Njuki Moments

Monday, January 31, 2011

'how much would like to be paid, sir?'

You have been asked that question. May be. Depending on who is asking, answers differ. See, It’s a trick question. If you are at an interview they are just being nice, they don't really want to know! You don't believe me? Ask them now that you have the job. Okay, sometimes they really mean it. So give a reasonable answer.

I would have looked for the catch in the question if the phone had not rung that moment, and she calmly said into the receiver...'.I will call you back, I’m meeting the Consultant.'  That from my former boss too!
You don't seem to believe me, but I can show you the contract for that job. Right below where my signature lies is the actual word.. .’Consultant'. I didn't know what I had done, to be hired as a trainer/consultant but that eavesdropped conversation let me in on the fact that I was actually more important than I thought. It was only then,don't worry.

 Now, to the consultant's work. I thought I had 'escaped' teaching. I come from a family of teachers. But when I stood there in front of men and women fit to be my parents, they pitied me...and when I introduced myself and told them I had a degree, they pitied my parents. One participant actually confessed to it at close of the training. But I knew that if we don't share honestly what we know with others, it ends with us and it may never really sprout and bless as many people as it was meant to. So I shared my story. The farming business story.

This is what we all are. We have a dream job or career or business as we study or grow up and even sometimes arm twist our children to follow the same. But truth be told sometimes our dream jobs are not exactly that. We are still unhappy in them. But because of the attitude we picked up as we grew up, we keep from doing that which we may secretly desire or even be good at that which gives us happiness.

I met teachers and Veterinary Doctors and a few nurses who had come to attend that training, but they still introduced themselves 'professionally ' first before adding that the are also farmers, on the side(many said).
UNDP sponsors a project headquartered in Masaka and I had been asked to train farmers 'how do farming as a business'. We covered several districts, including the Island areas too. I am sure a lot of the participants did not come for the knowledge. I told you what they thought.
To make the doubting Thomases even happier, my co-trainer was David,and he is even younger than me by several years. We chatted, we interviewed and we trained. Then question time came, and this elderly lady stood up and asked a question.”Why would you ever leave a job to go into rearing chicken?"
I had been mistaken to think that all these people had actually come to learn, to share experience and plan to get better in agricultural business.
Looks like every one else had the same question because hands went down so fast I had one question to answer. And so I did.

"To start with", I said, "I am very glad doing what I do. May be that is why I am here with you. I will tell you why. This country has over 80% of its population dependent on agriculture. Most of them are subsistence farmers though, that is why they have to do other jobs to get by. You also know that this country has the best climate in the region and the most fertile soils you will ever find. Things grow without help. I mean we have local chickens 'rearing themselves' in our back yard. Just imagine what would happen if we put a little effort into farming that and actually did it as a business. This is what would happen. We would get a lot out of so little. Because we are blessed with climate and fertile soils, we would also be very competitive across the region."

I knew deep inside that what my trainees wanted to know is whether I made any money rearing chicken. I am sure you want to know too. So here we go. If I sold a chicken egg for Ushs 200 and my profit was Ushs 50. It would make a lot of sense if I sold more eggs. The mere fact that I make a profit off each egg also means I have the potential to make a lot of money. So, what if I sold 1000 eggs? That is how much I would be earning in profit, Ushs 50,000. How about if I sold a million eggs? So supposing I sold the million eggs in a month or in a week, is that profitable business? It could be tomatoes or greens or even beans. The formula is the same. That is why Cigarette companies make billions of shillings yet their product is cheaper than a button, and their market is even restricted. With farming, we are talking food and each passing day we have to eat. We can not opt out.

The lady was not done yet. "But do you make any money? Are you saying you can actually get rich out of farming?"  And I said yes. I was also making money out of training farmers.

What it means to be a developing country is that most, if not all resources are virgin. Untapped. Therefore it is much easier today to make successful business than, say one hundred years from now, and the reason we have over 80% of our population producing less than 30% of GDP is because most farmers are just that..farmers, not business people. Once they acquire business training and think the same way stock traders or car bond managers think, we have a rich class of people on our hands.Don't forget what Al Gore said, "the next billionaires will be food billionaires|". Think about it. Maize nowadays is not just on demand for  food alone,but for fuel too.

I did not know whether I had really answered her question, but one year later, when we had a review, an elderly lady still stood up during question time and said.
  'I will be very honest with you. I did not believe you then that you can actually survive off farming alone, and for a person who went to school, I did say a prayer for your parents. But then I went back and tried raising my local chicks with a bit of business sense. Now I vaccinate them, and I look for market before they are ready. Everyone in Sembabule knows the lady with nice chicken. I am not rich yet, but my grand children don’t lack fees any more. I would like to thank you. If I were not old, I guess I could be able to do better.'
I felt that my whole session was done. It is touching to know you made an impact however small in some one's life.

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