While health is an essential value, that health is nurtured and promoted by many other activities in communities. The sustainable livelihood section of HVCF makes efforts to address issues that can enhance community resources to enable communities to grow and become more self-sustaining while promoting the values of interdependence within the society.
Education projects cover a range of activities such as provision of learning materials, i.e., textbooks, library books, desks and chairs. Where funds are provided, it includes building or renovating of schools together with the community. A major effort is the formation of School-Based Management Committees. A Centre for Learning in Ikuzeh with computers allows children to learn English through the use of stories and animated pictures. E-Readers in Rimau primary school are for the purpose of promoting the love of reading. (See more about the Livingkindness Centre for Learning in Ikuzeh and the E-reader project in Rimau on special pages.)
Any educational programme needs ongoing monitoring, maintenance activities, oversight, etc. In rural communities, this is carried out by the School-Based Management Committee (SBMC), a committee composed of some parents, some teachers and some students. HVCF in conjunction with the Local Education Authority worked with the ESSPIN programme to establish, mentor and then monitor SMBC in more than 50 communities in Kajuru Local Government. It has extended such training to some schools, specifically those supported by ActionAid Nigeria in Chikun and Igabi Local Governments.
Quality education is one of the most basic needs of children. Many communities now have school structures but need assistance for supporting learning in the schools. While Hope for the Village Child has helped various communities in building or renovating school buildings or providing learning materials, it is important for the government to take its own responsibility for education. Government provides teachers but in rural areas they are often in short supply. This is the reason why HVCF supports SBMCs in the rural communities, assisting them to develop skills to advocate and lobby for their own needs.
One of the partners of HVCF, supporting education in the communities, is Britain-Nigeria Educational Trust. They have supported HVCF with textbooks and other educational aids for past years, but this year there was a just. This year B-Net, as it is called, struck out on a new path, funding e-readers for the primary school in Rimau. E-readers are basically Kindle units, giving children the chance to books which they would not have the chance to read in ordinary circumstances. The aim of having the e-readers is giving the students incentive to read in English which will give them a basis for further education which is done in English.
The commissioning of the E-Readers in Rimau was a grand celebration.
Many factors have to be in place for quality education to take place. In various communities, these issues have been addressed in a variety of ways. One important consideration is a place for learning, i.e., a school. HVCF has built and renovated schools in a variety of communities, at times because there was no school, at times when the school was badly in need of repair.
Not all families have been able to afford to send their children to school. The Kaduna State Government presently has decreed that all primary and junior secondary school education in government schools is free. This is a change from the past years when school fees were charged. At that time HVCF assisted some children, especially those who had not attended school earlier due to crippling from rickets and those whose parents were indigent, often because one of the parents was deceased.
Because mothers are the primary caregivers for their families, special projects are organized to assist them. These include literacy and numeracy training, provision of inputs for livestock and crop farming, small-scale loan scheme, paralegal system, and training in various capacity building exercises such as negotiation skills, management of finances, budgeting, advocacy, human rights, etc.
Women are known to be the heart of the home, but at times the working of the heart can be taken for granted. In order to support the women in the rural communities, HVCF has a series of programmes to assist them. A basic one is literacy, learning to read and write in Hausa. This is often accompanied by numeracy, assisting the women with simple mathematical skills. Each year there is a Literacy Day for them to display their skills.
Another means of empowerment is ordinary life skills, such as learning the principles of leadership or budgeting. Though all people have some basic skills in these areas, at times it is necessary to increase those skills for better management. In addition, to be able to exercise rights, it is necessary to know the civic principles such as how to approach elections, assess candidates for government, etc.
It is obvious that there are areas where the women have specific needs, e.g., good land for farming, but at times they struggle with how to attain their objective. Learning about negotiation aids them in speaking out about their needs and rights while creating an atmosphere for others to hear them objectively.
Most rural women engage in farming. When speaking of farmers, it is often male farmers who are the first targets of assistance. HVCF has assisted women’s groups with various trainings and inputs to enable them to have a higher yield on their own farms. In addition, it has assisted them in having group farms.
With the support of ActionAid Nigeria, HVCF has establishment women peer educators in some communities. The peer educators are trained in some areas of importance and interest, and they then work with women’s groups in their communities to pass on the learning to them. This also gives them opportunity to assess their needs and to discuss how to obtain assistance.
