Thursday, February 25, 2016

Off to Africa!

Hi All --

This is John with a quick note.  I'm headed off to Africa for 2 weeks -- 5 days in Benin with the Songhai Centre and 8 days in Niger with Dov Pasternak and the Farmers of the Future project.  You'll remember Father Godfrey Nzamujo, founder of the Songhai Centre, and Dov, father of Farmers of the Future, from our EPN Hero series.  I'm delighted that Peter Wentworth, our newest EPN board member, is joining me in Niger.  With all his international experience and keen insight, Peter added real value on last year's trip to Rwanda and Kenya and I look forward to his contributions in Niger.

EPN's key project in Benin is the Songhai Women's Capital Fund. The fund provides low interest loans to women graduates of the Songhai Centre to start their own agricultural ventures. Currently 25 women participate in the program.  Results of their ventures have been mixed so we're anxious to identify ways to improve their success rate.  We'll be combining site visits with internal discussions to hammer out a specific plan of action.

Father Godfrey, John and Judy Craig with Songhai Women

In Niger the focus is Farmers of the Future. We're wrapping up the pilot phase of the project. Our original pilot villages are at a critical stage. After three years of training and technical support we are withdrawing backing from the women's garden associations to determine if they are ready to truly be independent and self-sustaining. At the same time we're finalizing plans to open a 5th site.

          FOF Woman Farmer in the Tree Nursery

It will incorporate all the learnings and best practices gained from years of testing to create a showcase for Farmers of the Future and demonstrate what it can achieve. Finally, we'll be meeting with several organizations to explore potential partnerships to begin scaling the program.

Should be a great trip!!  I'll provide updates from the field, internet connections permitting. Stay tuned.

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