Saturday, July 16, 2011

Farmer-to-Farmer Program: Day 5 - 9 (Mozambique)

The regional seed lab in Chimoio (my host organization) is actually responsible for all testing in Manica and nearby provinces. The entire lab is just seven people, who really have their hands full trying to keep up with the analyses, certificates, and field inspections. In the past, FAO and DANIDA have provided support, but funding has come to an end. My assignment includes providing technical assistance to help them best use their limited resources and improve the quality and consistency of their results.

My first full week I was observing the lab's practices, learning about their current protocols, and generally inventorying their current situation and resources. They have been very patient with my one-on-one interrogations, which could be nerve-wracking without knowing what to expect. Later in the week, we met with some of their customers (seed companies, retailers, and growers/producers) to interview them and get feedback about the lab's services.

The lab is actually located on the grounds of one of its customers. Originally part of SEMOC (Sementes de Moçambique, the only seed company in Mozambique before 1999), the lab now operates under the Ministry of Agriculture. The perks of being at the site were SEMOC letting us tour the processing/conditioning plant (I was told over a handful of seed, “Here, you can smell the insecticide [seed treatment]!”) and use of the canteen.

The lady in the semi-outdoor kitchen prepares a couple of options everyday. Notable dishes were Zambezi-style chicken in a peanut and coconut sauce and a whole, fried mackerel with a side of pinto bean-kale stew. Accompaniments are a huge pile of rice or giant lump of nsima, the southern African version of … grits! Yes, in various states of congealment, this is a major staple in the diet. According to the translator, Mozambicans prefer a more refined version compared to more “grit”-like Zimbabwean style. It seems to go pretty well with the piri-piri sauce and stays steaming hot, an added bonus when dining al fresco on a cool day.

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