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International Ag Education - Rwanda and Kenya

Since taking a year off from teaching at Tillamook I have become involve with a project that could help develop Agriculture Education opportunities in Rwanda and Kenya, Africa. There could be a chance for Oregon Agriculture students and teachers to gain experience with International Agriculture and to help make a difference for students and farmers in Rwanda. I was invited there by PROCOM Rwanda, a local nonprofit that is demonstrating to local farmers modern farming practices. I am currently finalizing the project proposal for consideration for funding. PROCOM would like to see be back to start ground work a pilot project provided we secure funding.

We are hoping to develop an after school club, Future Farmers of Rwanda and the Future Farmers of Kenya. This would be hands on activity based club after school led by collegiate FFA students working as interns who would also have the opportunity to do on site visits to family farms. It is hope to eventually bring classes to the schools however that may take some time since the Ministry of Education has complete control over curriculum based on a very rigid British model, changes are slow and difficult.

Skills learned through the FFR and the FFK could be directly transferred home hopefully bringing about change to Rwanda and Kenya farms. Most schools have 1-2 hectares (2 ½-5 acres) that could be developed into a school farm (this is about the size of many farms in Rwanda) hoping to demonstrate best practices in both plant and animal science. Hands on activities need to be developed that take into consideration issues, traditions and limitations, emphasizing the need for a school farm in the middle of the community that can show how better methods can lead to change. We will also need to keep in mind that Rwandans have farmed this land for centuries and that they are knowledgeable of the land and its challenges, so a careful and thoughtful introduction of new technology will be required.

We believe that strong pilot could open the door for opportunities to expand across East Africa. We have a opportunity to make change, through demonstration of good Agricultural practices on the PROCOM's model farm, developing a school based demonstration farm, and the development of adult education workshops within a community. We hope we can get the subsistence farmer comfortable with new practices to take the risk. Risk to the subsistence farmer is a serious issue. Failure can easily mean starvation and children dying. Would you be willing to take risk if failure could easily result in seeing one or more of your children die from starvation or disease brought on by malnutrition? The safe bet is to do what you know and are comfortable with and that you know you can survive with. It will be a long term project to get farmers to embrace improved cultivation methods; with the goal to get them to the point of being comfortable enough to take the risk to grow other crops. The first of August PROCOM shipped the first 2 combines to arrive in Rwanda it has created a lot of interest.

We are also looking at developing Adult Education workshops two or three times a year at a training facility we hope to develop on PROCOM's main farm which near one of the schools where the FFR will be piloted. Ag Teachers could have the opportunity to spend 2 -3 weeks in Rwanda leading demonstrations and providing valuable information to Rwanda farmers, at the same time taking back home valuable experiences to their schools. I would enjoy the opportunity to share more about the project and opportunities as they develop. I have a PowerPoint on Rwanda Agriculture, the challenges they face and how we hope to make a difference, I would be glad to make presentations to classes that might be interested in International Agriculture in the third world if it works around my school schedule. If anyone might have an interest in becoming involved please feel free to contact me.

Max Sherman
Tillamook High School
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503 999-3202