Potatoes from Bavaria to Romania

Last week I had a long conversation with a middle-aged couch surfer which lasted some five hours. It’s typical for CS to speak with the hosts or guest for hours. You find always some many interesting topics and you have so many CS and other stories to tell each other, that time pasts without noticing. So, this couch surfer is a CEO of a NPO (Non-Profit Organisation) and a farmer at the same time, so he had a lot of nice stories to tell. A very wise, clever and experience man, who does everything to help as many people as possible. And need to be of course pretty well informed about laws and current political and social developments. But in this story I’m not going to tell you about politics or some other boring topics, but about real life everyday happenings.

Some 15 years ago there was a trend in Bavaria to grow potatoes. Well, the price of the potatoes was quite high, so everyone decided to grow potatoes. You may already guess what happened. There were so many potatoes this year on the markets that the price went down and nobody wants any more potatoes. It was s big disaster for the small farmers, who decided to grow potatoes. Such trends are killing in farming. As a child my uncle decided to grow onions in my grandparents’ village. It was the “onion trend” year in Bulgaria. The whole family worked all summer long for the stupid onions and at the end no one wanted them at all. This year we used to eat not only everything else with onion, but we even specialised in preparing everything from onions, from the soup to the dessert. The menu was like this: onion soup, onion crowd with onion bread and baked onion with chocolate. How delicious. Since then my brother never eats onion. I still like onion actually. That’s almost unbelievable. Well, on the other side, we had onions for two years and all the neighbours were very happy because they received onions for free.

But let’s go back to the potatoes in Bavaria. There were too many potatoes there. You know, in Germany there are some regulations for everything. So, you can’t just throw away or dump such a big amount of potatoes. There is actually a good reason for this – at some point they really start to stink in an awful way. So they need to be stored somewhere. The normal way to story potatoes for a long period is to put them in a closed room without fresh air. Actually you have to put them in a hermetically closed storage. But first you have to be sure that there is no oxygen in the room. So there is a special way to burn it away. But this year the farmers had to put to many potatoes in the storages, so the oxygen didn’t burned well. So when they opened the halls some months later some of them were already bad and stinky.

The potatoes were in the storage room and the farmers were looking forward to finding a solution how to get rid of them. At the same time in Romania there was another problem – hunger. Some years after the fall of the communists the people were starving out. There was nothing to eat. The NPO of the CS I was with, decided to send all the potatoes to Romania in order to help the people there. They opened the halls with potatoes and these were really stinky, because some of the potatoes were already bad. And back to the German regulations. You can’t just give some food which is not according the norms to someone, no matter if he needs it or not. Even if you donate food it is not possible. So they had to sort out manually the bad stinky potatoes. This great job was done by some volunteers in two weeks. They’ve done nothing else whole two weeks. At the end they’ve managed to send a lot of potatoes to Romania, which was all the work worth.

As a small reward some of the volunteers went to Romania as well, together with the clean, but still stinky potatoes. The local people accepted them as heroes, because they finally had something to eat. And they even slaughtered their last chickens in order to be hospitable. That is hospitability – they gave everything they had.

The couch surfer told me some very interesting stories about Romania and the villages where they stayed. For an example how he climbed on the roof of the local church, which was very high in order to see the great view from above. And that he almost fell down from some 30 metres in doing so. And how they took some presents like chocolate and alcohol for the Romanian and how they needed to hide them on the boundary. And about an earlier village in Romania destroyed by a big wave of water formed from the break of a nearby damn. The village was on the top of a hill and surrounded from three sides from a small river coming from the damn. When the damn walls broke, the wave became so big that it hit the village. A horror, but there were some houses and its inhabitants who managed to survive – these were the first row of houses at the beginning of the village. The wave was so enormous and it hit the village with such energy that it jump over the first line of houses. You can imagine what this means for the people there. They were saved out of nothing. This people survived the big wave, but they almost died because they had nothing to eat at this time. Good that the bavarian farmers made this bad decision to grow potatoes and saved them. They were saved two times out of nothing. This row of houses and its people…

As a conclusion, I have to say that there is no food scarcity in the world, but there is only bad distribution. And only with some simple knowledge and will we can change this. We don’t even need the Bavarian potatoes. In the history there are many exemples that people from different countries helped each other. In the time of the communist revolution in Russia and Ukraine in 1917 there was nothing to eat and Bulgarian farmers send all their food to Ukraine and thus saved millions of people. And at this time it was not organized by some organisations or by the government. The people have done it.