Send Deserving Little Rock Scholars to University!

Little Rock Scholars have been funded to attend Secondary School and now they are graduates and some with high honors. They are on a path to a brighter future but have hit a brick wall. The cost of entry to university is $500 which they are not in position to pay. Let's help them realize their dreams of attending university and securing their futures. Any amount will help!

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A Major Breakthrough for Farmers of the Future!

This December, our Farmers of the Future project achieved a major breakthrough. We were invited to participate in Niger’s long-range planning conference, held every 5 years in Paris. The 2-day conference was hosted by Niger’s President and attended by over 500 people, including senior ministers of the government, heads of state from other West African countries and major players in international development.

John, Eliminate Poverty NOW’s president, was joined by Robin Mednick, President of Pencils for Kids who co-funds the program, and Hamani Djibo, President of LIBO, our local implementing partner.

The President of Niger and the Minister of Planning kicked off the meeting with the goals and priorities for the next 5 years. They include developing the rural areas of the country, increasing agricultural productivity, and empowering the forgotten half of the population – women! All are perfect fits with Farmers of the Future.

We were invited to speak at the break-out session on rural economic development. Robin presented on our behalf and the program was extremely well received. The Minister of Planning (a very impressive woman herself) has become a big supporter and we developed several promising leads during the 2 days we were there.

We will be following up on them when we visit Niger in January, so stay tuned.

Farmers of the Future is EPN’s most ambitious project, with the goal of changing the national mindset towards farming and enabling subsistence farmers to lift themselves out of poverty. In Paris, we took a giant step towards achieving that dream.

Free at last, free at last...

Eliminate Poverty NOW’s mission is to empower Africa’s extreme poor, especially women, to lift themselves out of poverty.  To truly empower people our programs must become self-sustaining.  That’s why we’re so excited by the celebration held this past week in Niger with the women participating in the Farmers of the Future program.

We first introduced FOF to 4 villages on the outskirts of Niamey, Niger’s capital.  These were the pilot sites – our learning laboratory -  where we launched and steadily refined how to teach women and students to approach farming as a business.  It represented a whole new way to think about and practice farming. 

Now after several years of providing training and technical support, these amazingly hard-working women are ready to support themselves.  And last week they celebrated becoming truly independent “Farmers of the Future!”

The women are ready to take the knowledge and experience they have gained to become self-sustaining entrepreneurs, supporting their families with a better quality of life –  better diet, access to higher education, better medical care and improved living conditions to name a few.

We wish them good luck for a bright future!

Celebrating Niger's Independence Day

On August 3rd, John traveled to Washington DC at the invitation of Niger’s Ambassador to the US to celebrate Niger’s Independence Day. The day featured a panel discussion among 8 NGO’s working to “Promote Women and Youth Empowerment in Niger.” John was joined by Robin Mednick, president of Pencils for Kids, our Canadian NGO partner.

Farmers of the Future fit perfectly with the conference theme and attendees were impressed with the bold vision of the project and the progress to date. We already have several requests for more information and possibilities for future cooperation. Stay tuned!

Check out EPN 2016 Annual Report!

There are many advantages to running a lean organization.  But it does delay some tasks – like producing an annual report of EPN activities each year.  We’ve just posted the 2016 annual report on the website.  You can check it out using the link at the bottom of our home page.

Over the past several years, one of our main goals has been to sharpen our focus on projects and partners producing the best results.  We’re making good progress.  This past year we supported only 3 projects.  All are long-term (4-6 years and counting) and all with strong potential to achieve our mission of empowering Africa’s extreme poor, especially women and girls, to lift themselves out of poverty.

Click here to check out the EPN 2016 Annual Report!

Dov Pasternak Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

We’ve been sharing exciting news about Farmers of the Future.  The creator of this transformative program is Professor Dov Pasternak.  Dov is unique: a world-class agricultural scientist with a great head for business, a creative marketing flair, and a humanitarian heart 5-times regulation size.

This year Dov was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for International Development, a global association of professionals dedicated to sustainable economic, social and political development.  Dov received the award for his outstanding contributions to agriculture in Africa.

The term “outstanding contributions” can be tossed around pretty loosely.   In Dov’s case his contributions are real and truly impressive.  Here’s a summary:

  • He identified and helped commercialize dozens of new varieties of fruit trees and vegetables ideal for Africa’s soil and climate conditions, then trained thousands of farmers to grow them.  Many of these crops are highly nutritious, like:

o   Moringa:  considered by many to be the most nutritious vegetable in the world and spreading rapidly throughout Africa.

o   Cowpea:  Niger’s second most important crop and a rich source of protein for humans and animal feed for livestock.

  • Introduced “Pomme du Sahel” (apple of the Sahel) in West Africa.  The fruit is now grown on over 20,000 acres in Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal and produces over 100 million pounds of nutritious fruit a year.
  • Developed technologies to grow crops on infertile land.  He named the approach BDL (Bio-reclamation of Degraded Land) and introduced it to 30,000 families in Niger and Senegal.
  • Reverse engineered drip irrigation (which he helped develop in Israel 30 years before) for rural farmers in Africa. Paired with training in production of high value vegetables, he introduced it as the “Africa Market Garden” to farmers in Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal.

Finally, Dov created Farmers of the Future.  Dov describes FOF as the pinnacle of his career.  By teaching women and children to approach farming as a business, Farmers of the Future has the potential to lift millions out of poverty.  At a time when African farmers are struggling to survive and thousands are migrating in search of better opportunities, Farmers of the Future enables people to survive and prosper (at least in relative terms) without leaving home.  It’s a powerful concept and the need for it grows daily.

