This week I am marveling at the abundance of Mother Nature coupled with human ingenuity and hard work, as we celebrate our first tomato harvest at the Koné Farm near a small village called Tiebissou in Côte d’Ivoire.
Some months ago, our Vice President of International Affairs (and my husband) Sekou was approached by a young man from his childhood neighborhood of Yopougon near Abidjan, CI with a proposal to invest in a micro enterprise: a vegetable farm. The young man offered his knowledge of farming and the sweat equity of he and a few friends in return for seed money (literally) to start a garden. Sekou is an expatriate of CI who is always looking for ways to invest in the future of the country and its predominantly young citizens, so he jumped in with both boots, so to speak.
As you will see in the slideshow below, the young men took on the arduous task of tilling the first two acres of land by hand with rudimentary tools, each seed carefully ensconced in the earth and tended first with watering cans, then (lean process improvement!) with drip irrigation fed by the nearby lake. In addition to tomatoes, the team also planted peppers and cabbages. Before long, the tender starts were ready to move to the field, which quickly became lush and green. Once these two acres are fully productive, Sekou and his team hope to expand the garden, which is providing a needed source of vegetables for the markets in Abidjan, livelihood for these young men, and a source of revenue for the village tribe that is leasing the land.
Our new farm venture in CI reminded me of leadership development consultant and author Greg Bell’s book Water the Bamboo in which he tells the story of his grandfather- a bamboo farmer- as a metaphor for leadership success through optimism. Giant timber bamboo grows fast- up to 90 feet in 60 days- but it takes three years to break through the ground once it’s planted. Bamboo farmers must tend to their crops for years before they see any evidence of their hard work- they are true optimists motivated by a vision. Greg asks each of us to imagine what we are working on today- or dreaming about- that might not yield results for years, and he recommends a set of action steps to help us all keep watering our bamboo. I read Greg’s book several years ago and his wisdom has helped me keep focused on my vision and goals for Koné Consulting for the past nine years, even though growing a consulting business can sometimes feel like watering a barren field waiting for something to sprout. For inspiration, check out this video clip from Greg.
We will continue to update you on our little vegetable garden in Tiebissou – and those who join us for our Travel with Purpose tour to Côte d’Ivoire this January 2020 will visit the farm and participate in a Lean waste walk with these hard-working young men, as we will be using Lean principles to improve the value we are growing for our customers while eliminating waste with respect for people. The farm as a metaphor abounds. For more information about Lean and farming, check out The Lean Farm – How to Minimize Waste, Increase Efficiency, and Maximize Value and Profits with Less Work by Ben Hartman.
P.S. For more information on our December 27-January 12 New Year’s tour to Cote d’Ivoire, register for one of our Service Leadership webinars:
Wednesday, June 5 @ 9 – 10 am PDT
Thursday, June 13 @ noon – 1 pm PDT
Saturday, June 22 @ 9 am – 10 am PDT
Visit our Travel with Purpose info page here.