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Organic Baobab
It seems like forever, but it has only been a few weeks since we started our campaign of organic production trainings in the remote villages where we source our whole Baobab fruit.  With 500 individual producers and all of their families in need of concrete information and demonstration about how to respect organic standards on the soils around their trees, at the time of harvest, how to store the fruit and deliver it to our self-created little bush markets, we had our work cut out for us.  Atacora’s Executive Director, Jacob, is a gifted public speaker.  He’ll rule Beninese politics someday.  So naturally,
he took the lead.

It can be hard to get people to show up to meetings, and on time is just not possible, so we decided that, rather than invite villagers to a more central location, we’d bring the party right to them.  We would get in touch with a local sorghum beer (Tchoukoutou) brewing lady ahead of time and get a few buckets fixed up for after the meeting.  That brings people out of the woodwork!

Jacob and I wrote the first meeting report and realized we were on to something.  We really got the message across, and it was very interactive and fun.  So, we nailed down a protocol to use at all the meetings.  Things rolled along pretty well through the dozens of meetings, except for a few rambunctious clans!  Organic baobab production and its many stipulations are not so easy to get across in the cultural context of the Atacora region of northern Benin, but we really did a bang-up job.

The second to last village on the list was Koutchata, the epicenter of Otammari tradition and spiritual practice.  The Chief Fetiche Priest, Brouillard (The Fog), is a friend of mine, and holds the key to the mystical world of these people.  This village is really different, and you can FEEL it as you walk the paths between the Tata Somba dwellings.  Sacrificial mounds adorned with feathers, skulls, blood and cowrie shells are grouped in front of the dwellings.  Sacred forest pockets and secret cemeteries abound.  They don’t grow corn, as it is not part of their traditional rites.  Hippies in America practice biodynamic farming (planting by the moon and the stars), but these people live it, and the sorghum is 15 feet tall right now, and heavy with grain.

baobab tree

We gathered at the foot of a big Baobab for the meeting.  Lots of people showed up, not just the producers themselves, but their families and others interested in knowing what we were all about. This was the most attentive, interactive and hospitable bunch of the whole campaign.  The energy I felt walking into the village stayed vibrant throughout the meeting, and I definitely took a little home with me.  And, by the way, the Tchouk lady did a great job too!

On this day, I. Love. My. Job.

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