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.
Nascent and MCGovern/Dole field workers and beneficiaries recently received our Mid-line program evaluator at various program sites in the North West Region of Cameroon, where Nascent Solutions is currently implementing the initiative.
The program evaluator met with staff in the Nascent offices in Tobin, Kumbo and various beneficiary communities in the region. Assessment meetings with parents and workers were held in classrooms, libraries and school gardens.
School buildings, kitchens, bathrooms, and hand-washing stations under construction and rehabilitation as part of the project to boost nutrition and education in up to 92 rural schools were also visited as part of the evaluation.
Nascent/MGD field workers celebrated and welcomed a delegation from the US embassy in Cameroon in mid October at the CBC Romkong Primary School in impoverished Bui Division. This meeting provided an occasion for Nascent/MGD field workers to extend personal thanks to the US government and the USDA for their support in jump-starting a culture of literacy and sustainability in the region with the McGovern-Dole Food For Education initiative which Nascent Solutions is implementing in the region, as part of its ALIGN( Advancing Literacy with Good Nutrition) program.
The delegation from the US embassy, led by the Deputy for Political and Economic Affairs Dr. Derrin R. Smith, accompanied by Mrs Mihaela Biliovschi Smith (Executive Assistant – Media) and Ms Camille “Jo” Dickison (Political and Economic Affairs – OMS), was joyously received by local chiefs, parents and community members, who are increasingly buying-into the model of development which emphasizes empowering the young with robust education and balanced nutrition. The US embassy delegation chaperoned by Nascent /MGD workers, toured handwashing stations constructed as part of the MGD/ALIGN project to stem the diarrheal diseases that afflict children in the region due to poor or absent sanitation practices and a lack of access to clean water.
The Embassy delegation also visited the school garden which is tended by members of the community and parents to supplement pupil nutrition. They were further shown an example of the improved, new normal, classroom lunch that these otherwise hungry, destitute, school skipping children now have as part of their formation and education.
At the Nascent Office in Kumbo the eminent guests were treated to a presentation of the many facets of the MGD/ALIGN program currently in implementation throughout the region, with classroom and school infrastructure under construction, teacher training underway, hand-washing stations and sanitary bathroom being built, clean water wells being dug and a coordinated effort with local and national institutions to update and streamline the primary school curriculum to give the rural children of the region a fighting chance at success in a changing and challenging global environment.
The visit ended with Nascent staff and the representatives of the US government re-affirming their desire for continued collaboration in the endeavor to lift the marginalized people of the region out of poverty and destitution by providing them the tools to attain self-reliance, resilience and independence.
Dysentery and other diseases of unclean drinking water are the leading cause of death in children in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Water Project leg of the USDA Nascent Solutions’ MGD/ ALIGN program is underway in Cameroon’s Bui Division. The Water Project seeks to install water wells, hand-washing stations and water tanks in up to 42 needy schools in Bui Division in Cameroon.
The first school to be equipped with borehole, water tank and hand washing stations is GS Bamkikai, in Kumbo. Prior to the projects intervention pupils as young as 5 had to fill up a designated class bucket with water from a surface stream a ten minute walk from the school campus before classes daily. This class bucket with water exposed to animal and human wastes and pesticide runoff from nearby farms served as the source of drinking water for the classes. This situation is replicated in many rural communities contributing to high rates infant disease and death in impoverished communities.
The Water Project’s robust approach to providing reliable long term clean water with deep water wells, will help stem the tide of sickness and death in rural children. The water from the wells will further be used to water school gardens and in hand washing stations further bracing the most vulnerable against hunger and sickness and providing them the necessary foundation for a sound education.
Nascent Solutions’ programs seek to empower communities and help them acquire autonomy, through education and sustainability initiatives. The recent School Garden Harvest at IPS Njombo in Bui Division, Cameroon, is an affirmation of our bottom up approach to development. Parents and local community members gladly volunteer to to work and tend the gardens as part of the USDA and Nascent Solutions’ MGD FFE/ALIGN project. The program which seeks to provide hot meals and clean water to 52,000 rural school children in Bui Division has been embraced by local communities and parents who on their own are often unable to adequately feed their children.
This recent harvest is testament to the success of our advocacy for child education( particularly girls) and for community and parent involvement in the scholastic life of their children. Through the last decade of Nascent Solutions’ working in the region, we have remarked a pendulum swing in many community members from apathy or cynicism towards the education of their children to enthusiasm. The most rewarding part of this buy-in being that in communities like Njombo, parents and residents readily volunteer, to tend the garden, cook meals in school for pupils and, take time away from their own routines, to harvest the crop for the children.
With a few thousand local community members, chiefs, religious authorities and representatives of the Cameroonian government gathered. The Cameroonian minister of Basic Education madame Alim Adjidja spoke in support of early childhood education. Dr. Beatrice Wamey the CEO of Nascent Solutions spoke too, challenging the authorities of the government of Cameroon to match the McGovern-Dole Food For Education program and the US government and commit significant resources to nourish and educate under-served children.
Then the children spoke and stole the show, warning their parents to keep stray goats from wandering into the school gardens, imploring them to keep volunteering to help in the garden and to cook food for them, and to keep the school structures in good repair. They spoke in skits and plays about the difficulties of being a hungry child attending classes in a run-down classroom.
