Friday, April 22, 2016

Checking Out Chickens

Over a year ago, I shared my struggles and successes in a project planning workshop with my host organization. Since then, I have had little to say about our egg-laying chicken project as it stagnated terribly. I thought that my birthday in January brought the much needed training on egg-layers with the local Ministry of Agriculture, but miscommunications led to us waiting another month.

I wrestled with my role as a PCV throughout this year of waiting.  While I consider myself to be patient, it was hard to put such a large and valuable project on hold for months on end while awaiting a training I had zero control over. Repeatedly, I considered doing my own research and training the organization on the care of laying chickens.  But, one of our most important roles is to build capacity in our communities and our organizations. Doing it on my own is not effectively building capacity. Ensuring that the volunteers in my organization can complete their own research in the future-however time consuming-is the more sustainable option.

Chickens in their cages at LASTC.
 Since our training session, I have visited two successful laying projects to check out their structures, program, and day to day function. The first was at my friend Nick’s school. Their chicken coop was partially funded by a small grant from the American Embassy last year. As the school teaches agriculture, it was the perfect opportunity for me to ask experts fluent in English the questions I had developed on the project. Despite working hard to understand Sesotho, especially Sesotho related to my work, when we do all of our trainings in only Sesotho, I always worry I am missing or mishearing important pieces of information.

A curious pig. 
For the second visit, I was joined by some of the leaders in my organization as we met with the agriculture teacher at a specialty school in Botha Bothe. We learned about milk cows, piggeries, and layers. The teacher shared with us the details about feeding, record keeping, and the challenges of keeping both pigs and layers. It was great to see successful projects and to see the adaptations they have developed to make it work for them. I was especially glad to have members of the organization there, as they will be the ones actually ensuring our project is successful well after my time in the village has ended.

The women in my organization discussing the business of
keeping chickens.
Our day of chicken exploration concluded with a long visit to a local building supply store, where we got a quote for the building supplies we would need.

And now, many meetings, trainings, conversations, and visits later, I am pleased to announce that we submitted our application for a Peace Corps grant to help fund the start up costs for this project. Within two weeks, I had an exciting email telling me that not only was my grant approved-which means funds should arrive in a month-but Peace Corps Lesotho would like to use my grant proposal in training future volunteers! 




Brand new piglets born the day before our visit.


MCCC’s Egg Laying Chicken Project has been in development since March 2015. After many delays, MCCC and I were able to write a successful grant proposal for a VAST grant through Peace Corps. VAST grants are funded by PEPFAR to help with HIV-related work and OVC (Orphan and Vulnerable Children) care. It is due to MCCC’s work with OCVs that qualified us for the VAST grant. Otherwise, we would have applied for a PCPP [Peace Corps Partnership Program] grant and would have been asking for assistance in funding this grant proposal. I encourage you to consider supporting other PCPP projects.

Posts about this project include:

 Workshop Woe, Busiest of Birthdays, Checking Out Chickens, A Day with Bo-’M’e, Chicken Coop Construction Day One, Day Two, Day, Three, Day Four, Day Five

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You should choose as your life's work whatever feels the most like play.
-Harvey Oxenhorn