At last it was time for the awards. Richard, the director of Floresta Tanzania, Pastor Mosha, our board chair, and I took the stage to hand out the awards.
Anticipation was in the air. Sixty-five hundred people crowded closer… Then one of them apparently tripped over a cord, because suddenly we were without sound.
Ten minutes went by, then fifteen, while technicians fiddled with cords and cables. The MC briefly tried shouting.
They decided to break for lunch, which was catered by several savings groups.
As I ate in one of the tents with some of the other pastors and VIPs, a local commercial bank which was set up in the same tent was taking photos of new account holders right behind us.
Forty-five minutes later we were ready to try again.
Since our first competition in 2013, I have been amazed at the way it has energized people. Often times in East Africa, nonprofits like ours, use subsidies to get things done. If you hold a conference or a workshop, attendance goes up if you give people a free lunch and pay them per diem or a stipend. If you have training – pay a stipend. I have even heard of people who make their living on per diems as they go from one training or workshop to the next. Similarly, if you want to have people plant trees you will certainly need to pay a stipend.
But Richard, who was working on his MBA at the time, had the idea to incorporate friendly competition instead. As I shared earlier, the results were dramatic and immediate, with groups planting nearly four times as many trees the following year.
A trophy, some tools and some recognition have created genuine excitement. There are several awards for every district. There are individual awards and group awards, awards for the best composting and most trees planted, and even awards for people who have persevered in planting trees in drier more challenging climates. Thirty-four in all, starting with certificates, and then awards that included tools like hoses and irrigation equipment. Each was greeted with joyous dancing and celebration. Often times group members would come running from all over the crowd before uniting in celebration in front of the stage.
Then finally the grand prize trophy. The group ENJOM from Siha took it home this year.
Almost ten hours after the initial parade the celebration was drawing down. The gospel singers and choir members were still singing and dancing up on the stage, being filmed by a drone, as we made our way to the exit. Each of the savings groups was finding their own busses, and based on previous conversations, each was leaving with a renewed commitment to win the grand prize home next year.