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Published: August 18th 2009
My blog has been getting a bit of activity recently, perhaps due to the recent spotlight on Ghana with Obama's visit in July, perhaps just because. I've also been doing alot of thinking about Ghana, MoFA and my time overseas and thought I would post a bit of an update.
The information I gathered during my time in the Northern Region was used as a basis to help guide the continued partnership between EWB and MoFA. The roles and programs have changed over the years, and continue to grow and strengthen, but always focused on helping farmers pull themselves out of poverty. The partnership continues today with the successful ‘Agriculture as a Business’ program developed by both EWB and MoFA.
As you may have read in my past entries, for my friends in Northern Ghana, farming is more than a means to feed one’s self, its a way of life. From Tamale (the biggest city) to Tali (a tiny village) people pick up hoes, seed and machetes and head to the fields to grow their crops and their futures. Because agriculture has such a far reaching spread, it also has tremendous opportunity to transform livelihoods. Strong agricultural returns lead to increased access to healthcare, education, and the ability to achieve one’s maximum potential. I saw it with Maamie (see entry 'Farming, Dancing, Thinking') - as a single mother, she used agriculture, entrepreneurialism, and the guidance of her MoFA extension agent to build a successful small agricultural business and put her three children through secondary school.
MoFA recognizes the power of agriculture to drive similar change for those living in poverty and has asked EWB to help maximize this potential through helping to develop the Agriculture as a Business Program. The program focuses on supporting groups of farmers through the transition of agricultural entrepreneurialism. Its not providing a handout, its helping to build opportunity and potential for Ghanaians to create their own future. It’s exciting, its shown what type of impact it can have, and it works! Development experts from around the world from the Gates foundation to large multi-lateral organizations are looking at the work of MoFA and EWB to better understand what it means to build on strengths of stakeholders and create change from the bottom up. You can read more about the Agriculture as a Business Program here: http://www.grandriver.ewb.ca/agriculture-business-program-1
I had many questions while I was in Ghana asking what people could do to help out and I tried the best I could to provide answers and suggestions. Right now however, its never been easier. I am working with the local chapter of EWB here in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario and we are actively supporting and excited about the Agriculture as a Business Program run by MoFA with support from EWB. Currently we have one volunteer who is in Ghana working as a consultant with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. You can read about her adventures here: http://ghanaliz.blogspot.com/
You can donate directly to the Agriculture as a Business program through the EWB - Grand River, here: www.grandriver.ewb.ca/donate
Alternately, on Tuesday August 25, 2009, I will be jumping on a treadle pump in Waterloo Town Square to raise funds and awareness about the program. You can learn more about my efforts and sponsor me here: http://grandriver.ewb.ca/pumpathon/Alyssa
One last story to leave you with, I returned to Canada from Ghana just after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana four years ago. It provided an interesting back drop to the ongoing struggle I was facing due to some of the stark discrepancies between Ghanaian and Canadian societies. In the midst of this ongoing internal battle, I received an email from a friend who was in Ghana. In it, she mentioned something that I have to admit (as corny as it sounds) brought a tear to my eye. My old coworkers had decided to take up a collection to help support those affected by the hurricane in the USA. After having just spent 4 months working side by side with them, I knew that they were all already stretched to the limit, but somehow they each had found just a little more to contribute to those who were in need. Here I was, struggling to figure out why they had so little compared to those around me who seemed to have so much, and yet there they were, giving even more. To me it was a wake up call and has defined what it means to be a global citizen. It didn’t matter where they were from, what struggles they were facing, or how much they had themselves: my friends in Ghana saw an opportunity to help and they acted on it. No matter the size or amount, they recognized that by doing something they were joining a greater movement and together the many small actions could have enormous impact. Think about what type of world this would be if we all followed that lead.
Right now, we (you, me, all my friends in Canada) have the opportunity to return the favour. I hope you can help me do so.
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