Capacity Building for Organic Farming in Mauritius and Empowerment of Street Children
Capacity Building for Organic Farming in Mauritius and Empowerment of Street Children
Project Summary
The objective of this project is to set up an educational farm for street children using sustainable and organic agricultural practices in the area of St Pierre, Mauritius. There are currently very few programs addressing the issues and needs of street children in Mauritius. Twenty-three street youth have already been selected for the first year. They are out of school, unskilled and illiterate; live in conditions of extreme poverty and promiscuity without any supervision or guidance; are vulnerable to many social ills. By giving them an alternative to the streets, this project will lead to the reduction of the street frequency, decrease of the delinquency rate, increase in self-esteem, sense of responsibility and discipline among the beneficiaries while increasing their sense of environmental stewardship. Furthermore, this project will link with similar projects and organizations practicing small-scale organic farming.
The project activities will consist in setting up the farm and the farm infrastructure, training staff and youth to sustainable agricultural techniques through a partnership with relevant organisations. The training will then be replicated every year with a new batch of twenty to twenty five students. They will have been trained and have developed income-generating activities, opening new professional opportunities. By carrying activities such as cultivating vegetables or taking care of farm animals, students will have an opportunity to connect or reconnect with their natural environment and the production of food, instilling stewardship of the environment and increased respect for self and others. The farm will be open to the public and thus the general public and school children invited will be able to witness the inner workings of a farm, while learning about the issue of street children and how they may benefit from such programs. By selling products of the farm, the project is set a long-term self-financing programme, which ensures sustainability of the project and the potential positive impacts on street youth nationwide.
Furthermore, this project will address issues of environmental injustice and access to pesticide and chemical-free food, by promoting organic agriculture, dissemination of lessons learned in selected communities where SAFIRE regularly intervenes, and creation of a national network of non-governmental organizations practicing small scale organic farming. The need for such a network is becoming apparent with the proliferation of small projects linking the development of organic agriculture projects with poverty alleviation and support of vulnerable groups. Such a network is required to share lessons learned, but also to consolidate and grow an organic seed bank to support such projects. As such, it addresses the pressing issue of food security, in a Small Island Developing State where the majority of food is being imported.
This project will link with existing projects funded by the GEF SGP, namely “Empowering School Dropouts in Sustainable Agriculture” carried out by Maison Familiale Rurale du Nord and “Empowering Intellectually Disabled Workers in Sustainable Agriculture” implemented by the Association pour les Parents d’Enfants Indadaptés de l’Ile Maurice, under Operational Phase 4. This project addresses two out of the six thematic areas of the GEF Country Programme Strategy, namely ‘Resource Management’ and ‘POPS and Chemicals’ by promoting sustainable agricultural practices, SGP OP5 Immediate Objective 6 ‘Maintain or improve flow of agro-ecosystem and forest ecosystem services to sustain livelihoods of local communities’ and SGP 05 Immediate Objective 9 ‘Promote and support phase out of POPS and chemicals of global concern at the community level’. Indeed, all the skills, improvement and adjustments learned during the first twelve months will allow us to develop training sessions for the communities where the children come from, and exchange of experiences and lessons learned will be carried out through the national network of NGOs practicing small-scale organic farming. Most importantly, this project addresses cross-cutting issues by giving street children the opportunity to have access to informal education, train them in sustainable and organic agricultural techniques and finally encourage the social inclusion of a marginalised population often victim of stigmatization.

