Wednesday, December 26, 2012

From John's Africa Trip: Building Support for Farmers of the Future

Many good ideas die at the pilot phase for lack of strong local ownership and support. Given that our hope for Farmers of the Future is to change the mindset towards farming on a national basis, building ownership and support at the local and national levels is critical to its ultimate success. 

The Minister of Education, Mme Ali Mariama Elhadj Ibrahim,
giving her Keynote address at the FOF opening ceremony.
Our local team spent a year working with the Ministry of Education to develop the classroom curriculum. The lengthy process involved using Ministry pedagogues and involving more people at more levels, especially at the approval stage. But the investment in time paid off; we are thrilled that we now have the strong endorsement of the Ministry, and that we can use their name on our teaching materials. The Minister herself was the keynote speaker at the FOF opening ceremony!

During John's week in Niger, there were lots of meetings to share FOF goals, specific program details and hopes for the future. They met with senior officials within the Ministry of Education. They also met with senior government officials, including the High Commissioner of the 3 N’s Initiative, Niger’s national priority to achieve food self sufficiency. They even had dinner at the home of the senior advisor to the Prime Minister! 

Dinner at the home of Bachir Fifi,
advisor to the Prime Minister of Niger.
Bachir is the tall man in the back on the right.

There were also meetings with the US Embassy and US development organizations. In particular, they met with Richard Bell, who is #2 at the US Embassy (the Ambassador was in the US during the time of the visit), manager of USAID in Niger, and manager of ADF (African Development Fund), another US government agency that funds development work in Africa. Aside from all of these people, they also met with several prospective partners and funders for the project!

Dov discusses the FOF concept with Ahmadou Ndiade,
acting manager of USAID in Niger
We are so proud of the incredibly positive reception of the FOF concept. Everyone recognizes that it addresses a critical need: to help farmers transition from subsistence farming to more intensive and productive farming practices. Everyone John and the team met with see FOF as an important enabler to the country achieving its 3 N’s goal. 

As a result of all this work, EPN is well on its way to building the buy-in and commitment required to take the program far beyond the pilot phase. We are so excited about the potential for Farmers of the Future, and we couldn't have garnered the support from all of these government and education officials without your support coming first and foremost. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

An Overview of John's Trip to Africa

John's back from Africa! His trip was fairly brief this time, but jam-packed. All 8 days on the ground were spent in Niger, where Eliminate Poverty Now has the most active projects. The main focus of this trip was on the Farmers of the Future program, as well as several new projects that we're hoping to implement with funding from Rotary.

The FOF Leadership Team (L to R):  Dov, John, Hamani Djibo, Robin, Sidi Mohamed
Perhaps one of the great highlights was having the full FOF Leadership Team (minus Judy, who was greatly missed!) together in one place for the first time: Dov Pasternak from Israel, Robin Mednick of Canada from Pencils for Kids, Hamani Djibo, Director of LIBO, and Sidi Mohamed, our new FOF General Manager were all there! The team holds regular Skype meetings, but getting together in person was especially wonderful, and led to lots of good team building and discussion.

 FOF sign at the Galbal pilot school
Make sure to keep up with us here on the blog, as the next few posts will be getting into the details of John's trip, from the on-going work to build visibility and support for FOF, to our plans for expanding FOF into the adult community, and those projects hinted at that are being developed with the hope of Rotary funding!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"Farmers of the Future is Exactly what Niger Needs"

John is not one to gush, so we knew it was really true when he said that the Farmers of the Future official launching ceremony was "Outstanding!"

There were representatives from throughout the government, including the Minister of Education (who gave an enthusiastically supportive welcoming speech) the Minister of Livestock, a member of the Prime Minister's Cabinet, the current and former Mayors of Libore, and the tribal Chef de Canton. 

The U.S. Embassy was represented by USAID. Other international agencies, including UNDP, ADF and Rotary, also sent representatives. Not to worry about the alphabet soup-- just know that these are key players in development in Africa, and it was wonderful to have them all represented at the launching ceremony. 

