We were delighted at their selection and worked with them to frame their project, “Harvesting Change,” that would address women, smallholder farmers in a country in the developing world, as well as the Senator’s interest in agroforestry. We introduced the class to a partner, ACDI/VOCA, an economic development organization that has worked in 146 countries over many decades, including working to assist smallholder farmers to improve their livelihoods.

We worked with both entities on the selection of a current project ACDI/VOCA had underway in Liberia with a current USAID-grant, the Forest Incomes for Environmental Sustainability (FIFES ). The class raised funds for the project from donors across Indiana. The project also received a grant from the Dow Foundation, and we and our TLC staff were pleased to support the project as well.

This month ACDI/VOCA briefed us on the progress of the project. To date it has reached 273 women with technical assistance on ways to improve their farming which includes oil palm, peanuts, chili peppers, and cow peas. After providing this technical assistance, it became evident that because of the extremely low income levels of these women, access to agricultural tools and even seeds were not realistically available to them. So ACDI/VOCA was able to utilize the Harvesting Change funds to purchase these vital tools and seeds. The women have had success in raising their crops and accessing markets for their sale that have resulted in profits.

Further, because of the oil palm trees and the rotating of the several different crops around the area, the farmers are no longer depleting the soil of critical minerals and are able to maintain their farms in the same location. Prior to projects like this, the farmers were often forced to abandon their plots, burn down other tree stands, and set up farms in these new locations. Instead, current trees remain untouched, and the agroforestry program with the oil palms and other crops is providing the farmers with additional income. In anticipation of the next growing season, the farmers have held back some of the seeds from their cowpeas for new planting. 

We were extremely pleased to receive this very positive report. With just this small investment and the vision of the Lugar Series Class of 2016, 273 women in Liberia are building a better life for themselves and their families. ACDI/VOCA is so pleased with these early results that they have expressed an interest in seeking additional funding to carry the project beyond its initially funded year.