Monday, November 5, 2012

Week 5 in Liberia: If you give a mouse a cookie...

The well-known children's book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff, came to my mind frequently during my last week in Liberia.  If you aren't familiar with it, it goes like this:  If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to want some milk to go with it, then a straw to go in the milk, then a napkin to wipe his face, a mirror to check for a milk mustache, which will lead him to notice he needs a haircut...and so on.  One of our favorite children's books.

As you know we started the animal husbandry portion of LEAD's research farm with pigs about a year ago.  However, if you give a farm a pig, it's going to need some feed (actually, a lot of feed!  Pigs need about five pounds of feed per day if they are to grow and not just maintain their weight!) - feed that is balanced with starch, protein, vitamins and minerals.  If you feed the pig, there will be opportunities to use the manure for crop production.  If you succeed with growing many pigs, you will need to have a market.  If you overflow the market, you will need to have a processing plant...and so on. 
Todd teaching about forage peanut - this patch was started from 11 seeds!

During that week in Liberia, I was joined by three guests:  Todd DeKryger, Malcolm DeKryger, and Kayla Casavant.  Todd is a micro-biologist, with a specialization in intergrated pest management and crop production.  He visited LEAD last year and has been active this past year in the research farm development.  Todd spent time training farmers on crop production for pigs.  For the first time we were able to bring the farmers to the farm, separate them into two groups and they could each spend time on the field, getting hands on, practical learning, instead of classroom learning. 

Malcolm in a teaching moment.
Todd brought along his brother, Malcolm, who is a large pig farmer in Indiana (400,000 hogs per year!) and specialist in swine nutrition.  As LEAD has developed it's pig farm over the past year, our need for Malcolm's expertise has been great and we are so happy that he was able to join this team.  Malcolm spent time with the pig farmers, learning about what food is available and creating "recipes" based on local, affordable feed availability for pig feed.  One specific thing that LEAD will begin processing is palm kernels through three machines:  a cracker, separator, and press.  These machines will produce palm oil, which will be sold to help sustain the operations of the farm, and the by-product will be used to feed the pigs, as it is rich in protein.  These palm kernel cakes will also be available for all LEAD pig farmers in the area.

Malcolm, Allen, Todd, and Kayla
A third guest for the week was Kayla Casavant, who is the new Partnership Manager for Liberia.  She will be starting her work in January and will be stationed in Liberia for two years.  Kayla has spent the last two years in Senegal, working with business development there, and we are blessed to have her join this team!

I am now back in the US and this week will welcome many of my colleagues from West Africa.  Partners Worldwide is having their international conference at Willow Creek on November 8 and 9 (  Allen Gweh and Moses Davies from LEAD will be arriving on Monday and will be here for a month;  Fanny Atta-Peters (and her husband Dennis), Juliet (and husband Nana Yaw and son Nhyi), as well as about 8 business owners from Hopeline Institute in Ghana will begin arriving on Tuesday, staying for about two weeks.  It will be great to be a host to them after they have been such great hosts to us!   

Palm kernel separator - one of three machines needed.
Amos, a pig farmer (right) sharing with Malcolm and Philip (farm manager)
Rice fields in Nimba County from one of our co-ops

The roads aren't much better in Liberia as it is the end of the rainy season...
...but they are better than in Côte d'Ivoire.  Kind of glad now that I didn't make the drive to Danané!