Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Farmer-to-Farmer Program: Day 10 - 16 (Mozambique)

With most of the observations and customer interviews over, the real work began. The lab makes sure that farmers, processers, or retailers know that the seed sold in this region of Mozambique is what the label says it is. For example, the lab does testing to estimate how the seeds from a specific lot or field would germinate and produce healthy seedlings. Here are some of the things I did:

  • Made suggestions to improve the consistency and efficiency of their testing

  • Defined how each step should be done with the resources available - even down to how many times the equipment needed to be cleaned and with what

  • Checked that the testing adhered to - or at least, moved closer to - the international accreditation standards

  • Prepared documents so the lab could improve record-keeping

  • Organized a chain of command to monitor the steps, handle problems, and conduct internal audits

  • Conducted training for all the above

  • Answered questions

...and repeat. For pretty much every regular thing the lab does. Even mundane tasks like how you should handle soil. If it seems like a lot of paper shuffling, it's because the long-term goal of international accreditation requires a paper trail closer to Law & Order or CSI's chain of custody for forensic evidence.

It was a marathon of preparing training materials, working with the translator to get them into Portuguese, doing the actual training, and finishing any revisions. It didn't help that each morning, the rooster outside my room insisted that I get out of bed by 4:00 am. The training schedule became even more intense due to some final interviews with a customer and an unexpected tragedy.

A relative of the senior analyst died suddenly. Mozambicans really respect the time for mourning. Typically, a week of funeral leave is expected with up to a month or two off if the distance is far. Everyone who knows the deceased or even distant relatives go to offer their condolences. Funerals were not an uncommon site in Chimoio. I passed processions (a few open bed trucks with standing room only and a white cross at the head) for 4 different ones just going to and from the lab. It is telling that, hearing a relative of mine died recently at 51, the people in the lab considered it a ripe old age.

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