Thursday, December 19, 2013

Rotary Approves a $68,000 Grant To Support Farmers of the Future

As 2013 comes to a close, we are so happy to have some wonderful news to share with you. 

Last March, the Rotary Club of Carbondale Colorado provided $10,000 to build a tree nursery at the Farmers of the Future pilot school in Galbal, Niger. Since then, the Carbondale Club has joined with 7 clubs in North America (3 more in Colorado, and 4 in Toronto, Canada--thanks to Pencils for Kids!), plus the local club in Niamey, Niger. These combined 8 clubs have granted Eliminate Poverty NOW and Farmers of the Future $68,000 to create a tree nursery at the Gonzare school and a vegetable garden at a 4th school, Ecole Centre!

Mango tree saplings at the Galbal tree nursery,
similar to the one that will be created at the Gonzare school
With this grant, EPN will have the full Farmers of the Future program for primary school students and their parents running in the 3 original pilot schools, and begin expansion to a 4thThe grant includes club contributions, plus matching funds at the Rotary district and international level. It covers infrastructure costs for the two projects, agricultural supplies, plus two years of training and technical support for the participants. A total of 40 women (mothers of students at the schools) will be selected by their local communities to participate in the businesses and begin earning much needed income for themselves, their families, and their local schools. 

"Before" at the Ecole Centre vegetable garden site...

6 months after the project start-up, this is what the garden will look like.

By the end of 2 years, we estimate participants will be earning $500/year of extra cash. While this might not sound like much to us, for people who live on less than $1/day, it’s a major increase in household income to use for food, clothing, shelter, and education. Implementation begins immediately: digging a well at Gonzare, connecting to a municipal water pipe at Ecole Centre, and bringing in construction materials for the nursery and garden. Meetings with members of the local COGES (parent/teacher) committees are being held to explain details of the program and requirements for individual participants. We expect the nursery and garden will be fully operational by the end of the first quarter in 2014.

Please join us in thanking Rotary for this generous grant and wonderful opportunity. It is truly gratifying to see Farmers of the Future get such huge support. If this is any indication of what 2014 has in store for Eliminate Poverty NOW, we can't wait!

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Time for Thanks and Reflection

The days are getting shorter, and the weather colder, here on the East coast. It is a season of twinkling lights from candles and strings, a time to reflect on the last year, and to surround oneself with family, friends, and food. It is a season cloaked in abundance for so many, but that abundance should never be taken for granted.

As the year draws quickly to a close, it's a season of goodwill and thanks, no matter what your traditions might be, so here's a list of some things the people who make up Eliminate Poverty NOW are thankful for:
  • We are blessed to work with extraordinary people who inspire us every day, from our partners in Africa to our Advisory Board Members. They dedicate their lives to making a better life for others.
  • We’re thankful to our volunteers, especially our Board of Directors. Their generosity ensures 100% of public donations go to work directly in Africa.
  • We are truly grateful to the 150 individuals and organizations whose support makes our work possible. 
  • We’re thankful to be reminded daily how fortunate we are for things we take for granted:  food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care--the list goes on and on. 
  • We’re thankful for the opportunity to make a difference, that we who have so much can help those who have so little.
And, of course, YOU. We are so very grateful that you read this blog and keep up with our news, for the support you offer in any way you can. We've said it before, and we'll keep on saying it: EPN's work and success truly would not  be possible without you, and for that, we thank you.

Here's a list of some of EPN's highlights from the last year:

If you're not on our mailing list, here is our Annual Appeal letter, and the brochure we sent with it:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Last year, Eliminate Poverty NOW was introduced to the Joyful Women’s Organization. This non-profit supports income-generating projects for women through its table banking program, a system in which a group of women lends to its members. This creates a virtuous cycle with interest and loan repayments being continually recycled within the group.

At that time, JoyWO’s success had been phenomenal: in 4 years, they had grown to 400 groups, 10,000 members, and over $1 million in circulation. As the size of the projects grew from quite small (a woman selling bananas near the side of the road) to more ambitious (greenhouses, poultry operations, market vegetable farming), it became clear that they would require more training and technical support. EPN provided a grant of $12,000 to train and support 600 of the most enterprising women.

In the 16 months since EPN first visited, JoyWO has grown to 1,600 groups, 30,000 women, and over $3 million being loaned out. They’ve gone from a staff of 12 to 62, almost all of whom are field officers focused on business development and technical support.

