Sunday, February 14, 2010

Farmers of the Future (Dov Pasternak - Part 3)

Dear friends,

Today's installment is being written by John (typed by Judy). But first, let me tell you why I love my husband. Not only is he solicitous about my foot, not only has he taken over today's letter, but he is such a wonderful partner in the work we are doing. He listens to my ideas, even though I often forget to "be sure brain is engaged before putting mouth in motion," and even though he always expresses himself so much more effectively than I do. And it is such a joy to work together, since we are so much of the same mind on things. Just thought I'd mention it. Now here's John.

Farmers of the Future is another one of Dov's really big, potentially transformative ideas. It starts with an observation (admittedly debatable and controversial) that the values of hard work, savings and investment to build towards a brighter future do not exist in Africa to the degree they do in western and eastern cultures. Is it due to the residual effects of colonialism or the perverse effects of aid or long-standing cultural values? Or is it a result of the mind-numbing
effects of extreme poverty, of knowing you will lose children in the normal course of events, of living in a place where "the hunger season" is as common a phrase as "the rainy season?" Don't know. But it is a major obstacle to any economic development initiative.

Dov's concept is that we need to create a new generation (think of the Hebrews wandering in the desert for 40 years before they were ready to inherit the land of Israel) of market-oriented farmers, receptive to innovation and aware of the environment.

Farmers of the Future is designed to be a significant part of primary school education for the older children (grades 4-6). It's one part classrom work, one part 4H club, one part Junior Achievement.

The classwork would focus on environment, nutrition, agriculture, animal husbandry, modern farming techniques, marketing and farm management.

The 4H part would provide for an African Market Garden (see Dov Pasternak - part 2) adjacent to the school where kids could put their classroom learning into practice. In addition to the farming of fruits, trees and vegetables, the school would also provide experience with the raising of the smaller farm animals.

And the part dealing with Junior Achievement would have the children identify local market needs for agricultural products and livestock and to create small ventures for the sale of their production. By providing a base of immensely practical knowledge and experience,
the goal is to raise an entire new generation capable of using agribusiness as a vehicle to escape extreme poverty.

Dov's hope is to pair technical experts and people from national education ministries with curriculum development people to hammer out the curriculum details and pilot the program.

For approximately $1 million to fund a 5 year startup period, Dov figures he can create the curriculum and start 4 pilot schools in each of 4 different countries. If successful, the goal would be to integrate the program into the national primary school curriculum and expand from there with the goal of training thousands if not millions of children.

Told you this was a big idea.

This concept was implemented in Sadore, but has stalled for lack of funding. To maintain the teaching staff and the hands-on farming activities requires $10,000 per year. Dov is pursuing some promising leads, and we hope to help him increase awareness of the program and find more sources of funding.

Anyway, "from a single acorn tall oaks grow" and the immediate goal is to firmly plant an acorn in Sadore.

Love, John

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