Nike Foundation: The Next Generation of Farmers

Catholic Relief Services is improving the lives of adolescents in Rwanda and Zimbabwe. The Nike Foundation provided funding for CRS to study the impact of the programs on the lives of adolescent girls in the countries. This is part four in a four-part series about these programs.

By Patrick Carney

When Catholic Relief Services began working to help adolescents in Rwanda and Zimbabwe, they had a plan. But, until they got on the ground, met the kids and observed their lifestyle, they couldn’t know for sure the best ways to help give these children a better future.

In these countries, more than 50 percent of farmers are women, and many of them lack basic skills, which hurts their chances for success. Seeing a glaring need, CRS began a program to help adolescent girls receive critical agriculture skills.

Girls in Zimbabwe participated in the Junior Farming Field and Life Skills class where they meet weekly to learn about agriculture, business and life skills. This hands-on course helped the girls learn by trying different techniques in their own gardens. They work with successful farmers to learn which techniques produce the best results and ultimately the highest profits.

Other girls learn how to work with livestock to start their careers. In Rwanda, CRS gave vouchers to households to buy goats – many of these households were headed by adolescent girls. The girls learned how to tend to the goats and generated good profits. In order to help other vulnerable adolescents, the girls in the program donated baby goats to others so they too benefit from the program.

The programs teach girls the necessary skills to be successful farmers. They help increase the quality and quantity of food available in areas where food scarcity is normally a major concern. The result is deeper knowledge of agricultural and higher incomes. The girls pass their skills on to the next generation, and soon there will be generations of successful female farmers.

Patrick Carney is an associate web producer, writer and editor for Catholic Relief Services. He is based at CRS headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland.

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