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Nascent Launches Operations in Sierra Leone

In November 2018, a three-person team including Mr. Bernard Ndi, Nascent’s Country Director for Cameroon, Dr. Truphena Choti, Nascent’s Director of Education at HQ and Dr. Beatrice Wamey, Nascent’s President and CEO made their first trip to Sierra Leone. The entry into Sierra Leone marks Nascent’s expansion to more than five African sub-Saharan countries.

The trip was was designed to provide Nascent with the opportunity for share its vision for Sierra Leone with the stakeholders and seek their support in realizing the vision;  to register the Nascent as an international non-governmental organization in the Country and to launch activities funded under the 2018 USAID Office of Food for Peace’s International Food relief Partnership (IFRP) program. The IFRP provides opportunity for Nascent and its local partners to reduce the prevalence of malnutrition among young children in Moyamba District, Southern Province of Sierra Leone. On behalf of the US Embassy, Dr. Derrin Smith, in various capacities, welcomed Nascent and assured the team of the support of the US Embassy.

The team was awed by the cordial reception  received from several of His Excellency, President Julius Maada Bio’s New Direction Government,  including Hon. Kalilu IbrahimTotangi, Chairman of the National Council for Civic Education and Development. Hon Kalilu offered the services of one of his most committed collaborator, Mr. Mohamed Massaquoi,to assist Nascent team. Mr. Massaquoi, is a reputed journalist with profound understanding of his country, its systems, procedures, processes and policies guiding the functioning of non-governmental organizations. Mr. Massaquoi  facilitated the start-up tasks that including registration of the organization in the country, meeting with senior-level government officials and chaperoned the trip Moyamba district, the target region for Nascent’s project

Within the one week of work in Sierra Leone, Nascent had the opportunity to consult with several government officials including  Hon. Baindu Dassama, Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs andHon. Joseph Jonathan Ndanema, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. In addition, Nascent team held discussions with senior technical staff at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation comprising of  Ms. Aminata Shamit Koroma, the Director of Food and Nutrition, and Ms. Solade Edith Pyne-Bailey, the Deputy Program Manager and Principal Nutritionist.

The sentiment that ran through the visiting Nascent team was the assurance that they were at home in Sierra Leone. The cordiality, the good food and the willingness to assist that was palpable on all the faces made a significant impact on us.  Nascent will work with a local Partner, the Development Initiative Program (DIP) that not only opened its doors to us but offered to share their materials and human resources. And the Council Chairperson at Moyamba offered Nascent a safe and secure complex with office and warehouse space.

Despite of the Thanksgiving Holiday, Dr. Derrin Smith, in his various capacities, welcomed Nascent and assured the team of the support of the US Embassy towards the implementation of the project .

Brief Background

Malnutrition rates in Sierra Leone are among the highest in the world and the single greatest cause of child mortality in the country.  In a 2016 UNDP study conducted in Sierra Leone, nearly one third of under-fives are chronically malnourished; about 28.8 percent are stunted, 12.9 percent are underweight and 4.7 percent are wasted.  Caring practices, nutrition awareness and dietary habits are the major contributing factors to acute child malnutrition. For instance, lack of breastfeeding is a serious problem as only 8% of the children are adequately breastfed and families cannot afford the fortified foods needed to save their children.

The specific objectives of the project include 1) increasing the access of 3,700 children to supplementary food, 2) increasing caregivers’ knowledge and use of good nutrition and hygiene practices, 3) increasing caregivers’ use of improved gardening and livelihood skills.

The project will benefit 3700 households with children 6 to 36 months of age in Moyamba district. The  district has a population of 318, 064 people (based on the 2015 census). It occupies a land area of 6,902 km2 (9.6% of the Sierra Leone land mass) and comprises of 14 chiefdoms, further divided into 143 sections, and a total of 1617 communities.  Agriculture occupies the largest sector of the economy in the district, providing livelihoods for over 71% of the population. The main crops include cereals (maize, rice, sorghum and millet), starchy food crops (yam and cassava), and palm oil. Moyamba residents also grow small crops such as cashew, black pepper, ginger and pineapples. Despite the abundance of land and water resources, the majority of the people are small holder farmers with 0.5 to 2 cropped hectares, operating as basic subsistence food production. In the coastal regions, sea fishing is a common livelihood activity. The poverty rate in the district stands at 70% and the Wealth Index (WI) indicates that 43% of the district households are in the two poorest quintiles.

Nascent selected Moyamba district as the target region for this intervention because of  the following factors: 1) highest percentages of severely food-insecure households, over 50 % of the households are food insecure, with 16 % severely food insecure; 2) high incidences of severe acute malnutrition for children under-five years of age; 3) the least household dietary diversity score index of 4.1, below the national average of 4.6 ;  and 4) ability to build on interventions and networks that Nascent’s partner, Development Initiative Programme (DIP) has established in the target region.

