Today, it is clearer than ever that education is the most powerful tool we have to create the kind of positive and sustainable change the world so desperately needs. Each year, EARTH serves as a knowledge transfer center for more than 7,000 visitors, who then carry these new technologies, ideas and methods back to their home countries. Last October, EARTH University and Camfed International (a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating poverty throughout Africa) came together to provide a life-changing educational opportunity for 15 young women from Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia, made possible with support from The MasterCard Foundation.
Although these 15 women don’t all speak the same language or identify with the same cultures, they are united by their shared experiences as scholars, farmers, entrepreneurs and providers for their families, despite the many challenges they face living in marginalized rural communities. They were hand-selected to participate in an intensive, six-week “train the trainer” course in Integrated Sustainable Agriculture because of their commitment to agriculture, leadership skills and potential for becoming teachers and disseminators of knowledge in their communities.
Small entrepreneur and maize farmer Asha from Tanzania considers it essential that the knowledge she has gained at EARTH doesn’t end with her. “For my community, from what I’ve learned I don’t need to be selfish, I want to go and educate my fellows. When I educate the community they will be able to feed their families. If a child gets a good meal, they will be able to concentrate in class. I’m a mother of two. It is painful for me not having been able to go to school; I know I am missing opportunities. I am very committed to my children. With increased income, I will be able to educate them until they become professors and teach more people.”
The course was custom designed by University faculty and staff, in collaboration with Camfed, to provide these women with the tools and knowledge they need to bring innovative solutions, peace and prosperity to their countries. Using EARTH’s innovative educational model as inspiration, the women gained hands-on experience and technical expertise in crop and animal production, waste management, renewable energy and social development, which were then reinforced with “soft skills” like leadership, presentation skills, team work and interpersonal communication.
For sugar bean farmer Clarah from Zimbabwe, the training she received in gender equality and female empowerment has helped her to realize her potential as a role model for other women in her community. “In five years I dream of myself as an activist who stands for the rights of women and makes sure all women’s voices are heard. I see myself on a platform where I will be managing to reach a number of women, especially in agricultural business, which women can do. After this course, now you can dream “I can do it, I can, I can!”
At 22 years old, Rebecca of Zambia was one of the youngest participants and her short experience at EARTH has inspired her to apply and become a full-time student. Rebecca, who grows rice, groundnuts and raises poultry, says “I have been imparted with knowledge which we didn’t even dream of. I thought we would always be in class or in a laboratory, but the learning by doing approach has been very good, very interactive.”
Rebecca reflects, “I think being at EARTH will bring a good change to my community, increase income generation and even uplift us out of poverty. A few young women like me can make a change.”
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