Thursday, October 8, 2009

Trip Number 67 September 18th-October 3rd, 2009

It‘s 4:00 a.m. as I pull up to Trey’s home so he can take me to the airport for the first leg of the journey. First stop is Minneapolis where Mark Waterston picked me up from the airport and I am off to interview a man from Minneapolis for a possible position. It was a good interview and I hope the man comes on board with us. A couple of weeks back I had a catastrophic engine failure in one of my aircraft and, in keeping the thing in the air I really stressed the muscles in my lower back and right leg. My chiropractor did help somewhat, but not enough, so here I am leaving for Kenya barely able to walk. Barbara Waterston is going as well and is taking along her niece on her first trip to Africa, so I met Coleen at the airport along with the rest of the Waterston family. A few teary eyes and we were through security and waiting for the plane.

The ride to Amsterdam was uneventful but not conducive to sleep. Arriving at Amsterdam, I was in pain and walking slowly to the showers for a hot, long shower - then on to the next plane to Kenya. This time I slept well and we arrived in Nairobi at around 8:30 p.m. along with our entire luggage. As usual, each of us had huge suitcases full of tractor parts to keep the farm running a long way from the nearest John Deere dealer.

Sunday morning we left the hotel for a 10:00 a.m. flight to Kisumu where Mathua picked us up from the airport for the 1½ hour drive to the farm.

There is massive drought in Kenya with scores of people and hundreds of livestock dying to the north of us. Around our farm the drought is not as pronounced and the vegetation is still green - but few crops are thriving. Food is scarce in all of East Africa and Kenya has not been spared. Each week thousands of starving refugees are leaving Somalia and Sudan and fleeing into Kenya. The country’s food supplies are stretched to the limit and corn prices are 3 times higher than only a couple of years ago. In some areas water is so scarce that people are killing each other for drinking water. Thank God this is not the case for people immediately around the farm. Our rice stocks are getting low and the cupboards may be bare before the next crops come in.

The farm looks good with around 1,400 acres under crop with several hundred more acres to be planted when weather permits. Lush green fields of rice stretching across the previous swampland will help feed a desperate corner of the world. It’s always exciting to be back and see the progress. Lunch was ready and then Steve and I had to get to work on so many issues. He was to leave on Wednesday for two weeks of well-deserved vacation time, so much had to be done before then. The usual frustrations are always there to deal with, from shortages of supplies, equipment breakdowns and personnel difficulties. Little in Africa follows the game plan.

Early on Monday I was up before sunrise and in the fields with Ronald Boone to go over as many details as possible. Most fields look very good, but only after months of preparation and hard work. The first paddies of this season will be harvested in November and we pray for good yields, no hail and no equipment breakdowns. Our stocks should hold until the end of October but we may run out of inventory during the first two weeks of November. The rest of the day was spent going over fish farm construction details and modifications. The first 8 green water fingerling ponds are nearing completion with 60,000 fry already transferred into the first one. We will add 60,000 more to the new concrete ponds every two weeks. Two of the youth buildings are roofed in and about to receive their plastered walls. Barbara and Coleen were off to visit the girls of a secondary school. It was a holiday but they came to school anyway just to hear her speak to them.

Tuesday was devoted to working on fish farming issues. The farm has made lots of headway over the past six weeks. The breeding system is operating smoothly and hundreds of thousands of fry from around 80,000 selected mothers are now hatching. Our fish are highly sought after by locals to use in their own small ponds and the Government has requested 500,000 fry each month. Five years of breeding and research have resulted in a fast-growing, high meat-producing, durable fish. Our genetic strains are now well established and are being further improved with each generation. These are intellectual properties to be safeguarded at all costs. No females are ever sold. Enos has done a good job and we appreciate him.

Our aquatic plant production has proven up to the task of supplying high-protein food for the fish. The aquatic plant fields look extremely attractive with row after row of long thin ponds teaming with rapidly growing tiny plants flanked by thousands of banana trees (to shade the ponds to reduce water temperatures). So far we have 10,000 banana trees of every variety known. By the time we are finished, we will have 500 acres of banana and aquatic ponds. These are all very expensive to build but are highly productive for the organic production of fish feed. Aquatic plants are tricky to grow but produce organic food that is consistently high in protein. We’re close to mastering that system.

