By Chris Elliott
No doubt you’ve heard these words a few times. The salesman making his pitch, the magazine/TV/Internet advertisement–always with the guarantee that this book (or whatever product is being promoted) will be transformational. Quite likely you’ve heard it from your pastor, who was encouraging you to take the Bible more seriously. But one would hardly expect to hear this statement at a welding workshop.
The context in which I encountered the statement was most intriguing. I was in Nigeria, representing the Church of the Brethren and the Global Food Initiative (GFI), along with Dennis Thompson representing the Soybean Value Chain Innovation Lab (SIL). The book being spoken of was Guide to Fabricating MultiCrop Thresher. The speaker was a young entrepreneur from Ghana named Imoro Sufiyanu Donmuah. He, along with team members Theo Ohene-Batchway and Hakeem Abdul-Kareem, had come to Nigeria to lead a week-long workshop for seven young Nigerian welders and machinery fabricators, several of whom are members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).
The three workshop leaders and collaborator Jeffery Appiagyei, who wrote the book and could not attend as he is in the US finishing his master’s degree, had worked together to develop the multi-crop thresher with sponsorship from SIL, USAID, and Feed the Future. I found it interesting that the four of them all have businesses of their own and are at some level in competition with each other, yet are working together as a team on this project, developing the thresher design and leading workshops in a number of African countries.
This particular workshop had been several years in the making. Sponsored by SIL, EYN, and the GFI, it had been put off and relocated a time or two because of COVID and the insecurity in northeast Nigeria. Held at a welding/fabrication/machine shop just outside Jos, the week-long training served to develop welding and fabrication skills in the trainees, all of whom work at machine shops or own shops of their own in the northeast part of Nigeria. GFI’s goal, and that of EYN, is to encourage entrepreneurship and commerce in this area, which has been so devastated by the Boko Haram insurgency. SIL and GFI have been working with EYN on a Soybean Value Chain initiative that includes the development of the multi-crop thresher.
Please pray… For those receiving training in the thresher fabrication workshop, for their future success and their contributions to their communities in northeast Nigeria.
The thresher is capable of handling any number of grain crops. Besides soybeans, it can thresh corn, wheat, sorghum, rice, etc. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, most of these crops are harvested by hand and the threshing process is likewise very labor intensive. Typically it is women who do most of this work. The purpose of the multi-crop thresher is to reduce the drudgery that so many are facing, as well as to create business opportunities for welders and fabricators such as our trainees at this workshop.
Throughout the week we dealt with a number of bumps in the road, everything from daily power outages and lack of materials to misunderstandings about the schedule. I observed a number of “problem solving opportunities” when particular items weren’t available and it was necessary to improvise. About midway through the workshop, it appeared that we might not be able to reach our goal of completing two machines. There were just too many loose ends that didn’t want to be pulled together.
A few days into the workshop, we heard from some of the participants that even if the workshop ended at halfway, they were already quite happy. The new skills they had gained would be of immense benefit for their businesses back home. That said, God graciously answered our prayers. Both threshers were finished and functional by the final day.
It was truly a blessing to be learning along with these men. One of the trainees, for example, impressed me greatly with his abilities and work ethic, and already has his own shop. When I spoke with him on the last day, he shared that he already was making plans to go back home and put his new knowledge to work building multi-crop threshers. The workshop opened a door of opportunity for him to grow his business to a higher level.
I believe that this book will change his life.
— Chris Elliott is a Church of the Brethren member who frequently does volunteer work in various parts of Africa with the Global Food Initiative and the Global Mission department.
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