A contest of ideas to change African lives — deadline to vote is tomorrow at noon EDT!
A new collaboration and idea aggregator site called Africa Rural Connect launched recently, with the mission of improving lives in sub-Saharan Africa by connecting rural farmers of sub-Saharan Africa, members of the African Diaspora, development practitioners, scholars, technology innovators, returned Peace Corps Volunteers, and anyone who cares about Africa.
Developed by the National Peace Corps Association — the independent group of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers — the site offers anyone a platform for proposing ideas for Africa, and for endorsing and/or helping to develop the ideas that others have proposed. According to project director Molly Mattessich, the project was the brain child of returned Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Africa and developed energy and ideas to create sustainable change in their communities.
According to contest guidelines, people who care about rural poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa and the importance of agricultural development can submit, rate, and comment on ideas, proposals and analyses, all of which will form action plans aimed at improving the livelihoods of millions of subsistence farmers, their families, and their communities.
Idea categories include agribusiness, communication, post-harvest losses, and water resources. (Read category descriptions.)
Anyone can create a profile on the Africa Rural Connect (ARC) website, and post ideas — anything from a scrap of an idea to a full-fledged proposal. If your idea is not fully developed, you can invite collaboration from others in the ARC community to offer feedback, and build on your initial thoughts.
If you would rather wait to offer your own ideas, you can also read the ideas of others and endorse them, or “improve” the ideas, based on your own insights to make those ideas stronger.
A complete plan includes these elements:
- Summary – Outline the problem or challenge being solved. Give the objective of the plan, the methods of achieving it, and the anticipated results. Include how this approach is new/unique and will be more successful than other approaches.
- Needs Assessment – Present an analysis of the conditions faced in the targeted area. Explain why such conditions deserve greatest attention, are of greatest concern, and why these specific challenges have hindered development in the locale.
- Required Resources – Clearly state the financial and other resources needed for the initiative. Indicate how the resources will be used. Will the initiative be self-sustaining, or will it require further injections of resources and management?
- Business Case – To the extent that a proposed action plan involves private sector initiatives or considerations, present a strategic marketing plan, best thoughts on operating issues, funding requirements and similar business supporting material.
- Plan and Execution – Describe the initiative, the target audience, and the method of achieving results, including how political support cam be raised and operational issues resolved. Include a schedule of activities, and the people and/or organizations that will be used in project execution.
- Real World Impact – Indicate the results of the initiative being implemented. Include scope of impact, how many people will be affected and where, and anticipated time to achieve results.
Between August and November, one idea will be judged a winner on the 15th of each month, earning $3,000. (Second place wins $2,000., third place wins $1,000.) The top ten ideas with the most endorsements appear on the Leaderboard page, and will be judged — along with other monthly winners — by a panel of judges for the Grand Prize of $20,000. at the end of the contest and announced in early December. Prize money is intended to help get the winning ideas off the ground.
The panel of judges includes:
- Carol Bellamy, President and CEO, World Learning
- Wilber James, Managing General Partner, Rockport Capital
- Angélique Kidjo, Singer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador
- Bruce McNamer, President and CEO, TechnoServe
Currently, the top idea on the site — 223 endorsements— submitted by EFO from Australia, is to “create a solar-powered energy revolution across West Africa“:
This project aims to start a solar power energy revolution across West Africa. Targeting the key areas of Health, Education, Livelihoods and Skills Training, the project with the strategic implementation of solar power installations will provide greater opportunities in Benin, Mali and Sierra Leone.
The second most endorsed idea — with 213 endorsements — from Cicely Brown of Nigeria is called “Zittnet — harnassing information to make rural markets work better“:
Using appropriate ICT to make information available on-site and in real-time in remote markets, Zittnet aims to make rural markets work more efficiently, driving greater economic value from agricultural activities benefitting the economic and social livelihoods of the poor farming communities which dominate the local economy.
Check out a television interview with ARC’s project director Molly Mattessich of the National Peace Corps Association.
SUSTAINABLE FARMING IN RURAL AFRICA
Rural and marginalized Africa enjoys existence of large farms, manpower and variety of food crops. These include maize, beans, sorghum, bananas (matoke) cassava, soyabeans, cowpeas, pigeon peas, millet, finger millet and many more. The main challenge in rural Africa is to sustain and develop food production.