Our experimental aeration systems are exceeding our expectations for adding oxygen to pond water. An Oklahoma company, Water4, has developed very simple water pumps which can be made of simple PVC materials. I took one of these with me to Kenya for testing. They will make it possible for so many local people to irrigate their gardens and to keep their fish ponds full. We will manufacture these at the farm and distribute to all of East Africa. Steve at Water4 also researched and developed a manual air pump for our fish out-growers. It is very simple in design and he finished it the night before I left for Kenya. It works great and next week it will be put to the test. We are grateful for Steve’s innovation and commitment to poor fish producers. Barbara and Coleen spent the day at another school - again speaking to hundreds of girls about their future.

On Wednesday morning Barbara and Coleen headed for Nairobi for four days to work with Feed the Children’s large orphanage and feeding center there. They have an operation that cares for abandoned and handicapped babies. It is a heartwarming labor of love to take in the discarded babies of the poorest of the poor and to raise them up in a loving, caring setting.

For me the day was filled with meeting after meeting to plan the next few months. Steve was leaving for two weeks leave in South Africa, his home country. Ronald, our rice farmer, invited me for dinner and it was good to get caught up with him and his family.

Thursday I was back in the fields early again after a good rain the night before. It was muddy, so work was halted until the sun dried things out. By noon Chris and I were headed to Kisumu for a talk to the Kisumu Boys School - the largest school in Nyanza province and the second largest in the nation. I spoke to over 1,200 boys about their present and their future. It was well received and soon the school will bring them to the farm to learn how to get involved with the outgrower programs. By dark we were back home and Mark Ham, Doug Conner, and I ate great steaks cooked on the grill. I was tired and headed for bed.

Friday I met with some of our rice distributors who were concerned about our looming rice shortage. We have stopped all bulk sales which is hurting our cash flow - as well as theirs. This all relates back to a devastating hail storm which ravaged the farm in January of this year. It took out 350 acres of mature rice that was ready to harvest and destroyed the productivity of the following crop due to the volume of seed that was driven into the ground by the hail. In all, 700 acres of crops (350 x 2) were lost or severely diminished.

At noon busload after busload of school children began to arrive from around the province, some of which were expected and many of which were not. We took them all on a tour. I talked for 4 1/2 hours standing in the hot, blazing sun, explaining everything from rice farming to land leveling, banana production, fish farming, and rice milling. There were many good questions from many students, all eager to learn. By the end of the day I was burned to a crisp and now reap the consequences.

As we traveled about the farm I was on a bus from a girls’ school whose students appeared to be around 14 years of age. I was shocked to learn they were actually in their senior year and aged 18 to 22 years old. Most had barely developed from little girls into teenagers by outward appearances. Poor nutrition and continuing illness such as malaria and HIV/AIDs have obviously taken their toll on these young lives - and to think that soon many will become second wives to old men so their fathers can acquire an extra cow in the trade. Very sad! Many wanted to become involved in our out-grower training program and we promised they would be welcomed back as the program develops. There is such an urgency to intervene in these vulnerable lives.

On Friday Jack O’Neil died of AIDs. He had worked for us as a tractor driver until a few months back when he fell asleep while driving and ran into another tractor, putting it out of commission for some time. He was relieved of his position but was still a friend. Now just a few months later he has passed on, leaving three wives and several children who may be infected. More tragedy is on the way.

It is now mandatory for every pregnant lady to be tested for HIV/AIDS before giving birth, so the baby can be potentially protected. This is done at the local clinic just a couple of blocks from our complex. The latest results show that 9 out of 10 pregnant women are testing HIV positive. What will happen to their children?

Saturday I went to Siaya looking for some equipment and to meet up with our rice distributor there. He bought me lunch and then I asked him to show me where the trailer was located. As we rounded one corner there was a strange three-wheeled little car that I wanted to stop and see. It was from China and was getting repaired. The owner was sitting there and we began to talk. He was a mild-mannered man who seemed to know me and then explained that he had worked for Dominion Farms some years back in the accounting department. His name is Malik Obama, half-brother to the President of the United States. Later we went to a large soccer tournament where I was introduced as the CEO of Dominion Farms - hopefully good PR for rice sales. The teams were great and it was a welcome break from the long days of work. After leaving there we drove by the home of Mama Sara, grandmother of Barack Obama. She was not home. Across the street was the home of Malik and through the gate could be seen the women of his family covered head-to-toe by their black burkas.

Sunday morning I went around the farm with our new crop duster pilot, Andries, who has only been there a couple of weeks. We worked on designs for a hanger and load-out equipment, and then went to look at the fields.

