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Climate variability is the greatest threat to the long-term economic viability of dryland farms. In order to counter these uncertainties, many farmers turned to diversification as aa survival strat ......
|Description||Climate variability is the greatest threat to the long-term economic viability of dryland farms.
In order to counter these uncertainties, many farmers turned to diversification as aa survival strategy.
One such farmer is Mr Nonofo Bareeleng, a 38-year-old resident of Kang in Kgalagadi District. He is not a novice to farming because he grew up in a family where agriculture buttered their daily bread. Armed with such background, he knew that farming would be a gateway to greener pastures in his life.
In an interview at his farm, he explained that he was funded to the tune of P50 000 in 2007 through the Youth Development Fund (YDF). With the money, he managed to buy 15 layer chickens.
However, lack of sufficient feeds and reliable market made selling eggs a mammoth task for him, but due to his determination and zeal, as well as the help from her relatives, he managed to master the trade and accumulated enough profit.
He later considered diversifying his business by bringing in greyhound dogs.
Mr Bareeleng subsequently swapped his dogs for boer goats and dorper sheep.
As it is a known fact that climatic conditions of Kgalagadi favoured certain breed of goats, he chose Boer and Dorper breeds because of their adaptability and easy keeping.
Asked why he suddenly changed gears and switched to small stock production, he said every business person is focused on profit therefore small stock farming has a great return. "Besides that, health wise, small stock doesn't have as much problems as other animals.
Most of the small stock diseases are respiratory (associated with fever) so they just need someone to check their temperatures when you suspect one of them is not well," he says. Mr Bareeleng now runs his small stock operation from Magohi cattle post about 17 kilometres from Kang village.
He has never looked back since and he has grown to become an established farmer who currently owns 75 goats and 12 sheep. He explained that he keeps his goats for commercial purposes and not for prestige as most are sold to beneficiaries under the LIMID scheme.
His business has penetrated the lucrative Gaborone market including big establishments in the likes of Senn Foods.
Asked what his recipe for success was, Mr Bareeleng said goats need proper management and care. "You must feed them well, abide by medical procedures and tag them.
He cited challenges of predators such as jackals and hyenas which kill his animals, adding that he has introduced two Sheppard dogs as a remedial measure.
"The dogs are vicious and normally sleep with the goats and sheep. They (dogs) will wake you up at night if there is anything suspicious.
However, they need human support so that when they bark at night one is able to wake up to see what is happening", he said.
He intends to improve his breed by purchasing Kalahari Red goats for breeding purposes.
Mr Bareeleng encouraged other youth to diversify their method of farming as it has long proved to have real long-term benefit. "Diversification not only helps farmers to hedge their bets against commodity price fluctuations, it can also help protect them from climate variability.
|Industry||Food & Agriculture|
When Mai Gautier (née Pham) was growing up in Hanoi, in post-war Vietnam, there was never any talk of food safety or the concept of transparency. It wasn’t until she met veterinarian and future husban ......
|Description||When Mai Gautier (née Pham) was growing up in Hanoi, in post-war Vietnam, there was never any talk of food safety or the concept of transparency. It wasn’t until she met veterinarian and future husband Patrice Gautier that she grew deeply concerned for how the couple would raise their first child in a place where food sources and certifications were mostly suspect.
“When we had our first child, my husband and I started to really worry because we had the same problem with our food every week in Vietnam. It wasn’t fresh and we weren’t so sure about the source — so we wondered what was safe to give to our child,” she said.
That was back in 2005, but after this year’s water pollution crisis in central Vietnam where steel factory Formosa Plastics admitted to spilling toxic waste and causing the mass death of over a hundred tonnes of fish, food safety and transparency is now ever the hot topic in the country.
And as Vietnam has now shifted into the lower middle-income bracket, consumers are now spending more time at the supermarket and exercising heightened caution when it comes to assessing their food sources.
