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Apr 22, 2019

Using agricultural technology to beat poverty

A scholarship helped Hope attain her degree.
A scholarship helped Hope attain her degree.

Initially, Hope wanted to be a doctor. The first of eight children born in south-central Nigeria to a police officer father and trader mother, Hope applied to study medicine at the University of Benin in southeastern Nigeria, but was denied admission.

Belatedly, she turned to agriculture. By her own admission, this was an unexpected turn of events, because she’d never considered agriculture. But after speaking with people who worked in the industry, she changed her mind. “The agricultural industry is a vital key in the development of any nation,” she found, and it creates jobs for youth by supplying industries with raw materials needed for production. More than just economic development, she also found that efficient agriculture was an important tool for fighting poverty.

“Through agriculture I can be self-employed [as well as an employer] of labour… to help the unemployed people,” she said.

She studied at Edo State College of Agriculture in southeastern Nigeria from 2008-2010, receiving a diploma in agricultural technology. She furthered her studies at the Federal College of Agriculture in Akure, a city in southwestern Nigeria, graduating top of her class in 2013 with a higher national diploma. The next year she spent at a regional agricultural ministry to fulfill her one year of service with the National Youth Service Corps that is mandated by the Nigerian government.

She also successfully applied to the University of Ilorin, in southwest Nigeria, but then she had to figure out how to pay for it. That’s when she applied for and won a Christopher Dowswell Scholarship. The scholarship, primarily funded by Winrock International and the Sasakawa Africa Association, offers scholarships with the goal of increasing the number of female agricultural extensions workers.

The Dowswell scholarship covered her school expenses from 2016 to 2017, when she graduated with a bachelor of science award in agricultural extension and community development.

“The scholarship gave me great opportunity to earn diverse skills relating to agricultural extension that will serve the rural communities,” she said. Using her new skills, she intends to help farmers “learn how they can improve their farming communities and to ensure sustainability in agricultural production so as to improve their standard of living.”

In the future, she plans to educate farmers to improve their knowledge of the environment and farming, help them break cycles of poverty, and ensure the sustainability of food production through high yields in rural areas. In so doing, she follows in the footsteps of Christopher Dowswell, who believed that increasing access to new agriculture knowledge and technology can help combat child mortality, malnutrition and poverty.

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Apr 12, 2019

Supporting the Dreams of Entrepreneurs

Momentum Entrepreneurs
Momentum Entrepreneurs

Midway through our ninth year, the Arkansas Women’s Business Center (AWBC) is pleased to continue our work in assisting women to actualize their dreams of small business ownership. Quarter Two of the year has been full of activities, including workshops, trainings, panels and expos.

The Arkansas Women’s Business Center is proud to offer Momentum, Arkansas’s first minority women-owned accelerator and one of the first concentrated accelerators of its kind. Ten female minority entrepreneurs were selected to participate in the five-week program, held on Monday evenings at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub. Each participant received $500 in technical assistance, which they used to get legal counseling, branding assistance, web development, logo design and much more. Over the course of five weeks the participants created their Lean Canvas, a one-page business plan. They also conducted ten customer discovery interviews, learned basics of small business marketing and financial consulting, and best practices for pitch training. The women then participated in a pitch competition for a chance at $1,000 in startup capital.  

After gaining more insight from Momentum on the needs of minority women business owners, the Arkansas Women’s Business Center entered exciting new partnerships to offer an event, “Economic Mobility: Banking on Black Women Business Owners.” Philander Smith College, Women’s Foundation of Arkansas, the Urban League of the State of Arkansas and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis joined us to host a working meeting with 50 nonprofit leaders, city officials and bankers on the status of black women entrepreneurs and how community stakeholders can better support and foster economic mobility in disadvantaged communities.  

AWBC also continued its thriving partnership with the AARP Foundation to offer Work For Yourself @50+, a comprehensive program to help those 50 years of age and older learn about entrepreneurship. In this workshop we offered step-by-step information on how to start a business and generate additional income, as well as how to access additional resources and mentors to help on their self-employment journey. In an attempt to give back, the AWBC staff also continues to offer entrepreneurial training at Boots to Business.This two-day training assists individuals who are leaving active-duty military status and considering small-business ownership in lieu of traditional employment.      

Finally, on March 23 AWBC hosted our third annual Spring Market, which featured an overwhelming 41 vendors and 476 participants. This proof-of-concept expo gives our clients an opportunity to prove their business concepts and test their product offerings. Expos also give small business owners a great forum to analyze what sells, what doesn’t, and how they can change their processes to be more customer-friendly. In addition, we hosted two no-cost small business trainings, sponsored by Southern Bancorp: “How to Make a Product your Customers Want,” and “Funding your Business and Using Credit Wisely.”

The Arkansas Women’s Business Center looks forward to an equally active third quarter assisting women in the state of Arkansas become the entrepreneurs they dream to be.

Momentum Entrepreneurs
Momentum Entrepreneurs
Economic Mobility Panel Discussion
Economic Mobility Panel Discussion
Spring Market
Spring Market

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Jan 25, 2019

Scholarship Provides Opportunity

When Naomi arrived in eastern Tanzania, she had one goal in her mind: to improve her professional skills.

Following Tanzania’s general presidential election in November 2015, she had left Babati in northern Tanzania, where she worked as a livestock officer. She traveled south to Morogoro, joining the Applied Agricultural Extension program at Sokoine University of Agriculture, a mid-career degree program for extension professionals.

Being female, in a new town, without any financial support except her salary, Naomi had a number of economic difficulties in her first year of studies.

“This was one of the most challenging times for me,” Naomi said. “I had no financial support. However, this did not make me lose focus. With my feet stepping on economic challenges, my mind was sharply focused on my original goal, to improve my professional skills.”

Yet it wasn’t easy. She devoted much of her time to earning enough money to live on and support her studies. An effort that was ultimately unsustainable. During her second year of study, however, Naomi received a welcome piece of news. She was awarded the Christopher Dowswell Scholarship, which covered her tuition, research, living expenses and equipment such as a computer. The scholarship enabled her to focus on learning, without the pressure of also providing for herself.

“I just cannot express my joy and gratitude for this scholarship,” Naomi said.

With the help of the scholarship and a clear goal in mind, Naomi emerged as the top student in a class of 96, earning an average GPA of 4.1 (out of five) during her three years at SUA. Last November, Naomi graduated with 77 other students. With the help of the Christopher Dowswell scholarship, she completed her goal of improving her professional skills.

“This scholarship made my dream to come true,” she said. 

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