With loud applause the community heard them. And from all indications the community of Njombo has heard them. Dozens of parents already volunteer to tend the garden and cook in the school kitchen. And the community as a whole is beginning to understand the need for well fed and well educated children. This community buy-in is an important part of Nascent Solutions’ initiatives, which seek to empower communities with starter programs which they can then sustain independently after self-sufficient systems have been put in place.
Thus in this respect the MGD/ALIGN 2016 program( which will provide school children with balanced, healthy meals and clean well-water in school; as well as modern bathrooms, hand-washing stations and structurally sound classrooms) has already been a success.
The US flag and the Cameroonian flag flapped in the wind. Children, who a few years ago were forgotten dregs of the Cameroonian backwoods, susceptible to all manner of negative influences, danced and sang in unison with shining eyes, for the representatives of their government and a program sponsored by the US government and implemented by a US based NGO, Nascent Solutions. In IPS Njombo these Muslim pupils proffered in song the religious greeting “As-Salaam-Alaikum”(peace be unto you) to the US government and the kind-hearted and American people who brought them food and nourishment when they were hungry and forgotten.
Cameroonian Christian, Animist and Muslim communities have peacefully coexisted for decades and centuries. But in Africa today, poverty and desperation are playing a significant part in fraying and breaking traditional bonds of peace and acceptance. With Boko Haram, the radical pseudo-Islamist terrorist group wreaking havoc in neighboring Nigeria and beginning to make cross border raids and recruitment attempts in Cameroon, it is more crucial than ever, to embrace these marginalized children, and offer them a safe place and shelter away from dark and destructive forces. What better sanctuary than a classroom?
Programs like MGD/ALIGN are investments in global peace, security and stability. Distinctions of faith, ethnicity or class were wholly absent everywhere for the launching of this initiative as children from various schools mingled, and priests and imams and local chiefs came together to support a hopeful future for all children.
In a robust demonstration of cooperation, representatives of the Cameroonian government, local chiefs, parents and members of the community at large showed up in large numbers for a festive official kickoff of the McGovern-Dole/ ALIGN (Advancing Literacy with Good Nutrition) program on May 6th 2016.
Cameroon has been ranked by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization as a low income food-deficit country. In real terms this means that 36% of Cameroonian children under the age of five are stunted, 16% underweight, and 7% wasted. Rates of anemia among preschool aged children are very high, 40% are deficient in vitamins and half lack access to iodized salt leaving them vulnerable to iodine deficiency disorders. And most are susceptible to dysentery and other diseases of poor sanitation and unclean water. These are the sad circumstances behind the rallying of the masses in support of this USDA and Nascent Solutions to begin to address these shortcomings. In a show of communal optimism, parents and women’s groups danced and sang. School Children performed songs and skits and played traditional instruments. Queuing up in orderly lines to sample the food and nourishment the program will bring to them on a daily basis.
MGD/ALIGN will provide warm nutrient balanced meals in schools to children who otherwise would go hungry. The program’s fore-runners have been setting up school gardens, tended by members of the community, parents and students themselves to buttress their food needs. MGD/ALIGN is further constructing hand-washing stations, gender assigned bathrooms and classrooms to put in place the tools necessary to give the world’s most marginalized children a chance in a competitive world. The program’s launching in IPS Njombo showcased these new amenities. Which in the end will include a clean-water well driven by a solar pump to further guarantee water access. In total USDA and NSI’s program will impact the lives of 32,000 children.
NSI staff surveying 92 schools for the establishment of FFE/ALIGN school gardens in Bui Division broke ground in early April. Field agents led best-practices agriculture training for over 500 local women and men committed to volunteering time and labor to help their children receive hot meals in schools by tending community school gardens. Before the training sessions, expressed concerns about the local obstacles to food production such as: degraded soils, pest animals, access to water, lack of fertilizer and limited crop options. NSI staff discussed possible solutions with them and offered training in various ameliorative strategies.
The training sessions included strategies for addressing community specific obstacles. It further included the best methods for garden pegging, bed measurement, bed formation, manure application and crop planting. 500kg of improved seeds of maize, 500kg of beans, 3075kg of Irish Potatoes, and vegetables were distributed to the participating schools for planting. Water needs will be addressed by FFE/ALIGN’s solar-powered well initiative in the coming months. And a foundation was established to expand the school gardens’ impact in the future by increasing the variety of crops grown with the introduction of hardy and nutrient rich superfoods.
With these efforts and continued community involvement to the degree shown in the gardening training, NSI will be on track to help substantially reduce school hunger in children in Bui Division in Cameroon and increase school attendance and outcomes for the poorest communities.
Nascent Solutions joins the international community in celebrating International Women’s day 2016. NSI staff salute the marginalized women of the world. We acknowledge and support their struggle to find voice and agency against ancient customs and forces of oppression and discrimination.
Our programs seek to embody the pledge for parity that is this year’s theme. In Africa where we operate, women still face uphill struggles for equality and parity of opportunity, chance and choice in their lives and their children’s lives.
However we continue to work to educate both men and women in our initiatives, about the importance and need for empowered women in creating strong, stable, happy communities. Thus while we celebrate the many strong, business and community leader women whose voices our programs have helped liberate, we likewise acknowledge that we are a long ways off, from our global objective of equality and parity of women with men in all things.