evening meal. Of course this would never go over in the US. Can you imagine what a hotel clerk would do if you handed her a live chicken? I know this may seem strange to those reading this. Why did we not give Drumstick to someone that needed it? Why did we accept Drumstick to begin with? Why were we eating Drumstick?

Let’s put ourselves back into Mr. and Mrs. Jack’s shoes for a moment. They have shown us great respect by giving us something of such value. They expected us to use this value accordingly. To use Drumstick’s value to Mr. and Mrs. Jack “accordingly” could only mean two things, sell Drumstick or eat Drumstick. In reality it only meant one choice. We do not need Drumstick's monetary value, but as living beings we need to eat. We need protein. We showed Mr. and Mrs. Jack the most respect we could in consuming Drumstick.

At dinner that evening, the waiter presents us with a plate of chicken prepared with a tomato sauce and a few vegetables. Just two hours earlier, we had received this kuku as a gift. Now we say Grace that it will nourish our bodies. For me, I say Thank You for the internal gifts that the loving people we have met so far on this journey have given me.

Tomorrow We Start Our Journey

02.12.2014 - Leasea Butler

It’s early in the morning; jet lag, but I also cannot shut my brain off to what I’ve seen today. I believe there is a reason that I was put on this path. There are a lot of “things” that happened to place me typing this blog under a mosquito net in Tanzania, but why? Don’t we all search for the “why”? Think about some of the things that happened in your life to put you where you are reading this today. Pretty amazing, huh? If one brick was not laid you wouldn’t be sitting there. I can name a thousand bricks in my life that have put me here, but why?

I don’t have the answer today, and I may never. However, this is what I experienced today. I saw many conditions within the poultry value chain for the Tanzanian people that could be improved upon. As I stated in my first blog post that it was not that long ago that the US poultry industry looked similar to this. These conditions are what Ray and myself are trained for. Training that either we learned in college or on the job working for Tyson Foods; our building blocks. We have the knowledge to help. Now for the next question: how?

I believe in the days to come the “how” will start to develop. If it were as easy as us running the parts of the business I’m sure both of us could step in and “run” it. However, there are deep cultural needs that we must respect. For instance, they enjoy and pay a premium for their indigenous/local bird. A bird that weighs about two pounds, maybe. They will pay 3,000 to 6,000 more Tanzanian Shillings for a “local” bird vs. a Mazungu (white person) chicken. That’s about $2.50-$5.00 more per live chicken.

The Tanzanian people are willing to pay 2-5 days’ worth of their wages more for a bird that has a 5th of the meat/protein a “Mazungu” chicken has. All of the sudden it’s not so easy. Another obstacle, the infrastructure is not as complete as we would see. Transportation of live birds and processed WOGs are an issue, as well as cold storage. So your investment is at more risk of being wasted or value not captured due to logistics. We were told that half of the food sources produced in Tanzania are “wasted” due to these infrastructure issues. Can you imagine if you took half of your investment and threw it in a compost heap or it was eaten by rats? We saw this in the market today time and time again. Each day a tomato in the market we saw today is not purchased, its shelf life is expiring.

Tomorrow we start our journey to meet the people of the Babati region that we will be working with. The place where the how and why will start to be answered. The people we are meant to help. We will start helping them lay the building blocks of their poultry industry. Pretty amazing huh? Think back to when John W. Tyson did this in Northwest Arkansas. Were things that different?

The Africa Journey Begins

01.08.2014 - Ray Ables

I have known and still know a lot of people who have done mission work of some kind. I regularly hear of people using their specific skill set to help with a particular project somewhere for a week or so here or there, and I admire them for their giving of time and skill and doing something good. Sometimes, it’s construction skills – building houses or other things a village needs or just helping to dig a well or install a water purification system. I’ve known others with medical or dental skills to go into Central America or Africa doing the same thing for a week or so, and maybe on an annual basis. Sometimes, the skill is miscellaneous work around an orphanage in, for example, Honduras, just showing love for children who need a home but have no really good chance of getting one. There are some at my church who have been to Africa already, and I listen to and appreciate their efforts, but don’t understand what it’s really like. Some have been touched so much that they are planning right now to do this sort of work full time. I understand the heart piece of doing something good in the worldwide community, in helping someone else have a chance to do better. So I’ve had the urge to go, and I’ve wondered which of these trips I might be best suited for if I did go with them. Then, last September or so, when I found out about this Tyson Foods project, I thought this has to be the perfect opportunity that has surfaced – a chance to use my work experience while helping World Vision with this Securing the Future project. What a privilege it is to get to have a helping hand in impacting the lives of poor, struggling, Tanzanian farmers and their children with poultry husbandry improvements. It’s the right thing to do. What a great company we have at Tyson Foods! It’s who we are. I am very thankful for the opportunities and lessons I’ve had along life’s way to prepare for this, and it’s not all career industry work I’m talking about. I am honored and blessed to get to be a part of this team, and I want to do it well.

