December 21st. My final day. I am really busy at work and I receive the following text. If I have achieved only what you read below, my time in Tanzania will have been worth it.
From Francis: “Oh no, you are leaving! My God we will miss you so much. To tell you the truth, you are among the the people who made me who I am today. May God bless you. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We want you back again. Thanks, Francis.”
Tony’s response: “You do me great honour Francis. How did I help?”
Francis: “You gave me a chance to train farmers. I did not have the courage to stand in front of the people to speak! This was the first time for me. I discovered myself and built confidence in the job and many things. Thank you and may God bless, you made me born again.”
I recall our first grower meeting. Francis read out the steps required to properly fumigate maize. I spoke to him afterwards and said the growers were capable of reading the handout and pointed out that he knew his job; he just needed to ‘wing it’, say what was in his head and speak from his experience, off the cuff. Well, each meeting just got better and better. You can go back and check, see the farmers craning their necks to participate. I encouraged him to involve the growers and they got up out of their chairs and started, at his invitation, to weigh the maize samples, test for moisture content and check their cell phone calculators for the % acceptable off colour or mis-shapened kernels.
This is Francis Mgaya. He is a technician with the Swiss based General Surveillance Society. He is charged with assuring international standards of food grains shipped to and distributed by the World Food Programme. He works in the Arusha warehouse overseeing the fumigation of the stored maize, beans and pulses. (A gas is used which dissipates and leaves no residue. The rats don’t fair so well but the maize is very acceptable for consumption especially in the South Sudan right now.) I worked with Francis in the field. I could do my job because he interpreted. He assists farmers with quality control, oversees the grading, bagging (you’ve see the ‘Gift of Canada’ bags) and fumigation. His samples, sent to the WFP lab in Dar es Salaam, determine the acceptability of small hold producer’s grain. If okayed, he then oversees the transport from the ‘in country’ warehouse to the Arusha warehouse. Thence to refugees in South Sudan or to school children. Farmers side sell for immediate cash and right now for better money to traders who pull up to the farm gate. No extra grading costs but at the expense of international standards which, in the long run, will pay off. This is what the World Food Programme has been trying to influence. This is very very admirable I think, but immediate cash is so seductive – just drive along the Upper Bench in Cawston at harvest time…
You know, I don’t have a clue what this gas was for fumigating. Not the slightest bit interested. But Francis does and he interests me.