Enter Naturally Vietnam, a Hanoi-based agriculture startup co-founded by the Gautiers that provides traceable food products. Naturally Vietnam sources all their products from six farms in the city’s Soc Son district and has helped build the farms up from scratch by offering startup loans of over $2,000. The livestock farms are veterinarian-supervised, use chemical-free processes and any product sold in Naturally Vietnam’s shops are easily traceable in terms of food origins and processes.
Naturally Vietnam runs an online grocery shop where customers can comb through pages of produce, fresh fruit, meat and poultry, and select from over 300 products. Since Vietnam is primarily a cash-based society, Naturally Vietnam is unable to build in credit card payments into their platform but allows for direct bank transfer or cash-on-delivery. Groceries are delivered, in typical Vietnamese fashion, by motorbike and usually arrive within 24 hours of ordering.
Their mission, said Gautier, is to promote food transparency as much as they can. “The source of products, that is a question that no one can answer and that is the transparency problem in Vietnam. If you ask the seller at many shops: ‘Where did your product come from?’ Many shops cannot answer this and many times labels aren’t clear about food sources,” she said.
“For us, we really wanted to make it as clear as possible. We put the name of the farm on packaging and train our staff to understand about the products so they can answer any questions that customers may have. We also open our farms up for visiting so our customers can see where their products come from.”
Unlike other shops in Vietnam that claim to be organic, Gautier admits that Naturally Vietnam is unable to fully reach the international standards for organic products because of air and water pollution in Hanoi.
“We cannot do organics 100%, which is why we only say ‘free-range standard.’ The air and the water in Soc Son is not fully at organic standards — although it’s getting very close,” she said and notes that her team also helps educate local farmers on practices such as using organic fertilizer.
While some changes, in terms of farming practices, are afoot, Gautier said that there’s still a long way to go in Vietnam in terms of mindset shift.
“People still prefer to go to the market to buy live animals, such as chickens, and have it killed in front of them,” she said. “They feel like this is what food safety means, although they have no idea how the chicken is raised. It’s not easy to change their minds.”
|Industry||Food & Agriculture|
When De’Anthony Harris was released from Grafton Correctional Institution last October, he had a new outlook on his future. And, thanks to Brandon Chrostowski, owner of EDWINS Leadership and Restauran ......
|Description||When De’Anthony Harris was released from Grafton Correctional Institution last October, he had a new outlook on his future. And, thanks to Brandon Chrostowski, owner of EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute on Shaker Square, Harris also has a second chance at a successful life.
During his eight years in prison Harris, now 27, did everything he could to improve his odds in the outside world. “The best thing that happened to me is I didn’t have kids when I went in,” he says. “The only responsibility was myself. I was blessed that I did the right thing.”
Harris enrolled in Chrostowski’s culinary training class at Grafton. He also earned his temporary commercial driver's license (CDL) for truck driving, a certification in pet grooming and any took just about any other workforce training program the prison offered.
Chrostowski opened EDWINS in November 2013. The restaurant employs former inmates in Ohio prisons to teaches them the inside ropes of an upscale French restaurant. EDWINS has graduated 145 students men and women, with another 30 graduating in December. A new class of 30 started on August 8 and will begin working at the restaurant today.
In addition to the restaurant, Chrostowski has been busy building the EDWINS Second Chance Life Skills Center in the Buckeye neighborhood to further help his students get a solid fresh start.
Edwin is not only Chrostowski’s middle name, it also stands for “Education Wins,” says Chrostowski – the whole mission of the restaurant and the skills center campus.
“If we can educate our students to a new reality and maximize their potential and educate our guests on the level of quality of someone coming out of prison,” Chrostowski explains, “then we can educate the men and women in corrections that there is more than a number to [being] a human being and instill hope inside of our prisons.”
When phase two of the project is officially completed next week, Harris will serve as the Resident Advisor (RA) in the student housing dormitories on the 20,000-sqaure-foot campus on the corner of South Moreland and Buckeye in Cleveland’s Buckeye neighborhood.
After beginning the $1.3 million construction project on the EDWINS campus late last July, Chrostowski has transformed a once-rundown and somewhat abandoned portion of the street into a vibrant neighborhood. The campus's three buildings house an 8,000-square-foot, a three-story dorm, an eight-bedroom alumni house for EDWINS graduates, a fitness room, weight room, library and test kitchen.
