In 2005, I was invited on the USDA Trade Mission to South Africa and in a last minute effort, added a stop to Madagascar. I found the people of Madagascar to be friendly, kind and happy. To observe them was to see individuals who were busy, going and doing. Their island country was beautiful with much flora and fauna, it still came with its problems. Deforestation is a critical issue in many areas where clear cutting is being done without any replanting. Even though I only visited this charming place for a few days, it stayed with me well onto the next stop in South Africa.
The point of the USDA Trade Missions to different countries is to take your “wares” to new markets. As much as I wanted to try to offer all of these people something, I had nothing that they could possibly need or that could help their situation. While attending meetings in South Africa, my thoughts of how I could possibly help countries solve some of their agricultural and erosion issues and allow the people to benefit as well. Between meetings and during evenings, I had long conversations with my wife who was back home in the states. She and I brainstormed on possible projects that could be done to help both land and its people. Before I left South Africa, we had created our basic plan.
Once I returned home, we worked long hours to further develop our plan. Hardly a few months after returning from Madagascar and South Africa, I had another USDA Trade Mission to attend in Kenya. The director of the Trade Missions kept informed of the progress of our new project. He was an early cheerleader of this concept and set aside time at the Kenya meeting of local businessmen to introduce it as a solution to help control erosion issues within their countries and to work with their farmers.
To be continued in my next post.