1.2 Organizational Background and Capacity to implement the project
SAFIRE is a local Mauritian non-governmental organization (NGO), duly registered at the Registrar of Associations under number 9278, whose mission is to provide psychosocial support to children in street situation with the aim of facilitating their integration into society. Since its inception in 2006 SAFIRE has been supporting 230 children in street situation. SAFIRE is a member of international network: Consortium for Street Children.
SAFIRE employs street educators who work with children and youth on numerous activities in the villages and cities of Baie du Tombeau, Bambous, Beau Vallon, Bel Air Caroline, Camp Levieux, Port-Louis, Riambel and Triolet. Interventions and projects are adapted to the specific needs of the target population in each city/village/neighbourhood, as some social ailments may be more pressing in one area more than another. Currently SAFIRE is undergoing the following projects:
1. Manufacturing of Christmas market gift items. For the past three years, children with whom SAFIRE works have created origami stars based on recycled paper. In 2011, the children began to make Christmas balls, again with recycled paper. These artistic activities aim to teach children discipline, patience and awareness on respect for the environment by using recycled paper required for this project. These decorations are put up for sale.
2. Develop creativity and sense of entrepreneurship are some of the tools used to accelerate the rehabilitation of children in street situations and especially among teen mothers. Faced with the rise of the phenomenon of young mothers and the lack of prospects for these girls, SAFIRE has established these arts and crafts courses. These courses aim to get them out of the street environment and encourage them to become self-employed entrepreneurs.
3. In 2012 SAFIRE has been selected to represent Mauritius to the street children world cup, which will be held in Brazil in 2014. To this end in 2012 SAFIRE has had its the first football tournament. 210 children aged between 8 and 23 took part of this major sports event whose purpose is to eradicate idleness, enhance team spirit and discipline among the participants.
4. Advocating for child rights and the promotion of the convention on the right of the child is one of our main objectives. To mark the international day of the child (20th November) SAFIRE has organised the first edition of the film festival on the right of the child to sensitize the public on the living condition of children on street situation and on the phenomenon of street children in Mauritius. 18 children took part in this project and produced four documentaries on their living conditions.
5. In 2012 SAFIRE has established a partnership with the international NGO YouthRISE to led a peer-training project for 25 youth on harm reduction strategies and HIV/ Aids prevention among young people. A three-day training on these subjects has been conducted by three junior educators (former street children). The training participants produced a supplement after this training: A video advocating the access to harm reduction services for young people.

It is governed by a managing committee composed of seven members, who meet monthly on a voluntary basis (President: Narghis Bundhun- Lawyer, Vice President: Mariam Gopaul- Consultant, Treasurer: Thierry D’autriche- Clerck, Ass. Treasurer Mario Agathe, Secretary: Candy Ramdhun- HR manager, Ass. Secretary: Pratima Ramndanee- Bank Manager, Member: Nadjah Abbassakoor: speech therapist). The organization employs a manager, 15 youth mentors/educators and support staff to carry out its projects.

The target population for SAFIRE’s interventions are mainly street children and youth. Most street children and youth in Mauritius are not street living children but have a home to retire to at the end of the day. However, they are driven onto the streets by multiple factors, key among which are the poor parental presence in the lives, and the poor socio-economic situation of their families. Based on the study carried out by the organization, interventions with street children and youth should focus on improvement of access to professional training and practical skills development.

For this specific project, a team composed of one project coordinator, one operations coordinator were either already recruited or dedicated to this project. This team will grow when the project will start. The project staff will be based on site and will work with and report weekly and on ad-hoc basis as required to the manager. Street educators, who are each attached to one region where Safire works, will take turns to support pedagogical activities at the farm.

The NGO will partner with the key advisors on the technical aspects of growing organic vegetables and having them certified, and will act as an interface with other partners intervening in some aspects of the project, namely, the University of Mauritius and the Agricultural Research and Extension Unit (AREU). The University of Mauritius will bring in its expertise in terms of composting, while the AREU will support in soil analysis and expertise.

SAFIRE will also extend its partnership with the Mouvement pour l’Autosuffisance Alimentaire (MAA) with whom it has collaborated to initiate a pilot phase for this project. The MAA has been operational since 1986 and has led a number of projects relating to sustainable agriculture and food security. This partnership will center around the training needs for the participants and support for animal husbandry.

Land for the project has been donated by the ENL Group and several sponsors as indicated in the budget section will fund different components including the organic certification cost.

