BY DR. NIMROD
The purpose of the article is to present critical facts and thoughts to create a better future. I apologize in advance if you are offended by it.
Farmer’s best year is the next year – it is a phrase known among Israeli farmers.
KIBBUTZ – FACTS
The year was 1982 and harvest, as always, went well in my Kibbutz’s orchards, or at least, so we thought.
What happened next that year was a horrible phytosanitary failure and a financial fiasco. It was also unique and never to repeat, thanks to the steps that followed it, which resulted from self-awareness and self-critic.
In those days, my Kibbutz’s produce was not as quality and as desired as it today. When harvest time came, we harvested the fruits and then stored them until the traders would buy them.
But since we were not the best, the traders chose to buy from other farmers first. When they finally arrived, part of the fruits was already infested by fungi.
This was a result of miss-treating in the field. It is known that when that happens, it is only a matter of time before it appears on the rest of the produce.
The traders we knew wouldn’t buy that fruits. We had to throw a lot of fruits. We sold the rest of the fruits to traders from far places to protect our reputation.
It was a colossal disaster, one which we had no desire to repeat. We have lost a lot of money and our pride with it. This was when we swore not to let it ever repeat.
The orchard’s team decided that from now on, we would have the best quality produce. So good that traders would always come to us – first, and would wait in anticipation for our quality produce.
This professional crop protection disaster has become a turning point. From that day, we did everything required to make sure we will have the highest quality. After the quality, we increased the quantity and the marketing.
Our profit increased and we were able to be take pride in our work, every year. We were happy, confident, and having a better sleep at night.
When you are the leader in your field, you don’t need to hope for “next year” to be your best one; you know that “this year is your best one, and so it will be with next year and the ones after.” We continued to improve, and success was always with us.
It seems that we can overcome any difficulty, if we are not afraid to face the truth.
ISRAEL – FACTS
For decades saying Farmer’s best year is the next year was true, as Israeli agriculture grew, developed from year to year. Business results also improved every year, making Israeli farmers a central part of Israel’s middle or upper class.
Later, when the industry, and then the high-tech, took the major share of the Israeli economy, agriculture importance began to decline. This is when the saying, “Farmer’s best year is the next year,” was made out of self-mockery.
AFRICA / ASIA – FACTS
When you read this, you will say, “he does not know what he is talking about, the data is much better, he is insensitive, he just thinks about his business, there is no innovation in what he is doing, he does not understand the farmers and the business environment here, Israel was never like Africa/Asia.”
For decades, African and Asian agriculture have been ‘stuck,’ and some will argue that agriculture stands still, maybe even going backward compared to the rest of the world.
Sadly, it seems that for decades Africa and Asia’s mode of thinking is based on the phrase that “next year will be the best year.”
It seems like the desire to show success outweighs any other interest.
In East Africa (i.e., Kenya), the Komesha fruit fly campaign (left) sends a message ranging from optimism to euphoria [>><<]. The message I received this week to my WhatsApp indicates that nothing is changed, and so the last resort is to immerse the mango in a hot bath (right).
Some indications of the dismal state of agriculture in Africa and Asia include the simple facts that;
Most farmers live in Africa and Asia.
Most of the poorest people in the world are farmers.
CURRENT AFRICAN AND ASIAN CHARACTERISTICS –
1. During the last decade export of fresh mangoes from most countries to the developed markets such as Europe and the US has been banned!
2. Most of the mango yield (40% to 80%) is not tradable due to fruit fly infestations.
3. Often, traders and exporters do not bother to inspect the fruits because they know a low quality is insufficient.
4. Farmers’ income from trading with mangoes is 1/10 to 1/100 of the potential income per hectare (compared to an Israeli farmer).
PLANS, HOPES, AND TRUST
I understand farmers’ leaders who, based on wishful thinking, are pushed to promise a better future for farmers. I have witnessed that more than once.
The outcome of this is a growing mistrust between farmers and leaders and increasing mental distress, economic suffering, and poverty. Can we build a better tomorrow without Trust?
TRUST is the most precious commodity in the WORLD. Please don’t waste it on false promises.
When we can promise that This Year will be the best one, we can make the same promise for Next Year.
African and Asian farmers can have many better “Next Years” if we start focusing on “This Year.”
Thanks to Trust between involved parties, EU mango importers are ready to buy mangoes from farms under Green Valley, FFCTZ special program, those even without seeing the farms by themselves.
Why? Because they know they can trust my team and me, and I know I can trust them.
Selling dreams – leaders, experts, and advisers are saying, “This project will solve the fruit fly problems, we will have no interceptions, mango export will grow, we will not use chemicals/sprays…“.