Women’s needs are basically the same, but when people are struggling to survive or keep their heads above water, it is easy to feel that one is alone. Regular women’s forums allow the women to bring for their joys and their concerns, their achievements and their constraints, to share with others and to gain insights into how they can address some of the issues they face.
There are various forms of violence that can take place in rural communities, but HVCF has been particularly concerned about the violence against women, often the silent phenomenon in the community. After lengthy discussion concerning these issues, HVCF, with the assistance of ActionAid Nigeria, in some communities has trained Community Paralegals to address issues of violence which are within their capacity or to know how and where to refer those which are beyond their capacity. The programme is so successful that it is being extended to more communities.
Farming is the main source of livelihood in the rural communities. This makes it necessary for farmers to gain as much yield as they can in order to have enough financial capital to meet their needs. The major farming takes place during the rainy season which is usually mainly between the months of June – September in the area. The yield is expected to give the family sufficient produce and income to last until the next rainy season. Two of the major crops planted and on which HVCF places stress for good agronomic practices are maize and soybeans.
Farming in a subsistence manner and on small plots is a labour-intensive activity. However, this labour can be reduced significantly by the use of oxen and ploughs to work the land when the farming season begins. When HVCF started looking at common agricultural practices, using oxen and ploughs was not practiced. HVCF began to promote this practice to reduce the workload for the farmers, and now driving along the roads, it is evident that this practice has become common.
As the population expands, areas available for farming are growing less. The result of this is that land is often over-used, and as a result, its fertility is depleted. Chemical fertilizer has been the practice in addressing this problem. However, two issues arise with the chemical fertilizer. The first is that it is not always available or too expensive for the small farmer. The second issue is that it does not restore the fertility of the soil. (A third, sometimes mentioned, is that the effects on health are not clearly defined.) HVCF has encouraged the rural farmers to return to the practice of composting, when it is possible. In this light, they have organized, for both men and women farmers, demonstrations on how to make compost, and used demonstration plots to show the effects.
Another area where the health effects are not clear is the use of chemical insecticides, especially when they are sprayed in such a way as to be carried by the wind. It is known that when they are placed in grain, a certain amount of time has to pass before the grain can be used because to the toxins in the insecticides. To address this issue, the ENACTUS group of students from Kaduna Polytechnic collaborated with HVCF to train farmers on how to make organic pesticide using four commonly found ingredients. Appropriately, it is called SUPER 4. If it is placed in bags of grain, the food can be eaten immediately without any ill effects.
It might be lovely to see, but in a farm it is deadly for the long term fertility of the farm. It is the noxious weed commonly known as striga. Each striga plant contains up to 50,000 seeds that can lie dormant in the soil for 15 years, but still become active when maize is planted. In order to reduce this menace, HVCF has introduced farming methods which when properly used, can eventually remove striga from a field.
Having good information about seeds, improved methods of planting, marketing, etc., is essential to good farming. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, there is a shortage of agricultural extension agents to assist farmers in gaining this information. In collaboration with VSO Nigeria, HVCF has trained men and women farmers from 7 communities with such knowledge, and helped them set up demonstration farms so that they can become community agricultural extension volunteers (CAEV) in their own communities and surrounding area. It is one way in which to spread knowledge about good agronomic practices.
Having grain year round is essential for food security in a family. In many communities, at the time of harvest, the practice has been to bag the grain without considering a long term plan, and as a result, within months before the next rainy season, the grain is exhausted and the family enters into the ‘hungry season’, as it is called. To address this, HVCF has worked to have cereal banks in as many communities as possible. These cereal banks work on the model of a locally-run cooperative, and not only ensure that the members have grain or beans throughout the year, but also become a means of generating an income when the bank is officially ‘opened’ close to or at the beginning of the next rainy season.
Because agriculture is basic to life in the community, it is an important element in the work of HVCF. Moreover, it is constantly changing, with new learnings and new developments. It is for this reason that HVCF, in addition to what is mentioned above, continues to carry out a variety of ongoing trainings to enable the farmers, men and women alike, to improve their farming. To mention a few, there is the development of the farming calendar to marketing is a key strategic need; productive raising of livestock brings added benefits; etc.
Underlying all the practices such as organic farming methods is the awareness that we are responsible for the prudent use of the resources of the earth. It is incumbent upon each person to reduce wastage, conserve resources that are available, carry out activities that renew the earth. With this in mind, HVCF works to help people be aware of the impact of their activities on the earth.