After opening prayers and welcoming speeches, the school children performed. First was a song and dance, and then they presented a skit they had written of a formal Farmers of the Future launch ceremony, with each student playing a member of the government, and giving speeches about what they liked about the program and what they were learning!

At the end of the program, Sidi (our Project 
Manager for Farmers of the Future) and Hamani (head of LIBO, our partner in Niger) led tours of the Gueriguinde school mini-farm. It looked beautiful, and the attendees spent much time there, asking questions and further expressing their wholehearted support. 

Among the praise were these remarks:

  • "Farmers of the Future is a key strategy for achieving our national goal, the 3 N's: Nigeriens Nourissent les Nigeriens (Nigeriens feeding themselves)."
  • "This program is exactly what the country needs." 
  • "John and Robin need to meet the Prime Minister." And they are invited to a gala next Tuesday night to do just that!

Eliminate Poverty Now has been optimistic about the level of support in the country of Niger for this program. We know that support at the national level will be key to a successful expansion of the program once we finish with the pilot phase. Today we see clearly that we already have that support. It was especially gratifying that even though Dov Pasternak, Eliminate Poverty Now, and Pencils for Kids were seated in places of honor, the ceremony was organized and carried out entirely by Nigeriens.

They themselves own Farmers of the Future. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Year-End Update, Looking Back At 2012

As the end of the year gets closer, we wanted to share our Annual Appeal letter with all of you. With news and photos all in one place, it's a great overview of EPN's accomplishments over the past year, all of which would never have been possible without your amazing and generous support!

Eliminate Poverty Now 2012 Annual Appeal

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

John's Heading to Africa!

It's been a hectic month for many people, between storms and floods and holidays, etc, and the time has flown. Now, though, it's time for John to fly--back to Africa!

This trip will be shorter than the last one, and will focus largely on the development of Farmers of the Future. Even though FOF has been around for a little while now, the program didn't launch in its entirety until October, and John will be there for the ceremony celebrating the full launch of Farmers of the Future. There may even be some important and exciting guests in attendance, so stay tuned here for more news after the fact! The trip promises to be one of celebrating all that has been accomplished, while also looking forward and figuring out how to further develop Farmers of the Future, and maybe some other projects, too.

At this time of year when so many holidays come about, please remember that we are always ever-so thankful for you and your continued support!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

EPN is Part of the Girl Effect Challenge on GlobalGiving

Eliminate Poverty Now's Pads for Peace project has been selected as part of the Girl Effect Challenge on, which is going on right now, through the end of November. We think it's cool that we're featured, so we wanted to share with you. We feel like winners simply by being selected to be a part of this, since Girl Effect is such a great organization. Read on for more information.

What is the Girl Effect?

The Girl Effect. It's what happens when girls are given an opportunity to participate. It's about the unique and indisputable potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world. You see, when you improve a girl's life through education, health and opportunity, these changes have a positive ripple effect. An adolescent girls has the power to stop poverty before it starts, but she needs your help. She needs information, healthcare, and education. She needs laws to change, money in her pocket, and she needs her parents, her government, and the global community to see that she is valuable.
The secret behind the Girl Effect is that it's not one large campaign – it's a movement being led by amazing, ordinary people all over the world. It's about giving you the tools and the network you need to spread the word about what girls can do and, with a little elbow grease, change the world.

What is the Girl Effect GlobalGiving Challenge?

The 2012 Girl Effect GlobalGiving Challenge is an opportunity for girl-focused organizations and projects to connect with the Girl Effect movement and compete for an opportunity to win a one-year spot on the Girl Effect fundraising page here on GlobalGiving. Twelve winners will be chosen and we will provide them with increased visibility and financial support to succeed.
Vote with your dollars and donate to the organization(s) that you believe deserve a spot on the page. The six projects with the highest number of unique donors will be selected.
The challenge runs from November 1, 2012 through November 30, 2012, and at that time the winners will be selected.

To learn more about Girl Effect, we hope you'll enjoy this video as much as we did!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Update: Kuluje Sewing and Literacy Center

Like Elevage, it has been a while since we've brought you news about the Kuluje Sewing and Literacy Center in Niger, and we thought the best way to share what's been going on would be to show you through some of the beautiful photos from Judy and John's last visit.

