South of the Sahara Desert, there are a number of small communities that either claim ancient Jewish descent (like Ethiopian Jews and the Lemba of Zimbabwe) or whose ancestors came to Judaism via Christianity in recent times (like the Abayudaya of Uganda). Recently, several of these communities—scattered across ten countries—have joined together to make use of the latest innovations in agriculture. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:
An unusual experiment in data-driven agriculture is underway in the Abayudaya Jewish community in rural Uganda: a pilot poultry farm. From the moment chicks arrive at a day old until their sale at day 36, nearly every move and morsel they take ends up charted on a carefully cultivated spreadsheet. . . . [F]ounded in 2021, the AMC Pilot Broiler Farm is now on its way to upscale to over twenty times [its original size] after the purchase of the Jewish community’s first-ever owned piece of land of approximately six hectares.
The Times of Israel was recently invited to Uganda to witness the next steps of the poultry project—which, with a profit margin of 15-20 percent for each batch of chicks is an unqualified success—and meet Sam Muwalani and Allan Zilaba, the dreamers who are determined to take their Abayudaya communities off the charity train. “Inspired by Jewish values, we empower people in poverty to be more self-reliant and self-sustaining,” the two wrote in a prospectus on their agricultural project’s vision.
[When], during the COVID-19 epidemic, community members lost their jobs and started to go hungry—and then to starve—the already disadvantaged African Jews’ needs dramatically increased.
Historically, the majority of Abayudaya are farmers, cultivating yams, peanuts, cassava, and more. However, this is the first time that data are driving their methodologies and decisions. In a country in which families still make their own charcoal using millennia-old techniques, “new” can be a bit unnerving.