Formidable!

That’s French for “wonderful” and it’s the best word to describe our latest visit to Niger.  Of course, every trip to Africa has been hugely productive.  But “formidable!!” was our rallying cry this time around.   Here’s why.

 A top priority for the trip was to continue detailed planning for the Professor Dov Pasternak Horticultural Training Center.  Formal government approval is required to open a new center.  So, after submitting an application, a government official comes out to inspect the proposed site.  He happened to visit the week we were there, and when he entered our new conference room, we overheard him whisper to himself: “formidable!”  And it is.  It’s probably one of the nicest conference rooms in Niger.

 Our goal is to establish the Dov Pasternak Center as the pre-eminent horticultural training center in West Africa.  Every aspect of it –classroom facilities, teaching staff, hands-on learning experiences – must be “formidable!”  Our center will emphasize practical, proven techniques to boost farmer income and establish self-sustaining farm cooperatives.  Of course, we will draw on best practices in horticulture from Niger and around the world.  But we will also teach strategies to maximize profits, methods to create effective cooperative organizations, and tools and techniques to insure rural (often illiterate) farmers understand and retain the knowledge.  No one else is attempting anything so comprehensive.

We had productive meetings with potential funders of the school and lengthy internal work sessions to sharpen overall objectives and continue detailed planning of the curriculum.  We’re targeting a “soft launch” of the center before the year is out.

 The training center was only one of several areas of focus for the trip.  More to come in the next post.

The conference room at the Training Center dedicated to Dov Pasternak’s memory

The conference room at the Training Center dedicated to Dov Pasternak’s memory