The Large farms have been neglected since they are being taken care by the old folks, youth having fled to search for well paying jobs in the cities. The wide variety of food crops has reduced to beans and maize. The change in eating Culture has contributed to this. Sorghum, millet, cassava arrowroots sweet potatoes, cowpeas, pigeon peas and others are being looked down upon as primitive food crops. Yet the amount of rainfalls being received in some areas cannot support beans and maize farming in large scale.
The lack of viable seeds, pests, storage, and proper means of transport, market for agricultural produce and proper farming skills and practices has been the contributing factor to food insecurity in rural Africa.
In general Agriculture has been neglected by the government and given little or no support
The availability of the right seeds for right season and right soil will gear the farmer into right direction. Viable seeds can be made available by the government through work for food programes or subsidized prices .The NGO`s can also come in through communal projects and avail the seeds to farmers.
Malawi today they have plenty of grains because the government played a big role in helping the farmers.
Organic manure (Animal Droppings) is readily available in rural Africa but very few use it. Proper use of fertilizers whether artificial or organic should be applied in farming. Use of fertilizers will lead to increased yield but if applied incorrectly can lead to poor soil PH and hence affecting the yield.
iii. Pests control
Government through the agricultural officers should come up with proper planning to provide pesticides and even spray the farms at vegetative, flowering and fruit forming stages. The NGOs can support the government in crop care and this can also create employment at rural level for the youth. Many governments today in Africa are looking for ways to create employment for the youth. Why not invest heavily in food production? Actually farming today is seen as a practice for the aged and illiterate folks.
Due to poor storage methods available to rural farmers the little that is harvested is destroyed by weevils and moulds. This can be solved in two folds.
• Stored grains be treated
• Government collect grains from farmers and in return avail materials to farmers to construct proper stores
v. Transportation and marketing of the produce.
By opening up the farming areas the farmers will be able to access markets for their produce. The ministry of Agriculture should also be relocated from the main cities to rural farming areas. They will be able to connect well with the farmers effectively.
Government should also give subsidizy to millers to manufacture millet, sorghum and cassava flour. The ministry of health should educate the population on proper diet this will reduce over reliance on rice, beans and maize as the stable foods.
NGos to help the farmers to access the best prices for their surplus produce, this will eliminate the middle men who exploite the farmers.
vi. Irrigation schemes
This can be facilitated by the government through the ministry of Agriculture and ministry of Water through digging of boreholes and provision of equipments for irrigation severe arid regions. In these areas people are majorly pastoralists and have lots of idle time (wasted time).
SUSTAINING RURAL FARMING IN AFRICA.
After eliminating all the short falls affecting the food production, the big plan is how to maintain and develop the farming in the rural areas.
This shifts the goal from food production to income generating farming. Most farmers in rural Africa are occupied for only 6months in a year. The other six can be utilized profitably if farming is sustained.
Food production can be supported well by the following.
• Fruit farming – paw paws, grafted mangoes, oranges passions, bananas and avocadoes.
This will bring income to support the farmer in buying fertilizers, paying school fees etc
• Poultry farming- This will provide
– More income
– Job opportunities
• Dairy farming
This falls into place without much trouble, cows will get their food from the farm and the additional income will enable the farmer to meet the expenses incurred in maintenance of dairy farming. This can be done on small scale basis, 3-5 cows
In return the farmer will get – milk, manure, income from the milk and employment.
• Cattle, Goats and Sheep Ranching
With the above 3 projects in place, the farmer can easily venture into ranching. The land is available. The farmer having savings from the other projects will be able to get help from micro-financing institutions to buy animals and rear them for six months and sell at profit.
This will provide
– Job opportunities for youth
All these process/ stages in sustaining and developing rural farming ion Africa will create
Jobs for the educated youth.
Stop rural- urban migration.
Congestion in the slums will go down.
Crime rate will go down.
The government will also have more revenue collected from the farmers
Food production security will be enhanced
Healthy working nation
Rachel Kalumu Mwangangi
P.O. Box 60594 – 00200