Let me be blunt. At one level, 2023 has not been much of a year. It's seen some enervating declines - withering cooperation and understanding among powers, super-powers and empires; appalling mass violence with no end in sight; inertia in the face of monumental environmental challenges. But as we consider these challenges, there has to be a brighter side, to which we must return, to ponder the things that hopefully recharge our souls.
In that vein, I urge you for a moment to turn your thoughts to the humble village chicken - I'll come back to why.
I have to say from the start that the chickens we in RPC deal with, the 'back-yard' chickens in the villages, are very much in the minority here. As I recently pointed out to a small audience of local venerables, the vast majority of the chicken meat and eggs consumed in Malawi comes from a handful of local but quite large chicken companies. And it's eaten mainly by what I'll reluctantly call the middle class. If you don't have pennies, that 'commercial chicken' is not on your menu. Also, impediments due to transport and electricity for refrigeration put a limit on where commercial chicken products can reach. You simply don't see them in the smaller remote villages.
So what of the village chicken? If it is only small fry, why the fuss? Well, that's because that scavenging creature, ubiquitous in the villages, is so very important to so many less privileged people. Well over half of rural households in Malawi raise chickens. From that, I estimate that somewhere around 10 million Malawians benefit from village chickens and they are disproportionately the less privileged. (And that's the why - there are so many of the right people who can be assisted through their chickens!) There are very few inputs in raising them - you let them out in the morning to scavenge, you give them water and perhaps throw them a few scraps, you put them back at night safe from predators - and in a few months you have at your disposal a decent meal for the family and friends. Your biggest threat is to lose every chicken you have to Newcastle disease, which is why we concentrate so much of our efforts on that extra little input, vaccination.
There's so much more I want to tell but I'll spare you for now. Before I go though, a shout out to the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) of the Australian government without whose support our work would be minimal.
Wishing you a prosperous and rewarding 2024. I will keep in touch.
29 December 2023