Getting ready for the trip wasn’t easy. Getting the passport was simple enough, but that has to be done prior to asking for permission to go into the country and getting the visa. The visa required a couple letters to the consul in Washington DC, and timing was cutting it pretty close. The vaccinations -- a series of vaccinations recommended by the CDC -- needed to be done ASAP. I didn’t realize going in how many vaccines were required, but I now have a fairly good idea how a 10 or 15 week old pullet feels. There are special clinics that deal in travel vaccines, but there’s not one in every neighborhood. Finally, in January, our team was able to get a full day of information on the project with a trip to World Vision USA, in Seattle. Dealing with the unexpected arrives early as we land in Seattle with my bags still in Dallas! Thankfully, I am able to make it through the trip based on what I could find at the Target store in Seattle. Before I even get into the store, I am approached by a homeless person needing help, and we do help. And just that quickly, I am reminded of how blessed I am to have only lost a bag at the airport.

World Vision is a billion-dollar-a-year charity with 40,000 people on the ground in over 100 countries. In all parts of the world these, World Vision team members go about the task of building relationships, improving water sanitation and hygiene, providing information on nutrition and helping farmers make better decisions, and making small loans to help people figure out a way to permanently help themselves into a secure future and remain resilient during the hard times of the year. A lot (most, I’d say) of these native people have never had a bank account and have had no access to credit until World Vision came and helped create savings groups and opened accounts. Now, instead of a sometimes hand out from an NGO, proud people, willing to work, can work and do more to support themselves. There are World Vision team members all over the world doing these things for people who are concerned about having enough to eat every day, and never have time to stop and think about the politics or social arguments of the day. Somebody needs to be doing it, and, thankfully, World Vision does it. Now we get to help.

First Tanzania Adventure

11.27.2013 - Leasea Butler

My first Tanzania adventure, and I haven’t even left Northwest Arkansas. I’ve traveled all over the world, but I have not had all of the vaccinations I probably should have, so I’m off to Fayetteville to get the vaccinations that are either required or recommended for travel to Tanzania. I get my six shots in stride (seriously, it doesn’t hurt) and off I go, 24 hours later I feel like pooh, and 48 I’m good to go. No sweat!

Reality check…again, I’ve been all over the world and haven’t stopped enough over the years to put myself in the shoes of the people I’m visiting. Here’s the reality. The life expectancy of a woman in Tanzania is 57 years of age, whereas in the US, I’m likely to live to be almost 80. The vaccinations that I received are a protection that if I were a woman in Tanzania I couldn’t just walk into a clinic and pay for with my credit card and then drive to McDonald’s for some Mighty Wings. Here’s another reality check, the number one cause of death, at 29%, is HIV, for which there is no vaccine. The second leading cause is lower respiratory infections (at 12%), and the third is malaria (at 10%). I have the ability to ward off the latter two easier thru medications and nutrition.

I’m definitely not lacking in nutrition. Again, I have the ability to get available foodstuffs pretty quick. My McDonald’s stop on my way back to the Cobb offices scored me protein, a few carbs, some fat and essential vitamins/minerals. I try to balance my nutrition, and can, if I make the right choices. CAN is the key word. In Tanzania it’s whatever is available today, not what do I want today.

The same goes for medical treatment. As long as I’m not stubborn I can easily get in my car and drive to a clinic. About $50 later I’m good in a few days. Maybe it’s not all that simple for everyone in the US; funds are not always easy to come by, but given a medical emergency you will be taken care of.

The Tyson Foods Fellows project we will be working on will help build a sustainable protein to the people of Tanzania thru education. It was not too many years ago that the US poultry industry looked like backyard flocks and coops. It was people like John Tyson, who changed the US broiler industry. Now, we have the opportunity to teach what we know.