Facing the harsh reality – fruit fly problems are the same, interceptions continue, and mango export is not growing.
Outcome – a loss of trust, cynicism, and skepticism grows. Simultaneously, hope and self-confidence vanish with the lost fruits and the source of income.
Whether you are leaders, CEOs, scientists, advisors, etc., I ask my colleagues and friends to please think twice before you suggest or promise future results that you are not sure you can offer, deliver or assure.
‘Selling dreams’ is fine if you say, “I have a dream…”. However, it is misleading when you sell it as a current reality and soon turned into a nightmare when that gap is revealed.
Let’s promise ourselves to be more cautious with others’ feelings, respect their efforts and work, their money, hopes, and nurture TRUST.
Next year will be better when we understand that ‘next year‘ is actually ‘this year‘!
As the Biofeed and Green Valley initiative leader, it is my duty to make sure we will never over-promise.
Hence, as the CEO, I personally stand behind fulfilling everything Green Valley promises, and I personally verify that it is possible to deliver the results before a promise is made.
Part of the “verifying process” is being done infield and followed first-hand quality control. As you know, I spend much of my time “in the field.”
Here is a shortlist of my promise to the Green Valley mango growers to make it even more transparent. Together we will –
1. Get rid of the horrible 40% to 80% fruit fly infestation. Less than 1% will be your new norm.
2. We will stop the arduous Sisyphean work of endless sprays against fruit flies. Zero sprays will be your new reality.
3. Constant horror from the possible financial and reputation damage of fruit fly interceptions in export markets will be replaced with confidence in high phytosanitary quality.
4. The “How do I get access to the leading know-how, technologies, and practices practiced among leading mango growers?” will be replaced with knowing that you have such access, and you are already in the process of gaining the benefits of it.
5. The “How do I get to the EU premium markets?” will be replaced by knowing that you have the access once you qualified.
6. The feeling of inferiority as if “it is impossible to reach 50,000 euros per hectare, as our Israeli colleagues do“, will be replaced by the knowledge that it is possible. It is only a matter of time.
7. The contemptuous and degrading attention you received from fruit traders will be replaced with respect, appreciation, understanding, and a straightforward and trustworthy attitude.
8. The current uncertainty and ignorance will be replaced by annual planning and continuous updating as to any change or deviation from plans.
9. The knowing of being “just another mango grower, like everyone else” will be replaced by the recognition that you are unique and special. We will tell your story to the consumers.
10. The wrong negative thinking that “export level quality is impossible, or possible only for a small part of the yield, or only at certain times of the year” would be replaced. You will see that much more fruit can be exported, of higher quality and during any time of the year that we find appropriate.
11. The defeatist thinking, saying “10 to 20 tons per hectare is an excellent yield“, will be replaced by more challenging goals, such as 40 to 60 tons per hectare.
12. “It is impossible to increase my income” will be replaced with “I can surely double my income per hectare!”
After reading the list above, you may say to yourself, “Great, I will take part in Green Valley and enjoy all the goodies and plentiful it provides.”
Yes, I would like you to say that, and I look forward to working with you!
We can achieve the above results only if we work closely together, with Trust. Hence, I have expectations from those who wish to work with us.
I view our relationship as a long-term relationship, like a marriage where both parties’ expectations are met by Mutual Trust & Respect.
Therefore, my expectations from Green Valley farmers are mostly value-oriented and not in-depth professional. Relax, I am confident we will do well on the professional aspects.
Green Valley growers should be the agri-business ‘stars’ in their country. Therefore they should set the example for the other farmers and show that “there is no glass ceiling, and it is possible to become the best in the world.”
As leaders, Green Valley growers should have human qualities that represent the best of their country, including fairness, trustworthiness, openness, self-criticism, reliability, diligence, motivation, have self-faith, and think of and help others.
FARMERS ARE NOT RICH
Agriculture is not a start-up where there are investors to which you ‘sell’ dreams and fantasies about a bright future.
As a kindergarten child, I went out to the orchards with my father; I saw the trees bloom and then the small fruits growing bigger until harvest.
The farmer is selling ‘the fruit of his dreams’ on the harvest day. The time for fantasies is short and ends when ‘reality’ steps-in with the harsh numbers of quantity, the price per kg (reflecting the quality and marketing), and the overall income.
Farmers’ livelihood is not a game, so let us treat it with tremendous respect.
Leaders in all fields, let’s focus and talk about This Year and openly discuss Last Year’s results and what we should do to improve them. Let us be accountable to our promises by promising the things we know, and sure we can deliver.
Remember that farmer’s best year should be – THIS YEAR!