In 2015, our three initiatives, collaboration with our NGOs partners, EVCO computer setup and donation and our Poverty Reduction Program all came together beautifully making EVCO able to serve poor communities in Ghana and Liberia.
EVCO collaborated with Equip Africa, a group based in Wilmer, Minnesota, to install five computer labs in Ghana. With One-is-Greater-than-None, a group based in New York, we donated a lab filled with 25 desktop computers in Srafa Kokodo, which is in the Western Region of Ghana. During our trip in June, we installed and donated a computer lab in Pakro Adjinase sponsored by John O’Donnell. We also assessed a future computer lab setup and donation in Bramkrom (near Nkawkaw) in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Later in the year, EVCO made another donation at Pankrono primary school. Overall, we setup and donated eight computer labs in 2015.
We conducted follow-up visits to previous schools to repair computers, give computer workshops, and speak with Chiefs at community gatherings. With our RACHEL program, we started EVCO RACHEL Vacation Classes (ERVC), which gave 60 children and youth a place to gather and learn during the long vacation. This experiment went so well that we are now planning to open more centers and collaborate with District Chief Executives to have ERVC during the long vacation in a few community centers in 2016.
Our 2015 program was put on hold due to the Ebola pandemic in Liberia. We maintained contact with Dormu Kollie, EVCO’s country director. Computers in our two labs, Bolahun and Gbarnga, were all packaged and put away as the entire country took precaution to avoid the spread of the Ebola virus. Fortunately, none of our volunteers or staff members were affected by the disease.
Due to limited mobility during the pandemic, we could not accept or process applications . On September 3, The World Health Organization declared Liberia Ebola-free and many restrictions imposed by the government of Liberia due to the pandemic were lifted, but it was too late to go through the regular application process of building and setting up a computer lab. After going through several applications towards the end of the year, EVCO approved the computer donation application from Shensue Public School in Bong County. In early December, EVCO shipped 15 desktops to Liberia. These computers will be installed and donated at Shensue public school in early 2016.
EVCO Poverty Reduction Program
A lot of progress was made in our Poverty Reduction Program also known as the Village Community Farmers Program (VCFP). This is a farm located on the Afram Plains Peninsula in the Eastern Region of Ghana. In 2011, EVCO purchased 20 acres of land to be used as a practical farm to teach local farmers how to incorporate the raising of farm animals as a means to boost their income and eventually help to get them out of poverty. VCFP currently has nine programs being developed for farmer students to learn from. These programs include goats, pigs, rabbits, grass cutters, guinea fowls, chickens, ducks, turkeys and beekeeping.
Two or our major farm programs were introduced in 2015, namely beekeeping and pig farms. We started by purchasing eight sows and one boar, and we also proceeded to build our first pig pen. In addition, we constructed four boxes to start our beekeeping program. We also introduced our rabbit farm by purchasing six rabbits.
2015 was very significant because for the first time, VCFP had animals from all the nine programs. In addition, we started the construction of our second building, a five-room farm house, which among other things, will be used to accommodate farmer students who live outside the peninsula during training.
In 2015, we experimented with purchasing of 40 two-week old chickens. The aim was to raise and sell them during the Christmas holidays, which proved to be very effective. We have come a long way since we first walked onto our 20-acre farm with our machetes and hoes. For the first time in gour years, VCFP produced income. During the Christmas season, we made $700 from the sale of chickens, goats, and few other farm animals.
The VCFP model is to provide rural farmers the best practices needed to engage in various farm activities that will help them to lift themselves out of poverty. This also means that we will have very knowledgeable staff and workers. We spent a lot of time and money to train our four permanent workers. Kwasi, our country director, took two different courses, grass cutter and beekeeping, and our farm manager Pious received training in the same programs. In addition, Pious also received VET training. As head of livestock, Pious administers medication to farm animals and also performs castrations. Both Eric and Evelyn (farm assistants) are trained to properly take care of all eight farm animals. Both took the beekeeping course in January 2016.
Despite all the progress 2015, we are prepared to take an even larger leap in 2016. As much as we had hoped to bring our second building to the roofing stage by the end of 2015, we fell short because some of our projected budget went to other projects on our scale of preference. One of the projects that has demanded big attention is beekeeping.
