A Hand Up: Aid for Trade in Mozambique
The day Canadian missionary Don Kantel released 400 chicks into a poultry enclosure in Mieze, a village of 20,000 in northern Mozambique, all the village's children gathered to watch, wondering what would happen next. Before the shipment of day-old chicks arrived, Kantel had methodically prepared the enclosure and explained to villagers the process of feeding and watering the chickens and regularly cleaning their space. The Mozambicans didn't understand why anyone would do all this work for a few scrawny chickens. Chickens run loose in Africa, eating whatever they find, mostly insects and garbage. Nobody cared for them at all.
Kantel and his wife, Elizabeth, an expert in community-based health care, were determined to create a holistic model for transforming life among Africa's poorest families through job creation and evangelistic outreach. Through Iris Ministries, a mission to orphans and vulnerable children, the Kantels helped launch the model in Mieze. The project brings together farming, animal husbandry, long-term orphan care, education, and a newly planted church, all in a sustainable way with indigenous leaders.
For much of his life, Kantel has been, in his own words, "something of an elitist," an academic who founded St. Stephen's, a small Christian university in New Brunswick, Canada. He had shown little interest in the fate of the rural poor. When he did think about poverty, he reasoned that the poor were likely the authors of their misfortune. He never envisioned himself as "Papa Don"—a retired administrator getting his hands dirty fighting poverty.
Kantel smiled watching the chicks run around. All was going according to plan. But before the day was out, Don and Elizabeth faced a defining crisis. Winds began to pick up, storm clouds formed, and torrential rains started. A potentially deadly cyclone moved in off the Indian Ocean. Storms like this come with 100 mile-per-hour winds and can trigger lethal flash floods.
Cold rain lashed the chicks as they huddled together. Their open-air shelter offered little protection. Kantel feared the storm would kill the project. He ran into the enclosure and gathered up a few chicks. As he left the project that night, he was sure the remaining chick population, along with Mieze's chicken farming prospects, would be wiped out by morning.
Aid for Trade
As Kantel waited out the storm in his and Elizabeth's home near the village, his mind retraced the stunning progress the children of Mieze had made during the past 14 months. In 2007, at the start of the project, about 40 children moved into new houses. They had been just like many other Mozambican children, abandoned due to the recent civil war, HIV/Aids, or extreme poverty. They had no possessions other than the tattered rags they wore.
Most were completely bewildered by their new environment. They had never slept in a bed, eaten three meals in a single day, flipped on a light switch, or seen their own face in a mirror.
"Some of the kids were very withdrawn. Some were very aggressive," Kantel says. "All came from situations of unimaginable deprivation, and some were victims of abuse, as well." A few months after moving into the compound, the children were well-dressed, well-fed, sociable, healthy, and happy.
When Kantel wakes up in the morning, he intentionally asks God what it will take that day to help the children become leaders in their generation—which is where his vision for chicken farming began.
For Mieze's community to grow and thrive, its members needed to learn how to create quality goods to sell. Trade, the exchange of goods and services across borders, is one way to address chronic poverty. The bigger the market you can sell to, the more jobs you can create.