Sunday, May 31, 2015

Cape Town Getaway

After being in Swaziland for more than two years, we finally made it to one of our bucket-list destinations: Cape Town. Since our holidays typically revolve around picking up agricultural supplies in Johannesburg, we relished the opportunity to relax and explore such a beautiful region. We just wanted to share a few pictures to prove we made time to get away for a few days!

A view from the plane...

Visiting Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years.

Boat ride back to Cape Town from Robben Island, with Table Mountain in the distance.

View from the top of Table Mountain, looking East.

Meeting some penguins along the Cape.

Cape Point

Hiking up to the top of Cape Point, with the Cape of Good Hope in the background.

Kirsetenbosch Gardens

Wine and cheese tasting in the Stellenbosch Winelands. 

Visiting American friends from Swaziland who recently relocated to Stellenbosch. We had a wonderful time visiting them and their sweet kiddos in their new home.

We feel so lucky to live within a short, 2-hour plane ride from Cape Town. There are few cities that stand out as being so culturally interesting (for better or worse), geographically diverse, and absolutely beautiful. The food was exceptional, and we even got to eat at a Mexican restaurant!

Tommy and I both agreed we felt more refreshed and relaxed than we have in a LONG time. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Value of Quality

Perhaps my most enjoyable weekly indulgence in Swaziland is enjoying an ice-cold glass of Schweppes’ Dry Lemon

The second most anticipated indulgence is reading Farmer’s Weekly. A South African publication, it is an excellent mixture of technical, market, and political information. It even has a few sections that Mandi enjoys, most notably, The Hitching Post personal ads.

I recently read an article that shared tips for investing in business opportunities in Africa. One of the nuggets shared was that people, even if they are living in poverty, value quality. In fact, it gave several examples of companies that have actually increased the quality of their products when entering into lower per-capita economies.

In Swaziland, we have also seen how people value quality. Let me give you three quick examples from the New Life Homes’ Farm. 

Broilers: Typically, in this part of the world a broiler chicken is grown out for 5 weeks (from hatching until harvest). If taken care of properly, that would yield a bird that weighs 1.8kg (about 4lbs). We have realized that people like a bigger bird and we grow ours out to 6 weeks, weighing 2.2kg (4.8lbs). We charge more, create a more comfortable margin, and make customers happy. 

Pigs: We have made every effort to improve genetics over the past two years. We believe that if we can provide high quality pigs consistently to the market, we will never have a difficult time selling the pigs or demanding a higher price. So far, we have found both to be true. Recently, we have begun to artificially inseminate (AI) some of our stock using semen from top producers. We are excited about these opportunities, even if it makes our current boar incredibly frustrated (as he is temporarily unemployed).

Goats: You probably remember us buying a goat about two years ago, although for more of a hobby than a serious enterprise. Since then, we’ve learned that the market is massive and the supply is low and inconsistent. In many rural communities, there is frequent inbreeding within herds and animal health is poorly maintained. To make a long story short, New Life Homes now has 30 goats, half of which are Swazi indigenous goats (hardy with less meat) and half are Boer goats (less hardy, but with lots of meat). People are clamoring to buy our goats, especially the Boer goats, because of the quality. We sell these goats as breeding stock, which helps rural farmers increase their profitability over time. 

We are surrounded by people who live in poverty. Yet they still have eyes that allow them to recognize quality. The future for these enterprises is bright because we maintain a high standard of quality. The margins are good and the people on the farm (moms, kids, workers) are really excited about the direction we are headed. This is a huge win. Please continue to pray for wisdom and guidance as we seek to provide for these precious children.