The goal of EVCO is to help the less fortunate in village communities. Our efforts through the Village Community Farmers Project (VCFP) is to find the most risk-free way to empower the rural farmer to get out of poverty in the most sustainable way and all of our nine programs are designed to do just that. But among the nine, beekeeping stands out for various reasons. To start, beekeeping demands the least capital and attention. Additionally, it poses the least threat of loss of farm animals. In short, for beekeeping, all one needs is to provide good boxes and a good location and the bees move in and start paying rent!
Since Kwasi Sono graduated from beekeeping training at Somanya in the Eastern Region of Ghana. VCFP has invested heavily in this project. To start, we have substantially expanded our existing program by adding 50 more boxes to our original four boxes in order to spread throughout our 20-acres of land. For longevity, these boxes are properly constructed with mahogany wood and tarp covers to last for many, many years. For a farmer living in a one hut village or a cluster of houses, this is an ideal way of making income with very low risk. Our first ever beekeeping training for farmers which will be a two-week training on beekeeping is currently scheduled for June 2016, and farmers are already signing up.
Already a member of the Ghana Beekeeping Association, VCFP is also partnering with Follow the Honey, a beekeeping company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts (U.S.A.) (www.followthehoney.com) in addition to communicating with Bees Without Borders for further advice.
We are working equally hard for the other programs. Our focus in 2016 as we plan to vigorously start our training is to have startup farm animals for farmers who successfully complete our program. We learned great lessons from many experimental projects in 2015. With these experiences, we have made changes on how we hatch our 2-legs (chickens, ducks, turkeys and guinea fowls) as well as the proper keeping of our 4-legs (rabbits, grass cutters, goats and pigs).
A good livestock farmer does not and should not solely depend on farm animals. The beauty of free range farming is the ability of your farm animals to roam freely. In most farming communities that does not rely on irrigation as it is very difficult to predict rainfall due to climate change, which makes rainfall very unreliable. The beauty of crop farming for a livestock farmer is that you cannot lose! Our plan at VCFP this year is to grow corn, watermelons, and sweet potatoes. Our trick to beat the unreliability is to grow our corn in 3 stages, as this will help us to catch the proper rain opportunity to plant. The good news is that even if we do not catch the correct rain for our crops, our goats, grass cutters, rabbits and pigs will have good dinner for a long time!
As we expand our operations and get closer to full implementation the need for a few necessities cannot be ignored. Although we are trying to be as frugal as possible and to abide strictly by our scale of preference due to our meager budget, we have come to the realization that certain things will not only just make life at the farm a little bit easier, but they will also accelerate our race to self sustainability.
- Bore-Hole Water Supply
Although our land is on the banks of the Afram River, the distance from the farm to the river has gone further to the point that we now pay for a car to bring a few tanks of water to the property every week. The porous soil on the peninsula is famous for its extra dry land during the dry season. Farm animals such as pigs and goats require lots of water for their growth and our ability to supply foliage in the dry season demands a perpetual water supply. A water well at the farm will save a lot of time and money. This will pay for itself in a few years and the benefits will be enormous.
Our goal is to be able to fence the entire property. Our model to provide a free range system requires our farm animals to roam free but at the same time have the ability to live together and give us the ability to grow vegetables and other farm products. In the absence of fencing, our farm help have to chase our goats and pigs around to prevent them from going to other people’s farms to destroy their crops. This wastes time as well as leads to occasional confrontations with other small farmers who cannot afford to lose their crops.
III. Pick-Up Truck
Despite the vast progress we have made in our 4 years of existence, we do not own a car. The need of a car cannot be overemphasized. For the safety of our farm staff and the ability to transport goods, supplementary feed, and farm animals, having a pick-up truck will help our program tremendously.
A lot of progress was made in 2015 to reach our goal of supporting poor village schools with computer technology as well as providing training for the village farmer, but a lot still needs to be done. We believe that EVCO is on the right path towards improving education as well as reducing abject poverty. Achieving these goals demands a lot of sacrifice, dedication and support. We have come a long way and we believe that we can work harder to get closer to our goal in 2016.