Thursday, March 27, 2014

Building Farmers of the Future Awareness and Support at the Highest Levels of Government

To build momentum and attract funding for the Farmers of the Future expansion, we’ve been working to gain endorsements at the highest levels of the government. During the Niger trip, meetings were held with: Niger’s First Lady, the High Commissioner of the “3-N Initiative” (Niger’s national priority to achieve food self sufficiency) and his chief councilor, and the National Minister of Agriculture. All were very positive about the Farmers of the Future concept and supportive of expanding the program. 

Agricultural Fair - Sardore women and FOF team
The First Lady gave us an hour of her time and expressed her gratitude for our efforts to alleviate poverty in Niger. She has a foundation of her own, the Guri Foundation, which focuses on health, education, and the environment. She saw many parallels between her work and Farmers of the Future. When we described the transformation that has occurred in the SadorĂ© village, the first to implement the Farmers of the Future program (see Dov Pasternak's guest post on the blog, or on Scribd), her response was, "This is a miracle!" She asked how she can be of help to us in expanding the program, and extended an open invitation to continue our dialog.   

Women's Association at Sadore
The meeting with the Minister of Agriculture was arranged on short notice. He was very busy preparing for Niger's national agricultural exhibition starting the next day, but was gracious with his time and very interested in what we presented. Having endorsements from such high-level government officials helps open doors and raises the project's stature in the eyes of potential funders. 


We also met with the director of the Kollo vocational training school, which falls under the Minister of Agriculture's jurisdiction. Kollo is the only technical high school in Niger. They have 600 students enrolled in 5 main courses of study, including agricultural production, which graduates about 30-35 students each year. They have just been granted permission to add 2 years of additional training for students who want a masters level degree as horticultural technicians. EPN is exploring partnering with Kollo on the horticultural training.

Onions in Gonzare's vegetable garden

When John wrote to Judy about the meetings, he said, "If we could script how the meetings would go, it couldn't be better than what actually happened!"

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lilly Oyare's Visit to the U.S.

Little Rock Inclusive Early Childhood Development Centre founder Lilly Oyare will be arriving in the States on March 27th! Little Rock ECD serves the students of Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa. You may remember that Lilly has built a beautiful new school capable of supporting triple the number of students versus the old site. The school caters to the needs of hundreds of local children with pre-school, tutoring, special education, and daycare programs. All of this, of course, requires funds for more staff, furniture, equipment, school supplies, meals, etc. Lilly will be building awareness and support for the new school, and the various Little Rock programs. She is truly a testament to how one person's passion and dedication can help change the world around them. We are so pleased and excited to have her with us!

Here is a schedule of her speaking events in New Jersey:

Friday, March 28, 2:30 pm: Millburn Middle School Library
Saturday, March 29, 9:30 am - 12:00 pm: Caldwell Synagogue
Sunday, March 30, 11:00 am: Speak at Brunch Meeting at the New York home of Dorit Rabbani
Monday, March 30, 6:00 pm: Speak at a gathering of interested parties at PhilosophyIB offices
Tuesday, March 31, 11:30 am: Speak at EuroMoney New York Office during lunchtime for invited employees.

The only event open to the general public is at Agudath Israel on Saturday, March 29th. However, if you'd like to hear her and can't make it, you can contact John and Judy, and they will see if there's a hosted event that you might be able to attend.

Lilly will also attend meetings and dinners, in addition to her speaking engagements. All in all, it promises to be a busy, but hopefully fruitful, visit for our dear friend and partner. We hope you'll help welcome her here on the blog!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Perfecting the Farmers of the Future Model

John and Helen are back from their trip to Niger, and as promised, we have lots of news to share! They crammed in about a month's worth of work into 8 days, all filled with meetings, site visits, and team discussions about Farmers of the Future. Up first is some news about fine-tuning the program model for maximum success.

We are halfway through the pilot phase of Farmers of the Future, with the goal of field testing the program, and identifying opportunities to refine and improve it before scaling it up.

At the end of the last school year, we transferred responsibility for farm activities from students to mothers with excellent results. This now gives us an opportunity to simplify the program for students. The simpler the program, the easier to implement, and the easier to scale up.

When students had primary responsibility for the farm, they needed detailed instruction in how to prepare, grow, and care for gardens, tree nurseries, and small animals. Teachers had to be trained as well, adding significantly to their already heavy teaching load.

Now, with primary responsibility transferred to mothers, we can focus more on our main message that farming can be a good business and get students excited about the possibilities. In the process, we will significantly reduce the burden on teachers and the amount of teacher training required.
Basic elements of the streamlined program will include: simple mnemonic devices like songs, poems and catchy phrases; weekly hands-on experiences in the farm led by mothers and field technicians; entrepreneurial projects the kids can do at home; and videos sharing stories of local Nigeriens making attractive livings through agriculture.

Over the next 6 months, we will flesh out the details and begin testing the simplified program at Ecole Centre, our newest pilot school, at the start of the next school year in October 2014.

Stay tuned into the blog over the next few weeks for exciting news about building awareness and support for FOF at the highest levels of government (yes, John and Helen met with the First Lady!), our plans for funding Phase 2 of the project, and a special post from Helen about her experiences.