Yesterday I had a wonderful visit from His Majesty King of Benue (pronounced Benway) state in Nigeria and his wife, the Queen. Benue is one of 37 states in Nigeria, Africa's most populated country. He had two attendants and she had one and they spent a little more than 3 hours here at Polyface.
Interestingly, over the weekend, we had another Nigerian from Plateau state, just north of Benue, attending our two-day intensive discovery seminar. What are the chances? And even more interestingly, both of them told the same story.
As Morocco and Lybia in northern Africa desertify, the traditional herdsmen are heading south with their livestock seeking forage. That puts them into Nigeria. The nomadic herders traditionally have been Muslim while the non-nomadic farmers and small business folks tend to be non-Muslim.
Over the years, the Muslims have controlled the national government while non-Muslims control state and local governments. Nigeria has no local or state police. It would be like the only law enforcement in the U.S. being the FBI, for example. That means if you're a locality and thugs come in that are friends of the national government, you get short shrift.
Although Nigeria does not allow gun ownership, the national government has no problem with their buddy Muslim herdsmen carrying rifles. While disarming the locals, the national authorities either wink or outright arm the Muslim herdsmen. The result is escalating clashes between these herdsmen and the non-nomadic folks, who are being slaughtered and pushed into friends' towns.
All of this puts pressure on the friends who try to take in their terrified refugee nearby folks. The instability means nobody wants to invest in business or take care of resources. Many think the country is on the bring of civil war. This story was consistent from both of these Nigerians who spent time with us in the last few days.
Both of them came to Polyface looking for answers for their people. It was heartening and heartbreaking at the same time. I've never figured out how a place that grows bananas, pineapples, avocados, oranges, grapefruit and papaya could ever have any problems--that just sounds like paradise. Why doesn't everyone just sit around eating bananas and pineapples? But I digress.
The exciting thing about their visit was that both left energized, believing that Polyface methods could actually alleviate the crisis and suffering in Nigeria. In the tropics, pathogens are far more rampant than in more temperate areas; it's always hot and often wet. The controlled animal movement they witnessed here at Polyface was epiphanal for them. The idea that they could break virulent pathogens by controlled movement had never entered their minds, but they saw immediately its efficacy. If you think American livestock gets shots and drugs, you ain't seen nothing until you go to Africa. At every stop, every herd, every flock, they were incredulous that we did not use drugs.
I explained that in a village where the chickens run loose, through the squat pots, through the houses, down the sewer and across the road, the solution is simply electrified poultry netting to give controlled movement. They agreed. And the cows. Goodness. They were mesmerized at our fat cows that grow twice as fast as theirs. But ours get a new salad bar every day, lush forage that's been allowed to rest for a few weeks from the last grazing so it can recover. The result is tons more biomass and carbon sequestration.
These Nigerians thought these models could create enough abundance for their people to live in harmony, not fighting over exploited and diminishing resources. What's more, all of our Polyface models and infrastructure were completely applicable and doable in their context. Simple mobile structures. Carbon driven. Small machines and affordable processing equipment. I've always said that one of the truth benchmarks is if a model works equally in developed and undeveloped cultures. Yesterday proved the axiom.
As we said our goodbyes, we all had full hearts for future prospects. The King asked Teresa and I if we'd come over to the palace on holiday. Maybe we will. I'll just eat bananas and pineapples.
Have you ever entertained a king and queen?