Engineers are known for having a unique way of looking at the world. As children they were usually the ones taking their toys apart to see how they worked instead of just playing with them like the rest of us.
Engineers have a knack for breaking problems down logically and developing methodical solutions – including problems that have nothing whatsoever to do with engineering.
Former engineer Joshua Chimakula Ngoma has taken that keen problem-solving instinct and applied it to the unique and critical issue of agricultural development on the African continent. The detailed and lucid plan of this Legacy Maker manages also to simultaneously confront multiple problems that affect us all.
The Food Problem
Joshua grew up in rural Zambia and is well attuned to the cultural, environmental, and economic factors affecting the agricultural industry in Africa. Ultimately, he sees the issue as coming down to one thing: having enough food to support an increasing population.
It’s a multi-faceted challenge. Each obstacle to achieving it seems to exacerbate the others. The increase in global population puts pressure on food supplies – especially for those most in need – but also on water supplies, diminishing the arable land for food growth. Add in decreased land availability due to climate change and urban development and you have a recipe for disaster.
Furthermore, since the industry is becoming more reliant on high-tech farming to meet food production needs, traditional African farmers who have been operating for generations are gradually moving away from agriculture. This is due to lack of access to education for the skills and knowledge needed for modern sustainable farming and partly because the younger generation is gravitating toward what they see as more attractive and lucrative work.
That is why after retiring as a mining engineer Joshua founded the Enterprising Africa Regional Network (EARN) to begin training a new generation of modern African agri-entrepreneurs.
Mining for talent
“People have asked me why a mining professional is more interested in agriculture,” Joshua says.
Since agriculture is still the chief source of income for rural Africa, he thinks it’s imperative that Africans learn to keep up with increasing demands. He supports UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #2, Zero Hunger, on its own merits, but he also sees Goal 2 as being the linchpin to many of the other SDG’s as well – like reducing poverty, unemployment, and inequality.
Joshua’s vision translates into EARN having two main goals. One is to train the youngest generation of Africans in modern agricultural practices, particularly those related to new and emerging farming technologies. The other is to inculcate in them an entrepreneurial mindset by using new and innovative approaches that resonate with their age group and culture.
He hopes this two-pronged approach will be attractive to younger people and get them excited about a farming life — a life that has lost many to its reputation of being difficult, unrewarding labor.
In a way, Joshua is leveraging his mining experience to mine the population for fresh, young, and enthusiastic minds to help usher the continent into a new era of agricultural innovation and leadership.
Legacy: A different kind of wealth
Joshua is doing his part to leave a legacy in which everyone’s basic needs are met but in a way that can be sustained over time. This means we all need to get involved to meet the challenge.
As Joshua thinks about that he reminds us of his own life as a young boy. “A tragedy left my family in poverty and forced them to relocate to my mother’s village. And that tragedy taught me the importance of shared experience.”
That led to the spiritual and cultural richness of his life learning the power of community and the significance of focusing on people – something he thinks is essential to a Better Business, Better Life.
“At the end of our lives,”, Joshua says, “what will really matter will not be what we bought, but what we built; not what we got, but what we shared; not our competence, but our character; and not our success, but our significance.”
And that’s not an engineer’s view. It’s a compassionate one that really does have a profound influence on so many lives through EARN and even more as a B1G1 Legacy Maker.