1.3 Project Objectives and Expected Results
Problem statement
The most common definition of street children is “any girl or boy who has not reached adulthood, for whom the street (in the broadest sense of the word including occupied dwellings, wasteland, etc) has become her or his habitual abode and/or sources of livelihood, and who is inadequately protected, supervised or directed by responsible adults” (inter-NGO, 1885). The phenomenon of street children is rapidly becoming a worldwide problem, and Mauritius is no exception. A recent study published by SAFIRE in collaboration with the Mauritius Family Planning and Welfare Association (MFPWA), with the financial support of the Global Fund to Fight HIV/Aids and Tuberculosis and Rogers Group, revealed that about 6,780 children are considered as children in street situation (63% male and 37% female) with an average age of 13 years old.
In Mauritius, the problem of street children is mainly one of children on the streets. Only 4.2% of them are street-living children. The vast majority of street children in Mauritius have a home to retire to at the end of the day. They are driven onto the streets by multiple factors, key among which are the poor parental presence in the lives, and the poor socio-economic situation of their families. They have a lack of interest for education, as they cannot fit into the current educational system. These children who are left in the precarious conditions are exposed to a series of hazards, which go from psychophysical abuse, to outright aggressions in the streets, drug abuse, exploitation for economic reasons and a high vulnerability to HIV & AIDS. The vulnerability of the children results from their relative lack of information in relation to the dangers that they are exposed to in street situation.
Unfortunately many stakeholders remain in a state of denial as to the urgency and gravity of the situation, and do not even acknowledge the existence of street children on the island, resulting in lack of policies and support including vocational training and informal education programs addressing the specific issues faced by this marginalised and vulnerable population. One of the key recommendations of the above mentioned-study is that “reintegration programs must include professional orientation to develop and strengthen the children’s professional aspirations. This will motivate them to pursue their studies and make the necessary effort to stay on track” (SAFIRE, 2012).
On the other hand, land resources have been continuously degraded in Mauritius through deforestation, and unsustainable agricultural practices, amongst other causes. Mono-crop agriculture for sugar production, although a historical driving force of the economy, has also resulted in severe land degradation and pollution. Vegetable production is carried out mostly by small farmers who resort to heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers due to the proliferation of pests. Only 0.15% of the agricultural land is used towards organic agriculture, and this represents mostly sugar cane destined for the export markets (Willer and Kilcher, 2009). Few organic food products are available on the local market. In addition, Mauritius imports a substantial proportion of its food requirements, with local production meeting only 23% of the population’s consumption (Ministry of Agro Industry and Fisheries, 2007). Sustainable agricultural initiatives are needed to make up for the large quantity of imports and to improve food security.

Primary objective
The primary objective of this project is to reduce street frequency and promote sustainable agriculture and living through the set up an educational farm for street children in the area of Saint Pierre, Mauritius.

Specific objectives
The specific objectives of this farm are:
1. To encourage rehabilitation through reduction of street frequency and reduce the behavioural problems of the children through day-to-day farm caretaking activities
2. To improve the employability and increase the skill set of the children participating in the program in sustainable agriculture and associated skills
3. To promote food security and safety by opening the farm to the public and marketing organic agricultural products with the local community, restaurants and other businesses
4. To monitor and evaluate the project and disseminate the lessons learned with selected communities

Rationale
The proposed project intends to give an opportunity to a marginalized and uneducated group of 23 street children through the set-up of an educational farm, to gain a theoretical and practical training in sustainable agricultural practices in order to reintegrate society while being trained and developing food self-sufficiency.

Thus, this educational farm project fits with the Food Security strategic Plan 2008-2011 adopted by the republic of Mauritius, which recommends to “massively invest in agriculture”. It also fits within the government’s policy for crop diversification, as indicated in Strategic Options in Crop Diversification and Livestock Sector 2007-2015.

This project addresses two out of the six thematic areas of the GEF Country Programme Strategy, namely ‘Resource Management’ and ‘POPS and Chemicals’ by promoting sustainable agricultural practices, SGP OP5 Immediate Objective 6 ‘Maintain or improve flow of agro-ecosystem and forest ecosystem services to sustain livelihoods of local communities’ and SGP 05 Immediate Objective 9 ‘Promote and support phase out of POPS and chemicals of global concern at the community level’ indeed, all the skills, improvement and adjustments learned during the first twelve months will help us to develop training modules for the communities where the children come from. Most importantly, this project addresses cross-cutting issues by giving street children the opportunity to have access to informal education, train them in sustainable and organic agricultural techniques and finally encourage the social inclusion of a marginalised population often victim of stigmatization.

Specific results
The expected results for this project will be the reduction of the street frequency and a decrease of the delinquency rate among the beneficiaries thanks to the support and guidance they will receive within this project. The children will gain more self-esteem; they will be more responsible and disciplined. Last but not least the beneficiaries of the project will be trained and will have developed income-generating activities for youth who so far have had no formal education or future perspectives; in addition to improving food security for the surrounding communities. More specifically, as per the specific objectives, the project results will be:

Specific Objective 1: To reduce the street frequency and reduce the behavioural problems of the children through day-to-day farm caretaking activities
- Farm infrastructure, including office and training centre, greenhouse, planters, chicken coop and animal shelters set up
- Reduction of street frequency and improvement of behavioural problems as well as reduction in delinquency rates for 40 children involved in the programme

Specific Objective 2: To improve the employability and increase the skill set of the children participating in the program in sustainable agriculture and associated skills
- Training programme in sustainable agricultural techniques established as well as complementary courses in literacy, life skills and ad-hoc workshops in agro processing, cooking and other subjects chosen collaboratively with the participants
- 40 children and youth trained in sustainable agricultural techniques after two years
- 40 children and youth trained in life-skills and literacy classes after two years