We must be careful where we spray, especially near the perimeter of the farm and around our gardens, fish farm, and aquatic ponds. By 9:30 Mark and I were on the way to Kisumu to go to Church. It was good and the message spoke to me. Mark liked it and says he will go back. We encountered a massive thunderstorm on the way home and were driving some times at only 5 mph but the sun was shining on our farm. We need three more weeks of sunshine to get all the crops in before the rains come in earnest. With God’s favor we will get it.

Monday morning was packing up time and a brief meeting with some local officials. One last trip around the farm and a stop on the hill beside the cross and it was time to head for Kisumu to catch the plane to Nairobi. Barbara and I had a great dinner with the Minister of Youth and Sports. Hon. Helen Sabili is a God-fearing, dedicated servant who is truly committed to the wellbeing of the youth of Kenya. She loves what Dominion is doing, especially as it regards to the youth outgrower programs, and promises the support of her ministry. We look forward to working with her.

Tuesday morning came early with a flight to Europe. We have now just passed over the mountains of Darfur on our way to Amsterdam and points beyond.

As we leave the continent of Africa again it is with an urgency to return. There is so much to be done and we can not do it all, but the call of Africa is as strong as ever. There is desperation in the people and it is growing stronger day by day. Food shortages loom large for most of East Africa with no effective programs in place to turn the tide. Our yields must be good and our grain must be fully harvested, not just for the sake of Dominion but for the many people whose crops have totally failed. May God keep the people of Kenya and bless their land.

The days in Europe where everything is modern and clean were productive and I learned much about food marketing there. The economic crisis of the world has affected them as well, but social programs seem to mask the situation. In Africa there are no social programs to fall back on and hunger is just that, hunger.

Saturday night I made it home to hundreds of email and piles of work, but it’s home and it’s the best place in the world to be.



propelled said...


Just read your entire blog over the last week--extremely interesting stuff. My company, Davis Precision Design, designs farm and industrial machinery for a number of small manufactures. We're always looking for new projects, and I have a couple of engineers available right now. Please contact me if we can help with any of your projects.
580 227 3644

Anonymous said...

Didn't know you had a blog sport Calvin ?



Tom said...

Your blog is an inspiring read. Over the past three years our congregation (1st Pres Edmond) has been involved with the church planting efforts of the Eastern Uganda Presbytery in Mbale. To date 82 churches have been planted and pastors trained and wells boared. But, I have wanted to try to help local farmers with coffee tree planting in the rich Mt. Elgon west slope, fish farming, silage production, etc. You have blazed this trail and I want to learn from you. Could you spare a couple of hours in the near future to talk to me about ways we might imitate Dominion Farms work? Tom Langdon 562-5397

S Shaw said...

Dear Mr Burgess,

Hello, my name is Shane Shaw and I provide missionary support for projects in Haiti (

I have been asked by an owner of the company I work for to evaluate a proposal to establish agricultural oriented projects of livestock, poultry and crop production in the Bondo District. These all are growing out of a irrigation project that is being developed as a foundation for the previous mentioned.

The proposal set before me is a somewhat detailed design and cost overview, but does not answer all of my questions, and information for this area is almost nonexistent.

I have never been to Africa and pray that you would you be willing to share some of you knowledge of this area and time to allow me to make a more informed derision?

Thank you in advance.

Serving Him,

Shane Shaw

Uganda Evangelism Trip said...

I support you, completely, Calvin. You are doing the gospel where it is desperately needed. Visionary. Real. Blessed.

I, like Tom, would like to learn from you and help in any way I can.

Leo Wideman
First Presbyterian
Edmond, OK

Steve said...

I live in edmond and just returned from Uganda on mission trip with First Pres edmond. I am an Industrial Engineer who has worked in the meat business for some time. Cattle processing. I am now doing process improvement work at Tinker. I am enjoying your blog and will ask the Lord to bless you.
Steve C.

S Kay said...


Though I have heard alot about Dominion Farms, it was not until the Founding Trustee (Chairman) of the Trust I work for, pointed me to your website and blog, and my heart is still racing, reading all that you are doing, and hope to achieve. It is amazing to learn that you are a believer, and will pray for you to succeed in your work and God's mission in Africa/Kenya and the world in general. May the Lord lead you and order your every step.

God has also charged us to begin a holistic approach work in ministry in Kenya. When you get a chance, please take a look and whisper a prayer that God will guide us through the trajectory that you have walked through already.

Steven Nguli Kilonzo