Holiday Update 2018: 13 years and counting!

It has been an extraordinarily busy year for Pencils for Kids, one that brought us recognition on the world stage in Paris and also tremendous sadness at the passing of our Farmers of the Future leader and visionary Professor Dov Pasternak.  

Farmers of the Future has pivotal year:

This has been a pivotal year for the Farmer of the Future program. In 2018 Professor Dov Pasternak, father of the Farmers of the Future, died at the age of 78. Dov was an extraordinary visionary, humanitarian, mentor and friend. Farmers of the Future was the culmination of his 50+ years in agricultural development and he was thrilled with our progress.  Our partner, Eliminate Poverty Now, and Pencils for Kids are committed to continuing his legacy.

Read more about Dov here.

Photo of Dov with Robin in Libore.

Farmers of the Future is a partnership between Pencils for Kids and Eliminate Poverty Now (EPN, an NGO in the USA), and from inception has been guided by Professor Dov Pasternak.  The Farmers of the Future (FOF) program encourages farmers to think of farming as a business.  It promotes the cultivation of high value irrigated crops, primarily vegetables, and provides training and opportunity, so that farmers can begin to prosper and not just survive.

Together with EPN, we are sharing here this year’s highlights:

Awareness Breakthrough:

We presented Farmers of the Future at Niger’s 5 Year Planning Conference in Paris. The conference was hosted by Niger’s President and attended by all senior government officials and major players in international development.  

John, Robin, and Hamani in Paris.

Photo of John Craig, Robin Mednick, Hamani Djibo in Paris

photo of Robin meeting the President of Niger

Photo of Robin meeting the President of Niger


Successful Completion of the USAID-funded expansion:

With funding from USAID, Farmers of the Future successfully expanded to 5 new villages and 12 new associations. The gardens are so impressive that local officials and members of the World Bank have asked us to submit a proposal for a new project which could double again the FOF footprint in Niger.


woman holding fruit basket

The Dov Pasternak Horticultural Training Centre:

We are creating the pre-eminent horticultural training Centre in West Africa, named in honour of Dov.  The conference room opened officially in January 2017 and land has been acquired for the training gardens. Many tributes poured in for Dov at the Opening and those who had worked with him and knew him spoke glowingly of his many accomplishments. He was humbled and touched by the outpouring of appreciation.  Additional classrooms are under construction and a detailed curriculum is in development. When completed, the Centre will expand the number of horticultural technicians essential for sustainable development.

Photos above: Sign above the new Professor Dov Horticultural Training Centre and photo of crowds at the launch, photo of the new lecture hall of the Training centre, and photo of Robin speaking at the launch


The Farmers of the Future Education Centre:

We are turning the FOF showcase site at the Leadership Academy into a complete Education Centre where visitors will learn first-hand the transformative power of the FOF model. The site will include a video screening room and self guided tour of the Leadership Academy Garden.


Photo of the First Lady of the Niger visiting one of our FOF sites.


Update on our new Horticultural Apprentices

For the past few years, we have been training horticultural technicians in our Farmers of the Future program. Hiring apprentices has been an important part of our strategy to build capacity in this sector.

Apprentices must have a diploma in agriculture, environment or some other socio-economic field of study.  There is both a written and oral test to ensure communication skills are excellent, as the apprentices will become future teachers to the many women in the FOF gardens.

The strategy is learning by doing!!!!

  • Nursery preparation
  • Bed preparation
  • Soil preparation
  • Transplantation / Planting
  • Treatment (bio preparation)
  • Harvesting
  • Rotation of crops.

Each apprentice is given his/her own plot of land for practice. They also live in the villages where they will be working to learn more about the lives of the people and their culture specific to their area.

This year we have hired five new apprentices and are grateful to The Travel Agent Next Door, a Canadian company, that not only has chosen us as their official charity but who has, along with many of its individual agents and suppliers been incredibly generous and supportive of our efforts to help train horticultural technicians in Niger.

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Photos above of our new apprentices



Scholarships for Girls

Our Scholarships for Girls program reached another exciting milestone this year with three more girls completing their Secondary education and passing the most challenging nationwide exams.  This brings our total to 29 girls who have now graduated from Secondary School since the initiation of our Scholarship Program. They have become role models in the community for so many young women.

THREE GRADUATES 2018: Zeinabou Bague Oumarou, Halima Amadou Soumana, Fourera Hamadou Issaka

Zeinabou Bague Oumarou, Halima Amadou Soumana, Fourera,  Hamadou Issaka



Cooper Sewing Centre celebrates its 10th year anniversary!

This year the Centre has expanded by including a record 65 girls in first year, 37 in second year and 20 in the third year of the program.

The Cooper Centre, founded by P4K with generous support from the Cooper family, is a sewing program where girls take a three-year course, pay their own tuition, and participate in examinations that are accredited by the National Sewing Association.  The goal is to give girls and women, who are no longer in school, a second chance to get a profession. P4K started this program with only four girls in 2008, helping them acquire an income generating skill. They are learning embroidery, sewing, knitting and dyeing and also get courses in numeracy and literacy. Students pay a yearly fee to help cover the costs of the teachers.

Thanks to the generosity of one donor we have now purchased five knitting machines and added a new course to our curriculum.


Photo of sewing students 2018-2019



Art, Theatre, and Computer Literacy

In June 2016 we officially opened our “La Vie Peut Etre Belle” » Art Program. The sewing Centre girls are being taught how to draw designs for their fashions, and also learning how to create embroidery designs. People are also commissioning the Art Centre to design signboards for marketing their businesses.

In 2014 we introduced La Liberté d’Etre a theatre program that is continuing to use drama as a way to discuss educational themes and social issues that are important to the community. The theatre program is now looking to promote the local Zarma culture and customs through drama.

YEP is a unique program that trains youth to become one-on-one tutors to their parents or to other adults. It has been in operation now for four years. This year we have trained 16 adults, four of whom are local policemen. They are paying to take classes from our 5 Secondary students who are their tutors. Once they complete their studies they receive a certificate that enhances their job opportunities and salaries in the workforce.   



Other News

Pencils for Kids has started building its first Basketball court. This is an opportunity to partner with Hoops 4 Kids, ( a not for profit organization that helps young people not only learn the skills of the game, but uses sport as a way to teach teamwork, health, conflict resolution and life skills. Stay tuned!



Photos of the construction and the site where the court will be.


Special Guests in Toronto!

A special visit to Toronto by Hamani Djibo, Gaston Kaba and John Craig caps off a terrific year!

In June, Hamani Djibo made his first trip to Canada for a Rotary convention with fellow Nigerien and Rotarian Gaston Kaba. John Craig visited from the US, on behalf of Eliminate Poverty Now. It was the first opportunity for so many supporters in Toronto to meet our three colleagues and hear them speak about our work and the partnership we have forged over the last decade.  We had a series of successful meetings with partners and donors and everyone was inspired by their stories and commitment to improve the lives of the people of Niger.


Our team meets with Gaston, Hamani and John



Thank you for supporting the work of Pencils for Kids and letting the children and women know how much you care!

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