Tuesday, March 11, 2008

CENTRE SONGHAI - Help For The Farmers

While the contents of this post was lifted in its entirety from the web site of Songhai Centere it was taken from different pages in the web site to give the reader a broad scope of the organization's activities in a very short space.

In the early 1980's, a small group of people led by Father Godfrey Nzamujo determined that the level of development in Africa was grossly insufficient and sought to restore dignity to the African people. The result was the creation of the Songhai Center. Named after the famed 15th-century Malian empire,

Songhai is a center for training, for production, research and development of sustainable agricultural practices. The movement seeks to augment the standard of living of Africa's populations using the following methods for the creation of viable agricultural enterprises:

Through the use of local resources, traditional and modern methods;
Through the hybridization of traditional and modern agricultural practices;
Through the instruction and implementation of effective management;
Through the encouragement of individual and communal responsibility and initiatives;
Through the inclusion of diverse opinions.

The ambition of Songhai is to foster an environment of creativity and innovation and as a result, reestablish a stable African society. Songhai draws inspiration from "the Timbuctu effect" - Pride, progress and effective result-, by clearly emphasizing all the advantages Africa offers. Citizens can therefore benefit from globalization rather than be excluded from it or solely bear the weight of its effects.


Funds are collected from the sale of Songhai's own products as well as grants from various partners. Most of Songhai's resources are used to finance production activities while a small portion is allocated to administrative expenses. The ongoing objective is to attain 100% financial independence.
Songhai is an institution which seeks to exist via its own efforts and which finances its programs primarily from revenues generated by its own activities. In addition to the internally generated funds, several partners support many of Songhai's investment projects. They include the following organizations:

USAID (United States Agency for International Development) - principal partner
Songhai Support Group (California)

UNDP , HCR, (United Nations Agencies)

RABOBANK Foundation ( The Netherlands)

Accion Verapaz (Spain)

SID (Society for International Development)

IDRC (International Development Research Centre)

Coopération Française (France)

CCFD (Comité Catholique contre la Faim et pour le Développement - Catholic Commission against Hunger and for Development) (France)

Electriciens du Monde (France),

OXFAM Quebec

Songhai France, bringing together several support associations in France (Solidarité Songhai, Songhai-Chasselay, Collecte pour les jeunes installés -Collection for young farmers -, the Parish of Froissy-St, André...) and the governments of Benin


More than 400 students in training in the centers located in Porto Novo, Savalou, Parakou, and Kinwedji for an 18-month training period.

More than 250 farms established in all the regions and managed by the young people trained in Benin; they are brought together under a Network involving local coordinating units.

More than 300 participants from various countries and from all walks of life take part each year in short-term training programs

More than 150 permanent staff, facilitators, technicians and administrators

More than 4,000 visitors every year.

More than 40 partners from public and private institutions, NGOs, associations, universities, and international institutions like USAID and UNDP.


For agriculture to become a viable force of development, it must be extensive and holistic, going beyond purely agricultural knowledge (integrated production - animal husbandry, fish farming, appropriate technologies) and include education in management, organization, and planning.
In pursuing these goals, Songhai is involved in various activities, highlighting sectors leading up to and resulting from agricultural production.
Its principal activities are completely inter-related. They are as follows:

The objectives of the agricultural production are as follows:

Promote the integrated system of agricultural production (diversification).

Manage the production units with a goal of making them profitable as well as remaining conscious of the environment.

Improve the productivity of production units (training given by Songhai cannot be credible if it is not validated on the field via profitability and research).

Supervise the student farmers and trainees.

Provide agricultural services for the installed farmers and the Songhai centers (ex. production of seeds and materials).


To put the finishing touches on the practice of integration and bring together all the sectors, a biogas production system was established. Methane is produced from animal excrement, plant wastes, and sewage water (from showers and toilets). This is used as a source of energy. Today, the methane from the system feeds the kitchens of the student farmers' canteen and the center's restaurants.

