Elton bursts out laughing when a few splatters of cow pie land on my camera. “It looks like we have a city person over here?”, the farmer chuckles who is looking and who is being assisted by Elton every Saturday morning. He tears off a piece of a roll of paper and hands it to me.
“When I came to work in Leiden, I was looking for a way to stay in touch with the land and the animals,” Elton says. “Because that's what I grew up with. I like to visit this organic farm in Hoogmade. It's amazing. I go there by bike and help milk the cows and clean the barn. Then we drink coffee. They are so welcoming here. These people are now my second family. But I also come here to learn about Dutch agriculture and livestock. It is one of the best in the world.”
“I am a specialist in sustainable agriculture. I worked in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Nigeria, Sudan... A few years ago, I was approached by a recruiter. He asked if I wanted to work for the Ikea Foundation as a program manager. They have their head office in the heart of Leiden. I already knew the Netherlands because of a previous job, so the decision was made quickly.”
“I supervise projects of local partners in East Africa and India. Our ultimate goal is to improve children's lives. We do this through projects that restore the environment and thus create a safe future. My department is therefore concerned with sustainable agriculture. In doing so, I contribute to the African perspective.”
“After two years alone, my family is finally coming to the Netherlands. I have three children that I barely saw during corona. And of course, my wife, who is now on her own and not only has to run a household, but also has to keep an eye on our farm. It is just outside Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.”
“That farm, that's what I do it for. I want to develop it further in the future. We now have chickens and goats. We also grow many crops in strips to keep the soil rich and nutritious. I want to make it a training and knowledge centre for young people. So that we do not exhaust the soil with our agriculture and livestock. We need to get better at that for the future of our planet and our children!”
He looks at me sympathetically. “Is your camera clean yet? Come on, let's walk to the stable."