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.

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