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Leading the flock

Tanner Roark

By Tanner Roark, 2016 Noble-Watoto Fellow

Posted Feb. 21, 2016


Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.

— Nelson Mandela

You know that feeling you get when you accidently leave your phone at home when you go to run errands? It can feel like you are being cut off from communication, information, the world writ large. Most of Uganda has had that feeling this week as social media has been blacked out during elections. I have spent my second week outside the capital staying at the Buloba Chicken Farm. Things might be a little tense in other parts of the country, but the solace of Buloba has been relaxing.

Uganda has been abuzz with the excitement of electing a president. People have been discussing their ideas of what a great leader would do. That has led me to wonder, what are the qualities of a good leader? Lucky for me, I needn't look far.

Leaders have passion. Leaders teach others to be passionate by being passionate themselves. Leaders have vision. Leaders can take a bleak painting and turn it into a Pollock. Leaders are people like Buloba Chicken Farm workers Douglas, Joe and Joseph. All three have different passions ranging from homesteading to agricultural education to opening up their own chicken farm. With the leadership qualities all of them exhibit, there is no doubt in my mind that they will reach their dreams in the very near future.

Charles and his crew mill the ingredients to make chicken and goat feed.Charles and his crew mill the ingredients to make chicken and goat feed.

People often have a distorted view of what Africa really is. This can lead to a romanticized idea of what a person thinks they can do to "help." Some people falsely assume that Africans don't know how to improve their countries' situations when in reality they are the ones that have the best ideas to solve the most pressing problems. If a person comes to Africa with a mindset that their ideas will fix all the problems, I hope they saved room for a big piece of humble pie.

I think that we cannot truly make a difference until we learn to respect each other. We must stop looking at what makes us different and begin recognizing what makes us the same. We all want the same things: health, safety, education, food, hope. Those things transcend culture and should be enjoyed by all people.

Things continue to be challenging here. In so many situations, the answers to the problems are obvious, but the reality is that we don't have access to the resources we need to solve the issues at hand. So many things are tangible; every day is that constant feeling of having the answer on the tip of your tongue. When it seems easier to give up, leaders can push everyone forward with another attribute. Creativity.

Samuel looks out the window between egg collections.Samuel looks out the window between egg collections.

I am witnessing the value of creativity every day. When you have limited access to the things you need, you make do with what you have. Since we have to play with the cards we are dealt, we have no choice but to be creative. This election week has been full of candidates explaining why they are the best leaders, but I don't think they have met some of the people I work with on a daily basis.

About the Author

Tanner Roark is a 2016 Noble-Watoto Fellow working at Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. Roark is from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and has one semester left in the master of international agriculture program at Oklahoma State University, where he focuses on international agriculture development.