Day 1

When I had last posted, I had just arrived in Africa. We had a nice buffet style dinner the first night. The food at our resort is good and there’s lots of variety. People in this part of the world don’t think that it’s a meal unless there are many different kinds of meat, so every meal has been a meat fest. But there’s lots of fish and vegetables available too. We’ve only had one table service meal and the others are buffet style. I’ve tried a lot of different stuff including- Five Roses African tea (especially rooibos), pap (a kind of porridge that reminded me of mashed potates), hake (a kind of fish) and a sweet passionfruit called a granadilla. The fruit here is amazing. So is the salmon. People seem to be really into juice. On the plane, everyone was drinking juice, and they were drinking it all during the day again too.

Our first full day started with a breakfast, and then our plenary sessions. We started out with a focus on South African agriculture, which was very interesting. The country has a lot of challenges. They are the least subsidized farmers in the world. There are high crime rates and farmers in South Africa have a high rate of being murdered. The country is divided into commercial farmers and, small holder farmers, and subsistence farmers, and they need to find ways to bridge the two, or take subsistence into small holder farmers. I can’t remember all the challenges, but they are tough. South Africa has been under a drought for a long time. It rained for a while yesterday, and no one dared complain. It was nice, and got rid of the punishing mid day heat.

The conference organizers brought in some indigenous cattle, horses, goats and dogs for us to look at. We were able to talk with farmers and livestock handlers and learn more about the breeds.
Our second session was on the challenges faced by African farmers. The challenges are vast. One thing I learned that was interesting is that 70 per cent of African farmers are women. This can present additional difficulties. In the DRC Congo, many of these women are farming under the fear of rape.
It was only recently that South Africa started marketing their food to the rest of Africa. This started in 2008. Before this, they were marketing to Europe. South Africa is the only net exporter of food on the continent.

In between sessions, we chatted with journalists from around the world. It is nice to catch up and to meet new people. There is always lots of laughing and many jokes.

We had an afternoon session on intellectual patents and copyright, but my brain had gone to sleep by then. Then I attended the IFAJ session as a delegate, with three other Canadians. We had to make some decisions about some business stuff of the organization. By this point, I was very tired and still jetlagged and probably looked like I was grey. We had fallen into African time, so everything was happening very late and far behind. I think that if you come to Africa and are expecting things to happen in a North American way, you will be frustrated. Internet seems to drop, the shower doesn’t get very hot, and time is flexible and things happen when they happen. At least that’s my impression.

We had a late dinner, with international prizes for broadcast, radio and digital media given in between courses. I tried my first South African steak, which was good and ate dinner with a journalist from the Zambia who couldn’t believe I was 40. (He was also 40).

Okay, I’m heading to the bus now for day tours.

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