Toloek group members and Joywo staff outside the Toloek greenhouse

A group of ladies from Toloek prepare to plant tomatoes

One JoyWO group, the 19-member Toloek women’s cooperative, decided to use their funds provided by Kenya's Ministry of Irrigation to build a greenhouse to grow tomatoes. Judy, John, and Helen met 5 members of the Toloek group at the greenhouse located near the home of Annabel, the mother of two young boys. The land was chosen for the site because of its access to electricity. Annabel hosted Judy, John, and Helen for lunch during their visit. When asked how he felt about having the greenhouse located on their land, Annabel's husband said, “As long as it is helping the women, I’m happy to give the land.” And with the greenhouse came piped water. Annabel said, “I never thought I would live in a house with piped water. And now look –  I have both electricity AND piped water!”

Annabel's home, complete with electricity and running water

Annabel and Toloek club members hosted lunch

Group members Judy Koech (who runs a hardware business) and her mother-in-law, Anna, have the rest of the family excited about the greenhouse as well. Both Judy and her husband expect much good to come from the project, and her father-in-law was so excited when Judy, John, and Helen arrived, he urged Anna to hurry and told her, "Your guests are in the greenhouse.” 

Seeing the men in the family be so supportive of their wives was truly a highlight of the visit. In Kenyan society, women have traditionally not had the same rights and opportunities as men, but all of the women Judy, John, and Helen met said that both they – and their husbands – are thrilled with the changes the greenhouse will bring to their lives. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ruhiira, A Beautiful First Trip to Uganda

On their most recent trip to Africa, Judy and John spent two days in the Ruhiira village cluster, one of 12 clusters participating in the Millennium Villages Project (MVP). Ruhiira is located in the southwest corner of Uganda, not far from the borders with Tanzania and Rwanda. This marked John and Judy’s first visit to Uganda, and it exceeded their expectations, from the beautiful countryside, to the lovely people, to the comfortable weather. They met with MVP staff, toured the villages, visited the two Eliminate Poverty NOW project sites, and met people involved in the projects.

Members of the Kabuyanda Farmers Cooperative
The first of those projects is the Kabuyanda Grain Warehouse. The goal of the project is to increase farmer income, achieve better prices by safely storing crops after harvest, jointly negotiating selling prices, and contracting with major feeding organizations like the World Food Program. Results have been mixed. A 300 metric ton warehouse was financed by the Craig Family Foundation (precursor to EPN) and a farmers cooperative was formed with the goal of gaining 500 members. Currently, the cooperative has only 125 participating farmers and only a fraction of the warehouse capacity is being used, so there is potential to achieve significantly higher farmer participation and income generation with more proactive leadership. John and Judy officially commissioned the warehouse during their visit, which was a nice honor.
The other project they funded in Ruhiira is the Kabuyanda Women’s Craft Cooperative, a women’s cooperative that creates a variety of crafts to generate extra income for the family. Funds were provided to test a new line of beaded jewelry. The test went well, and John and Judy found a wide variety of beaded products being sold at the local co-op as well as through local retail stores.

Members of the Kabuyanda Crafts Co-op

Farmer Paul

Judy and John also had a lovely visit with Farmer Paul, a retired military man with a thirst for knowledge and openness to new ideas. He is a prime example of what a diversified and integrated approach to farming can achieve.  The MVP provided Paul with training, an $800 prized dairy cow, and a hearty breed of goats from South Africa. In addition, Paul planted a garden where he grows fruits and vegetables for sale and personal use. He grows grasses that he feeds to his cow and goats, then uses the manure to fertilize the fields. The manure also is used in a biogas system that produces the gas he cooks with, eliminating the need to cut down trees for firewood, as well as the smoke that permeates most homes. Paul has dramatically improved his standard of living. He has built a new home, financed a retail shop for his wife, and sent his kids to university. He has also given offspring from his cow and goats to other farmers in the community so that they can begin to enjoy the same benefits as him.

John and Judy were particularly impressed with the progress made in infrastructure in the cluster. A network of all weather roads has been cut through the steep terrain, connecting the villages to each other and to the outside world. A water management system has been implemented that provides 9,000 people in the cluster with safe, easy access to water. A prototype shared solar power system was installed, providing power to approximately 120 businesses and households in the area. And the government is installing power lines that will connect the cluster to the national power grid, a decision that MVP had been advocating for many years.
The major goal for economic development in the region is to increase the economic value and diversity of farming activities. Ruhiira lies in the heart of banana country, and bananas are the cornerstone of the economy and local diet. There is much to be said about this subject--we are preparing a blog post dedicated to it! 

All in all it was a wonderful and rewarding trip.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Guest Post by Dov Pasternak: The Transformation of the Sadore Village

We are thrilled to have another guest post this week! This post is from renowned agricultural scientist, and Eliminate Poverty NOW Advisory Committee member, Dov Pasternak. Dov has written a wonderful article about the transformation of the Sadore Village. Please scroll through the pdf below, or read it on Scribd.

The Transformation of the Sadore Village by Anna Drury* (*please note that the article is written by Dov Pasternak, and posted to Scribd by Anna Drury*)