Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kokosa meetings with Kabeli leaders and Staff


This morning I awoke early to the beautiful sounds of birds singing around the Kokosa guest house.  It is so peaceful and quiet there with the only noises coming from nature a wonderful contrast to the sounds of loud music, car horns, and truck motors.  I dressed, had a banana for breakfast then headed outside to weed the garden.  The guards joined me and we quickly had the whole thing done.  Negesu grabbed the water bucket and watered what was left of the beets.

I filled my suitcase with supplies to process the cows.  We checked a couple of the Arsi heifers for pregnancy, one was and two were not, and we put heat patches and insecticide on the rest of the heifers.  The cows are all looking good, so I hope that we will be able to put embryos in them when I come back in March.  The two Arsi calves that were born are both heifers.  I laughed when Abera told me that they keep the calves in the guard house at night because it gets so cold.  He realized why I was laughing when I explained that we didn’t even take our calves inside at night and the temperatures are much, much colder.

Our 8:00am meeting with the Kabeli leaders finally started at about 10:00am, with one third of them there. Another third of the leaders drifted in over the next hour.  I had Abera give a report on the different projects we were working on or had completed.  I explained that, like building a house, you first needed a solid foundation.  It takes a lot of work before you start seeing the house rising up.  If you don’t build a good foundation first, the house will fall. I told them that now we are working on building a strong foundation so it is going a little slow, but in time it will grow into a great business.

I also spent some time telling them about myself, and instilling in them a vision of a better life.  I explained to them that today was my Dad’s birthday, and I told them that he is a farmer similar to them.  I explained how he helped me learn the value of good work, and how he had given me my first pocket knife while I was still a young boy so that I could use it in a lot of the work that I did. I then presented each of them with a pocket knife and told them that it was to remind them the value of working hard, and encouraged them to use their position as leaders to teach their communities this same principle.

I asked them for their suggestions, comments and questions.  They are very excited to improve the lives of the people in their communities.  We have a lot to do so I am excited to have their support for our project.

After the meeting with the Kabeli leaders, I asked Abera to gather our crew around so that I could talk with them.  I told them that as employees, they represented MAI, and when people saw them, they would think about our company.  I encouraged them to keep that in mind and be good representatives of the company.  I told them that I was very happy to have the Kabeli leaders come and sit on the benches under the tree for our meeting, but I was not happy when some of them walked over and looked at our garden.  I challenged them to all work hard together to make sure that the next time they come we have many different vegetables growing.  I reminded them of what I had said to the Kabeli leaders about work and I gave them all a pocketknife of their own as well.  One of them spoke for the group and apologized that they hadn’t done better and committed to do better in the future.  I thanked them all and said goodbye.  

We gave Negesu more money to work on the road. It is much better than it was, but we still have work to do.  I asked Naritu to be the scribe and keep a record of all of the meetings that we have with the Kabeli leaders.

We made it back to the Negelle office just before our meeting with the local dairy farmers was to begin.  The staff informed us that the farmers had shown up 6 hours earlier at 4:00 Ethiopian time.  Abera called Mulgeta to see what had happened and he assured us that we had told him to set the meeting up for the morning.  Both Abera and I reminded him that I had said afternoon and Abera had clarified the time as 10:00 Ethiopian or 4:00 European.  Failure to communicate.

I drove Abera and Makonen to the school farm to see the harvested alfalfa.  I estimated about ¾ of a ton.  Had I not stopped in last week we wouldn’t have gotten any feed for ATARC.  We talked about weeding the fields and keeping the local animals out, both of which are in really bad shape.  I also noticed that the fences were not looking very good.  As we drove away from Abera’s house, I had a good talk with Makonen, which I talked to Evan about this evening.  Evan brought me his modem so I was able to send out a few emails before it stopped working.  I really depend a lot on the internet.  Being without it helps me to recognize that.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Walk-Around at Kokosa

I arose early, dressed and worked on the contracts for the research institutions. I was able to put the finishing touches on both of them.  I will email them to Paul and Wally for review when I get internet usage again.

I met Evan for breakfast, then went with Abera to Arsi Negelle for some interviews.  We met with Mulgeta and asked him to set up a meeting with a few of the best local dairymen tomorrow afternoon.  I want to talk to them about embryo transfer and see what kind of interest there is among them.  We also met with Belyner and Girma from Wendo Genet University.  They would like us to come and help them with their dairy.  Since I had been there a couple of times, I had some ideas that would help them.  I told them that I didn’t have time this trip, but that when I come back in March I will plan to spend a day with them.

We spent the rest of the morning interviewing potential veterinarians for the position at Kokosa.  We had one older experienced man, one young man with a little experience and a young lady with no experience.  Abera preferred the young lady because she would be very teachable and not prideful, have the lowest salary and she wouldn’t have to leave a job.  I invited Makonen, Binyam, and Evan in to discuss the three candidates with us.  We decided that the older man was too set in his ways and would not be teachable in addition to the fact that he thought that the job should pay twice as much as the others.  Makonen had worked with him before and confirmed that he was not a good choice.  We settled on the young man because he had a lot more work experience than the young lady.

Abera took me to a local restaurant for lunch. We had lamb tibs with ingera and bread.  The bill for both of us including two cokes was 35 birr ($2.77).  I don’t know that I will ever really like the food here but it does fill my belly.

We picked up Gamachu, our new purchasing agent, and drove to Kokosa.  When we arrived I did a walk-around.  The animals are looking very good.  While I was counting them, the herdsman came up and told me that there were 27 but I only counted 24 including the 2 calves.  Either he didn’t know his English numbers or the alcohol that I smelled on his breath was clouding his mind too.  I took them to see the seep spring which I had to dig up because the pipe had been tromped into the mud. We chose a couple of other areas that will be better suited because they have a larger flow of water.

The elephant grass is doing fairly well, considering the conditions that it was planted in.  We met Genemo, the local cattle buyer, and asked him about ways that we could position ourselves in the market.  He appeared willing to work with us.  

I was very disappointed in the garden.  The weeds were taking over and the cattle had been let in to craze and had pulled up or eaten the tops off from about half of the beets.  I started weeding and eventually they started helping me.  In about 10 minutes we had the whole thing weeded and the beets replanted and watered.

Abera announced that we were going to have a cookout tonight.  I didn’t really think much of it until he came in and asked me to come and kill the lamb.  I had my pocket knife but it isn’t the sharpest around so I asked if they had a better knife.  One of the guards had a sharper one so I used it to cut the lamb’s throat.  I started to help them skin it out but they stopped me because I wasn’t doing it their way which decreased its value at the market.  They cut off strips of meat and roasted them over the fire.  I wasn’t really hungry but I ate anyway.  

Later they brought over some false banana which tastes a little rancid.  I found out later that they let it ferment for a month then cook it in their butter, which explains the rancid flavor and the sharp fermented flavor.  I probably like it about as much as ingera.  Here in the highlands they eat it as often as the people in the lowlands eat ingera.

MAI Website Launched

Morrell Agro Industries has just launched their new website. There is a lot of information there, and a lot more than will be added in the future. There are a lot of details that give a great overview of what we are doing with the dairy initiative, as well as descriptions and pictures of the other projects. Take a few minutes to check it out!


Also, here's the specific page about Lonny's project and experience over there, though May 2010.

~Erika ~ AKA, "Mrs. Ethiopian Cowboy" =D

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