Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Pomme du Sahel

In a recent 2-part post (Part 1Part 2), we introduced you to Professor Dov Pasternak, a renowned agricultural scientist and father of the Farmers of the Future program. His insights and leadership have created exciting new opportunities for thousands of African farmers trapped in poverty. In these next 2 posts we'll take a look at what the farmers are actually growing thanks to Dov's remarkable work. 

Pomme du Sahel (Apple of Sahel) ripe for picking

The “Pomme du Sahel”, French for “Apple of the Sahel”, is a fruit invented and named by Dov himself. The Pomme du Sahel is a variant of the jujube, a small fruit produced by the Ziziphus tree. If anyone has tried a jujube before, you know it is not easy to eat. As a matter of fact, Africans from the Sahel region think the jujube is really just goat food.

Combining two different strains of jujube-producing Ziziphus trees, Dov created something unique and valuable. He married the tissues of the Ziziphus tree native to the Sahel region with its Indian cousin, creating a new tree producing large, sweet jujube fruit high in vitamin A and C, but resilient enough to withstand the harsh climate of Niger. Pomme du Sahel is a perfect cash crop for farmers in Niger and across the African Sahel.

A Pomme de Sahel (left) next to a traditional Jujube (right)

How did Dov come up with the name?  Well, apples are a highly sought after fruit, and are seen as exotic in the desert region. To ensure his new fruit would not suffer from negative perceptions of the traditional Jujube, Dov named it the "Apple of the Sahel." Pomme du Sahel is hugely popular in Niger and is quickly expanding to new markets. But what does this all mean?

Dov in his research orchard for Pomme du Sahel
It means that Africans living in this region are enjoying a new, tasty, nutritious, and affordable locally-grown fruit. And local farmers have an opportunity to enter a budding new market. Over a ten-year span, nurseries that Dov constructed have produced and sold 700,000 fruit trees. Many of those 700,000 trees are Pomme du Sahel. Each tree can produce 20 kilograms of fruit per year that sell for USD $1 per kilogram. A small orchard of Pomme du Sahel can be a life-changer for farmers looking for a profitable crop.

How interesting is it that Dov has his own fruit? Do you see opportunities for Pomme du Sahel in other places? Share your thoughts below!

In our next post, we will share more on Dov's work, and share some information about a "superfood", the Moringa leaf.

Friday, February 13, 2015

EPN Hero: Dov Pasternak Pt. 2

When we left off, we introduced our first EPN Hero, Dov Pasternak. Dov is an agricultural scientist and father of our Farmers of the Future program. In Part 1 we shared stories from the first 30 years of his career, including years developing and introducing drip irrigation around the globe and creating the African Market Garden, a system combining small-scale irrigation with fruit and vegetable varieties customized to the local soil and climate of the Sahel. In this post we’ll share more of Dov’s work to transform lives through agriculture, including his work with the Farmers of the Future program.

Dov greets some old protégés in Sadoré village
Here's a perfect example. Women of the Sahel (the region south of the Sahara desert that gets just enough rainfall to support agriculture) legally can only own “degraded land." Degraded land is so hard and barren that virtually nothing will grow. So Dov developed a range of techniques called the Bioreclamation of Degraded Land, or BDL for short, to enable women to grow hardy, traditional vegetables even in degraded soil (Bioreclamation of Degraded Lands). Today, around 50,000 women in 500 villages in Niger and Senegal use BDL techniques. 

The Many Fruits of Dov's Labor:

Over the years Dov has introduced many new varieties of fruits and vegetables. He’s even named one! The Pomme du Sahel is a fruit Dov named and introduced to the Sahel region. The fruit is hugely popular in Niger and expanding to new markets quickly. It's such a good story it's worth it's own upcoming post.

The Pomme du Sahel
Then there's Moringa. Moringa is a perennial vegetable with remarkable properties. The tree-like plant produces highly nutritious leaves that can be harvested up to 10 times per year and used in a variety of applications from food recipes to health and beauty aid products. Dov spent years researching optimal varieties and introduced a new variant of Moringa that has become wildly popular. Tens of thousands of farmers are growing it commercially and millions are eating it. Moringa is more than just a tasty, versatile vegetable. It's being hailed by many as the most nutritious food on the planet. Another great story we will share in an upcoming post.