We first wrote about Kuluje in April 2011, and the women are making excellent progress. The Center is currently teaching literacy and sewing skills to 23 young women in the community. 

If you would like to see more pictures of the women and the center, please visit our Flickr page.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Elevage Update

It's been far too long since we've written about our Elevage (sheep raising) project in Niger.

This income-generating program in Gonzare, Niger provides 20 women with micro-loans to purchase breeding sheep to begin building their own flocks. After 2 rounds of breeding, adults are sold to repay the loan. Lambs become the basis of the new--and fully owned-- new flock (please read the original post for more details).

 We hope you enjoy these pictures of the women involved, as well as some of their animals from John and Judy's last trip to Africa. For more pictures, visit us on Flickr.

Below is the final report on the project, which tells us that everyone involved has been satisfied with how it's gone. We've provided the whole report, so if you're interested in more details, please take a look! We are so grateful EPN volunteer, Frank Gontier, for his translation of the document.

Rapport Elevage (Translation)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

EPN's New Water Project in Niger

Even though we have recently shared news of too much water in Niger, the problem of too little water is still a very real one. That being said, it's time to share a new project with all of you. This latest grant will be used to fund the Tonko Bangou village water project in Libore, Niger. 

This project has come about because of the initial passion of Pete Brach. The Brach family were major supporters of the Farmers of the Future project in 2011, and have also been major supporters of the work of Advisory Committee Member, Dov Pasternak, for many years

When Pete traveled with John and Judy to Niger last winter, he was moved by the plight of villages who had no access to water. They learned that the Nigerien government is building a water pipeline that will reach many of these villages, and will supply water to any village that pays to be connected to the pipeline. 

Pete was really impressed with the ability of water to transform the landscape, as well as the lives of the people in these villages. He had John stop on the road and take the two photos you see above. One is to the left of the road; the other is to the right - same spot in the road.The top photo shows the typical barren landscape of Niger, while the photo on the bottom shows an irrigated field, green, with acres of rice. Access to water is the foundation for a healthy population and a healthy economy. Pete immediately grasped this, and set a goal to raise funds to make as many connections as possible to the new public water pipe on order to bring safe water to communities along the main road southeast of Niamey. His efforts will make a world of difference for those people.

The first contributions total $6,200 ($3200 from Pete and $3000 from the Brach Family Charitable Foundation) to connect the village of Tonko Bangou to the government pipeline. Approximately 5,000 people will benefit from this grant.

If you're interested in helping out with this project, please visit the DONATE page.

Monday, September 24, 2012

UPDATE: Flooding in Niger

We'd like to begin by thanking everyone who donated to help our friends affected by the devastating flooding in Niger. The money that was provided by EPN, and our partner, Pencils for Kids, has been used to purchase rice, bednets, and drugs to help cover the highest medical risks.

We're also happy to report that larger organizations are getting involved. The Red Cross has visited the Libore region, and distributed some rice. Other relief agencies such as Unicef and ADRA have also indicated that they plan to visit.

So what now? Hamani has told us that plans still need to be developed to handle food storage, the rebuilding of homes, and repairing the farm land. We are still waiting for details on how all of this will affect the start of the school year and Farmers of the Future. Even with the delays to the project, we're so grateful to have been able to help, and will continue to do so however we can.

For more photos of distribution, and the people we're helping, please visit us on Flickr.

    Tuesday, September 4, 2012

    Full Farmers of the Future Program will be Ready for the Start of School

    **PLEASE NOTE:  This post was drafted just before receiving news of the Niger floods. The good news for Farmers of the Future is that our 3 pilot schools were not flooded and the mini-farms are in tact. Unfortunately, many in the villages are homeless. They are being housed temporarily in the classrooms. We don't know when these families will be relocated and whether the start of the school year will be affected. Nonetheless, we are moving forward with our launch plans and will be ready whenever the school year begins.**

    How do kids learn best? There's no one answer; some learn best in the classroom, while others learn by doing. With Farmers of the Future, our concept has always been to combine these two learning styles. The hands-on learning in the mini-farms has been in place for the last year, but the classroom curriculum has lagged somewhat behind. We had a "soft launch" of the classroom program last February, and now, after months of hard work, the complete classroom curriculum is ready to go. The full Farmers of the Future program as originally envisioned will be launched with the start of the new school year this October.

