Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lead Farmers, a New Millennium Villages Project!

We are pleased to announce that Eliminate Poverty NOW and Millennium Promise are teaming up again to start a Lead Farmer project in the Millennium Villages cluster in Mayange, Rwanda!

One of the challenges in helping rural farmers upgrade their farming practices is providing them with on-going, cost effective technical support. Extension services, which farmers in the U.S. and other developed countries rely on, are largely non-existent in Africa. The "lead farmer" concept is an innovative attempt to provide extension services with a cost effective and scalable model.

The concept groups together 30-50 local farmers, headed by a "lead farmer" selected by the group for being particularly skilled and progressive in his approach. This lead farmer then works closely with an extension agent and shares the knowledge gained with the rest of his group. In this way, the reach of the extension agent is greatly magnified. One extension agent can work with as many as 20 "lead farmers," thereby sharing knowledge with as many as 1,000 farmers. Millennium Promise has used this concept with cocoa farmers in their village cluster in Ghana with encouraging results. This marks the first time the concept is being introduced in Rwanda.  

EPN will provide funds to pay salaries for the extension agents, purchase of seeds and fertilizer for the lead farmers, and training in the development of business plans and loan applications.

The program is well thought out and offers good prospects for enhancing crop yields and economic returns for the 2-3,000 farmers who will participate in the program. This project has the potential to become a highly cost effective model for providing extension services, and addresses a critical need in agricultural development on the continent of Africa.

Keep your eye on the blog for more news as the project gets under way!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Professional Video: Lunapads One4Her Distribution

We are so pleased to share this professional video with you about the Lunapads One4Her distribution of kits containing washable sanitary pads at Little Rock ECD. You will see some familiar faces, like Judy and Little Rock founder, Lilly Oyare, as well as meet some of the girls who are being directly helped by this amazing gift. If you missed Judy's post about their experiences at the first day of distribution, you can read it here.

Once again, we can't thank Madaleine Shaw and Lunapads enough for their generosity with the One4Her program, and AFRIpads, who manufactured the kits.

We hope you enjoy the video!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Guest Post: Towards The End of Poverty? The Case of Mwandama Millennium Village in Malawi

This week we have a guest post for you! 

Rodrick Chirambo is responsible for the agricultural cooperatives in the Mwandama (Malawi) Millennium Villages Cluster. These would be the parallel organizations to the Kigarama Farmers' Cooperative in Kabuyanda (Uganda) where John and Judy funded a grain warehouse before the establishment of Eliminate Poverty NOW. Rodrick has written this post to inform our network of the wonderful work being done in the Mwandama cluster. We hope you enjoy the post!

By Rodrick Chirambo, Business & Cooperatives Development Coordinator, Millennium Villages Project - Mwandama

Some say poverty is a fact of life. It is here to stay; we just have to learn to live with it! In 2005 Malawi was described by UN officials as a “perfect storm” of hunger, poverty and disease and represented the plight of some 1 billion people around the globe trapped far below the first rung on the development ladder. In the same year, the Millennium Villages Project (MVP), comprised of a team of Malawi’s rural development experts, started working in the village of Mwandama, in one of the poorest regions of the country. Eight years later, the picture first described by those officials seems like a bad dream.

The Mwandama community has moved from perpetual food insecurity to being a food basket for the surrounding district of Zomba. The average distance to the nearest clinic is now about 5 Km compared to 25 Km before the start of the project. Over 70 percent of people are sleeping under insecticide treated mosquito nets compared to only 13 percent eight years ago. Primary school attendance has increased by 96 percent. Infrastructure and local institutions have improved tremendously. Wherever you look in Mwandama, you see people who have been empowered, are able to support themselves and their families, and invest back into the community.

Fast tracking development takes hard work but with the proper steps, it can be done.  As a Malawi citizen and the business development coordinator in Mwandama, I can proudly say that I have witnessed this transformation. I am part of a wonderful team of local development workers passionate about improving the livelihoods of their compatriots.

The building blocks of development are simple and readily accessible - community-led action, visionary and motivated local leadership, supportive Government policy, dedicated and knowledgeable staff and technological advancement. When these are in place, with good quality programming and the requisite financial resources, you are on your way.

As the local staff of the Millennium Villages Project, we have fostered community ownership of all development activities. The community chooses its own destiny. We’re here to help build systems of delivery and provide the essential knowledge that will build their capacity to get to where they want to be. By and by, small changes appear and accumulate into permanent transformation.

Of course, let’s not celebrate before the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals is reached in two years time. It is not yet a done deal and there’s much work to do beyond. It is time to ensure that the capacity of the community to maintain and manage the gains achieved so far is enhanced. This entails setting up systems for continued access to improved technologies; building institutions, such as business cooperatives, to support the farmers in accessing farm inputs and market linkages; creating a network of volunteers to promote girls attendance in schools; developing a cadre of community health workers; and building valuable partnerships with stakeholders.

With the support of wonderful partners like Eliminate Poverty Now, the Millennium Villages Project is proving that it is a matter of time before we end extreme poverty in our communities. Together, we are on the verge of a breakthrough that will help rural Africa not only get a grip on the development ladder, but also energize communities to climb higher. I will say this again – it can be done. With small targeted investments, huge changes can be realized. It is within our power. Visit and get involved.

**The views expressed here are my personal ones and do not represent those of the Millennium Villages Project.