Over dinner we talk about opportunities for women’s businesses here in Loibor Siret. The more I learn about this place, the more I realize that I must question any information I receive. For example, one of the first pieces of documentation I read when I first arrived was an enormous manual on pastoralism – how western ideas of rangeland management failed in part because people here are interested in raising cattle as wealth – they’ve bred them for drought tolerance and milk production. So when a women’s group came up with the idea of a cow-fattening project as a new business idea, I dismissed it as unlikely. But it turns out that women don’t place the same value on cattle as men; they have no qualms about buying and selling cattle for profit. They are pastoralists too, but can it be true that such a large group could be convinced to adopt a form of western range management?
As a business person I have been taught that businesses do not grow out if the markets are tiny. In other words, if there are very limited resources to support cattle-fattening, there is a limitation to how big that business could grow. In this case, I must realize that maybe the extra income from the business is just enough to send a child to secondary school – in this case, nobody cares whether or not the business grows. We only care that it makes some money.
And so, as the days pass, I hone my ability to see when and how much to apply what I’ve learned. I must develop a better instinct for the times when I ought to be a business women and look for big opportunities, and when I need to pull back and carefully test my assumptions along the way. Specific conditions may offer specific opportunities to meet specific needs, and in a place like this, those are just as good as the big shots.
Before dinner we go for a drive out to the TANAPA regional office. We don’t see much wildlife, but we catch sight of some Greater Kudu and also a hare of all things. The night is beautiful! I can’t get enough of it. The air is cold and carries the scent of recent burns. It calms me and I realize that the smell is of church incense and candles. The headlights gleam on the trees and brush ahead, but to the sides of the car everything falls to darkness and expands outwards towards the navy horizons. My skin prickles; there is only starlight to see by and yet I know the wildlife is out there. Crickets and grasshoppers fill the air with their delicate violin, the air rushes past us in a low horn call, and the grass rustles with the movement of our passing. We trundle swiftly back toward camp, and feel a strange deflation when we pull in under the carport; part of me closes up around the memory of the drive, quiet as an anemone closing its arms around a shell.