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Oct 25, 2020

Progress Report 6: Adjusting To A New Normal

Just like many other countries across the globe, Mauritius also entered a Covid-19 imposed lockdown between March and June 2020. This meant that all of our education programs came to a grinding halt, including the remaining groups of young Agripreneurs that was scheduled to visit Farmcity during the March holidays.  As we had shared in our earlier report, we spent the lockdown harvesting, sorting, packing and giving the organic vegetables produced on the Learning Farm to vulnerable families who needed it most. It was a herculean task and was only possible because we had volunteers from the community who stepped up to help with transport, security and distribution. 

While the lockdown ended in May 2020, and normal activities have largely resumed within the country, national borders have remained closed with extremely limited international flights into the island. This means that half of the Farmcity team continues to be abroad and unable to return home to Mauritius at the time of this report.

However, the other half of the team based in Mauritius have been doing an excellent job holding down the fort! So after many planning meetings over Zoom and WhatsApp, we were able to welcome another wonderful group of junior Agripreneurs to Farmcity. 

On 23 September 2020, the junior youths from the Triolet SSR Disability School spent an enriching morning at Farmcity. We'll let the pictures do the talking for the rest of this report.

Our social media post on SSR Disability School Visit

What's Next:

What started as an initial project to support 150 Mauritian Youth Agripreneurs has turned into so much more! We have learnt so much from the youths that graced our farm with their presence. We are grateful to everyone who has supported our project with their generous donations and words of encouragement. 

Covid-19 has certainly shown a bright spotlight on the vulnerabilites in our local food system. The silver lining of this is a heightened awareness of the need for more Agripreneurs who can provide innovative and sustainable solutions for a resilient food system. We are heartened to see an increase in the number of aspiring Agripreneurs who are heeding this call, and we also see that more needs to be done to create a supportive environment for them to thrive it. To that end, we will be setting up the Agripreneurs' Hub at Farmcity, that will offer aspiring agripreneurs a chance to test-bed their idea on a small scale, in a collaborative space, with like-minded agripreneurs. You can read more about The Agripreneurs' Hub here: www.farmcity.co/hub.

We are thus going to end fundraising for this current project on GlobalGiving, and will update you all on the next project fundraising goal.

With love, 

 

May 4, 2020

Keeping on keeping on, even in a lockdown

message from youth participant
message from youth participant

Dear Friends,

We hope this letter finds you well, in good health and enjoying time with family. Just like many other countries across the globe, Mauritius is also in a Covid-imposed lockdown. As we had shared in our previous report, we were really looking forward to hosting Groups 4, 5 and 6 for Chapter 2 of The Agripreneurship program.  Alas all of our educational programs came to a grinding halt with the lockdown.  Inspite of the circumstances, we continue working as best as we can to keep the learning farm going, so we are ready to roll once programs are able to resume.

While we couldn't get people to the farm, we spent the past month getting our farm to people instead. You probably have experienced, to varying degrees, difficulties in accessing nourishing food during a lockdown. This was acutely felt by many familes, who found themselves with empty pantries in the wake of a lockdown that was imposed overnight. Coupled with the sudden and unexpected closure of supermarkets for 8 days, there were many families who were in dire need of food. As smallholder vegetable growers, we decided to reserve our supply for those who needed it most in the community. However, getting to the farm, let alone delivering vegetables was difficult without the right permits, and it truly took a village of volunteers to get food distribution going. We relied on volunteers to help us identify the families who needed it most, and to harvest, sort and pack the fruits and veggies on the farm. We are deeply grateful to Melibelle from Bois Marchand, Voahangy from Baie du Tombeau, and Diana in Terre Rouge, all of whom were participants of The Agripreneurship Program, and so many others in other regions including Pointe aux Piments, Grand Gaube, Cottage, Port Louis, Pointe aux Sable who offered their kind support in one way or another to make it all happen. Special mention should also be made of our volunteers - Andy and Shafiq - who kindly offered their help with security and transport. This experience showed us the importance of a community led distribution system, which was very efficient in reaching those who are in greater need. The power of the community and the grassroots !

