Friday, August 7, 2009

Visit to the Dairy Site at Kokosa

Today we arose early and grabbed a quick breakfast. We were the first to order but it took almost half an hour and a couple of reminders before the cook started cooking. The orders came out one at a time and an hour later the six of us had eaten. Everything is slower and less efficient here. On the positive side it only cost me about $16 to feed all six of us.

The 60 mile drive to Kokossa took us almost three hours. There is a project out of Shashamene that is paving about 30 miles of the road that was supposed to be done on March 12th, 2009. I think that it will be a year longer than that. It is funny to be driving along on the rutted dirt road and see the donkey carts and pedestrians walking along on the almost finished highway. The last 20 miles are rough “washboard” roads that shake your teeth out if you go much faster than 15 to 20 mph. Brent summed it up when he said “That was the worst ride of my life to get to the most beautiful place that I have ever seen.”

We spent a couple of hours walking around the farm and discussing plans for the construction of the dairy. We fired up the generator and it is working fine. Our farm has a couple of paths that cross from where the villagers live to the main road. One of these paths crosses a river and currently has three 20 foot poles laying next to each other for a bridge. We watched several people cross many with their packs on their backs as they headed to market. It was dry and even so the poles were hard to cross. I can’t imagine how hard it is to cross when they are wet with rain water which is very often. The villagers have told us that three people have died because they fell off the bridge and drowned and many others have fallen but were saved. It is amazing to me that they just accept that as part of life. They have the skills to improve the bridge but no one will take the initiative to do anything about it. Brent and I tried to give them suggestions on how they could improve it and encouragement to do something about it. If they haven’t done something by next Friday we will probably work on it.

The same type of attitude is true with the roads with a few exceptions. The roads are rutted and in bad shape but they just go on day to day not doing anything to improve them. On our way home we saw a group of about 10 boys carrying rocks to a particularly muddy spot so we stopped and Abera gave them some instructions and some money for their work.

As we drive on the main road to the farm it is almost like we are a parade. Everyone comes out to watch us, and the little children love to race alongside the van. Teddy honks his horn to warn them away, as is the custom in Ethiopia, but it has the affect of drawing out even more children. Most of the children are barefoot and about half of them only have a shirt on. Occasionally we will see one that is totally naked. About half of the adults have shoes or boots and many of them go around with a blanket wrapped around them even over their head. It was chilly enough that I thought about putting my jacket on but decided not to because we were walking around but to the villagers it was cold enough for a blanket. The landscape is amazingly beautiful. These are the highlands of Ethiopia. They are lust green rolling hills with occasional bamboo groves. The cattle do very well. We did not notice a lot of flies or mosquitoes. I guess it must be a little too cool for them.

The cattle are very tame and docile so it was very easy for us to work with them. The herders just sorted out the ones that we needed and walked them right over to the corral. The animals are kept in the corral every night for protection which makes it easier to get them in and out of the corral when we want to work with them. The ten Boran heifers that we brought up last week are looking a lot better after one week on this lush grass. I am excited to see how the dairy cows will do on it. I am sure that it will not be as good as a U.S. dairy ration but it is better than what the dairy cows around Adami Tulu are getting.

I tried sugar cane for the first time in my life. Teddy stopped and bought a stalk from a man along the road for four Birr, about $0.35. It reminded me of chewing on a very woody corn stalk except a lot sweeter. We each had about a 10 inch piece. Teddy went through his in about 10 minutes. I chewed on mine for almost an hour and only made it half way through. The sweet taste was very good, much better than beet or corn sugars.

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