Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Songhai Women's Capital Fund is Expanding

It's been a little while since we've had news from the Songahi Women's Capital Fund, but we are so pleased to share what's been going on lately!

You may remember the four women we profiled who had graduated and were working on starting their projects and businesses. You can get a glimpse of them here, and then click on their names if you'd like to read more about each one individually.

The four women graduates who were given the original disbursements.
From left: Alice, Rebecca, Elvire, and Reine

We are so happy that all four are going forward in working towards their goals. One of them, Reine, had a baby and has had a delayed start compared to the others as a result, but now that the baby has been born, she is ready to get to work!

The women who received the first four loans are on track to achieve their goals despite encountering a variety of real world challenges, such as floods, animal infections, etc. To help the women navigate the hurdles typically encountered in start-up ventures, and ensure success, the school is increasing its level of technical support for the women when they graduate and are getting started. An individual will be hired by Songhai, who will visit the farms twice a month at first, and then go down to once a month to make sure the women are getting the support they need. Songhai will pay the salary for this person, and EPN will cover field costs.

Rabbits being produced on Elvire's farm

Perhaps one of the most exciting bits of news we have concerning Songhai is that the program has been so successful that they want to expand to more campuses. They are very happy with the Women's Capital Fund program, and there has been a spike in the number of women in the program as it has become known that there is funding and support available to them when they graduate to help them get started. Plans are being started to expand to two more Songhai campuses, and we couldn't be happier that the program is being so well received even as some of the growing pains are worked out.

There's a new group of women graduating and being given disbursements. We'll be introducing you to them here on the blog, so make sure to check back soon!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Little Rock ECD Moves to New Building

We've had some fantastic news from Lilly Oyare. Over the past year, a new centre was built for Little Rock, and now they are moving into the new building! 

The new centre may be completed, but there is still a need for items such as desks and chairs. Lilly outlines the costs in her own blog here, but here's a list to give you an idea:

For individual students:
2 sets of school uniform-- $17.00 USD
1 pair of shoes-- $23.00 USD
1 school bag-- $12.00 USD

For the Centre:
1 Table: $100.00 USD
6 Chairs $105.00 USD

Lilly provides a more comprehensive list, and we encourage you to visit the link above. The prices listed are in Kenyan shillings; the exchange rate is about 87 shillings per $1.00 USD.

For more information, watch Lilly talk about the new centre in this video. 

Thank you so much!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Rotary Project Plans Taking Shape

Rotary is a wonderful organization with a goal of providing service to the community, the workplace and around the globe. It supports a wide range of projects that include education and job training, providing clean drinking water, combating hunger, improving health and sanitation, and eradicating polio. When a number of clubs get behind an initiative and get matching grants at the District and International level, the amount of funding can be significant.

Temporary tent camp for displaced flood victims.
Rotary has been active in Niger for many years. John met with Gaston Kaba and Halima Hamza from one of the Rotary clubs in the capital city of Niamey. Gaston has been involved with over 30 international grants.  During our visit we saw many water wells funded by Rotary, and many Shelter Box tents providing temporary housing for those displaced by the flooding in September, which were the worst floods the region has seen in 50 years.
Dov with Rotary Team members discussing plans
for the mothers tree nursery at Galbal.
John and Judy and have been working with members of their local club in Carbondale, Colorado to drum up support behind several projects. The first of these is to build tree nurseries at 2 of the Farmers of the Future pilot schools as part of the mother’s income-generating component of the program. The economics of the nurseries look very attractive. Participating mothers will keep half the proceeds for themselves, and half will go to offset nursery costs and support for their village school.

FOF tree nursery at the Gueriguindi school.
The second project is to connect the Ecole Centre primary school to the new government water pipe. The connection will provide water for 350 students at the school and for a mother’s for-profit vegetable garden. The garden will be created in vacant space inside the school yard and, like the tree nurseries, provide income for 15-20 participating mothers, cover garden operating costs and support the Ecole Centre school. In the process, EPN will prepare the school to be a potential fourth pilot site for the FOF program.
School buildings at Ecole Centre.
The water connection will provide water to 350 students.

During the week in Niger, John had several meetings to flesh out plans for these projects and begin developing the grant application information.

Typical ground without irrigation

The power of irrigation.
This bed of cabbage is yards away from the previous photo.
We are hoping to move forward with the tree nurseries this spring, and with the Ecole Centre project this summer, so keep checking back for updates!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Expanding the Community Reach of Farmers of Future

School Directors and teachers from the 3 schools piloting the FOF program,
along with the FOF Leadership Team

The goal of Farmers of the Future is to change the national mindset towards farming. Farming does not have to simply be "what poor people do;" it can also be a very good business and source of income.

Cover of an FOF teaching pamphlet
The FOF program begins by teaching new concepts at the primary school level where young minds are open to new ideas. But these are young children between the ages of 10 and 13. They are still many years away from putting these ideas into practice, so we want to use the school program as a vehicle to involve the parents of students in these new ideas. This is taking shape in several ways. First, 15-20 mothers of students at each school will participate in income generating activities, like tree nurseries and vegetable gardens, where they benefit from the agricultural technicians who are already visiting the schools. Second, students will have homework projects that take what they learn at school into the home, where hopefully the ideas will be shared. And third, parents will visit the schools once or twice a year. During these visits, students will conduct “show-and-tells” for their parents to showcase what they’ve learned.
Amadou Madougou

Additionally, we need to develop ways for students who become interested in farming as a business to further pursue their interests beyond primary school. This may involve programs at the secondary school level, vocational training options and a “post-graduate” garden option for teenagers who won’t continue with school, but want to further their knowledge and skills in a true, for-profit farming operation.

Amadou Madougou signing over 6 acres of land
to LIBO to use as a FOF post-graduate garden.

Amadou Madougou is a former mayor of Libore, and a staunch FOF supporter, who has served twice as the national Minister of Education, and once as Minister of the Interior. We are so pleased that he has agreed to donate 6 acres of his land for a “post-graduate” garden and has a fellow village leader who is considering making a similar size parcel available.

Our hope is that by targeting programs for primary school children, teenagers and adults, the impact on attitudes will be synergistic and will accelerate the change in mindset towards agriculture.

This is the site for the first FOF post-graduate garden.
With irrigation, this land can become a large and lucrative vegetable garden.