UCZ Agriculture Project Newsletter

UCZ Agriculture Project Newsletter

Dear Friends

It has been quite some time since I have sat down and written a news letter to all of you, with 2012 at an end and 2013 holding exciting possibilities I thought it was as good a time as any to update you on the changes that are underway and our future vision for the farm and what we have got up to in 2012.

In January we returned from a wonderful family break in Namibia, we thoroughly enjoyed the ever changing landscape, the desolate Skeleton Coast and the incredible wildlife of Etosha Pan. We returned refreshed and ready for another big year ahead. One of the most exciting developments at the farm of the last few years has been the fish farm. It has grown beyond all expectation and continues to produce an incredible amount of fingerlings, so much so that in February we were faced with having too many fish and not enough ponds. We had also been supporting another local fish farm with fingerlings to help them start and they were faced with a similar dilemma. It has long been our hope that through the fish farm we could start to provide alternative livelihoods for fishermen and to support them in resource conservation and fisheries management. As a result in february, in conjunction with the African Wildlife Foundation and The Peace Parks Foundation we held a ceremony at Simba where Zambian and Namibian Fisheries officers, Administrative leaders from both Zambia and Namibia, The Governor of Caprivi in Namibia and The Senior Chief all came together to discuss the formulation of a common fisheries management plan for the river and the development of a number of committees consisting of fishermen who would help to police and implement the policies themselves. This all culminated with a lunch of fish from the fish farm and the release of 50,000 fingerlings from both fish farms into the river in front of the mission as part of a restocking exercise.

It is incredible to think back the few short years when Mike Jette and I first brought fish to the farm and put them into one pond and now we have thirteen and have been able to supply fish as produce and fingerlings all over Zambia. My Father in Law and a team of hard working men from the Eyre Peninsula and Kangaroo Island in Australia came and installed a new water system at the fish farm to give the ponds their own independent water supply separate from the rest of the farm. This has allowed our extra expansion as we now have the water available to do it.

We continue to battle with fluctuating and unpredictable feed costs and as a result we have had to curtail our broiler chicken production, we finished our last batch in March and it reached a stage that our cash flow could not cope with the initial outlay that was required to purchase the feed to bring the broilers to market and then have to wait two months to recover it so we made the difficult decision to stop. As any Poultry farmer in Zambia we also face competition for resources from neighbours in Malawi, Congo and Zimbabwe who do not have the same infrastructure and resources as we in Zambia and as a result rely on Zambia for the supply of feed and Chicks. This has led to supply problems in Zambia, higher prices and an unpredictable market in which to operate as a small-scale producer.

In 2010/2011 we had help from friends in Fort Collins Colorado and in Ireland to expand our pig production. This led to us having more than 100 pigs in our piggeries. This has been a great source of income for the project, we take our finished pigs in the truck into Livingstone to the abattoir owned by Zambeef where they are slaughtered and sent to supermarkets all over Zambia. This year we have managed to take 99 pigs to market while continuing to supply the OVC and the local market with quality pork. In 2008 we had two pigs and to see what has grown from the purchase of 4 local sows and two improved sows (Emmy & Clara) is quite amazing.


Large White Sow with x-bred piglets

In February while cooking a leg of Pork for a joint Birthday Party for Lucy and myself I managed to badly burn my right foot. This led to a two week hospital stay in Jo’burg while my foot recovered and I grew some new skin, note to all budding Chefs appropriate footwear for a bbq is definitely not a bare foot. Just before this happened Fiona and I were delighted to discover we were expecting another child. This was an amazing gift and miracle for us as we were unsure if we were going to be able to have another child following Fiona’s health problems last year.

This great news then meant we had to re-plan 2012 and look at it more as a year of consolidation rather than expansion due to our periods of absence would make it difficult to carry out any construction or expansion. It also meant that I had to curtail our Christian Veterinary Mission trips for this year as I could not commit to the same level of responsibility in case we had to suddenly up and leave with Fiona.


Jersey Bulls For Breeding Program

This relationship has however been invaluable to the community through the service, education and christian ministry it has brought to the farmers of Mwandi and the wider community as a whole. We hope to recommence this in 2013 and with the help of Dr Toby Hudson build a vet clinic to provide a formal base for these programs and bring invaluable service to our community. The financial implications of having proper health care for livestock in this area is huge and it is possible that through access to proper husbandry programs families economic circumstances can be hugely improved. Our own livestock is ever growing, we now have 49 cows at the farm, we have had great calving this year with 13 new additions of which 9 are females. This is great news and we hope to manage 25 calves in 2013, we continue to produce great animals for feed lotting for the butchery and animals for our breeding stock.


