sustainability in Ethiopia

Putting Down Roots


This year's “Permanently His Campaign” has me thinking a lot about our work in Ethiopia. More specifically, I've been thinking about  the Kota Ganate Agriculture Project - something we started almost six years ago - because permanency is what this project is all about. Where we're from, “putting down roots” means to establish yourself permanently somewhere - to make a place your home. You make friends there, make a home there, start a family there - you become part of the place just as much as the place becomes a part of you.

I guess you could say my family and I have put down roots in Ethiopia in more ways than one. With Kota Ganate we're “putting down roots” for a generation of children who desperately need the permanency TFC provides, children like Abel, Sossina, and Metu.

Kota Ganate provides long-term sustainability to ensure these kids and many others will find the permanency they need.


Apple farm

Chicken hatchery collage


As we literally put down roots with each crop we plant, pray with us for God to deepen our financial roots through Kota Ganate so we can continue to offer street children in Ethiopia the chance to become Permanently His

Farm Life in Chencha

Farm Life in Chencha

People often shutter when we mention our living conditions in Chencha; no running water, pit latrine for bathroom, electricity most of the time, internet if we’re lucky, and a lack of most modern conveniences.

On the Farm Update #2 - Apples

Since the idea of growing apples was the first thing that brought us to Ethiopia, I thought it fitting to share this aspect of the farm next in this series of updates. Apple production started in Chencha 10-15 years ago and has since become a very important part of the economy in that area. Many of our friends and some of our staff were sent to college on "apple money". Today Chencha is famous in Ethiopia for it's apples.

When the leaders of TFC and Onesimus envisioned a farm, apples were the first thing on their mind. Although poultry is starting to take more of a leading role on the farm, apples are still (and probably always will be) an important part of it.

We have a small orchard of a few hundred trees that is a couple of years old (we are awaiting permission from the government to plant more).

We also have a fairly large nursery where we are propagating several thousand seedlings for sale or planting. The nursery has apple trees in many stages, from newly planted root-stocks, to newly grafted seedlings, to year-old seedlings. The month of Nehase (August) was a busy time in the nursery. I learned a lot about apple propagation from our technicians as I snapped pictures while they busily worked and eagerly shared their knowledge with me. I hope that you enjoy the pictures below.

A young apple tree bearing fruit.

Birhan preparing new root-stock for planting.

Birhan at work

Birhan producing root-stock

Apple seedling growing.

Birhan & Jacob grafting.

Jacob preparing scion.

Freshly grafted seedlings

A view of the nursery.

Last years seedlings

Jacob working


To learn more about the farm, read On the Farm Update #1 - Welcome to the Farm.

To support the farmers, donate now.

On The Farm Update #1 - Welcome to the Farm


Cow Grazing in the Mist We've drifted into the new year here in Ethiopia. The celebrations are over now, and we are settling into the pace of life in 2005. (That's not a typo - the Ethiopian calender is about 7.5 years behind the Western calender). The rains should stop this week, which signals a time of wait and watch as crops which were planted during krempt (the rainy season) grow to maturity. The end of the year is a busy time for farmers in Chencha. The month of Nahase (August for us) is the time to plow and plant a second round of crops. It is known as the month of “goom” (fog). The rains subside a bit, but, being perched at the top of a mountain, we are consumed by a heavy, misty fog off and on throughout each day as clouds drift by. Nahase was a busy time on our little farm, known officially as “Children, Community Strengthening and Income Generation” project (or CCSIG) - even the acronym is hard to say. We simply call it Kota Ganate (KG), which means “Hidden Garden”, and that is what it is.


The sign and main gate to the farm

When you turn off of the rutted, muddy road and enter the gates, you are welcomed by green grass, flowers, young apple seedlings and fertile beds of vegetables. Some days you may catch the community children playing soccer in our small field. The staff will offer you a seat and some tea in the sunshine just outside the office. As you wander through the site, you'll pass the apples to your right and the poultry compound to your left, with lots of noisy chickens inside clucking away.


Our house and the rest of the farm


On the way down the hill, you'll find my little house, where we love visits -partly for the visit, partly because it makes a good excuse to have a coffee ceremony. After my house are rows and rows of vegetables: potatoes, cabbage, garlic, onion, beets and carrots. Past those, on the far side of the property, you'll find women and children cutting the lush green hay to take home to their cows.



