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By Natalie Gorsuch
Williamsburg Correspondent 

Williamsburg's David Greaser Travels to Zimbabwe

 

December 12, 2019

David Greaser of Williamsburg, shown here on the right-hand side, is posing with some of the farmers he trained during his time in Zimbabwe. Following the end of training, participants were given a certificate, that they were "happy to receive from an American."

Confucius once said, "teach a man to fish, and you've fed him for a lifetime," but if a man teaches a group to complete a balance sheet you've got the situation of Williamsburg resident David Greaser.

Greaser recently returned from a three-week trip to the South African country of Zimbabwe. Greaser was training dairy farmers on record keeping systems – such as a balance sheet and income/expense statements, which according to Greaser, is similar to the work he does as a Farm Loan Officer for the USDA Department of Agriculture.

Greaser is an avid traveler who has already been to Iraq and Afghanistan on similar trips, and was "looking for a new opportunity and a new place to go." Of the three-week trip, one week was just in traveling alone – where it could be spending 16 hours on an airplane.

The trip, from Oct. 5 through Oct. 27, was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development, USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and an organization in both Washington, D.C., and Zimbabwe called Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA). The program is called Farmer-2-Farmer; where farmers and agribusiness representatives from the United States are sent to different countries in the world to train local farmers in agricultural practices.

USAID, CNFA and the local Zimbabwe government are helping to develop the dairy industry in Zimbabwe. In 1990, there were 130,000 dairy cows in the country. Because of drought, starvation, overgrazing of pastureland and farmers leaving the countryside and moving to towns and cities, the dairy herd in Zimbabwe has drastically decreased to 30,000 cows. All dairy cows are from the Tuli Breed or the Nguni Breed; Holstein and other common U.S. breeds have been introduced to the areas, but because of the climate and other diseases – these breeds cannot survive. Most of the dairy herds have four to 10 dairy cows per herd and are managed by women; men do the field work. Chickens are also a common farm animal in Zimbabwe.

Greaser trained three different groups of dairy farmers in the towns of Gweru and Mvuma. In total, he trained 30 farmers; the first group could understand English whereas the other two groups couldn't understand English. The villages where he was training were in remote areas. He, along with a driver and a translator would drive one hour on a paved road, then another half-hour on a dirt road and then another 15 minutes on a dirt path through the bush to each village. Greaser remarks that there were "cows on the road everywhere you went," along with other animals such as sheep, goats and baboons. He also remembers seeing a sign that said "be cautious of elephants."

The trainings were conducted under a tree at each village. Before leaving for Zimbabwe, Greaser wondered if he would be conducting meetings under a tree, and this quite interestingly, is exactly what happened. There are four local languages in Zimbabwe (Shona, Ndebele, Southern Sotho, and Tswana and then, the English language spoken in the country). Most of the population is Christian in the country. Greaser would start each meeting with a bible verse and prayer, then close the meetings with prayer.

One meeting, Greaser said that he forgot to pray at the close of the meeting; "one of the trainees stopped me and asked me to pray to close the meeting." The participants would bring chairs and blankets to sit on. Meeting the participants was one of the highlights of the trip for Greaser, who said most participants were between the ages of 25 and 65 and were "respectful and eager to communicate with him."

With no electricity available, Greaser could not use a computer to use PowerPoint. Greaser reverted back to the old-school flipchart to do the training. Greaser also said that communicating back home with his wife proved to be difficult before he was told about the WhatsApp, which is what most Africans use to communicate internationally. Before or after each meeting, he would visit with each participant at their house and farm. He wanted to take a part of Morrison's Cove with him to Zimbabwe; before leaving on his trip, he took pictures of three different dairy farms in the Cove area. The Zimbabwean farmers were amazed at what they saw in the pictures.

One trainee asked, "How can a farmer milk 800 cows three times all in one day?!" The pictures, Greaser said, expanded the trainees' view of the world.

David Greaser, of Williamsburg, posing with some of his trainees following one of Greaser's "classes" on accounting basics in Zimbabwe. Greaser is holding a live chicken in which the Zimbabwean people would give to him for hospitality.

At the end of the trainings, Greaser presented trainees with a certificate, "they were happy to get a certificate stating they had passed the test." Greaser, in turn, was presented a token of hospitality – a live chicken to take back "home to his wife." Greaser said that he gave the chickens to the driver, only after he was "far away from the village."

One of the other highlights of the trip for Greaser was his trip to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls is one of the ten largest waterfalls in the world – roughly twice the height of Niagara Falls. The Falls was an eight-hour car ride on rough roads from Gweru – where Greaser stayed, but he said, "it was worth every minute to sit by the falls, hear the noise coming from the falls and feel the mist." Overall, Greaser says the "trip was very enjoyable and enlightening," and he hopes to do more travelling following retirement in a few years.

Any local service groups or churches wanting to hear about the trip can contact Greaser at 832-3955.

Any farmers or agri-business representatives interested in going on a similar trip can contact Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture at http://www.cnfa.org for more details.

 

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