Specific Objective 3: To promote food security and safety by opening the farm to the public and marketing organic agricultural products with the local community, restaurants and other businesses
- Farm opened to the public and school children with tours available
- Organic agricultural products marketed and sold at an adequate price

Specific Objective 4: To create a national network of non-governmental organizations practicing organic farming according to the same principles
- Through FORENA, link with other organizations carrying out similar projects with similar social objectives
- Carry out 2 workshops a year to share experiences and lessons learned with these organizations

Specific Objective 4: To monitor and evaluate the project and disseminate the lessons learned with selected communities
- Monitoring carried out throughout the project
- Evaluation of progress of students and quality of products carried out after one year and at the end of the project
- Lessons learned disseminated in selected communities

1.4 Description of Project Activities
Please refer to Appendix I for logical framework and breakdown of each activity.

SAFIRE will accompany a group of twenty-three children in street situation in the daily management of an educational farm. The children will be trained to agricultural techniques and be in charge of farm animals. The location of the farm will be in the region of Moka (St Pierre), and will be one acre. The farm will be composed of two main parts, an agricultural part where organic vegetables and flowers and a poultry-yard part composed of hens, ducks, and swans, as well as goats. SAFIRE will provide the transport facilities for the children between their region of residence and the farm on a daily basis, to ensure their attendance and encourage their participation. Our experience has proven that providing transport for these vulnerable children is the only way of ensuring their participation in activities outside of their locality, as they do not commute on their own. In line with SAFIRE’s mission and objectives the educational farm will encourage the psychosocial rehabilitation and the professional reintegration of children in street situation, by giving them an alternative to the street through the daily management of the farm.

Output 1.1 Farm infrastructure, including office and training centre, greenhouse, planters, chicken coop and animal shelters set up

Activity Set 1.1. Setting up the farm and activities

The first activities will consist in setting up the farm and carrying all necessary preparation in relation to this. This includes setting up container offices, storage, a kitchen, watchman quarters and a training center; recruiting all staff identified by the project; purchasing all planting materials; seeds; setting up planters, greenhouse and chicken coop; and setting up daily procedures and rules and regulations for activities at the farm collaboratively with the children.

Output 1.2 Reduction of street frequency

Activity Set 1.2 Start day-to-day farm management

The activities in relation to this output are to prepare crops and the soil for planting; planting; watering; and compost making. The children will be involved in each of these activities, but will also be followed by a counsellor who will be present one day a week. The counsellor will closely monitor the progress of students and will provide support through animal therapy with the animals at the farm. This support is in addition to the day-to-day support of two educators who will provide feedback in daily logs. To ensure participation, transport will be provided for students and a lunch meal every day. It is planned to split the week between two batches of ten children each from Monday to Saturday.

Output 2.1 Training programme established

Activity Set 2.1 Set up and register training programme

SAFIRE will work with Fondation Ressources et Nature to develop training modules adapted to the programme participants. This training development will allow SAFIRE to replicate the training every year with a new batch of students. Modules will be submitted to the MQA for approval as soon as possible per eligibility critieria.

Output 2.2 40 youth trained in sustainable agriculture

Activity Set 2.2 Run training programme

As soon as the modules are developed, the training will be delivered to a batch of 20 students as a pilot project during the first year. There will be four training modules. The duration for each and content will be determined as per activity 2.1.

Output 2.3 40 youth trained in lifeskills and participated in literacy programs

Activity Set 2.3 Set up and run adjacent courses

Courses adjacent to the main training programme in sustainable agriculture will be developed and delivered to students. Core courses include literacy and life skills training, which are vital to help students gain additional autonomy and increase likelihood of employment. In addition to such courses, a series of workshops will be chosen in collaboration with the students. These may include courses on cooking, agro-processing, packaging or possibly other subjects as suggested by them.

Output 3.1 Farm open to the public and school children

Activity Set 3.1 Set up tours for the general public and school children

The activities in this project will consist first to set up relevant information panels to inform the public about the project. Such panels will provide visual support to describe the project and how the farm runs, and will complement tours given around the farm. SAFIRE will liaise with the Ministry of Education and relevant bodies, as well as private schools to inform them about the possibility to carry out visits at the farm. An important part of starting farm tours will be to communicate about the existence of the farm and the goals of the project, through a launching event and hence through the press and media. The launching event will allow the farm to gain more visibility nationally. Following the launching, guided visits will start.

