The Journery – Tillers’ Campus to Chimoio Mozambique & Uganda

Greetings,

For those of you who will read this blog and don’t know me it seems a little background information is a good place to start.

I have been on the board of Tillers for over twelve years now and am starting my fifth term as President of the Board.   I retired two years ago from a forty-five year career in construction, building and remodeling homes with a strong emphasis on making them as energy efficient as possible. My entry into the business was through cabinetry and furniture making which we continued to provide to our clients. The combination offered many opportunities to nurture a long-term love affair with beauty in all its many forms. I am a graduate from Western Michigan University with a degree in comparative religions with additional course-work in anthropology, philosophy, and independent studies on the Hopi people of the southwest. Years after Western I took an advanced degree in Business Development from the Hecht Institute in California.

I turned sixty-nine a day after I arrived in Chimoio. Brian Webb, Tillers’ in-country program director hosted a birthday celebration for me with many of Tiller’s staff, personnel, and their children at his home in Chimoio. The dinner he and Celeste served was chicken, potato salad, vegetables, cake, ice cream. It was the best meal I’ve had since arriving. After eating everyone including children came up to me to shake my hand and offer me their well wishes. Later, before the cake and ice cream were served, they all joined in singing me the classic “Happy Birthday song” in Portuguese. It was an unexpected event, a feast for both body and soul.

The musings and personal ideas that this journey will allow me to explore and that I want to share through these letters will be the result of my personal musings. They should not be assigned to Tillers as an organization.   I want to thank you in advance for the freedom this understanding provides me. Besides wanting the opportunity to see directly the work Tillers offers to so many “small holders” in the world’s agricultural community, I want  the freedom to explore and write from a perspective which is allowed to include more wide ranging implications.  It  was part of the reason I chose to make this journey.  A blog seems a perfect format to share the experiences from this time spent in Mozambique and Uganda given the diverse range of acquaintances. The trip is completely self-funded.

Tomorrow will be my first opportunity to visit a Tillers’ work center outside of the United States. While I have traveled to Tibet, Brazil, and Central America, this is the first time I have had the opportunity to visit Africa.

The last few months have been filled with the excitement of planning, preparation and the inevitable speculations of what this experience might hold and of how I might share what I find here with family, friends, and the larger Tiller community. I believe this work is important not only for the “small holder” agronomists who benefit from leaning new skills and techniques for improved agricultural practices but may be equally important in other ways for myself and others in our larger community as well.

While I enjoy writing I don’t have occasion to do it often so I ask in advance for a large degree of latitude in your reading what I will write here.   In addition to reporting on the work about the use of animals and the creation of appropriately scaled implements with local artisans I hope to explore the deeper implications of what Tillers’ work means and how it might provide an entry point to understanding the issues we all need to engage with deep maturity. Perhaps such inquiry could open a path to a foundation of community and friendship that embraces the rest of creation, one that discovers again the truth expressed in an old African saying; “The land doesn’t belong to us; it belongs to our children and the children of our children.”  

With warm regards,

Jack Gesmundo