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