MERIDIAN, Idaho — Now that Cedric Nwafor has two extended trips to southern Idaho farm country under his belt, he’s even more encouraged about his efforts to help drive improvement in Africa’s agricultural practices.
“I was inspired by my last visit to Idaho,” the 30-year-old from Cameroon told a Leadership Idaho Agriculture luncheon Sept. 30 in Meridian. “This is an amazing opportunity to connect with people and bring people together.”
Nwafor and his wife, Yefon, who works for a large software company, live in the Washington, D.C., area. For their Idaho trip, LIA put together a tour of farms and a slate of meetings Sept. 30-Oct. 4.
It was LIA that first brought Nwafor to Idaho, by chance.
In 2014, a contingent from the agricultural education and leadership program arrived at its hotel ahead of scheduled activities in Washington, D.C. Executive Director Rick Waitley struck up a conversation with Nwafor — who was working at the hotel while attending college. They talked about Nwafor’s goal of improving practices on Africa’s small farms.
The conversation didn’t end there. Nwafor, who grew up farming in Africa, spoke at an LIA dinner event that year.
“The LIA alumni that heard Cedric’s story were so touched by his passion, drive and commitment to agriculture that a discussion ensued about how to make his dream of coming to Idaho a reality,” Waitley said. They sponsored him on a visit to Idaho in 2015.
Launa Fowler’s family hosted him that year at TLK Farms and Dairies, near Mountain Home. They discussed small- versus large-scale production, and differences in irrigation practices, among other things.
“The challenges we face in comparison to his are no challenge at all,” she said.
Nwafor stayed in touch with the Idaho group, and kept speaking at its D.C. dinners, as he earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from the University of Maryland. UM now employs him as agricultural innovation coordinator. He also chairs Roots Africa, which engages students there in helping to improve farm development and sustainability.
“Farming back home is really challenging,” he said of Africa. “It’s all manual labor.”
Nwafor and UM students last year worked in Liberia, helping farmers in areas such as pest management, soil health, value-added agriculture and linkages between producers and customers.
“Those were all things that emanated from just this one visit” to Idaho earlier, he said.
Nwafor has been involved in other travel and outreach in Africa — which he said remains challenged by issues such as food handling, transportation and logistics in addition to scale.
LIA is considering a trip to Africa to connect with Nwafor, his students and colleagues, possibly in 2021, officials said.