Weaner Calves in Stockyards for feed lotting

In June and July good friends of ours from Australia (Glover’s and Hancock’s) visited, they had manage to fund raise to help me fence the farm, Robin set about this with Gusto and has done the most incredible job in frustrating the escape attempts of our animals who are now well confined in properly demarcated paddocks.

July also brought the departure of Fiona to have our Baby, Lucy stayed on with me for an extra week before we travelled to the UK for my Brother’s wedding in Chester. We had a lovely time and lucy was a beautiful flower Girl, we also met up with my Sister who had also just had a bay Girl (Iona) And it was wonderful for Lucy to meet her and also spend some time with my Grand Parents. We then travelled onto Australia where we met up with Fiona again in Port Lincoln, I left Lucy and travelled back to Mwandi for another month.

2012 has also been a year of reflection, prayer and soul searching over what the future holds for us as a family and also for our projects. With Lucy turning three in February and getting smarter by the day her future and education is of great concern to us and unfortunately this is not compatible with living in Mwandi. The “buzz word” amongst us this year therefore has been sustainability of both the OVC and the Farm, this has been compounded by the news that Uniting World (The Relief and Development Agency of the Uniting Church of Australia) will no longer be financially supporting the OVC project post mid 2014. As a result much of the second half of 2012 was spent in discussion with stakeholders, friends and family over how we can make the the OVC project which is unsustainable in its very nature as a service delivery programme more sustainable. What has emerged as being the best step forward is to combine the farm with the OVC so as to guarantee a chain of produce at the lowest cost possible, provide a training facility to help train OVC in agriculture and thirdly to provide income generation to absorb some of the salary and admin costs associated with the project.

We have therefore been looking for and have received some assistance from friends across the world to improve upon and expand our infrastructure, purchase a large flock of laying hens, build and stock another piggery and to purchase some cows. We hope through expanding the farm while utilising the logistical and administrative capacity of the OVC project we can make a significant contribution to OVC running costs and therefore reduce the hole left by the withdrawal of Uniting World. If anyone is in a position to help us with contributions towards any of this we would greatly appreciate any assistance. We need to replace around 30% of our budget by mid 2014 to continue the level of service we currently offer to the Children of our community. I made it back to Port Lincoln with a day to spare before Cora Lieto was born three weeks early, Fiona had Blood Pressure issues and the Doctors felt it was better that Cora arrived sooner rather than later. Cora was born on the 12th of September at 1545 and weighed 7lbs. We stayed in Australia for another six weeks while she had her immunisations and we all returned to Mwandi on the 1st of November. Since our return we have been preparing ourselves for our sustainability program and the linking of the farm and OVC project. We have also opened up some more fish ponds , brought in 1000 laying hens and some heifers for the OVC. The rains have come and have been regular and as ever a relief from the heat of October and November. The good rain has also allowed us to plant a large area of improved pasture with the tractor for the cows. Our cultivator and broadcaster have been hard at work spreading chicken manure, seed and tilling the land. We hope to be able to strip graze the pasture from march through till may as the river is at its highest and covers most of our grazing land during that period.

On a personal level I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of working on my Masters Degree. I started studying an online International Community Development Degree through Deakin University in Melbourne and have completed 8/12 modules. I hope to finish this degree by June 2013. I have learnt so much from doing it and it has challenged significantly my perceptions of development and especially development at a community level.

I would finally like to express our heartfelt thanks and deep gratitude to everybody who has assisted, prayed for, visited and supported our projects and family in 2012. It is so heartening for us to have such an incredible base of support from all over the world, you are the ones that make it possible for us to serve our community and expand the Kingdom in Mwandi. We wish you all every blessing for 2013.


Ruairidh, Fiona, Lucy and Cora

Where we need assistance:
* Farm Infrastructure (Irrigation, Doors and burglar gates, renovation of staff showers and the Dairy) – $5000.
* Expansion of the Piggery to double our production and bring in new stock – $10000
* 400 Point of Lay Pullets – $4200
* Automated drinker system and directly plumbed water troughs – $1200
* Machinery: Small square hay Baler, slasher, hay rake and trailer – $12000
* Cows Boran/Jersey Cross – $1400

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