Monday, March 12, 2012

And now, in the headlines...

Before the facelift...
Hopeline Gets a Facelift
And after.

The government of Ghana has created a new category, called a Financial Non-Governmental Institution (FNGO) and Hopeline Institute (our partner in Ghana) has been following the regulations necessary to fit within those guidelines.   One of the requirements was to have the building better identified, which Hopeline just completed.  It looks beautiful!  As an FNGO however, Hopeline is not "allowed" to charge an interest rate that is below the bank interest rates.  Bank loan interest rates are currently at around 38% and the government has mandated that Hopeline charge above that amount.  This interest rate is prohibitive for businesses and goes against one of the reasons for Hopeline's existence - which is to reach out to the marginalized so that they can increase their profitability, sustain their families, and create jobs.  Interest rates that exceed the bank rates will not do that.  So this is something that Hopeline will need to work through - balancing the needs of the people, the needs of the government in streamlining NGOs, and the needs of Hopeline as an organization. 

The Hoophouse is Happy...
Unhappy, stressed tomato plants outside the hoop house.
Earlier this year, we told you about the construction of a hoop house both in Liberia and in Ghana.  Rick Slager, working through Partners Worldwide with the Rural Empowerment Initiative, spent the last six weeks in Ghana and Liberia and has declared that the hoop houses in both places are very happy (as are the plants and the owners:-).  In the pictures, you can see tomato plants that were planted just outside the hoop house at the exact same time as the tomato plants were planted inside the hoop house.  Quite the difference!
Happy, stressfree tomato plants, inside hoop house, with farmer/owner Nicholas and Rick.

 LEAD gets Bee-sy
The research farm of LEAD (our partner in Liberia) continues to make good progress.  On the right you can see a picture of land recently cleared by the Bangladeshi contingent of the UN, of about 1.5 acres if land that LEAD will use to build their training center and dormitory (once the funds are raised).  We hope to get them back to the farm to clear another hectare of land so that we can put in a six crop rotational system that can demonstrate appropriate crop rotation as well as new crops that we believe can do well in Liberia.

The next picture shows some of the new construction that has been able to take place with the funds raised from the Research Farm catalog (for more info click here).  On the left is the pig barn, with a second pig barn ready to be constructed behind it.  In the middle is the hoop house, and on the right a new building in which we hope to house a palm kernel processing business as well as storage.  As our pig production increases, we hope to start giving out pairs of pigs to area farmers who also want to raise pigs.  Pig feed is a challenge though, and so we are meeting that challenge by starting a business creating palm kernel cakes, which are high in protein for pigs.  The groundhog barn will be built behind these structures - the funds have already been raised and construction should begin soon.
Additionally, the next picture shows the cabbage farm of one of the 100 farmers with whom we are working.  In the background you can see corn growing.  This is one of a number of farmers that LEAD has given a high quality corn seed to in order to create pig feed.  So already, with the research farm as young as it is, the impacts are starting to roll out to farmers.  First with corn, then with pigs.  The hoop house as also gained a fair bit of attention from other organizations and farmers who are interested in replicating it. [By the way, when LEAD started working with farmers, many said it was too risky.  LEAD just gave out their third round of loans to farmers, and if it weren't for the death of one of the farmers, would have a 100% repayment rate!  There are more than fifty farmers on the waiting list for loans, so pray with us that we get more loan funds to lend out to these farmers - especially now with the food shortages around the Sahel in West Africa.]

Another new addition to the research farm is five new bee-hives, made in a typical West African style.  Bees will help with pollination on the farm and can significantly increase yield, not to mention the production of honey. Our goal is to get the number of beehives up to about fifteen, which should significantly assist in our crop development.  Henry, the assistant farm manager, is smiling proudly by the beehive, while still figuring out how brave he will be to work with the bees!

The government of Liberia is also getting more organized in their approach to micro-finance and has newly established a branch dedicated to this within the Government.  Last week, Allen Gweh, the National Director for LEAD was elected as Secretary-General to the Micro-finance Network of Liberia, which will serve as the liaison between the Government and Micro-finance organizations in Liberia. 

 In Other News...
Dea Lieu, the Affiliate Manager of ACLCP, our partner in Côte d'Ivoire, who had a kidney transplant in January, has been told that it looks likely that he will be able to return home to Danané in June.  He feels great and is very ready to go!  It will have been almost two years since he took a trip that should have lasted for about one month.  We thank God for his healing and look forward to his ability to join his wife, Charlotte, and their children again.  My guess is that neither Dea, nor his wife, will want him to travel again soon!

Jeremiah Yongo, our Partnership Manager in Nigeria, reports to us that four of the affiliates in the Plateau region will be completing their business training in the next few weeks and will be having a graduation, with just over 40 businesses.  This is despite the unrest and stress that Nigeria has been experiencing in recent months.  We hope and pray that these business owners will be able to see growth and development in their businesses.