“No one wanted to partner with us,” Chrostowski says of his early fundraising efforts. But then $1 million came from two anonymous donors and the execution of his vision began. “There’s a need for housing and there’s a need for someone who wants to be better.”
Chrostowski extensively renovated and remodeled the interior spaces and spruced up the exterior with landscaping and freshly painted trim on the exteriors of the red-brick buildings. Much of the material and labor was done at or below cost by area contractors.
From the front of the library building, a sign touting "EDWINS" adorns new a glass front. Chrostowski is expecting granite glass tiles to be delivered any day now, sold below cost to EDWINS by Solon-based Granex Industries, which will border the bottom of the front windows. Fir trees in square wooden planters welcome passersby on the street.
The building that houses the newly-painted EDWINS library and test kitchen was in disrepair when Chrostowski took ownership of the property. Just 13 months and $480,000 later, thanks to generous donations and fundraising, the building features new plumbing and electrical.
“The building was a total wreck,” Chrostowski recalls as he looks around the renovated room, which at one time was filled with garbage and dead animals.
“It never seems to stop,” he says of the work required. “Our students needed this. The student is my boss, so they dictate what has to be done. It’s not what I want to get done.”
Bookshelves and eight computers line the library’s walls, each with internet access and all of Chrostowski’s lessons via Grafton’s Hope Channel.
The library shelves are already stacked with about 100 culinary books. The collection continues to grow. “I want to build the biggest culinary library in the state,” Chrostowski says, adding that he hopes to accumulate 1,000 books.
Adjacent to the library is the test kitchen, with state-of-the-art equipment for the residents to hone their culinary skills and experiment with new recipes. “The dream is to always be around food,” Chrostowski explains of the setup.
Down the hall, past administrative offices, are lockers and showers next to an exercise room with workout equipment and a large-screen television, while the basement houses a weight lifting room. Another basement area is filled with donations of household goods, which will be sold in a planned store.
Beachwood-based Thomas Brick Company donated 10 pallets of tile for the test kitchen and locker rooms.
On the roof of the building are hives with 20,000 Italian honeybees, whose honey is harvested for many of EDWINS’ recipes. Below is a full sized basketball court, a greenhouse and a chicken coop that is home to three chickens. “The greenhouse will be the spring incubator for our summer vegetables,” Chrostowski explains.
Chrostowski recruited Lakewood artist Bob Peck to paint a mural on the wall abutting the basketball court. Chrostowski hopes to acquire the currently-vacant building from the Cuyahoga Land Bank for a future butcher shop.
The dorm houses seven apartment suites with room for about 20 students. The suites feature living areas, bedrooms and, of course, full-equipped kitchens.
While phase two is nearly complete, Chrostowski already has his sights set on the next phase of his dream to not only give former convicts a second chance at a productive, fulfilling life, but to revitalize the Buckeye neighborhood.
Chrostowski is eying a home just behind the EDWINS campus that he hopes to buy and convert into family housing for students. In addition to the buildings directly next door, he's also watching a couple of buildings down the street that would make good storefronts for a future fish market and butcher shop.
With the help of Jones Day, Chrostowski has set up the EDWINS Foundation to cover costs for current and future endeavors.
For Harris, the campus feels like home. He’s busy managing the final construction jobs, “giving a helping hand wherever needed and physical labor,” while also enforcing curfews and calming residents’ disputes as a certified mediator. “It works, it really does work,” he says of the mediation skills he learned at Cleveland State.
Harris is also continuing his pursuit to be a truck driver, hoping to see more of the country, as he’s never traveled beyond Cleveland. “I’ve never been nowhere,” he says, “I’ll go anywhere they tell me to go.”
For now, Harris is quite happy on the EDWINS campus. “People ask me, ‘how did you get that job?’ and I say ‘I educated myself,’” he explains. “You’re not just getting a job, you’re getting a family too. That’s your backbone. I would recommend this program to anyone.”