Monday, September 24, 2012

Update from West Africa

Tonight I am leaving for five weeks in five countries in Africa:  Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire, and Liberia. It will be a pretty intense trip but I am very much looking forward to getting back.  Dana Boals, the Director of Global Partnerships from Partners Worldwide, will be joining me for the last three countries.  Here is a brief update of some of what has been going on over the past weeks.

The week before last was filled with Regional Facilitator meetings for Partners Worldwide.  In the picture (back row, left to right), we have Rudy (North America), me (West Africa), Martin (East Africa), Michael (Asia); front row, Tinashe (Southern Africa), Dave (Caribbean), and Bob (Latin America).  This is a very fun, thoughtful, and creative group and it has been fun to work with them!

The late president, John Atta-Mills
On July 24, President John Atta Mills of Ghana suddenly passed away.  The country mourned the loss of his leadership.  This is an election year for Ghana and President Mills was going to run for his second term.  Leadership smoothly passed to his vice-president, John Dramani Mahama who will also run in the election on December 7.  There have been some interesting challenges that have taken place in the country recently:  electricity, which was always unstable - going off usually once per day, sometimes for ten minutes, sometimes for ten hours - has gotten worse.  Additionally, a new policy came out that the banks are no longer to give US dollars, even if you have a US dollar account.  This puts a hardship on business members who travel and need US dollars to do business, forcing them to exchange their money to the Ghana cedi, and then exchange it back at a ForEx Bureau for US dollars, causing them a loss in the exchange. 

Hopeline Institute was approved for a Global Fund loan from Partners Worldwide in the amount of $150,000 USD for their high-impact entrepreneurs.  This is very exciting!  As the truly efficient team that they are, they received the funds on August 24 and had them all disbursed by August 31!  We thank God for this opportunity for business people in Accra to have a loan at a much more affordable rate and pray that God will bless these business owners.   Hopeline has also recently completed an intensive training for mushroom farmers and hopes to invest in those farmers who are baggers (seed developers), growers, and retailers.  As a lover of mushrooms, I'm very happy about this!  Both of the interns have left Ghana.  Emily Daher finished her year of service and returned to the States last week.  We thank God for her hard work and excellent service, and wish her God's blessings on her next endeavor!  Kim VandenAkker also returned to be with her boyfriend, Patrick, as it was recently discovered that he has bone cancer.  She hopes to return to Ghana to finish her internship, but we ask for your prayers for healing for Patrick.

LEAD, Liberia:  LEAD continues to do well and make progress on their goals.  The research farm has now been able to give out pig loans to farmers - nineteen piglets to nine farmers.  I will be traveling to Liberia at the end of October with Malcolm DeKryger, a pig farmer from Indiana, who will be advising and training LEAD farmers on best practices in pig raising.  Todd DeKryger, the integrated pest management expert who traveled with us last year to Liberia, will be joining us as well, and will be addressing crop farmers on raising feed for the pigs.  We are producing a high quality maize, moringa, and are starting to process palm nuts for pig feed.  In June, LEAD was able to give out $45,000 US in loans to about 150 farmers, who are in 15 cooperatives.  This is really exciting as we begin to see Liberia produce more and more of its own food!  We are still looking to build a training center on the research farm to be able to research new crops for Liberia and train farmers in best practices.  [If you missed the summer mailing that we did for that and still want to help out, please go to, and click on the link for the Farmer Field School.  We still have a long way to go to satisfy that need and keep farmers moving forward!]

ACLCP, Côte d'Ivoire:  The last time I wrote, I shared that Dea Lieu, the Director of ACLCP was able to return home after a successful kidney transplant in the US.  He has been hard at work, reconnecting with family, church, and friends, and is re-establishing the work of ACLCP after his nearly two year absence.  I will be joining them in mid-October to do some board training and address some organizational development issues.  However, as there have been conflicts between border towns of Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire, the border is currently closed to people (goods can pass through).  Since I usually drive from Monrovia to Danané, this presents a problem.  Please pray with me for favor from the embassy and those at the border to let us through!

PCEN, Nigeria:  I will also be spending several days in Nigeria, doing a training of trainers on our business training material. We will be going to the East Kambari Area (EKA) in order to see the work of Water Wins, one of our partners involved in well drilling, business development, and community development.  We are thankful that Jos reports quiet for the past couple of weeks and pray that the peace continues. We learned that the largest Nigerian airline (on which we booked our tickets) was grounded this past week, so we pray that we can make it in!

The blog may be quiet for a bit but I will update when I can!