The Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund provides support to selected students and graduates of Hope Africa University who propose and implement development projects with poverty-stricken women. Almost all of the projects involve agriculture; animal husbandry and crop cultivation.
John McCready works with Hope Africa University and recently was designated as an Adjunct Professor and Senior Advisor on Development through a Memorandum of Understanding. In anticipation of an exploration of the needs and opportunities for a new agriculture education program in Burundi, John Ellis, President of the Friends Hope Africa University, called me and asked if the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund would support the exploration by meeting with the exploration team, organizing a consultation with our Project Managers, organizing field visits to our agricultural development projects and suggesting other field visits and consultations with key individuals and organizations. To be asked to contribute to the exploration was flattering and to be asked to provide support for the exploration of the needs and opportunities for a new agricultural education program was exciting.
Working with Jean Paul SHAKA, Public Relations Officer at Hope Africa University and Coordinator of the Exploration, I was fortunate to be involved in supporting the exploration process.
An Agriculture Education Program at Hope Africa University
Burundi is consistently ranked among the hungriest countries in the world. Recent estimates indicate that up to 60% of the population suffers from serious malnutrition. This is particularly significant for children because of the negative impact malnutrition has on early childhood physical and mental development. Poor nutrition at any age directly affects health and productivity; the population density and limits on arable land also compound the problems. Without significant growth in production and improved distribution of food products with high nutritional value, these problems will intensify and, over time, lead to widespread famine.
Friends of Hope Africa University (FHAU) and Hope Africa University (HAU) have begun an exploration of the development of an educational and training program that would contribute to capacity development in agriculture; agricultural development in Burundi. Since 90% of the population consists of rural, subsistence farmers, this program would strive for a national reach with the strength to impact the development of new knowledge and practice in agriculture throughout all of Burundi. However, the first step is to ensure we are working strategically and effectively. Therefore, the process started with an exploration, a planning stage that sought answers to the following questions:
- What are the current agricultural needs and opportunities in Burundi?
- What are the unmet agricultural needs and opportunities that HAU might address?
- With what national and local networks and strategic players should HAU collaborate?
- How might HAU utilize current resources and develop new ones to support improving agricultural knowledge, practice and productivity in Burundi?
These questions were investigated by skilled and experienced evaluators making onsite field evaluations and conducting interviews with the major stakeholders in Burundi. Gina and Travis Sheets, Senior Fellows of the Sagamore Institute, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, served as the evaluators for the initial assessment of needs and opportunities to be considered. They have wide experiences as farmers, educators and administrators of agriculture programs and they spent five years working on agricultural development in Liberia (see https://www.sagamoreinstitute.org/leadership/gina-travis-sheets). They visited Burundi in May 2019 to conduct the initial assessment and to answer the questions above.
The initial HAU efforts will evolve from the results of the data gathered during the visit by Gina and Travis Sheets. Possibilities include a professional certificate and a program based on the “Land Grant University” extension models whereby HAU would train, develop and supervise agricultural field agents to work with farmers and monitor regional agricultural production.
The goal is for an effective professional program based on both theory and practice, so that program graduates are motivated and skilled to teach and motivate others and are able to evaluate needs, prescribe strategic solutions, teach procedures, assist farmers and monitor changes in agriculture performance. The academic structure would be built from existing HAU capabilities and assets, both physical and relational, with the common goals of excellence in academic and applied outcomes and a Christian motive for service.
With the onsite exploration completed, the Sheets will now prepare and submit a report and recommendations for the consideration of Friends of Hope Africa University and Hope Africa University. If a new agricultural development education program is developed and pursued, it will be a very important way for Hope Africa University to be actively addressing its motto; Facing African Realities. To have impact on nutrition and food security, the new program will need to ensure that local farmers have access to the benefits of the training so that new, more productive practices are made available and used by the local farmers in communities throughout Burundi.
Consulting with Our Project Managers
Gina and Travis Sheets held a consultation with our Project Managers. Each of the attending Project Managers described their project; development projects that involve animal husbandry and crop cultivation.
The Sheets asked questions and the Project Managers were given an opportunity to highlight the needs for agricultural education and development.
Visiting Two of Our Development Project Locations
The exploration team visited two the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund project locations.
The first field visit was to a goats and rice development project being pursued by Guillaume GAHUNGU and an association of 16 Batwa women.
- Supporting Batwa Women in Breeding Goats and Cultivating Rice at Rubirizi in Mutimbuzi Commune (2018), Project Manager: Guillaume GAHUNGU
This relatively new development project has 12 female goats and one male. At the time of the visit, the association members were expecting a large harvest of rice.
The second onsite visit was to Kabezi, a location with two goats and crops development projects, two associations, each of which has spawned an extension project with a second association (four associations in total).
- Improved Food Security at Kabezi (2012), Project Managers: Marie Nadège Twagirayezu and Anicet Nyandwi
- Development of Vegetable Culture for the Self-Financing of IAP Twubake (2013), Project Manager: Anicet Nyandwi
The four associations have established a federation of the four associations. Therefore, there is cooperation within the associations and cooperation among the associations.
The associations have had many crops and many harvests. Most of the harvests are distributed among the members and some of the harvest is sold to produce income for the associations that allows for more renting of land and more cultivation of crops.
The first Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund grant to the first association paid for the first five goats. At the time of the field visit, the four associations had 105 goats and had sold 125 goats for income to support individual families.