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Arkansas man organizes Kenyan chicken project

 
Children in the Kenyan town of Meru will benefit from a planned chicken breeding operation spearheaded by John Boster and other United Methodists from Van Buren, Ark. UMNS Web-only photos courtesy of John Boster.

By Jane Dennis*
Aug. 22, 2007 | VAN BUREN, Ark. (UMNS)


A young Kenyan welcomes Boster to Meru.

Chicken houses. The Lord told John Boster to build chicken houses. In Kenya.

The Arkansas chicken breeder is bound and determined to obey.

A member of Heritage United Methodist Church in Van Buren, Boster made his first trip to Kenya two years ago as part of a Volunteers in Mission team from Oklahoma City. The volunteers built a library for a deaf school in Meru and got acquainted with the land, the proud Kenyan people and their many needs.

"I first thought about working in water wells," said Boster, who raises cattle and chicken and has a construction business. "But the Lord didn’t want me to do water wells. He wanted me to do chicken houses. The Lord laid it on my heart. And, it is an ideal climate for a chicken operation."

Boster is a veteran VIM leader and asked for and received the full support of his church. He returned to Kenya in January to meet with leaders of the Kaaga Methodist Church in Meru and the bishop of the region and to secure their backing and support of the chicken house project.

On this trip, Boster and his fellow missioners replaced the dirt floor of a primary school with a cool, smooth concrete floor. But he also talked chickens.

"There are a lot of young people in Meru who are interested in getting started in the chicken business," Boster said. "They can see the benefits."

Breeder system

Some of the locals have tried their hand at raising chickens in the past. They traveled to Nairobi to buy stock, but more than half of the chicks did not survive the long, rugged trip back.

So Boster is spearheading construction of a complete breeder system. The first house will be a breeder and layer house for hatching chicks and will include a feed room. The second will include living quarters for a guard/worker, a hatcher and setter room and egg cooler, plus a holding space for chicks.

"I first thought about working in water wells. But the Lord didn't want me to do water wells. He wanted me to do chicken houses."
-John Boster

The building site is at Kaaga Methodist Church, "and the church members are excited about the project," Boster said. "The young adults are very excited because they have a good education but no work and they see how this can grow in their community."

The operation hopefully will spawn other family chicken operations that will produce not only food but income.

"We’re looking to give out between one to two dozen chickens per family … and we hope we can break even, more or less, for the guard’s labor and costs," he said. "We’re hoping to charge just what it costs us to produce that chick — and have families pay that back, if not the first time, on the second round of buying chickens."

The operation also will likely produce 2,500-3,000 eggs per month. "We’ll be able to give so many eggs away," Boster said. "We’ll be able to give to AIDS victims so they can get the protein they need."

Poised for construction

First, the facility has to be built. In the spring, bamboo was harvested for the slats in the hen house, and logs were harvested for the lumber. "Over there, you can’t just go to a Lowe’s and get a 2-by-4. You have to harvest the timber and then have it milled," Boster explained. Steel trusses for the operation have been ordered.

By the time the next Heritage-sponsored VIM team returns to Meru in January, Boster expects construction can begin. The team includes United Methodists from Van Buren and Little Rock, "and we still have openings for three or four more folks if anyone else wants to go," Boster said.

"When we leave Meru this time, we hope it’s in operation," he said, noting that a member of the Kaaga Church who has a degree in agriculture has been instrumental in assisting with the project. The church member "was very interested in being one of the main people involved in it, and that will help a lot after we’re gone," Boster said.

Heritage United Methodist Church continues to raise funds for the project. About $40,000 is needed for materials and construction costs, with an additional $30,000 needed to get the Arkansas volunteers to Kenya.

For more information, contact Boster at (479) 474-1977 or bosterpools@aol.com, or the Heritage Church at (479) 474-6424 or office@heritagevb.org.

*Dennis is editor of The Arkansas United Methodist, the newspaper of the Arkansas Conference.

News media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., 615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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Resources

Heritage United Methodist Church

Arkansas Annual Conference

Volunteers in Mission

Profile: Kenya


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