Staff development is very important to Vision Africa. For our projects to be successful, we need to ensure that the people working at them are empowered with the knowledge and information required to help them do their best.
With most of our projects closing down for the Christmas break, staff from various projects were invited to sessions that would help them prepare for the next year. The first session was held for all Seed of Hope staff from all four centres. They gathered in Nairobi and spent a day discussing target setting and reviewing whether or not they had achieved targets set for 2011. There was also a session on Income Generating Activities (IGAs) as this will be a focus for 2012. As with all other Vision Africa projects, each Seed of Hope centre is required to find ways to cover some of its own costs rather than rely one hundred percent on donations. Each project must find viable IGAs that will work in their community and with the resources available to them. In 2011 there have been varying degrees of success in terms of IGAs so the opportunity was taken to discuss why certain ventures succeeded or what could be done to boost others.
Taking this a stage further, a second day was set aside to focus on IGAs for all Vision Africa projects. On this day, representatives from each area of Vision Africa’s work were invited on a field trip to visit two sites where income is successfully being generated. The idea behind this was to inspire the project leaders and give them some ideas of how to set up IGAs or how to improve on some that have already been started. The day was also a chance for project leaders to bond and share their experiences with each other.
The first site visited was a shamba (farm) in Kandara District. This was an amazing site that had our staff speechless at first….and then full of questions! The shamba was relatively small at just one acre but productivity was high. Very little of the space was unused and each area was cleverly designed to maximise on income. We started by checking out the space that was allocated for growing maize, beans and arrowroots. This was densely populated with a very healthy crop. Questions started to arise as to which fertilisers were used and how the place was irrigated. This is where we started to learn how each aspect of the shamba was connected. All waste water was channelled to assist with irrigation and after being used to create biogas, some of the animal waste was piped down to the area where the crops were grown so that it could be spread easily. In fact, no fertiliser was purchased and everything was grown organically.
We then proceeded to an area where pigs were being bred. This is something that a number of Vision Africa projects have tried and some have had more success than others. A lot of time was spent here learning about the best ways to care for the animals, the best feeds to use, the standards required by a local company that buys pigs to produce sausages…the questions were endless. It was a similar case when we moved on to visit the cows and chickens which are producing great yields unlike those at some of our projects.
Everyone agreed this had been a very valuable visit and those with land felt challenged to try and implement some of the ideas they had seen and improve productivity and ultimately income at their own sites. There was a lot of discussion in the vehicle as project leaders discussed opportunities and their plans for the coming year.
It was time to head to Nairobi where we were to visit Kenya Children’s Home, formerly known as Thomas Barnardo’s House. Here, we were told that after several years of building up income generating activities the home managed to cover its own budget. There was a moment of silence in the room as our project leaders absorbed this information. Then it was time to take a tour of the place and see just how this had been achieved and what lessons could be learnt for our own projects. We visited a bakery, vocational workshops, a fee-paying school, cafe and various other enterprises being run on the site. At each stop, our team took notes and asked questions. This had been another worthwhile visit and initiated a lot of discussion among the Vision Africa team.
The following day was our final team meeting of the year. There was a definite buzz of excitement as people talked about the field trip and how it had impacted their views of IGAs and what they could do at their own projects.
We look forward to seeing how the ideas discussed will be put in to practice in 2012 and bringing you reports on how our projects are making progress on their journeys towards self-sustainability.
If you are interested in giving one of our projects a helping hand to get an IGA kick started, please contact us. Alternatively, check out our gift cards which include some items that will be used to get projects off the ground.