Eliminate Poverty NOW is thrilled to be working with Dov these last 6 years to turn his dream into reality.

Farmers of the Future: Is it scalable?

Development projects must clear 3 major hurdles to create major transformation.  They must be successful, they must be sustainable and, if change is to be widespread, they must be scalable.

We’re pretty confident Farmers of the Future can clear the first two.  But to achieve the ultimate goal of changing how thousands of subsistence farmers think about and practice farming it must be scalable.  Thanks to the new grant from REGIS and USAID we now have the opportunity to prove if Farmers of the Future can clear this final hurdle.

For the first time, we are entering 5 villages simultaneously using realistic levels of staffing and funding.  If this effort is successful it will confirm that FOF can be scaled.  Of course, it will take tens of millions of dollars to implement the program broadly.   We’ll have to build awareness and excitement for the transformative power of Farmers of the Future.  But even if we can attract the money we need to build the technical capacity to support a major expansion.

For starters, we’ve spent the past year creating an FOF Operations Manual to guide the implementation of the program in new sites.  The manual, available in French and English, contains all the detail and valuable lessons learned from 5 years of “enlightened trial and error” to ensure a successful launch in new locations.

Second, we’ve created a technical training manual.  The FOF field technician plays a critical role in the success of the program.  He/she works closely with the women and children of the village, educating them in new ways to approach farming as a business.   Unfortunately, there is a scarcity of agricultural technicians in Niger, even fewer with a strong grounding in horticulture, and virtually none who understand how to turn a vegetable garden into a real business. 

Our technical training manual will turn people with a basic understanding of horticulture into skilled FOF technicians.  It is designed to be used in 2 ways.  First, we are developing plans for a training center where people with a background in horticulture can learn FOF techniques through classroom learning and practical experience.  The manual serves as the classroom textbook.  Second, it serves as a reference guide for technicians in the field.  It contains information on over 20 vegetables well-suited to gardening for profit, including the best varieties to use, when to plant and harvest, routine care, and how to prevent and treat common pests and diseases.  We think it will become an invaluable tool.

We’ve come a long way with Farmers of the Future, from a promising idea by a brilliant man to a field-tested program with the potential to lift tens of thousands of subsistence farmers out of poverty.  Of course, it will take many more years and resources well beyond Eliminate Poverty NOW to reach the ultimate goal.  But to paraphrase a famous Jewish scholar:  we are not required to complete the work, only to do what we can.  And we are doing all we can to bring this transformative approach to as many people as possible.

We’re extraordinarily grateful to all the supporters of Eliminate Poverty NOW and Farmers of the Future for making it possible.

Farmers of the Future: Is it sustainable?

Many development programs show improvement when outside resources pour in to create change.  But 5 years later, after all the outside influence is gone, are they still producing real benefits?  That’s the difference between temporary success and sustainable change and that’s what Farmers of the Future seeks to achieve.

When Professor Dov Pasternak first piloted Farmers of the Future a decade ago he started in Sadoré, a small village across from the research station where he worked.  The women focused primarily on grafting fruit trees and became hugely successful.  Today, years after formal assistance stopped, the village is totally transformed.  Click here to see how the women's efforts are positively impacting their lives and the lives of their families.  The women earn 4 times the average income in Niger.  Virtually all homes are upgraded, many with small refrigerators, a true luxury in a country nicknamed the Frying Pan of the Sahel.  The women are well dressed, hundreds of their children have gone on to secondary school and dozens to university. 

Sadoré is a wonderful story of sustained success, but hard to replicate given its reliance on fruit trees.  Can we create sustainable success with vegetables, a much larger market with widespread demand?

It looks like the answer is “yes,” but it’s early to tell for sure since none of our sites have been totally weaned off support and only the Leadership Academy uses the scale needed to double the average income in the country.  We’ll be closely monitoring results as support is withdrawn during 2017 and will have more to share over the coming year.  Stay tuned.

Farmers of the Future: Is it Successful?

As you read in the last post, the first “Big S” to confirm in 2017 is whether Farmers of the Future is successful.  After 5 years of pilot testing we’re confident the answer is “yes!”

Farmers of the Future is a prime example of our philosophy of “enlightened trial and error.”  We started with a powerful idea -  to change the mindset of subsistence farmers and teach them to approach farming as a business.  That objective has never changed, but almost every executional element to achieve it has.

Changing someone’s mind is no easy task.  In fact, it’s about the hardest thing you can do.  (Just watch a Democrat and Republican try to convince each other of their point of view.)  And adult men are particularly set in their ways.  That’s why we focus on women and children to create the change.  We want women in the community to earn twice the average income in Niger and their children to see farming as a good source of income. 

Initially, tree grafting was going to be the major source of income.  But the demand for fruit trees turned out to be limited.  So we shifted focus to vegetables.  That required each woman to double the plot size she was tending which in turn required a whole new approach to irrigation. 

Thanks to a grant from Rotary International we’ve created a showcase site which incorporates all these learnings.  The Leadership Academy Garden started up last fall and initial results look promising.

The program for school children also went through major change.  Our initial attempt was overly ambitious, requiring too much classroom time and too much teacher training.  So we greatly simplified the program.  Students learn by doing, working in the gardens under the supervision of FOF technicians.  Additionally, guest speakers share personal stories of how farming transformed their lives. The program is working well and many students are dreaming of making big money through farming. 

After 5 years of enlightened trial and error we’re confident we have a program that is practical and effective.  But is it sustainable?  That’s a question for our next post.