Monday, February 13, 2012

February 2012 Update

Traffic and dust in Accra
Weather:  After a couple of weeks of some dust relief, the dust is back in full force, with a visibility of 0.3 miles.  Because pictures just can't capture it, let me try to explain this better:  I live close to the airport.  Normally, when I sit in my office, I can see the planes going by and can tell which carrier it is.  When I have guests arriving, I wait to see their plane go by my house before I get in the car and drive to the airport (just to reinforce how close I am to the airport and how low the planes are).  Right now, I can't even see the planes when they pass - I can only hear them.  They have been closing airports in Ghana because of the dust.  I have shake the dust from the top sheet of my bed at night...there are footprints in my house at night, after sweeping in the morning...amazing.  Will probably last until March. 

He looks so tall here!
Noah is currently involved with the Model United Nations, and this year is representing Turkey.  He is on the committees dealing with the Millennium Development Goals as they relate to gender equality (Goal #1 of 8 for MDG), full and productive employment of disabled persons (Goal #3), and transnational organized crime.  He has really been enjoying it and was given the "Most Diplomatic Award" - so maybe this is in his future.  And surprisingly, he has enjoyed wearing suits!  (For those of you who know Noah, this is quite the change from ever-present black t-shirts, black jeans look!  Of course, he still had to do a "Men-in-Black" look with the shades, but I think  he cleans up very well!)  I love how this program encourages young people to think at a global level, research policies and write resolutions, learn the art of debate in an orderly fashion, and dress for success.

Larry, with the Queen of the Yam Market
Research being done in Ghana on various types of compost pellets.
As for my work, we recently had two guests here from Alsum Farms and Produce in Wisconsin: Larry Alsum (Owner and CEO) and Derrick Smit (Human Resources/Staff trainer).  [If you would like to know more about this business, link to their brief video on YouTube.  I'm always amazed at the technology in the US and this business is another great example!]  While they were here, they studied the value chain, from "field to fork", visiting with farmers, food processors/packers, informal markets, and formal markets.  They then gave a presentation to about fifty farmers and Ministry of Agriculture officials as to the challenges and opportunities of food packaging, production, and distribution.  It was a great time of networking and idea sharing.  Ghanaian farmers are eager and ready to take their farms to the next level, and we will be exploring opportunities to develop a community supported agriculture approach in the next few months.  After spending a week in Ghana, Larry and Derrick spent a week with LEAD in Liberia, meeting with farmers there and spending time on the research farm.  

On Wednesday, I will be heading to Liberia for about ten days to do an intensive training with the LEAD staff.  James Nowell, Chairman of the North American partner for LEAD in Grand Rapids, will be joining me from Kalamazoo, MI.  He will be working with me on some office audits, leading several sessions on Business as a Mission with LEAD staff, networking with the LEAD Liberia board members, and visiting the research farm.  James was last in Liberia in 2010 - the picture to the right is James and Betty Shannon, Board member for LEAD Liberia.  

I will be returning to Ghana on February 25.  On the 26th, guests from various countries will begin arriving for the West Africa conference with Hopeline Institute and Partners Worldwide.  We are excited about this conference - the speakers and workshops look to be great.  Pray with us that it will be a time of great networking, dialogue and growth.  More on that later!