A Hard Love: Africa, People, Potatoes and Christ-driven Commerce.
Tobias Basson speaks Afrikaans, thinks farming, talks straight and learns ruthlessly. His mission in Uganda is not to give alms but to grow people and communities by coaxing produce out of the ground. It’s leadership and team-work, task-centredness and truthfulness. Ask him about the chickens that weren’t there, banks of which you should be careful, unpredictable weather patterns, business failures, and my guess is that you’ll get a shrug and a wry smile. Ask him about bribery and broken people, and you’ll get a short nod of affirmation. That tee-shirt has been washed often in proximity to the equator.
His purpose in doing what he does is to be real in Africa, not as guests, visitors and colonisers are real, but as one of the people working the land to make a living in a sustainable way.
The lessons that he’s learnt are the following:
- Don’t farm commercially for an informal market, it won’t work.
- Don’t try to impress your plans and purposes onto Africa, it has its own way of getting things done. Adapt to that.
- The gold is in the people, more so than the ground, and if you pursue this view, you will have won Africa.
- Don’t love ground more than people.
- More than anywhere else, the only certainty is uncertainty.
- Be cautious of African banks: small and debt-free is better than large and debt-ridden.
To work on the basis of the love of Christ, which is the whole of Tobias’ motivation, is what has led him into Uganda. His expertise in farming, his instinctive grasp of the African way, and his passion for harvesting not only the fruit of the ground but the faithfulness of people are aspects of his ongoing work.
The project is sincere, open to scrutiny and welcomes participation and investment.