With a three-man Board of Directors established under the Chairmanship of Mr. Emanuel Fatoma, Nascent is seeking to recruit competent professionals who will collaborate with key government agencies as well as its local partner DIP to implement the project.  With all these developments, Nascent is committed to support the government of Sierra Leone in advancing the country new direction mandate towards self-sufficiency, sustainability and a prosperous future.

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USDA McGovern-Dole 2018 Award

The United States Government, through its Department of Agriculture (USDA), has awarded 27 million dollars for a literacy and nutrition program for primary schools in 4 regions of Cameroon. Nascent won the privilege of implementing this program through a highly competitive bidding process with other international non-profit organizations. The initiative, officially, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, will run for five years, and benefit more than 200,000 people, including 81,510 children, teachers and parents in 265 schools in the Adamawa, East, North and North West Regions. The program’s major components include nutrition, teacher training, health and sanitation, and good governance; capacity building for government officials at the regional and national levels.

In executing this program, Nascent will draw from over 6 years’ experience implementing a similar program in the North West Region, which has received overwhelmingly complimentary reviews from visiting US and Cameroonian government inspectors, as being the most effective of the McGovern-Dole programs in the region.
The grant will enable Nascent and its partners to implement a targeted five-year plan designed to improve the literacy and nutrition of school-age children in the four regions of Cameroon. This plan will focus on achieving the following objectives:

  • Improve the literacy of school-age children by enhancing the quality of literacy instruction.
  • Improve student attentiveness by providing daily school meals.
  • Improve student attendance by raising community awareness of the importance of education, providing take-home rations and strengthening the capacity of parent-teacher associations (PTA).
  • Promote good health and dietary behavior by enhancing knowledge of appropriate health, hygiene and nutrition practices, safe food preparation and storage techniques, and clean water usage.

Nascent welcomes this new challenge, having managed programs in Cameroon, Uganda and Zambia with a portfolio of more than $50 million.The $27 million 2018 McGovern/Dole award comes three months after the close of the $12-million 2015 USDA award, which benefited about 57,000 people in Bui Division of the North West region, including 22,000 school age children.

In partnership with local and international cohorts and our recipient communities; we are confident to make this program a success and transform the education, nutrition, health and future prospects of our beneficiary communities particularly their women and children. We further reiterate our thanks to the US Government and the US department of Agriculture for their enduring support.

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McGovern-Dole Brief Video

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Fueling Education: USDA’s McGovern-Dole Food For Education’s Impact

Across many villages and schools in rural Cameroon a new paradigm is emerging. Young girls who would otherwise be working the fields to help their families eke out a subsistence are going to school regularly. When they do, they are not listless and hungry and inattentive as the prevailing material poverty would command. They are paying attention and learning to read and write and get their wings as scholars. In predominantly muslim IPS Njombo and christian Bamkikai, the effectiveness of the US Department of Agriculture’s McGovern-Dole Food For Education Program implemented by Nascent in Bui Division is transforming the well-being and education outcomes of children, and most importantly, communal attitudes towards education, particularly the education of girl children.

3 years in, Nascent’s broad community outreach and sensitization has inspired enthusiastic support and buy-in for all  facets of the USDA flagship. PTA’s and community members have tilled, tended and harvested the school gardens. Volunteers have cooked and served USDA donated rice, beans and locally grown supplemental vegetables and foods. And through social disruption of schools, parents queued up in long lines to sign out books and receive take-home rations, for the Mobile Reading and Take-Home Rations crises adaptations of the program. Local and national government officials have supported and helped facilitate coordination and execution of the program in government schools in the region.

Nascent’s construction of new classrooms, libraries, clean water wells, water tanks, hand-washing stations, bathrooms and kitchens in over 45 schools and the establishment of school gardens in 92 schools has gone a long way to establishing a foundation for the demonstrated  and united commitment to education to take root in healthy, sanitary, learning conducive environments and sow the seeds of future social progress.

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Development is Woman Led: Nascent CEO

The price of Arabica coffee, the main cash crop in the North West Region of Cameroon collapsed on the world markets in 1980s. Initially, the men coffee farmers could not believe that their main source of income had suddenly vanished. But as the years passed and things did not change, there was a growing realization that men would have to depend on what their wives brought in from the family farms in order to simply eat.

For many men, that was the new normal. As they waited for coffee prices to recover, they sat in the village squares playing draughts and drinking palm wine.  But for the women, this was a dire emergency, which they tackled with the zeal of fire-fighters. They put in longer hours on their farms, planted as many crops on every square inch as possible and fought to eke out more acreage from their husbands’ aging coffee farms.

By the mid-nineties, the men began admitting defeat but resisted the anti-traditional notion that their women were now the family breadwinners in every sense of the word. But the women were not looking back. Their farm yields became even more valuable as a rising population clamored for more food at ever higher prices. The women paid for all family priorities: children’s school fees, uniforms, books and household needs. They even gave their husbands money for their palm wine or beer.

Even in the early 2000s, when the narrative began to shift slightly to acknowledge women’s overwhelming contribution to family wellbeing, ancient traditions still hoisted the myths of men’s superiority.

