A vision for rural African prosperity
When Jonas Yogo, the Burkinabe farmer, first took me to his farm nearby Po, at first glance it seemed like almost nothing at all – just a piece of mostly barren land with poor soil and a couple of small buildings in the middle. I couldn’t imagine anything growing in that sandy, red soil – except for the scattered trees that were already there and well established. Like almost everywhere else in the rural areas, a donkey or goat here or there was grazing on nitrogen fixing weeds such as clover.
Jonas began to explain to me that this was his prize property that he had been farming for 18 years. He said the time I had arrived was too early for the planting, and that’s why there were no crops growing yet. So Jonas pointed out to me areas where he grows maize and cowpeas, his two primary crops. Continuing, he explained that he grows them for seed which he sells to other farmers for them to grow their crops. “Seed producers do very good business here,” he told me. I learned that he cross-breeds maize and cowpeas to produce hybrid varieties better suited for their environment.
As we walked the perimeter of the farm, he showed me the massive dug-out rainwater catchment he called “the dam,” which has enough clay on the bottom and a large enough size that it does not dry out even in the 8 to 9 month dry season. He also showed me a nearby area that had the beginnings of a small building. “I will have 20,000 chickens here,” he said.
Further walking around the perimeter of the 100 acre flatland, we came upon a large 1 kilowatt solar array and a huge water tank that was 50 feet up in the air, set above a well dug into the ground. “This area is going to be vegetable production with drip irrigation,” he said, “but for now the well has pipes that run 2 kilometers to the nearby area and supplies 10,000 people with clean drinking water.” Instead of hoarding his own water resource, he was readily sharing it. Instantly, he was my hero.
Then he took me back into an area with more trees, with a really nice small, vacant building. “This is all my land too,” he said, “and I am going to hire a cattle farmer who will live here and raise 200 cattle.”
Back in the city of Po, Jonas took me to the new home he was building, which was two stories tall and made out of concrete. He had been working on it for five years and spent about $ 50,000 so far, and had about $ 10,000 left in order to finish it. “I am going to live on the bottom, and I am building the top for you and your family,” he told me.
Jonas’ bold and sincere invitation left me speechless. Little did I know then, I was going to soon again not only be left speechless, but also with uncontrollable tears rolling down my cheeks.
To be continued next week with, “God sent the Angel I asked Him for”
Tony Farrell started his current business venture, Farrell Marketing Technology LLC, in April of 2011. Over his lengthy career as an information technology entrepreneur, he has worked on tens of thousands of computers and helped dozens of business to have smooth running, efficient computer infrastructure and great looking web sites that generate more business through search engine optimization. In February 2012, Tony began intensive organic farming on a small scale in his living room, including vermicomposting and aquaponics systems, and he completed Growing Power’s Commercial Urban Agriculture program in May 2012. Tony is currently enrolled in the Milwaukee-based Victory Garden Initiative’s Food Leader Certificate Program and Permaculture Design Certificate Program and is building a local for-profit microgreen production business called Farmer Tony’s Mission Greens. Tony recently returned from a three week agricultural mission trip to Burkina Faso, marking his first foray into international work. This series tells the story of that journey.
Tony welcomes comments and feedback, and he may be contacted through his personal email address email@example.com