Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Signing Off

This is a personal post from the two most recent "Social Media Ninjas", Dexter and Jonathan. We haven't done one of these in a while, and today it is a bit bittersweet. We have been working with EPN for the past year and a half as the resident bloggers and social media experts, with a little tech savvy to boot. But with new work and personal responsibilities for both of us, we must unfortunately announce that Dexter and I are signing off with EPN.

It has truly been a great run and we definitely enjoyed it.

We were happy and proud to develop the new EPN website and share it with the world.

We loved the opportunity to meet and talk to magnificent human beings in Dov Pasternak, Lilly Oyare, and Father Godfrey during the EPN Heroes series.

We enjoyed meeting and introducing two new board members in Peter Wentworth and Kaveh Naficy, and sharing numerous updates from campaigns, trips, and articles.

We are deeply thankful to John, Judy, and Helen for the opportunity to partner with them over the past 2 years to help Eliminate Poverty NOW! It has been a great journey, and it will continue to be a journey beyond our direct work with EPN.  We truly appreciate the chance to work with the team towards such an important mission.

And last, but not least, thank you all, the readers of EPN Live, for your continual support. You have made our work worthwhile, and the readership means a ton. Please continue to share and comment on our posts! Our dear new friend, Jen, will be taking over as the new "Social Media Ninja", and has a bunch of great ideas and a beautiful writing voice! We will continue to support her and share her posts as well.

So thank you all for the time. It's really been a blast, and we look forward to the time when our paths will cross again. All the best, and please continue your support as we strive to Eliminate Poverty NOW!

Friday, December 18, 2015

EPN Heroes Father Godfrey: What's Next for Songhai?

This is the last post in our EPN heroes series. We've been highlighting Father Godfrey Nzamujo , the founder and director of the Songhai Centre. He and his army of "barefoot engineers" are using sustainable agriculture to create pathways towards prosperity for some of Africa's most disenfranchised. 

In our earlier posts on Father Godfrey we've shared how he has uprooted the logic of poverty at work in Africa and managed to turn 2.4 acres of barren land into one of Africa's premiere research and technical school networks.

What Father Godfrey has accomplished is remarkable. Today there are thirteen Songhai Centres in four African nations. He has educated thousands, helped to provide communities with nutritious food, and impacted countless lives. What more could Father Godfrey possibly accomplish? We are glad you asked!

Father Godfrey is a world renowned agriculturist, and his work has caught the attention of some of the world's most important influencers. Starting next year, graduates of the Songhai Centre will be given opportunities to pursue degrees at any French University they qualify for, on full scholarship. There is only one condition: every scholarship recipient must agree to return to the Songhai Centre, and join the teaching or research staff.

Why all the sudden attention? Father Godfrey and his staff may be on the brink of something remarkable. They are on the verge of innovating self-sustaining agricultural ecologies. That's a mouthful! Here's a simple way to think about it.  Imagine a farm where absolutely nothing gets wasted, that requires only minimal human involvement, and never uses agricultural techniques harmful to the environment. That's what Father Godfrey, with the help of his faculty and students, is creating.

They have closely studied how organic energy is used and transferred between bioforms. What they have in mind combines agriculture, livestock, and seasonal weather patterns into a closed, self-contained system. This system is driven by the natural and mutually beneficial relationships between plants, animals, and the earth. This could be a game-changer not only for Songhai but also for the world! As mankind becomes more mindful of the dangers associated with climate change and genetically modified foods, these sorts of innovations will be essential to our lives.

What Father Godfrey has accomplished through the Songhai Centre is amazing. What's more amazing is he's not done yet. Everyday he wakes up motivated to "help people who thought themselves beyond help and prove that every person has something to give society." The future looks bright for Songhai. Father Godfrey, his staff, and students are pushing the boundaries of agricultural practice. The world's next major agricultural development may well be the byproduct of their heroic work.

Are you inspired by Father Godfrey's continuing work? What did you think about the next steps for the Songhai Centre? Comment and share your thoughts and questions below!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mission Accomplished on Giving Tuesday!!

You did it!  We wanted to send 2 more remarkable students from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya to secondary school. And thanks to you that's exactly what we'll do. Our goal was $8,000, but you sent in donations and pledges of over $10,000! Added to the money raised earlier in the year, we now have funding for 10 full scholarships. And with the match from Eliminate Poverty NOW we have an excellent start on funding more scholarships next year.

On behalf of the 26 students currently on scholarship and our 10 new recipients, our sincere thanks.  Your caring and generosity changes their lives and provides them the opportunity for a bright future.  Well done!!

Monday, December 14, 2015

What A Year It Has Been!

As 2015 comes to a close, we’d like to thank you for your generous support of EPN and your enthusiastic engagement with us online. With your help, our work is making a difference for the extreme poor in Africa on so many fronts. Here are some highlights from this year:

Farmers of the Future:

After 4 years of testing we are nearing completion of the pilot phase in four villages and preparing to launch the optimized model in a fifth.   Over 70 women like Hamsa Kindo participate in the program along with hundreds of primary school students who learn that farming can be a good business.  Our videos of local Nigerien successes in agriculture are a huge hit and plans are under way to share them broadly around the country.

Little Rock Scholars Program:

In 2015, the number of students on EPN-funded scholarship expanded to 26.  The extra tutoring and mentoring program introduced last year is paying big dividends.  Eighty-five percent of our scholars are in the top half of their class; 25% are in the top 5% and one is in the top 1% of her class.  Not bad for a bunch of kids from the slums!!  And capped by a successful Giving Tuesday campaign, we will be sending another 10 students to secondary school in 2016.

Little Rock After School Tutoring:

This is our sixth year of funding after school tutoring at the Little Rock Inclusive Early Childhood Development Centre.  Currently, over 100 primary school students take advantage of the program.  We foster a love of learning and reinforce that education is the surest path out of the slums.  As students prepare for the national entrance exam to secondary school, tutors work with them intensively to maximize their odds of qualifying for an EPN scholarship.   This year’s 8th grade cohort increased by 50%.

Songhai Women’s Capital Fund:

The Songhai Women’s Capital Fund provides low interest loans to Songhai graduates to start their own agricultural ventures.  To date we have awarded 15 loans with 10 more to be extended in Q4 2015.  Several women are struggling to make their new ventures a success.  While it is unrealistic to expect a 100% success rate with startups, we are increasing emphasis on technical support and mentoring in these first critical years to maximize commercial success for these women pioneers.

Lead Farmers Program:

We completed Year 2 of a 3-year test to provide affordable technical support to rural farmers in Africa.  The test is being conducted with 5,000 farmers in Myange, Rwanda.  Farmers learn best agricultural practices and ways to maximum farm revenue.  Valuable learnings are being implemented to improve program effectiveness and farmers are seeing meaningful improvements in crop yields and income.

Thinking of donating still this year? There's still time - take a look at our Annual Appeal. At Eliminate Poverty NOW we are proud of how hard your contribution dollars work. With your support we can touch even more lives in 2016.

Have a wonderful holiday season - see you next year!