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 FFA Members Help Fight Hunger with African Farmers in Rwanda

1 September 2011

Seven collegiate FFA members chosen to participate in the National FFA
Organization's FFA Global Outreach: Africa (FFA GO: Africa) program recently
returned from the African nation of Rwanda. The students spent two weeks
helping local farmers fight hunger and poverty through sustainable
agriculture techniques. The group experienced firsthand the reality of food
insecurity and agriculture and conservation issues in a sub-Saharan African
country where the average annual income is $1,500 or less.

The goals of the FFA GO: Africa program are to engage students at a personal
level in global issues and challenges of agriculture, food, hunger, poverty
and human suffering; provide opportunities for service learning in
developing countries; and inspire students to serve and make a positive
humanitarian difference in the world through agriculture.

Based in Kigali, Rwanda, the FFA members lived and worked with the staff of
Catholic Relief Services, an organization that helps impoverished and
disadvantaged people throughout the world. The collaboration made a deep
impression. "The experience was so directional for me," said Washington
State University student Victoria Marsh. "It gave me a clear focus on where
I want to go and what I want to do. Being able to work with CRS and see the
hope they fuel every day in their work pushes me even further to want to
work for nonprofits in other parts of Africa."

The students devoted themselves to several activities, from information
gathering and conducting baseline farmer interviews to determining the
viability of crop yields and gaining a broader understanding of the
challenges faced by small-scale farmers and the environmental conflicts that
arise from income- and food-insecure families.

"We would sit down with the farmers and ask them very personal questions,
like how many months have they gone without eating in the past year and how
many sets of clothing do they own," said Jamie Renier, Denmark, Wis. "We
listed everything they owned and everything they made so that CRS could get
a picture of where things are. Then we would input the data on an iPad. The
information would be sent wirelessly to CRS partners who would track the
farmers' progress during the five-year program."

"What surprised me the most about this experience is that the farmers we
worked with weren't asking us to give them money or food," said Thomas
Griffin from Culver, Ore. "When we traveled to different parts of Rwanda,
farmers wanted us to advocate for them back in the United States. I'm
hopeful that through this experience I can make an impact advocating for
their issues and fight for a way to add value to their crops."

FFA GO: Africa is a program of the National FFA Organization and is funded
as a special project of the National FFA Foundation through a donation from
the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. For a day-by-day journal of the trip,
visit the National FFA Blog. Students who attended FFA GO: Africa are also
available for media interviews.


--
Dr. Teri Hamlin
North Region Agriculture Education
Georgia Department of Education
204C Four Towers University of Georgia
Athens, Ga 30602
706-552-4461 / 706-540-0032
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