Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Places We're Working

Cote d'Ivoire

Nestled between Liberia (our former home) and Ghana (our future home), Cote d’Ivoire has seen its share of troubles over the last decade. Once a stable and fairly prosperous land, since 1998 Cote d’Ivoire has been broken by civil war and turmoil, leaving its diverse population of nearly 20 million shaken and desperate for normalcy. The nation has settled a bit in the last couple years, but an uneasy peace remains. Much of the country remains dominated by former rebels, but at least the parties are talking and hope is high for new elections.
Since the colonial period, Cote d'Ivoire's economy has been based on agriculture, forestry, and fishing. Cote d'Ivoire produces 40% of the world's cocoa crop and is a major exporter of bananas, coffee, cotton, palm oil, pineapples, rubber, tropical wood products, and tuna.

Cote d’Ivoire is also a country where Renita will be active. As a regional partnership manager for Partners Worldwide, one of her responsibilities will be coming alongside business and Ivoirian organizations helping businesses grow—just like she’s doing in Liberia. In the process, she’s gotten to know her point person on the ground in Cote d’Ivoire—Dea Lieu(right). Dea, who received agricultural and theological training from the US, is introducing new methods to help Ivorian farmers get better yields. He also plans to share better animal breeding methods with farmers; help in macro-managing communities; and minister to spiritual needs to help them grow in their Christian faith. When farmers complete Dea’s program, they receive livestock and a loan to begin their own farm operation, so they can feed their families and eventually the community.
Until she can meet up with Dea in Cote d’Ivoire, Renita is doing what I’m doing—maintaining long distance connections through the Internet and telephone. She’s sharpening her French with Dea, and both are excited to be working together. Right now, Dea and the farmers he’s working with are focusing on raising chickens, pigs, snails, and a large rodent call a grass cutter or cane rat. I imagine its rather tasty.

The grass cutter (Thryonomys swinderianus). A good source of meat, and relatively easy to raise.

Snails for sale. Rubbery in texture, I think they taste like mud.

Making palm oil the old-fashion way.

Dea, dishing up the dirt on how to enrich soil for local rice growers.

Some of the women of the 18 Mountains Region, where Dea serves.