    Lots of work has gone into completing the classroom program. First, we needed to finalize the teachers manual and student texts. The teachers manual identifies week by week, over a two year period, how to integrate FOF into the national curriculum. For instance, there are opportunities to bring specialized FOF topics into math, science, and environmental courses, which are some of the required subjects.

    Next, we developed illustrated pamphlets for the students. These materials are complete, approved by the Ministry of Education, and ready for printing! 700 manuals are being printed; 600 student pamphlets and 100 teaching manuals. Scroll to the bottom of this post, or click here, to scroll through a .pdf of a sample student pamphlet. It's in French, but it should give you an idea of what's been produced.

    You may be wondering just who is teaching the FOF program? The answer is simple--the regular teachers at the schools.  Since they have no prior knowledge of FOF's farming concepts and techniques, we have had to teach the teachers before they can teach their students. This is no small task, and if anything, we underestimated just how much training would be required. As a result, we have significantly increased this aspect of the program. Teachers have already completed two training sessions, in February and April, and they will take part in two weeks of rigorous training in September prior to the new school year. Additionally, they participate in monthly workshops where they discuss the program and its implementation, and prepare model classes for their peers.

    October 1 marks the true launch of the Farmers of the Future program as originally envisioned! Our goals in this pilot phase are to develop the program, test it in the real world, identify what's working well and what's not, and make improvements. As such, we will be monitoring everything closely in order to fine-tune the program and ready it for expansion to other schools.

    The over-arching goal of Farmers of the Future is to showcase the great potential of modern farming, and to give these children the tools to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. As always, you help to make all of this possible, and we thank you for your support.

    Farmers of the Future Illustrated Pamphlet

    Tuesday, August 28, 2012

    An Urgent Plea To Help Those Devastated by Flooding in Niger

    When your friends cry out for help, how do you answer?

    Water is waist deep in many areas

    Eliminate Poverty Now doesn’t do disaster relief, but weeks of heavy rain in Niger have caused massive flooding. One third of the 32,000 people in the Liboré villages where we work have been affected, and while international aid is beginning to trickle in, our friends have an immediate need for basics such as safe drinking water, food, and mosquito bed nets. 

    Village damage

    They have asked for our help, and we are doing our best to come to their aid by spreading the word and giving what we can, and by asking you to join us in our effort. Please send what you can to Eliminate Poverty Now for Liboré Disaster Relief. Every little bit helps.

    -$10 buys a water bucket and bed net. 
    -$50 buys a bucket, a bed net, and a 100 kg bag of grain.

    Abandoned animals

    We ask that you please pass this message on to 20 friends to help spread the word; there’s been no news coverage of this natural disaster in the US, but this recent article from the BBC is one of the better we’ve seen. 

    Thank you.

    Flooded rice fields

    Friday, August 10, 2012

    Thank You...

    This post is a simple thank you to all of our readers. We have been receiving wonderful feedback and support recently, especially after our recent news about EPN being registered with USAID (in case you missed it, view the post here!). 

    We received an especially lovely note from Hamani Djibo, founder and director of the NGO LIBO, our partner in Niger. Hamani wrote (translated from French by our newest volunteer, Frank Gotier),

    "I just want to inform you that this news made a lot of people happy in our community. EPN is changing lives here in Niger, especially in the rural town of Libore.
    We cannot gather everyone to celebrate this major event which is bringing a lot of hope to all of us.
    All we can do is congratulate the Craig couple, John and Judy, for taking on this bet and winning it step by step.
    And they are making it happen because they have faith in what they do.
    They are role models (inspirations)."

    Hamani's support, and yours, means the world to us. EPN could not thrive without you, and for that we are so, so grateful.