The first of two layer houses built to supply orphans in Swaziland with eggs as part of an international industry collaboration is now up and running, and production in a second house is not far behind.

The first phase of charity Heart of Africa’s Project Canaan Farm’s newly built egg-laying operation received its first pullets this year, and the eggs primarily will be used to feed children in the Project Canaan orphanage.

However, the beneficial impact of the farm will be felt further afield with eggs also being delivered to a children’s hospital and to 30 feeding stations in rural Swaziland. The project is a prime example of the development work of the International Egg Foundation.

The nonprofit farm, which farms part of Project Canaan’s wider agricultural operations, was started in mid-2015, and both houses should be fully operational by June 2016.

The egg farm has been built from scratch by volunteer leaders and farmers from the egg industry partnering with locals and the nonprofit Heart of Africa as part of a wider development project.

To date, the Canadian egg industry has played a particularly important role, with volunteers going to Swaziland to teach Heart of Africa and local staff the farming practices commonly used in Canada so that they can establish a long-term strategy to sustain the operation over time.

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Inside the first of the two layer houses, developed to supply eggs to orphans in Project Canaan's orphanage and to vulnerable children further afield.

Eggs for orphans

Project Caanan is home to more than 100 abandoned or orphaned children, and it receives a new baby on average every 14 days. The reason behind the large number of arrivals is disease.

Approximately 44 percent of Swaziland’s population is thought to be infected with HIV, and HIV/AIDS accounts for 90 percent of hospital admissions in the country.

Managing director of the International Egg Foundation Julian Madeley explains: “Swaziland has a big problem due to HIV. A lot of working men have died. Over the last five years, 20 percent of the adult population is thought to have died, and almost all the children coming into the orphanage have been abandoned.

“Project Canaan offers a home to these abandoned children, offering them accommodation, health care and education to international standards. At 18, these children will go back into their communities, equipped to help rebuild their country.”

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Madely continues: “Eggs are not produced for cash; they are produced to help feed the orphaned children. But additionally, eggs are also sent every week to a children’s hospital in Manzini, the country’s second largest urban center.”

The project is also being used to include eggs in deliveries to 30 feeding stations, along with starch, such as rice or maize, to help ensure that recipients receive a balanced diet. However, the benefit that eggs bring to the project’s children does not stop within the walls of the orphanage.

Madely continues: “While the orphans receive high levels of education, it is important that they don’t lose touch with their Swazi culture. The children are taken into the local community to be taught by elders, and these elders are paid with eggs.”

Sustainable environment

Once the two houses are complete, annual egg production is expected to be in the region of 125,000 dozen eggs.

Five workers are employed looking after egg production and cooking and peeling eggs, and they form part of a 250-strong workforce that is engaged across the project’s wider activities, which includes vegetable production and packing, dairy and jewelry production.

The project is being supplied with pullets, feed and veterinary services by a local commercial egg producer who will also purchase any surplus eggs that may be produced.

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The egg production initiative also provides nourishment at a children's hospital.