This is the first in a series of updates about our “Hidden Garden”. As we worked through the month of Nahase, I tried to capture everything on film so you can see for yourselves how far we've come.


The Office


The Office - Backside


Aster - Secretary


The KG Staff


Aregahegn - Assistant Coordinator


Tarekegn - Project Coordinator

Tarekegn running with the kids.


The new road


Working on the road

The front door to our house.


I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of the farm. Stay tuned. In the coming weeks I will show you some of the different things we are working on.

Off to a Good Start

What a great year this is starting out to be. To think that just a month ago I was so discouraged. We had immigration troubles which forced us to return to the US in early December. We then had more trouble from the Embassy in Washington, DC, which forced us to extend our stay. At the time I thought that this was a major setback. I was supposed to be spending the month on site at the Kota Ganate Agriculture Project coordinating with the staff to get the ball rolling on the hatchery project.

Fortunately, God doesn't know about setbacks.

We returned to Ethiopia a couple of days ago encouraged. Instead of being setback we are leaps and bounds ahead of where I thought we'd be right now.

The biggest break came from a seemingly coincidental connection. I had been trying to solve one last major problem for the hatchery for quite some time and I was getting nowhere. We needed a source of good quality breeder stock. Breeder stock is critical to a hatchery operation. They are often called parent stock because they lay the eggs which are then hatched into chicks. They are the parents of all the chicks. Without them the hatchery has no eggs to hatch and therefore cannot function and if the breeder stock is of poor quality their offspring will be also.And quality breeder stock isn't available from within Ethiopia.

If I hadn't returned to the states I would still be spinning my wheels on this problem.

While I was in the US, I met Jim Adkins. Jim is the director of the International Center for Poultry (ICFP). ICFP dedicates itself to training people about standard bred poultry and sustainable farming. They are active throughout the US and internationally. I don't have nearly enough space to share the details of how 'by chance' we crossed paths. Suffice it to say that it was something more than coincidence.

The week before Christmas Joe and I drove down to Richmond from DC to meet with Jim. Jim brought his colleague, Gary Sikes; Gary is President of the Carolina Heritage Poultry Coalition (CHPC). CHPC is a group of farmers who have pulled together to develop, produce, and maintain authentic, historic, heritage poultry breeds. Jim and Gary were truly an answer to prayer. We had a great time together at that first meeting. They imparted much sound wisdom as we discussed the possibility of sending breeder stock to Ethiopia and the possibility of them coming to Ethiopia to train our staff and local farmers.

After meeting with Jim and Gary in Virginia, I had the opportunity to meet with Gary two more times and to visit several of his coalition farms. Again, if all had gone as planned we would not have had the time to meet with Gary multiple times while in the states. I am so excited about the partnership that is developing and what it will mean to the local farmers of Chencha and even to the street children of Addis Ababa.

I am now encouraged and full of optimism for 2012.

Everything seems to be falling into place. While I was gone Nega went to Chencha and settled some issues with the land, the big breeder stock problem has been solved, and - the icing on the cake - I just found out that we have met and exceeded our goal with the Chicks-for-Change campaign. This is freeing us up to think of ways that we can make the hatchery bigger and better. On the table is the possibility of a small feed mill, per Jim and Gary's wisdom. This will be necessary for the poultry farmers in the area, and it will expand the market for grain in the area, in other words more benefits to local farmers.

Listen to me talk. More and more I am using terms like “expanding markets” and “distribution channels”. At one time terms like this were foreign to me, in fact, they bored me to death. However, it seems that we've gone past just talking about a small farm to help sustain a small organization. Now it seems that we are talking about a small farm kick-starting a new industry, which will sustain a small town and in turn sustain a rapidly growing organization.

How wonderful that God can use setbacks to move us closer to His goals.

A Chicken in Every Pot

A Chicken in Every Pot

It takes a normal Ethiopian’s full day's wage just to buy a dozen eggs and the average Ethiopian may work a full week to earn enough to buy a whole chicken. So, what would a small flock like ours mean to a family in Ethiopia? Significantly more than it meant to us. It would mean a dramatic improvement in nutrition and livelihood.