In Niger, most of what is now produced on farms is consumed by the farmer's household. Eradicating poverty depends on replacing subsistence farming with a market oriented system. In 2010, we are piloting the first Farmers of the Future Program, training primary school children to go beyond subsistence farming techniques, respond to market opportunities and generate new farm income. The goal of this program is to create a new generation of market oriented farmers, receptive to innovation and aware of the environment.
Farmers of the Future is the brainchild of Dov Pasternak, a world-renowned Israeli agricultural scientist who has spent the last 10 years of his life living in Niger, working with ICRISAT and adapting Israeli agricultural technology for the rural poor in Africa. In that decade of work Dov has reduced the cost of drip irrigation techniques and hybridized a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to suit the soil and climate conditions of Africa. He has worked with thousands of local farmers to make the leap from subsistence farming to agribusiness. P4K is also partnering with Eliminate Poverty Now, an excellent American NGO and Dov to expand the FOF program to several more schools in the area to create a showcase for the concept.
Program ActivitiesThe program will comprise three groups of activities:
- 1. Product activities
- 2. Marketing and farm management
- 3. Environmental awareness
In each participating school the program will teach rain-fed agriculture, irrigated agriculture, plant propagation, transformation of farm products and manufacture of income generating products.
Environmental degradation (soil and biodiversity) is a major threat to the livelihoods of the population. Education for environmental conservation will be an essential part of the FOF program.
Marketing and farm management
The village school will build a stand in the village market where school children will sell the products of their agriculture activities at school and at home.Children will be trained in basic methods of marketing, accounting, principles of investment, use of credit and cooperation.
The Education Program
Pencils for Kids and Eliminate Poverty Now are partnering with Dov, local NGO’s and Niger’s Ministry of Education to create the classroom curriculum and expand the program to multiple sites. The goal is to field a rigorous test with quantifiable goals and measurable results that demonstrate the program’s potential to fundamentally change the level of agribusiness in the community. To maximize the impact, the current thinking is to broaden the concept to involve mothers of students in various agribusiness projects and create a "post-graduate garden” where the best students are invited to participate in a for-profit garden which becomes a showcase in the local community for agribusiness techniques.
The participation of parents is essential for the success of the program. Each village will form a parents' education committee headed by the school principal. The education committee will facilitate the implementation of the program and will be responsible for joint parents-children activities such as tree planting, cooking and food transformation taught by mothers, and the art of mat weaving or calabash preparation taught by fathers. To view photos of an example of the Farmers of the Future Program, click here.