Farmers are supporting an egg farming initiative to feed children and create jobs
By Diego Flammini
Canadian egg farmers are part of a project helping to feed orphaned children and create jobs for people in Eswatini (Swaziland).
Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) has been involved with Project Canaan, a Heart for Africa initiative, for nearly a decade.
Heart for Africa is a faith-based humanitarian organization started by two Canadians, Ian and Janine Maxwell. The charity focuses on supporting the people of Eswatini.
Project Canaan is a 2,500-acre orphanage which includes an egg farm.
EFC helped fundraise enough money to build two 2,500-bird barns which house hens producing more than 4,000 eggs each day.
“We’ve been involved for about seven years and I think we’ve fed over 6 million eggs to children,” Tim Lambert, CEO of Egg Farmers of Canada, told Farms.com.
The overall farm employs about 300 local people and more than 250 children call the orphanage home.
In addition, EFC secured two trucks to help transport eggs to a network of 30 churches and schools.
The organization also worked with Big Dutchman, an egg and poultry equipment manufacturer, to provide equipment for inside the barns. And EFC engaged with a food scientist to come up with a solution to prevent the eggs from spoiling after they were cooked.
"Of course I'm biased but there's nobody like the people at Egg Farmers of Canada," said Janine Maxwell. "They're just the most remarkable people. If they come here and see things aren't going right, they have our backs and want to help get everything back on track."
Seeing the local community’s hard work on the farm and the extended impact EFC’s presence is having on the community is rewarding, Lambert said.
“The barn manager does a great job at managing his birds and puts his heart and soul into it,” he said. “You’ve got this modern egg farm and community in the middle of an African mountainside that’s helping feed children. When we go out into the community, we can really see the difference it’s making. It’s very powerful.”
The barn manager's name is Sifiso.
He was timid and shy when he started working on the egg farm. But that's no longer the case, Maxwell said.
"He was a teenager and I don't even know if he finished high school and this was his first job," she said. "He learned, from start to finish, what it takes to run a laying facility in a country where there was 70 per cent unemployment before COVID. He recently got married and had a baby and he's so proud to able to provide for his family."
Canadian egg farmers have visited the site multiple times throughout the years to help with planning and construction.
Roger Pelissero, an Ontario egg producer and chair of Egg Farmers of Canada, used his experience building barns to help design suitable structures for Eswatini.
“I was part of the group that planned the barns,” he told Farms.com. “We wanted everything to be very low impact regarding the use of electricity and water because those resources aren’t always readily available.”
The barns are naturally ventilated and have curtains to cover the barns at night. They also have vaulted ceilings which allows hot air to rise and escape through the centre.
With resources scarce, “we wanted to take advantage of how Mother Nature could help us,” Pelissero said.
Witnessing the effects of the egg farm outside of the community is something Pelissero will always remember.
Simple tasks, like peeling an egg, means so much more to the people of Eswatini, he said.
“When you see a child looking at a hard-boiled egg and they don’t know what to do with it, so you help them peel it, that is absolutely humbling,” he said. “I’ve delivered eggs to schools and seen children put the egg in their pocket to bring home for one of their siblings. Words can’t describe how powerful that is and how much eggs mean to those communities.”
The orphanage also has its own dairy, which provides the children with milk and yogurt.
The children consume about 1,135 litres of milk each week.
Maxwell expects that number to grow, and is investing in the dairy operation to accommodate the changes.
"We just expanded the (barn) roof and will be putting in a solar power plant," she said. "We have a lot of sun, so being able to switch to solar is going to be great for us."
Heart for Africa photo