As a method for refining polluted water, the green method of purification
consists of purifying water by planting aquatic plants such as water hyacinth, water lettuce, and a fern called azolla. These plants have the tendency to absorb organic materials, which are suspended in water. After running through a certain number of basins where the plants are cultivated, the water, which is now sufficiently filtered, can be used again for fish farming

Centre Songhai

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Action Aid – Maintaining Focus

While much of the world has been fixated on the violence that followed flawed elections in Keny’s presidential elections in December of 2007, hard working NGOs have been able to keep a focus on other problems in the country as well.

Below is a report published by ActionAid on February 29, 2008 trying to raise awareness about a drought that is threatening lives in of people as well as livestock in Kenya.


Kenya’s pastoralist communities in crisis

29 February 2008

Drought threatens North Eastern Province and areas of the southern Coast region.

“Pastoralist people are facing crisis in Kenya’s North Eastern Province (bordering Somalia) and in some neighbouring districts of Coast province, because of drought and the consequent pressure on grazing land warns ActionAid.

Enrico Eminae, ActionAid’s coordinator in North Eastern Province warned that 35,000 pastoralists in Takaba district are already at risk.

He said: "People in over 28 trading centres in Takaba are relying on water delivered in trucks because shallow wells and water pans have dried up.

"For pastoralist communities in particular, lack of water signals hunger because their livestock, their only source of food and income, are at much greater risk. “It also triggers conflict over resources as different clans crisscross each other’s territory in search of pasture and water."

Current flashpoints

In Sericho, the Ewaso Ngiro flood plains have dried up with the river receding to about 100km upstream. Communities have to rely on shallow wells dug into the now dry riverbed.

The situation in Takaba is even more fragile as pastoralists congregate around Takaba town with their livestock in search of water.• Conflict has occurred in the villages of Darwed, Didkuro and Wangaidahan as pastoralists move in search of alternative livelihoods.

In Tana River and Ganze (Coast Region), pastoralists are also on the move. Grazing and water areas are diminishing fast and resources are overstretched.

Enrico Eminae concluded: "Animals' health is deteriorating fast. If the long rains fail in March there could well be a crisis. Even if rain falls, the pastoralists' situation is now so fragile, that flash floods could easily compromise the survival of their animals."


No one would argue that the post election violence in Kenya was not an extremely news story and it deserved the degree of attention that it received from the global media. Unfortunately, much of the media attention contained elements of distortion that placed an unwarranted amount of blame for the violence in the early days on ethnic strife. Now that the sensational “photo ops” are no longer in abundance, many of the journalists who were hanging on every new development in that story have left Kenya in search of newer sensational stories.

This pattern of behavior by the major press outlets in the western world make it difficult for organizations like ActionAid to educate the world about other problems that need to be addressed as well; and they are reduced to releasing their own statements about matters of life and death that don’t make it to the major newspapers and television broadcasts.


Who They Are:
In their own words: "ActionAid is a unique partnership of people who are fighting for a world without poverty, in which every person can exercise their right to a life of dignity. We work with poor and marginalised people to help eradicate poverty by overcoming the injustice and inequity that cause it."

How They work
“We work with poor and marginalised communities to help them recognise, promote and secure their basic rights, and control their own development.”

Their Strategy
“In 2005, ActionAid agreed a new international strategy, Rights to end poverty, which sets clear and ambitious priorities to guide our staff and partners over the next five years. Our strategy tackles head-on the unacceptable truth that poverty and injustice remain deeply entrenched in many parts of the globe.

If we are to fulfil our mission to eradicate poverty and injustice, we must take sides with poor and excluded people and communities and help them to secure their rights.

Women’s rights and gender equality offer the key to poverty reduction and achieving them is a central focus of our strategy.

We will bring greater focus and depth while continuing to work on the areas of education, food and HIV and AIDS.

To these we have added new priorities, developing our policy and programme work on human security in situations of violent conflict and emergencies, and on democracy and governance.

Strategic priorities:

women’s rights
the right to education
the right to food
the right to human security in conflict and emergencies
the right to life and dignity in the face of HIV and AIDS
the right to just and democratic governance
The strategy provides clear direction for organising and governing the growing ActionAid family and its relationships with the outside world. It sets out how we will make ourselves more accountable, both to the poor and excluded people with whom we work and to our supporters and funders.”