Some Tough Love Followed By An Amazing Farmer’s Day Celebration

5 Dec

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Thankfully the staff in the office were still talking to me on Thursday morning as we finished our final preparations for the Farmer’s Day Celebration.  The morning before, I had given my final wrap-up presentation and I had decided not to full my punches in order to give my Director the best shot possible with respect to the changes we’ve begun.    (I gave my presentation early because many people will be taking time off after Farmer’s Day)

I used the analogy of a fork in the road to describe the choice that each person in the office has with respect to moving away from a culture of excuses and individual gain towards one of teamwork and being proactive to help farmers.   We all have multiple decisions throughout our lives that we avoid  making or even acknowledging for a variety of reasons.  I have been lucky to have a few of my own choices pointed out to me by friends or circumstances over the years.  During my final presentation this week, I risked some awkwardness over my remaining days in the district to pay my good fortune forward and make sure that each person in the office acknowledges their individual choices and their power to change things.

Towards the end of my presentation, I started to worry that I had pushed too hard, but when I was done the Director got up and thanked me and reinforced what I had said.  Several other staff members echoed his words and a few asked for a copy of the PowerPoint I had used.  Despite the positive comments from various staff members, my Director and I are both aware that he is currently the only person firmly committed to change and that it is going to take him time and a lot of work to get everyone else engaged.  We have plotted a strategy and I am confident in his ability to persevere.

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After completing some last minute preparations on Thursday morning, I traveled to Kojobone, the location of this year’s Farmer’s Day Celebration for the district.  It is a smaller village with no electricity.  Despite the logistical challenges this created, it turned out to be an amazing choice of venue, as the villagers were extremely excited about the honor of hosting.

Farming is a big deal in Ghana, as 56% of the population work in agriculture (as opposed to 2% in Canada) and Farmer’s Day is a huge nation wide celebration.  There were Farmer’s Day events in every region and district across Ghana on Friday.  At each celebration, there were displays of traditional dancing, speeches by dignitaries and awards for farmers. 

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At my suggestion, our office had decided to add a fun football match and a movie screening to our celebration, which wound up being on the Thursday afternoon and evening before the main event on Friday.  I started regretting having volunteered to play for one of the football teams when the players from the Kojobone and Ekumidi (a neighboring community) started showing up looking extremely serious, but I managed not to embarrass myself too badly in the first half and then I bowed out at halftime so that the game could get a bit more serious in the second half.

My Director gave a brief speech afterwards about the spirit of cooperation and camaraderie symbolized by the game and then we quickly cleaned up and organized ourselves for the evening’s film screening.  Kojobone is off the beaten track and the countless children were in a frenzy of excitement as we setup for the movie.

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After we finally got the generator running and the ancient stereo equipment cobbled together, we showed 15 minutes of the movie HOME that depicted farming practices from around the world, followed by 30 minutes of Disney’s A Bugs Life, Emmanuel’s Gift and then Pray The Devil Back To Hell.  We projected the film onto a white sheet and people were able to watch both the front and the back of the sheet, as the light projected through.  This allowed the over 300 people to form a huge circle in front of the massive tree in the village square. 

Exhausted after the screening, I slept the night on a matt in the corner of one of the community leader’s compound and took a quick bucket shower in the morning before venturing out  to help with final preparations at the village square.  In typical Ghanaian fashion, the program that was scheduled to begin at 8am actually finally got underway at 10am.

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Award winners in our district for categories like ‘Best Poultry Farmer’ and ‘Best Rice Farmer’ won prizes like bicycles, bags of fertilizer, and machetes.  The Best Farmer Of The Year won a brand new motorcycle, which was quickly filled up with a jerry can so the victor could do a couple of circles in front of the crowd.

Over the past couple of weeks, I had on many occasions wondered to myself about the return on the investment of our staff’s time that we would realize as a result of the Farmer’s Day celebration.  Although there are always things that could have been better, having experienced the event I am now confident that the money and time was worth it for the positive energy that was created in the community.

The highlights of the day for me were the dancing exhibitions by various tribes and by packs of smiling children.  Here’s a short compilation video showing the various styles.  Unfortunately I didn’t get any video of my attempts to join in. 😉

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One Response to “Some Tough Love Followed By An Amazing Farmer’s Day Celebration”

  1. Robyn December 5, 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    Mark – just saw your blog as a link from someone I know doing volunteer work in Ethiopia. Looks like you have been doing some amazing work. Congratulations!
    Robyn

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