Tomatoes & Futures: Wall Street & Wisdom

By Lois Shaw, Executive Director


Anyway, I was taking Wanza to the market in a rush because the Kijiji Guesthouse was running out of toilet paper, and we were about to have an influx of international guests. This is truly a crisis in a developing country when you help run a small guesthouse. Wanza is the woman you picture when someone says, "middle-aged African rural mother who has not been to college," and you close your eyes and squinch them tight. Okay, that’s her.  Wanza is also a lifelong friend who came into our family when our son Jonathan was born, and is the brass tacks wisdom-worker in all things I need to know about living life in Kenya.  She has bailed me out more than once.

So we talked and laughed about our kids, and life in general, including encroaching dementia—since we BOTH had forgotten to include tomatoes on the list with toilet paper.

So Wanza says, “Look at all the tomatoes in the market today! It’s crazy. What were we Kenyans thinking. Two weeks ago, there were no tomatoes and they cost 10 shillings each if you found any! Today, they almost give them to you at 10 shillings for a bundle of them.” And then shelaughed and said, “Or pay you 10 shillings to take them away.”

I said, “Why is that, Wanza?”

Well, I’m not going to tell you it was an in-depth explanation of supply and demand economics, but by the time she had explained why people all plant tomatoes at the same time, even though we have a year-round growing season, and a few other delightful insights, I was ready to put my money in tomato futures Wanza-style.

After I had dropped Wanza off at the guesthouse with her tomatoes and toilet paper, I thought to myself, “What if Wanza had been born in Washington, D.C., and had gone to Georgetown University, and had gotten a job on Wall Street after post graduate studies at Stanford in economics? Would she have been of greater value to me? To her two kids? To God? To our world?

No...not so much.

What a joyful privilege to know the Warren Buffets of Africa—even if they come in house dresses and flip flops.


For the love of Africa,