Members of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, who visited Manning July 22, check out the “Iowa” sign situated at Manning’s in-progress Trestle Park.
Members of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, who visited Manning July 22, check out the “Iowa” sign situated at Manning’s in-progress Trestle Park.

MANNING

As the women burst into an impromptu rendition of Sia’s “Titanium” in the bathroom at the Manning Recreation Center, their male peers checked out the weight room, one bench pressing 255.

A group of more than 20 young entrepreneurs and businesspeople from throughout Africa visited Manning Saturday, part of their six-week stint in Iowa to learn about business and entrepreneurship through the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Universities around the country host groups, including Drake University. The group’s day in Manning was its members’ one taste of rural Iowa.

Their day in Manning included visits to the Manning Hausbarn-Heritage Park and a tour of the German Hausbarn; lunch at Cliff’s Place and a happy hour at BrickHaus Brews; a tour of the Muhlbauer Feedlot; a stop at The Market Place for coffee and shopping — and a bathroom break-turned-workout at the Rec Center.

“The particular topic for us was the partnership we have between private, public and government, and how we use those partnerships to keep the town alive,” said Ron Reischl, chairman of Main Street Manning’s Business Improvement Committee.

Their day included a stroll through the cattle building at the Muhlbauer Feedlot near Manning, a visit that had some fellows shielding their noses from the unfamiliar scent of a bovine throng.

They learned about the timeline on which the cattle are raised and sold for beef each year.

(“Oh, they’re so cute, though,” one fellow protested.)

As Dan Mulhbauer, his wife, Patty, their son, David, and David’s wife, Linda, chatted with the fellows about various aspects of the operation, several took cattle-studded selfies or video, commenting on the cattle’s chuffing noises and reaching out curious hands toward the large, stinky heads.

Outside, Muhlbauer indicated the “sick pen” where injured or weaker animals are taken.

“These guys, around 5, 6 o’clock in the evening, they’re just like boys in town — they want to go out and do something, and they get into fights,” he said. “Or some of them will get together and bully a weaker cow.”

The tour taught the fellows about how four people working full time, with a variety of additional help, keep the cattle herd going, as well as corn, soybean and hay crops, all spanning about 1,500 acres at that location of the family operation.

The group included Elizabeth Kasujja, who works with a healthy-beverage company in Uganda whose proceeds are used to raise awareness about mental health in Africa. She also is associated with Clear Your Mind, a program in Uganda that works with people with depression, and Loving Hearts Babies Home, which finds adoptive families for babies abandoned at hospitals, in dumpsters or elsewhere.

“It is fascinating that we say ‘Agriculture is the backbone of Uganda,’ but we do not have a model farm like the one we visited,” Kasujja said. “It gave me something to think about and got me talking with policy influencers from back home. We need to replicate some of these wonderful practices back home for success.”

Another fellow, Kevin Anungo Shikuku, works in a public health office and for MATS Massive Marketing in Kenya and also is interested in raising insects, including black soldier flies and flying termites, which provide a source of protein for poultry farmers in Kenya.

Shikuku grew up in a small village, farming with his family to raise money for school. He said that given the opportunity, he would return to Manning to live and work.

“How they volunteer to help each other was key to me, as well as how they have preserved their German culture,” he said.

At The Market Place, fellows tried the coffee, did a bit of shopping and charged their phones — but their first stop was the large world map placed near the store’s entrance, which invites visitors to mark their hometowns, states and countries with pins. Africa received an infusion of pins that day.

The day ended on a light note, with the group clambering onto the large concrete “Iowa” sign at Manning’s in-progress Trestle Park for a photo before heading to BrickHaus Brews for pizza, beer and several intense Foosball games.

The fellows, who hailed from almost 20 African countries, said they will take home ideas from their day in Manning.

We are usually overwhelmed by work over there, because the spirit of volunteerism is not that strong back home,” Kasujja said. “Manning taught me that as a young leader, it will be my responsibility to spark that fire of volunteerism among others and get them to give of their time meaningfully.”