In the midst of it all, it was also nice to receive messages from the Junior Youths, who are now seeing quite literally, the fruits of their labour. In Chapter 1 of the Agripreneurship Program, the junior youths were each given a seed to take home with them (which they planted in their very own upcycled pot as part of an activity). Chapter 1 took place over 3 months ago, and it was heart warming to receive messages of some of them harvesting their very own tomatoes and beans. 

One silver lining of this Covid Mayhem, perhaps, is that the spotlight is shining alot brighter on the need for more resilient local food systems. Now more than ever, we will need more Agripreneurs, who can develop innovative ways to make our local food system better. As such, we are even more committed in setting up an Agripreneurs' Club for each of the following localities: Baie du Tombeau, La Tour Koenig, Bois Marchand, Cottage, Sainte-Croix, and Triolet. We are developing a structured series of lessons, that will enable each junior youth to develop the capacity to think critically and entrepreneurially, about how to improve their local food system for the better. Beyond that, we also need to work on getting the buy in of other stakeholders in the community, for example, with the local district council so we can have a safe space like the local community centre to work from. Indeed, it will take a village to see it come to fruition; and as we saw with our informal food distribution volunteer chain, there is no power greater than when a community comes together!

Thank you for being part of our community.

With deepest gratitude,

Kelly, Wesley & Team Farmcity

message from beneficiary
message from beneficiary
pay what you can
pay what you can
Packing veggies during Covid
Packing veggies during Covid
Jan 10, 2020

Progress Report 4

 

Hi there our GlobalGiving supporters, 

 

Progress Report 4: Building Agripreneurs 

This entire work was made possible through our first successful crowdfunding campaign on GlobalGiving, and with the help of several volunteers and staff who gave their time to this project. We would like to thank all of you for this.  

 

Between 31 August and 27 November 2019, Farmcity welcomed 150 junior youths across the Northern region of Mauritius: La Tour Koenig, Bois Marchand, Cite La Cure, St. Croix, Triolet, Baie du Tombeau, Goodlands and Cottage. In Chapter 1, participants are first introduced to the possibilities of sustainable farming in a modern way through a tour of our Learning Farm. On their tour, they learn about the different strategies employed to farm in harmony with nature, taste some farm fresh produce, and even conduct a mini experiment to understand irrigation through capillary action. In the second half of the day, we turn the floor over to these bright, young junior youths! They are each given 2 scenarios to role play - first, as Minister of Agriculture to propose ways to make agriculture attractive to youths; and then taking on a superpower to solve some of the most pressing issues facing their communities today.

 

As Minister of Agriculture, these junior youths had some fantastic suggestions to make agriculture more attractive to youths. The most popular of all was to introduce agriculture as one of the core subjects in schools, because “if we are learning about Maths and Science, we should also be learning about agriculture too!” Besides the need for greater formative training in agriculture, the junior youths also highlighted that youths needed fuss-free and affordable access to facilities such as land, tools and equipment, and updated advice relevant to their realities. For example, if available land was far away from where they lived and difficult to access because of a lack of public infrastructure, then it would not be helpful even if the land was provided for free. The youths also recognized that litter and pollution was a direct result of people losing the connection with their environment. They reasoned that if communities were provided with greater support to care for their environment - such as making plants (in the nurseries) cheaper so everybody can afford to buy them to beautify their gardens, posters to remind community members not to litter, and more activities where parents could plant with their children, then it is likely that there people would care more about their environment.

 

When asked to identify some of the challenges facing their communities today, the top 3 issues highlighted were: drugs, violence, and poverty. Despite the bleakness of what they were faced with in their daily lives, and even if they had all the superpowers in the world, their solutions proposed were overwhelmingly positive and practical. Top of the list was to create more spaces for leisure - spaces such as football and basketball courts, places for community gardening, and safe spaces where people could simply sit and chat with each other. They also advocated for a complete ban on alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and pesticides. They reasoned that such measures would be for the betterment of everyone's health, would reduce the risk of alcohol-related fights and violence, as well as reduce the attraction to drugs. Another solution proposed was the need for more education on various topics including: effective parenting, teenage pregnancy, and drug prevention. These solutions were a recurring theme across each of the six groups that came to Farmcity - imagine the wonders that could be achieved if we simply gave young people a voice! 

