Friday, August 9, 2013

Happy Peasant's Day!

When conducting our local hires, during every interview, we ask candidates what they know about agriculture and where they learned it.  We've come to expect a variety of answers but none are more common than this:

"I'm a peasant."

The first time I heard this, I nearly laughed out loud: "Well, gee, please thank your feudal lord for letting you come see me today."  I managed to keep it together and good that I did.  As it turns out, the translation of "wakulima" is "peasants" as well as the more traditional back of the flash card: farmers.

Anyway.  Yesterday was Peasant's Day, one of the 16 public holidays in Tanzania.  I tried to learn a bit more about the history of this holiday, but struggled to find anything official.  I read somewhere that it was originally meant to be the opportunity for city folks to get home and harvest their farms, but I suspect it's more just an acknowledgement of an enormous segment of the population.  You know, the peasants.

We drove about 4 hours south of Iringa to the third largest city in the country - Mbeya - where the Peasant's Day celebrations were being held for our region.  I've been to an agricultural festival in East Africa once before so I thought I knew what to expect: demonstration plots, fried foods, photo booths, and tons of people... sounds a bit like the state fairs back home, no?  In many ways, this held true for Mbeya's fair, but they must have known that a photo booth with a stuffed tiger and an Obama backdrop wouldn't be enough to bring the people out in droves.  (Ok, the photo booths here are a little different from the ones you might see on the Midway back home.)  So, Mbeya really upped the ante this time around.

In addition to the demo plots:
More fertilizer = more cabbage!

And the fried foods:
Not quite the funnel cake you might have been expecting...

We got real animals!
When not texting, her job was to use that stick to make sure
the Colobus monkey on display was entertaining the crowd.

While I originally intended to make a joke about this little celebration of animal cruelty, I gotta give 'em this: those cages aren't great but I've seen much worse and there were guards posted to move the crowd through and prevent any tormenting from the crowd.  Plus, despite living in much closer proximity to the natural habitats of these animals, most Tanzanian children don't ever have the opportunity to learn about or visit them, which is a real shame.

Anyhoo - the highlight for me was our booth in the Iringa building where we demonstrated our products, showed a comparison between typical maize cobs and ours and where, at the next stall, I bought some delicious looking honey.

Still, I'm wondering if changing our slogan from Farmers First to Peasants First would turn off any donors...

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