He once walked across the African plains over 300 kilometers (186 miles) to see is bride-to-be; then he walked back home; then he did it again. That’s like walking from Wichita to Kansas City, or Kansas City to Des Moines, or Baltimore to New York City. Back and forth: twice. Before he could marry her, he had to kill a lion with a spear because that was expected of a Maasai warrior.
He’s now one of the most influential political leaders in arguably the most progressive country in Africa: Tanzania. His name is Dr. Parseko Vincent Kone – he prefers to be called just Kone – and he is my newest huggable hero. I recently had the pleasure of traveling with him for a week through Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa to develop partnerships with Kansas State University, University of Missouri, and Iowa State University to turn 8,000 acres of arid Tanzania land into a research-based demonstration farm.
Kone is one of 53 children; yes, you read that right, 53 children. His father had 13 wives and Kone was sent to school with other children, but there was something early on about his intelligence, wisdom, hard work, and winsome smile that elevated him into various leadership positions. He’s served in the Tanzanian Parliament under four different presidents and was appointed ten years ago to by President Kikwete to be the Regional Commissioner of the Singida Region; that would be the equivalent status of a U.S. Governor. Unlike the U.S. which elects governors, the President of Tanzania appoints Commissioners. He serves as the Chairman of Board for Tanzania National Parks (including the world famous Serengeti) and chaired the Foreign Relations Committee while in Parliament.
That he has been Commissioner for nearly a decade speaks to his integrity and ability to get things done. Since he has been Commissioner, he has implemented over 700 medical dispensaries in the region, elevated the importance of education by securing more funding for teachers and education, and instituted numerous civil engineering water projects.
A couple of years ago, he partnered with the founders of Outreach, Inc. – Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton – to purchase the 8,000 acre Shallom Farm which was part of the Mzeri National Ranch that the government of Tanzania is parceling out. Floyd and Kone’s vision is to develop the ranch into a research-based demonstration farm that creates an integrated agriculture model that is sustainable and provides economic prosperity, educational opportunities, and environmental enhancement through public and private partnerships. The focus will be to help the smallholder farmers in the region, especially women since most of the world’s farmers are women.
I like my heroes to be people I know, people I can hug or at least shake their hand. They are the ones that inspire me, not the make-believe Hollywood actors or spoiled rich athletes; I like people who can kill a lion with a spear.
Sometimes we are in the presence of greatness but only realize it after the moment has passed. However, I have the good fortune of understanding when I am sitting in the refreshing shade cast by a giant. A week with such a gentle, soft-spoken, humble giant reminded me that greatness lies in deeds, not in rhetoric; Kone is a man who gets the job done.
Our world is a much better place because of him.
P.S. If you’d like to know more about Shallom Farm, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to share with you what I know of this incredible project!
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