The Farmers of the Future Program

Dov describing the Africa Market Garden to Judy
During our conversation, I asked Dov what was the most eye-opening project he’s worked on. He said without hesitation: Farmers of the Future. 

He explained, “my first experiment with the program was at the Sadoré village. I introduced this village to BDL , Moringa production, and most importantly, fruit tree nurseries. This village has been fully independent over the last six years, with each woman earning $6,000 per year – 12 times the national average income in Niger."

And that’s worth repeating: The women of Sadoré village, through the Farmers of the Future program, are making 12 times the average income in Niger! You can watch Sadoré's remarkable transformation in this YouTube video.

Future Opportunity

The Eliminate Poverty NOW team and Dov are convinced that the Farmers of the Future program can enable subsistence farmers in Niger and elsewhere escape the bonds of persistent poverty. If the women of the Sadoré village are any indication, this program could transform the lives of countless farmers in other villages across Sub-Saharan Africa. 

L to R: John, Sidi Mohamed (General Manager of Farmers of the Future), and Dov
Dov, through the Farmers of the Future project, could be on the verge of leading hundreds of thousands of families out of extreme poverty. New possibilities are blooming in the desert and Dov is a big reason why. Now that’s heroic.

Dov's favorite motto; we can definitely see how he lives by it! 

Dov has captured 40 years of experience and valuable lessons learned in his new book, Agricultural Prosperity in Dry Africa. It's a must read for anyone seriously interested in agricultural development in Africa. Download it for free using this link.

Did Dov’s story inspire you to action? How so? If you’ve heard of other cool stories about heroes using science to eliminate poverty in Africa, share in the comments section below!

And for some additional information, check out these links:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

EPN Hero: Dov Pasternak Pt. 1

Dov Pasternak, the Father of "Farmers of the Future"
When Dov Pasternak was 16 years old, his school took a trip to the Negev Desert in southern Israel. When he returned, he told his friends "I'm going to become an agricultural scientist and make the desert bloom!" Years after that promise, that is precisely what he has done.

Dov Pasternak is unique.  He combines world class agricultural science with a focus on practical application, a flair for marketing and business, enormous creativity, and a humanitarian heart 5 times normal size. 

Dov, the father of the "Farmers of the Future" program, is creating sustainable pathways out of poverty in the Sahel region, the semi-arid region just south of the Sahara desert. His insights and expertise have helped over one hundred thousand people transition from subsistence farming to market-oriented agriculture. Put simply, Dov believes these farmers deserve more than the right to survive, they deserve the opportunity to prosper.  To the people he has helped, partnered with, and inspired, Dov Pasternak is much more than a scientist. He is a hero! 

Background and Early Life
Dov began life in Brazil before moving to Israel when he was 9 years old. He attended primary school in Haifa and secondary school at Kefar Galim Agricultural School. After two and a half years in the Israeli Army he did his undergraduate work at Hebrew University, then completed his graduate studies at the University of Queenslands-Australia.

His Work Has Been Extraordinary
After receiving his PhD (identifying crops that can be irrigated with salt water!) Dov returned to Israel.  He spent the next 30 years at Ben Gurion University of the Negev where he and a group of his cohorts developed drip irrigation, the technology credited with making the desert bloom.  Dov personally introduced drip irrigation to several continents around the globe.

In the last 15 years Dov has focused on sub-Saharan African where his impact has been immense. He developed the African Market Garden (AMG), a revolutionary low-pressure irrigation system for small scale farmers. The AMG is now used by more than 30,000 farmers across 6 nations. Senegal has recently started an initiative to install AMG's for over 8,000 more.

Dov's initiatives have made a great impact on the agricultural scene. But even with drip irrigation and the African Market Garden, there was much more to come.

We'll pause with Dov's story now, and share the rest in an upcoming post. In the meantime though, share your thoughts below: has Dov's story inspired you? How so?

We're looking forward to sharing more in Part 2!