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11 November 2019

What Rwandafull training

Training | PPC97 November 2019

One company that recently took advantage of BPCA's bespoke training option was Africa Improved Foods (AIF), based in Rwanda.

The team at AIF got in touch to see if we could provide a bespoke fumigation training course for their employees.

Our expert of choice to deliver this training was Martin Cobbald, of Dealey fame and Vice President of BPCA’s Executive Board. Here is a bit of his travel diary about the trip.

What Rwandafull Training 1

Arriving in Rwanda

Recently I have made a habit of saying yes to everything.

Can we fumigate a ship in Aberdeen? Yes. Can we gas aeroplanes? Yes. Can we help save money on import management? Yes. Can we do void clearances? Errr, yes?!

Relentless positivity and full acceptance of opportunity has worked well so far.

Everyone in the Dealey team pushes themselves to develop and learn new skills, making that ‘yes’ a reality.

So, when BPCA got in touch to ask if I could run a training course in Rwanda, of course my answer was…

I had no idea exactly what to expect when I got to Kigali.

Of course, it didn’t help my confidence that there was an Ebola outbreak two and a half hours’ drive from the training centre, a week before my flight was due.

But I had already said yes; I was committed, and I wanted to go to Africa and give my prospective students 100% value.

I had been told to expect someone from the customer company to greet me.

When I got to arrivals at Kigali International Airport (after 24 hours of travel) a well-dressed man was waiting for me, holding a sign with my name.

I waved at him and he looked blankly back. I waved again to the same reaction. This was not a good start and I began to worry.

Eventually I manoeuvred through the crowd to be in front of him, pointed directly at his sign, then pointed to my chest and said “me!”

He jumped, apologised and grabbed hold of me in a very sudden and very warm embrace.

It turns out what I had mistaken for reticence was in fact him being tired, miles away and thinking about something else entirely.

The man was Julius Cesar: my host and one of my students in Rwanda.

A farm boy from East Anglia

The first part of the course passed without much drama.

Pertinent questions were asked in perfect English. Pens scribbled frantically under studious frowns. Everyone appeared to be just ‘getting it’.

We had a break at 11am. Everyone filed out of the room and one young student remained behind to speak to me.

He introduced himself as Justin and we had a chat about this and that. After five or so minutes I commented: “Your knowledge is already very good!”

He thanked me and casually mentioned, “Oh, I have a master’s degree in food safety from Ghent University.”

I was aghast. What was a farm boy from East Anglia doing here to train people more qualified than he is?

Luckily it transpired that Justin and Julius were the most experienced in the room, and I was soon calmed a bit by the amount of specialist insect knowledge I was able to deliver to them.

The course, I felt, would go very well.

Lunch was a veritable banquet, served buffet style with everyone eating together: operations, management and a single ginger contractor from the UK.

I would train with them all afternoon, return to my hotel to adapt the next day’s course to the AIF site and then the process would repeat. The only rest I had was sleep, really.

The burr in the blanket was the afternoon post-lunch lull which the students experienced.

There was lots of very outward, unconcealed yawning and a few heads lolling forward or backward, as the learners drifted in and out of consciousness.

I didn’t worry about this too much. Every morning I would test the students and every morning they would come back with perfectly formed, correct answers with additional information I had not taught, which they had obviously got from their own overnight study.

On the fourth day we did a practical fumigation using recirculation technology, perfectly installed and with all candidates working excitedly as a team to put their knowledge to the test.

When it came time to climb up the silos, a safe operating procedure and a risk assessment were produced and distributed.

A quick run through these showed me that they would pass over the desk of the most officious UK SHEQ without interruption.

Harnesses and full-face gas masks appeared. The fumigation was executed very professionally, and wouldn’t you know, during this operation someone produced a Bedfont Phosfuma.

This piece of kit, made in Bedfordshire, is worth thousands of pounds and would make any UK fumigator green with envy. And here it was, glinting in the hot African sunshine.

I joined in with the excitement of the students and we all had fun talking about how to do a recirculation fumigation, with permanent monitoring and real-time CTPs. It was astoundingly technically proficient.

Really, I could not be more impressed by the Rwandans, the African Improved Foods Company or with the young people I was training.

I left the country with many of my previously held opinions revised. Most of all I left with great hope for the growth in knowledge and improvement for the post-harvest techniques for the East African region.

If my experience was typical of East Africa, I expect to return with great enthusiasm and very soon.

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Want to hear more about Martin's trip to Rwanda? Visit the Dealey website to read his full account.

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