An incredible trip to Niger, January 2018!

After a successful trip to Paris for the five year planning conference on the Renaissance of Niger, John Craig, from Eliminate Poverty Now and I headed to Niger for many followup meetings.  It was an incredibly busy and productive trip.

We officially launched our Training Centre for Horticultural Technicians in Libore, on the same site as our Education and Apprenticeship Centre.  We named it in honour of Professor Dov Pasternak, whose vision and leadership are responsible for the Farmers of the Future program.

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Dov has devoted 50 years of his life to agriculture in dry regions, 10 of those working for ICRISAT in Niger, and the next ten leading our project.

Robin, John and Little Djibril

Robin, John and Little Djibril

 

The new training room is large, beautifully furnished, and can seat 70.  It’s the finest conference room in the area by far.  We invited lots of people:  people who worked with Dov during his years in Niger, everyone who has played a role in our Farmers of the Future (FOF) development, representatives from all the FOF woman’s associations, and officials of all sorts.

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The sewing girls from the Cooper Centre

The sewing girls from the Cooper Centre

 

Amadou Madougou, Robin, Chef de Canton, John

Amadou Madougou, Robin, Chef de Canton, John

the women

the women

 

There were several speeches delivered in the courtyard, including my own, on behalf of our Team, this time in French.  We arranged for tv coverage.  The entire event was recorded and a clip appeared on that night’s news.

Ibrahim, representing the Mayor of Libore

Ibrahim, representing the Mayor of Libore

Hamani Djibo, President of LIBO

Hamani Djibo, President of LIBO

Robin addresses the crowd at the launch of the Professor Dov Training Centre

Robin addresses the crowd at the launch of the Professor Dov Training Centre

 

After the speeches, everyone entered the room where we screened one of our new FOF training videos which drives home key messages of the FOF philosophy in a very entertaining way.  People were laughing, so they definitely appreciated the humour in it. And friends of Dov’s started sharing their memories of him and the important changes he brought to agriculture in Niger.

The Training room

The Training room

 

Showing training video, Farming with Precision

Showing training video, Farming with Precision

After the ceremony we’re heading back to the car when the officers from the Sadoré Women’s Association call us over.  These were the original pioneers of FOF and have become highly successful.  They said they used to refer to Dov as the “Father of the Poor” but they can’t call him that anymore.  For them he’s now the “Father of the Rich!” They have made a lot of money using Dov’s training, and are now so much better off than they used to be.  Their speciality is tree nurseries.

Balleyara woman speaking on behalf of her group

Balleyara woman speaking on behalf of her group

Here is an excerpt from the English version of the speech:

“Professor Dov is sorry he cannot be with us today.

 Dov loves the people of Niger. He has often said you are the most gracious, kind and hospitable people he has ever met in his life. He has dedicated over 20 years of his life to improving the lives of the people of Niger through agriculture. He is one of the finest people that John, Hamani and I have ever met – a man with humility, integrity and determination. It is fitting that we name this Training Centre in his honour. It will be forever called the Professor Dov Training Centre. And we hope it will inspire a new generation of technicians, men and women, to follow in his footsteps.

Dov passed along these words for me to read to you:

“Dear Friends:

Thank you for calling this Centre in my name.

Niger has plenty of water, plenty of sun and plenty of hard working people.

I am fully convinced that Niger can get itself out of poverty.

What it most needs is the provision of skills that will lead it out of poverty.

And this is what this Centre will do.”

