Last December, I walked into an egg barn, like I have countless times before, with a tremendous sense of pride and excitement. This moment was the culmination of a year’s worth of work driven by Canadian egg farmers and supporters across the country.
This farm is not my farm in the Annapolis Valley. In fact, it’s nowhere near Nova Scotia. It’s located in southern Africa and is part of Heart for Africa, a humanitarian organization in Swaziland, and their larger agriculture development initiative.
It’s a critical project: 42 per cent of the population are infected with HIV/AIDS, one in three people in Swaziland are undernourished, with more than 200,000 orphans and vulnerable children living in the country.
Heart for Africa brought hope to the region when they invited the international agriculture community to work alongside them to find a solution to hunger. Egg Farmers of Canada, in partnership with the International Egg Foundation, mobilized a team of volunteers and kicked-off a year-long journey to plan, design and oversee the construction on Heart for Africa’s layer operation.
The newly built egg laying farm welcomed its first flock this month and the farm is now offering thousands of nutritious eggs to orphaned children living in Swaziland. This also enhanced Heart for Africa’s existing feeding program that already delivers 74,000 hand-packed meals each month to rural communities through a network of 30 churches. We are also providing hundreds of eggs each week to the pediatric hospital.
The result will impact the lives of thousands of people living in the surrounding community. When we first heard about Heart for Africa, we recognized an opportunity for the humble egg, and knew we wanted to be involved. The orphanage is home to more than 100 children under the age of four who live on site. The organization is also a major employer in the region and the project provides jobs for 280 Swazis who care for the children, operate the farm and build facilities.
When organizations like Heart for Africa and Egg Farmers of Canada work with local farmers, the diets and well-being of the local population greatly improve. Egg farming in particular, given the efficiency of hens and scalability of operations, can have an incredible impact in terms of nutrition and generating a sustainable food supply. Establishing a local, sustainable source of eggs is the perfect way to ensure protein and vitamins are incorporated into the diet of vulnerable and disadvantaged children and adults living in developing countries.
The contribution of Canadian egg farmers goes far beyond the bricks and mortar construction of the operation. Our volunteers have invested countless hours and have worked hand-in-hand with local Swazis to share the knowledge and expertise necessary to manage the farm. This way, world-class farming and animal husbandry practices common in Canada, are shared with locals, developing their capacity to sustain the farm over time.
This is all part of our overall vision to work with the International Egg Foundation to help farmers in developing countries produce eggs, giving more people access to the perfect food to feed a hungry world. By doing our part, sharing what we do best, we hope that we help spread hope and have an impact on the world hunger crisis.
On behalf of the 1,000 family egg farms in Canada and burgeoning egg farmers elsewhere, we invite everyone to join our #CrackingHunger challenge and help the “humble egg” reach those who need it most. Add your support and visit eggfarmers.ca/heartforafrica to learn more.
Published by The Huffington Post.