Monday, April 16, 2012

Notes from the field #7: Farmers of the Future and the "3 N's" Initiative

We're hard at work to insure the pilot phase of Farmers of the Future is a success. But the goal of the program is to change perceptions broadly, not just in 3 schools. To do that we need strong support from the National Ministry of Education, as well as a program which aligns well with national priorities.

Pete Brach, at the garden his family foundation sponsored
We're delighted with the progress on both fronts. First, with regard to aligning with national priorities, our timing is just about perfect. There's a new administration in Niger and one of its top priorities is a program called the "3 N's." It stands for "Nigeriens nourrissent les Nigeriens," or in English, "Nigeriens feeding Nigeriens." It's all about Niger becoming self sufficient in the supply of food. The Farmers of the Future program encourages the upcoming generation to make their living by increasing production of nutritious food. So it's a great fit. And not surprisingly, it's enabled the program to gain widespread support wherever we go.

Our local partners, Hamani Djibo of ONG LIBO and Saidou Abdoussalam of ICRISAT, have done a great job of building awareness and support for the program at the National Ministry of Education. During our visit, we met with the National Minister, Mme Ali Mariama Elhadj Ibrahim, and Mme Amadou Hadijatou
Mme Ali Mariama Elhadj Ibrahim
Niger Minister of Education
Aboubacar, the head of Environmental Education, the arm of the Ministry under which the Farmers of the Future program will fall.

Both women are enthusiastic about the program. They rattled off its many benefits about as well as we could have. And their major question was, "Why only 3 schools?" We explained that we will be in a pilot phase for the next 2 to 3 years to insure we have a program that works effectively. But once we're confident we're achieving the desired results, we'll be ready to expand. Of course, we'll need to line up the financial resources to scale the program. But even the financial resources won't mean much without the enthusiastic support of the Ministry. So this is a big deal!!

As we said in the last post, Farmers of the Future is the most ambitious and complex project Eliminate Poverty Now has undertaken. We've made significant progress in turning Dov Pasternak's dream into a reality but still have a long way to go. Over the years we've learned that patience and perseverance are key to success with development projects in Africa. And no doubt Farmers of the Future will require more than most.

On a lighter note, communicating in three languages in West Africa (our English, French for educated professionals, Djerma for villagers) is a bit like playing telephone. You have to have a sense of humor to do this stuff. See what we mean here:

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