 

Our sites look terrific. There are now 18 FOF gardens, in 11 villages.  Gueriguinde specializes in Tree Nurseries, like the Sadore women, and when we started this garden back in 2010, it was largely empty and we were concerned it wouldn’t ever take off. In fact we brought the Sadore women to inspire them years ago. Today, it was packed with plants and the women replace the plants as soon as they are sold. In Ecole Centre they specialize in Moringa, and in Gonzare there were onions everywhere, in neat rows, waiting to be harvested. The Leadership Academy will become our Education Site, where we hope visitors will come to get explanations, see our videos, etc…..and be a place where school buses with students, women’s groups and other associations can come to see what we are doing.  John went to our other sites 90 minutes away in Balleyara that we started nine months ago, and they were amazing. They have much more land to use, and the women are strong and enthusiastic. We brought them in for the Opening of the Training Centre and they insisted on speaking and sharing their story of hope. Women from each site were represented at this Ceremony.

women working in the tree nursery

women working in the tree nursery

 

We had meetings from morning until night with potential donors as well as Government officials.  We met with the Minister of Education, the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of Technical and Vocational Training, the Minister for the Empowerment of Women and the Minister of Planning.  All are now fully aware of our Farmers of the Future program, are supportive of the concept,  and are finding ways to help us start our Training program.

I can’t believe it has been 12 years since we began, wanting to help a few children acquire the pencils they needed.  Today we have a fully independent Cooper Sewing Centre, Scholarships for Girls, and income generating gardens for hundreds of women.

We are looking forward to what the future will bring next and are forever grateful to our team, partners and friends who have helped us get this far!

Robin, John and the technicians

Robin, John and the technicians

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P4K attends the Niger Renaissance Conference in Paris

Pencils for Kids, along with our colleagues Eliminate Poverty Now and LIBO were invited by the Minister of Planning of Niger to attend a two day conference in Paris, December 13-14, on Niger’s Renaissance – the five year plan from 2017 to 2021. We were honoured to be invited.

The conference set-up — ready for everyone to arrive!

The conference set-up — ready for everyone to arrive!

 It was an extraordinary conference, attended by the President of Niger, representatives and Heads of State from many countries and organizations, and hundreds of people from around the world. Its intent was to encourage investment in Niger and to inspire donors and others to work together to improve the economic opportunities for the people of Niger, paritcularly women and youth.

We were asked to present our Farmers of the Future program, in three minutes, to let people know what we had achieved and where we wanted to go in the field of agriculture and women’s income generation. We recommended a few things including the creation of a Horticultural Training Centre to increase the number of horticultural technicians in the country.

Robin and Hamani

Robin and Hamani

Our speech went over well and many people came up to us asking to visit our FOF sites and to get copies of our FOF Operational Manual and our FOF Technical Manual.  We were also approached by others who were interested in potentially helping us with financing.We were invited to attend the official dinner with the President and we sat beside the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Population and the Ambassador from Niger to USA and Canada. We were introduced to the World Bank representative, who was impressed by our program, as well as the First Lady.

It was an excellent two days with many contacts made and an opportunity to put the FOF program in front of hundreds of people who had never heard of it before.

We are so grateful to the Minister of Planning and the Niger Government for including us in this most important event, and look forward to continuing to play our part in the expansion of our FOF program.

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Robin Mednick with Eliminate Poverty Now Co-founder John Craig (left) and Hamani Djibo, LIBO President (right)

View more photos from the conference on Flickr >

Farmers of the Future Lettuce Harvest

Our Farmers of the Future program revolves around teaching young students the importance of Agriculture as a business, in addition to training their mothers how to operate gardens with high yield crops. Each semester we test the students’ knowledge. In December, the students at Ecole Centre were able to celebrate the lettuce that they had grown at school with a large feast! Afterwards, the technicians took them to their garden to test them, by asking questions about the process of planting and nurturing the lettuce.

Those who gave good answers to the questions, and those who had given extra time to irrigate their plots during weekends and holidays were all given lettuce to take home!

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Raising a glass to all of our supporters!

Photo of "Pencils for Kids" painted on a wine glass

On behalf of Pencils for Kids we want to raise a glass, a wine glass specially painted with the P4K logo by talented Judi Oracheski, to all of our supporters and to the people of Libore! May the year 2017 bring everyone health, happiness and peace of mind.