Jul 19, 2021

LEAP4FNSSA's Second Dissemination Event

On July 19, 2021, LEAP4FNSSA hosted a webinar event to share and emphasize the importance of collaboration between the African Union and the European Union. The event focused specifically on collaborations regarding agricultural innovations and food and nutrition security. LEAP4FNSSA is a project dedicated to supporting the implementation of long-term AU-EU research. The acronym “FNSSA'' stands for “Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture,” and the project hopes to benefit both African and European people. As such, speakers at this event discussed at length the importance of expanding stakeholder and end-user networks and increasing stakeholder engagement in order to expand the AU-EU collaboration platform.

Keynote speaker Marta Iglesias outlined current challenges within African and European agriculture, like pests, land degradation, the COVID-19 crisis, and climate change. Challenges like these require research and innovation, two key components of LEAP4FNSSA’s mission. Areas of research include the green growth model, climate, public health, investment, and sustainable energy. LEAP4FNSSA hopes to create agricultural systems that are equitable, have low carbon footprints, and are resilient. The goal for the project is to become a long-term government mechanism to disseminate these equitable systems across Africa, which means there needs to be increased communication across projects, connections between stakeholders, and secured funding. 

LEAP4FNSSA has used survey data and feedback to create a new AU-EU multi-stakeholder platform. Stakeholders include funders, decision makers, farmers, consumers, and more. Speaker Carlo Sansiviero spoke about the importance of sustainability in multi-stakeholder platforms, which can be accomplished through cultural integration and trust. Sustainability ensures user-friendly and accessible services, increased quality of services, and ensures that AU-EU institutions participate regularly. Of course, simply having stakeholders is not enough. Norhan El Dallal spoke about needing to create coherence between stakeholders and exposing young entrepreneurs to investors, scientists, and political decision makers. This will ultimately increase FNSSA’s future partnerships. She also discussed the importance of strengthening rural areas to overcome crises (like COVID-19) by involving the private sector and taking a participatory approach. It should be noted that the research and innovation partnership between the AU and EU via the FNSSA project is not an aid paradigm but rather a partnership. Ideally there is no hierarchy or imbalance of power between the two partners. As speaker Melissa Plath elaborated, the partnership allows for joint design, ownership, and management, and is a democratic and diverse platform.

All in all, the LEAP4FNSSA’s dissemination event was a productive discussion regarding the creation of a sustainable partnership between the AU and EU in terms of research and innovation. Attendees were able to learn about the importance of network building and knowledge exchange, as well as goals regarding the production of healthier foods, lowering carbon outputs, and mobilizing youth to transform food and agricultural systems in Africa.

Jul 19, 2021

Reflection: My Two Days of Imagine Phase Learning

Thinking back to the beginning of my volunteering at HAF, I attended the first Women's Empowerment workshop. I was an excited, conscientious, and avid learner who was motivated by understanding the unknown. I loved exploring myself using the IMAGINE workshop tools long after this first workshop experience. Back then, I did not hesitate to talk with Fatima Zahra, HAF’s lead Imagine facilitator, to become an apprentice and demonstrate my passion to learn more about this magical program.

I have loved attending the three observation workshops with my mentor Amina over the course of the last year. The next step was then to facilitate the Imagine workshop during two days known as the “Learning Phase,” which took place on July 8-9, 2021.

For several reasons, it was a true honor to have the opportunity to replicate what I have learned, read, and researched of the IMAGINE workshop during the Learning Phase. I discovered that preparation and knowing the background of the workshop participants is very helpful as a facilitator. I know perfectly the language and materials to use in order to motivate participants  and to create an environment that enables them to talk freely and share their thoughts and feelings. Also, I noticed that, as a facilitator, it is important to reference one’s personal experience to encourage participants to share as well.

The Imagine mentor, who evaluated my performance through her own participation in the modules, provided feedback that was good and helpful for me. Since I am eager, I found it easy to incorporate her feedback when I started my session. On the other hand, it was helpful when the mentor facilitated the “Growing Edge” exercise with me. From that moment, it became clear to me how I will conduct the next workshop without any “limited belief” on my own part. Importantly, using the IMAGINE methodology and adapting it according to the participants' background, plays a major role in conducting the workshop effectively.

Now, I will conduct three workshops as a practice. By the end of 2021, I will receive a certificate from the Empowerment Institute as an official Imagine facilitator.

In conclusion, the two days of the Learning Phase were incredibly impactful for me. I realized my true potential and ability to conduct the IMAGINE workshop on my own. My passion for this important experience and work has continued to grow since the beginning. I am thrilled to now be able to be a vehicle to help women and girls discover what they want and how to attain it.

Jul 15, 2021

Productively (and Joyfully) Meeting (Again) Members of the Aguerzrane Women's Cooperative

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) implements the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program (F2F) in Morocco. As part of this volunteer initiative team members visited the members of the Aguerzrane women’s cooperative located in the Toubkal Municipality of the Taroudant Province on Thursday the 8th of July. It was a follow up meeting to facilitate participatory monitoring with members to understand the impact and needs following the Imagine Empowerment Workshop and visits by local F2F Volunteer agricultural experts working virtually in conjunction with American professionals. 

There are 31 members of the cooperative who work different shifts over the week managing a fruit tree nursery of 27,000 cherry saplings. The new revenue generated, even as it is needed income and significant as a total sum, may not be having as significant impact as the members need due to its equal division among many families. They therefore seek revenue generating activities such as processing food products. They observe the demand for traditional bread for their own and surrounding villages as well as for the local weekly market. The irrigation system requires additional filtering in order for small stones to not clog the pressure drip system. 

The terraces and the nursery are built on a mountainside. The new terraces upon which the trees sit are on a mountainside and surrounded by fencing over which would be two to three meters high that HAF would immediately financially support. Adjacent to the existing terraces, there is space where two more could be built. Cooperative members are evaluating the cost-benefit of adding the additional terraces. Overall, it was positive to see the process of achieving an idea that was born from the Imagine Workshop experience that together the women of Aguerzrane can define their individual and collective vision, implement it, see its green growth aftermath, benefit from new revenue, integrate domestic and international partnerships, and continue to plan and act together for increasing achievements. 

The municipality during the 2021 cherry harvest yielded approximately 32 tons sold in the domestic market. The organic cherry trees grown into saplings by this cooperative will assist the people in vastly increasing this source of food and income generation.

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