 

Initially planned as a single workshop to introduce modern farming to 150 youths, the learnings that emerged from the youth presentations left us reeling - we could be doing so much more, and indeed, we needed to be doing more! In response to their earnest and sincere sharing, we will be floating their suggestions to the relevant Ministries so we can give their voice a chance to be heard. Beyond that, we realized the urgent need to accompany these youths over a longer of period of time. It was from this point of realization that Chapters 2 and 3 of the Agripreneurship Program was born. In Chapter 2, participants will dive heads-in (and hands on) learning the basics of farming. As a group, they will learn how to prepare the soil, sow seeds, manage weeds, irrigate and tend to their own bed of crops on the farm. Their efforts will then culminate in Chapter 3: The Agripreneurs' Club, where they will follow a 10 week program to develop a selection of their ideas (raised in Chapter 1) into a first prototype to be tested on the ground. It is our belief (and hope) that improving their local food system, through initiative(s) that are developed by the community for the community, will pave the way for more positive changes.

Building Agripreneurs - Chapter 2: Tools Of The Trade

After having the privilege to witness such passion and potential among the junior youths in Chapter 1, we were determined to find a way to accompany the same group of 150 youths on their journey towards discovering their entrepreneurial talent. We applied for the Public Diplomacy Grant offered by the US Embassy of Mauritius, and was overjoyed when they informed us that they would be funding our project! Thanks to their generous support, Chapter 2 of our Agripreneurship Program kicked off on 25 November 2019.
In the second chapter, the focus is very much on learning the basic ‘tools of the trade’. The junior youths come back to Farmcity for the second time, this time around spending the day helping out on the farm. They dive heads on (and hands in), learning about weed management, transplanting, and irrigation, as they work in teams on different areas of the farm. The goal is for them to gain some practical experience that they can easily use at home, whether they are planting in containers (such as when space is limited) or tending to an outdoor plot of their own. However, we recognize that isn’t enough. To be an agripreneur, one must be able to identify opportunities where others see unsurmountable barriers, and having a keen sense of curiosity about the world around them is key! To spark that curiosity, we send the junior youths out on a journey of scientific exploration in the later part of the day. They travel into the hidden universe of the microscopic world, examining different samples of things found around the farm - from pollen grains of the squash flower, to the digestive tract of the amazing earthworm, to the beautiful exoskeleton of the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle. They also learn about the different physical states of matter through an activity called “Drawing On Water”, where they engage their inner Picasso and dabble in some hydro dipping. Finally, the participants, activating their innate sense of logic and reason, race against time to piece a 3D-puzzle together.

Chapter 2 of the Agripreneurship Program is currently ongoing, with the remaining 75 participants expected to come in January and February of 2020.

The Journey Continues With Chapter 3

In keeping with our commitment of quality over quantity, it is our hope to continue accompanying the same 150 youths that we worked with in 2019. Building on all they have done in Chapters 1 and 2, the junior youths will continue their agripreneurship program with the Agripreneurs’s Club. Instead of coming to the farm however, we will be heading into the villages this time around! We will work on developing some of the ideas that was raised in Chapter 1, build a prototype using the skills they learnt in Chapter 2, and culminate in a Pitch Day where they will pitch their solutions in front of a panel of judges.

We plan to start 6 Agripreneurs’ Club, one in each of the following localities: Baie du Tombeau, La Tour Koenig, Bois Marchand, Cottage, Sainte-Croix, and Triolet. Can you imagine testing out their ideas, developed by the community, for the community? We can, and we hope you can too! We will require significant resources to make this happen, and it wouldn’t be an understatement to say that this will truly ‘take a village’ for it to come to fruition.

 
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