However, when the first McGovern-Dole Food for Education program came into the area in 2008, it opened the eyes of the community to the vital role women really played in the life of the region.

But in the advent of the 2015 McGovern – Dole Food for Education and Child Literacy program, implemented by Nascent Solutions, the women of the region recognized a champion for their efforts: A champion that recognizes their women-specific challenges, guides them to achieve such priorities as feeding and educating their children, and provides knowledge that helps them manage family incomes. They have also embraced Nascent Solutions and the USDA-funded program for giving them a seat at the table and a voice in making the decisions affecting their communities.

That the management of Nascent Solutions is 70% female, or that our field staff skews majority female is not an attempt at reverse discrimination. It is a simple acknowledgement of the reality that women bear the brunt of the challenges of Africa’s rural communities and that we the women of Nascent, mostly born of the same soil, hear their voices better.

The theme of the 2018 International Women’s Day was “Press for Progress” and Nascent is standing at the forefront of pressing for the progress of women in Africa. So, to our grandmothers and mothers, sisters, daughters and cousins, the Women of Nascent Solutions say “We Hear You!”

Dr. Beatrice Wamey

CEO, Nascent Solutions Inc.

 

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Rural Children Adopt the E-reader

Access to quality educational and literary materials is still a huge challenge in rural areas in Cameroon, where parents often have to choose between feeding the child and buying them a book.  With support from the USDA, Nascent has acquired and shipped books for the over 20,000 school age children in the 92 schools benefiting from the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program.  However, the need is still enormous, given that almost every parent in every school in our target areas needs help. Books remain a scarce commodity in most household as most parents struggle to buy just the basic school textbooks.

In its search for sustainable solutions, Nascent is leveraging mobile technologies to pilot an e-reader option with 3rd grade students in ten program schools. The solar-powered e-readers each contain one hundred grade appropriate titles, assigned to about 3 children per e-reader in classes of 20-30 students.

The teachers who have been trained to use the e-readers to teach literacy are as fascinated with the device as are the students, who carry a smile on their faces as they manipulate the tools and engage in interactive exercises such as the drag-and-drop or filling in the blanks, which they were very reluctant to perform with pencil and paper. The children actually seem to master the intricacies of the technology faster than their teachers and their reading skills are growing much more quickly.

After witnessing the amazing results of the E-Reader, we would love to put the E-Reader in the hands of even more children across the country.  If you share this dream, you can help make it real by sending us your donation.

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Bringing in the Harvest: School Gardens

Parents and Community gardeners have begun reaping the fruit of their labors, harvesting crops grown as part of the School Gardens component of the USDA funded McGovern-Dole Food for Education/ALIGN program. The harvest will bolster the nutrition of children in the 92 target schools and their the environs. Even though a political crisis has disrupted many government services, parent engagement in the proper nutrition and education of their children has been undiminished and their participation and buy-in of the program has been heightened in the vacuum created by the crisis. All 92 Communities have remained engaged, continuing to receive take-home rations for their home-bound children, work the gardens, and check out books as part of the Mobile Reading initiative, devised to provide continuity for the children in a disrupted learning environment.

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Building Responsive and Responsible Leaders

Nascent programs promote participatory decision-making which cultivates ownership, ensures transparent and accountable management of resources and sustainability.  Parents, teachers, school administrators and government officials pool their thoughts together to devise strategies on how to properly nourish children so they can perform better in school.

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Transforming The Learning Environment In Cameroon

As part of the McGovern Dole Food for Education and child nutrition program implementation, our infrastructure teams have been constructing and rehabilitating classrooms, toilets, handwashing stations as well as digging and constructing boreholes to provide better sanitation options and clean drinking water to students who rank among the poorest in the world.

In December 2016 Nascent field workers inaugurated the revamped IPS Tatum in Kumbo.

The teams installed handwashing stations, dug and developed a borehole, built a bathroom, kitchen, storehouse and installed a water tank, which will feed the school garden, the toilets and the handwashing station.

Access to clean water in rural outpost schools is a challenge. Large numbers of pupils regularly contract dysentery and other diseases of poor sanitation.

Nascent field workers are working through political upheaval to ensure that when the pupils return to school, they will return to better teachers, and a clean, conducive and sanitary environment.

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Good Governance Training To Sustain Literacy & Nutrition

In order to sustain the transformative impact of the USDA funded McGovern-Dole program in North West Cameroon, Nascent/MGD workers have engaged community leaders, local officials and school staff in Good Governance training workshops to promote, cement and sustain the gains of two critical components of the program. These are:

  • Improving the literacy of school age children (through improving the literacy teaching skills of teachers and making reading materials more available to students)
  • Sustaining good health in pupils by continuing the school meals program, with community contributions in school kitchens, school gardens and broad governance sensitization on prioritizing the nutritional needs of students in local and community governance policy.

The workshops were well attended. Attendees were especially attracted to the Participatory Management Model for Basic Education which, even in the context of decentralized government, or reduced funding in poor countries, can sustain high standards for  literacy and nutrition in school age children.

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