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A chicken crisis and chance to understand culture

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Posted Feb. 4, 2015

I followed Moses, who is the team leader over each farm supervisor, today. We went out to the grain mill/storage to fix some issues. Today was a learning day for me. I learned about issues that surround agriculture here.

Electricity is not reliable here, so the auger for the grain storage wasn't usable. The whole corn that was just harvested and delivered from our other farm would not be able to be stored. Working through the night (when electricity is more reliable) threatened us.

There is an unclear balance between when to use labor or machines. Many humanitarian organizations, such as Watoto, are eager to employ those from the community. And you can hire many workers to do a seemingly simple job. But the human laborers come with inefficiencies, as all humans do, such as taking more time, spilling grain, etc. On a conventional farm in the United States, the maize (corn) would have harvested with a combine and taken directly to grain storage. Few to no hands touch the corn in the transport process. That is not the case here, and less than 100 acres of corn cannot justify the costly machine.

On another note, we found ourselves in a crisis. Planning is poor; no feed had been made for the chickens, and we didn't have all the ingredients needed for making the feed. The poor chickens literally didn't have anything to eat the next day.

making chicken feed

Ingredients were quickly ordered this morning, and the suppliers promised to be out by lunchtime. We waited and waited... And waited. Another problem in Uganda is that there is no keeping a schedule. By the end of the day, the suppliers still had not come. Again, working through the night threatened us.

We went to town to purchase 15 large bags of already-made feed so the chickens would not starve. We spent 1.7 million shillings, or $500, on feed that we could have made for nothing on our farm if the planning and schedule was followed.

chicken feed

Moses sat the storeman (the man in charge of inventorying the ingredients, feed and chickens) down for a thorough lesson on time management and ingredient minimums in storage so we are never in this crisis again. Afterward, Moses explained to me that as a people, Ugandans have not had to plan for much. The fruitful soil and perfect climate year-round has given them delicious fruits grown in the wild. They've never had to plan for the change of season or a natural catastrophe such as a tornado. Moses believes the "unstructured" nature of Ugandans makes management positions sometimes difficult to fill.

This weekend, we head to Gulu, six hours north of Kampala. We'll see some more land that will soon be cultivated with maize and soybean to further support Watoto Child Care Ministries.

About the Author

Emily Jost is a 2015 Noble-Watoto Fellow working at Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. Jost is from Edmond, Oklahoma, and is in her final semester in the master of international agriculture program at Oklahoma State University, where she focuses on sustainable development.

Emily Jost
2015 Noble-Watoto Fellow