'Steps' might be a slight understatement. Our staff at Open Arms Village (OAV) has made giant strides in sustainable practices and have taught them to our children living at the Village. We received this wonderful update from our amazing missionary couple living at OAV - Ted and Brenda Whiteman.
"When my wife, Brenda, and I first began living in Kenya, we regularly visited a local posho mill (grinding mill) to grind our maize (corn) into flour. As I considered the expenses we incurred transporting the maize and paying for the grinding (not including the manpower it took away from the Village), I was led to pursue building a 'posho mill' on site at Open Arms Village. In addition to serving our needs, I also thought this would be a great resource to our immediate neighbors.
Maize is such an important part of the culture here - it is drunk as porridge for breakfast, eaten as a snack, and part of every evening meal. Due to this focus on maize, posho mills are as common as coffee shops in America.
Our vision was a three-room building to expand our current Open Arms Kiosk (store) to include a grinding room and a room for storage. Brenda and I then brought the vision to our home church, Grace Point Community (Tigard, Oregon), who joined in our excitement and quickly raised the required funds through an Advent giving project. With funds available, the search began for a qualified contractor to do the work. After a lengthy search, we were blessed with a fantastic contractor and the building was quickly and professionally finished.
Open Arms Builds a Silo
Our focus, initially, was to use the posho mill to serve the grinding needs for the Village and community. As we were installing the machinery, I was considering the best way for storing maize in our storage room.
Traditional maize storage in Kenya involves a small, loosely built wooden structure. Maize cobs, dried in the field, are loosely tossed into the structure to dry further. When they are deemed dry enough, the maize is laid out on the ground and covered with pesticides to reduce losses to weevils, rats, and other pests. Then cobs are shelled of the kernels and the maize is returned to the building in sacks. It is well known that losses to pests, even with the pesticide treatment, range from 12-24% of the initial harvest throughout the storage season. These losses are traditionally accepted as part of maize storage.
I happened to come across a maize storage project, introduced to East Africa about 10 years ago, using silos.
When the silo has been loaded with shelled maize, lit candles are place on top of the maize. Then both the inlet and outlet are sealed with rubber straps, making the silo airtight. When the candles use up all of the oxygen, they go out and in a few days any bugs that might have survived the cleaning and sifting will die.
This is a radically different idea to traditional storage. With a local craftsman and a couple of friends from Grace Point who came to Kenya to help kick off this project, we built the first silos September of 2015.
The advantages of Silo Storage Systems:
- Eliminating the cost and health risk of buying and adding pesticides to your primary food source.
- Only needing to build one storage structure that requires very little maintenance.
- Reducing the loss to pests from 12-24% to nearly zero.
- Increasing security by storing your maize in your home - maize theft is a very serious problem in Kenya.
- Low cost: only 5,500 shilling ($55 USD)
Another exciting by-product of this program is the potential for vocational training - not only our own young people, but those from the community who might have the skill to develop their own business.
There has been a great deal of interest from Open Arms staff and local community members as these large, shiny structures have taken shape and begun storing our maize. In addition to large-scale silos, which hold 1,800 kg (1.9 tons) of maize each, we have also built home-size silos, which hold 525 Kg (.57 tons).
To the left: Our first smiling customer had his silo delivered just yesterday, and promised to order more, larger silos to start his own storage business. We've also had inquiries from large-scale maize growers and local schools for the larger commercial silos. It would appear that we are on the verge of as much business as we want and can manage.
Lastly, silos are not only good for Open Arms and the surrounding community, but they're good for our children. As they grow and we consider their lives and prospects beyond the Village, we need to give them skills to make it on their own. We need to give them contemporary technology, contemporary thinking, and opportunities to make an impact on the community and Kenya as they provide for themselves and their families. Silo building is just one of many opportunities we can offer them to begin their own lives and careers beyond the fences of Open Arms Village."