Output 3.2 Agricultural products marketed and sold

Activity Set 3.2. Market and sell agricultural products

The activities for this output will center around developing a marketing strategy for the products, including identifying clients and exploring the potential for community supported agriculture (CSA), so as to ensure that security and sustainability of revenues. In addition to CSA, SAFIRE will market its products to local businesses and restaurants, which are already ordering eggs from the current small pilot site developed prior to this project.

Output 4.1 Monitoring carried out throughout the project

Activity Set 4.1 Monitor progresses of youth and quality of agricultural products

Monitoring the progress of students is an integral part of assessing success of the project. This will be done through the support of educators who fill out daily logs about activities carried out, and may note remarks about attitude of students towards tasks, general outlook and possible challenges. In addition to daily logs, the counselor who will be present will provide feedback on general progress of students on a weekly basis. The quality of agricultural products will also be monitored internally, by establishing criteria with the support of FORENA and the MAA.

Output 4.2 Evaluation of progress of students and products carried out after one year and after the second year

Activity Set 4.2. Evaluate progress of students and quality of agricultural products yearly

In order to provide a one-year evaluation of students, baselines will be established, using information that has already been compiled for each child and complementing where necessary. From this baseline, and compiled with the information collected through daily logs and counselor feedback, short workshops will be carried out internally with youth to collect feedback in a participatory manner. For agricultural products, a survey will be sent out to customers through email to provide feedback on quality, price to quality relation and choice of products/crops.

1.5 Implementation Plan and Time Frame

The project will be carried out over 24 months. The initial part of the project will consist of a 12 months pilot-phase, and within this period of twelve months the first target group consisting of 23 participants will have completed their training. Once they have their certificate they will be able to enter the job market in the agricultural sector, while another group of between 20 to 25 students enters the programme.

The major project milestones are:

After the first 3 months:

- All the preparation phase will be carried out. Preparation includes finalizing legal agreements with partner organizations, preparing detailed planning such as growing and harvesting calendar, choice of crops, calendar of modules and choice of adjacent courses and activities.
- Initial planting of smaller crops will have been carried out

After the first 6 months:

- The farm infrastructure will have been set up, including offices, storage room, watchman quarters and training centre as well as a greenhouse
- All planned crops will have been planted and/or harvested as planned and ongoing planting, watering, caring of animals will be in place
- The network of organic farms will have been created through initial contacts

After the first 9 months:

- Launching will have taken place and the farm will be open to the public


After 1 year:

- The first batch of students will have completed training and will be on the job market for employment in the agricultural sector (for those of working age)
- Selected students from the first batch will have started disseminating lessons learned about the project
- An evaluation will have been carried out and will provide lessons learned from the first batch, as well as way forward for planning farm activities and crop management for the second year
- The second batch of students will have been identified and will have started
- The first workshop to strengthen the national network of organic farmers will have been carried out

After 2 years:
- 2 batches of students will have completed training
- A project evaluation will have been carried out
- The farm will have developed a long term financing mechanism and ongoing program for street children every year
- A training programme in sustainable agriculture for street children will have been established and submitted to MQA for approval
 
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Project Snapshot

Grantee:
Service d’Accompagnement, de Formation, d’Intégration et de Réhabilitation de l’Enfant
Country:
Mauritius
Area Of Work:
Chemicals
Grant Amount:
US$ 49,000.00
Co-Financing Cash:
US$ 248,775.00
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 98,392.00
Project Number:
MAR/SGP/OP5/Yr2/CORE/CH/13/06
Status:
Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
Replication of project activities
As described in Specific Objective 3, a key component for opening the farm to the public and school children will be to create visibility through a launching event. Such an event will help showcase the project through the press and farm. In view of opening the farm to the public, the potential for the development of an identity within the overall framework of SAFIRE, including name and logo will be explored. All accompanying communication materials will be developed based around this organizational identity. Adequate signage for the farm will be important as it will allow passerby’s to visit and will also help create links with organizations working in this field who may not have otherwise heard about the project – or with whom SAFIRE may not have linked with previously. Since the farm will be opened to the public, marketing materials such as T-shirts, pins, caps – also serving the dual purpose of generating income – will be developed. To ensure ongoing updates of the farm activities, a blog will be kept. This blog will be disseminated to relevant partner organizations and stakeholders in the field. Open days and small events will be carried out to share information about project activities and generate additional buzz after the farm is launched and operational for a while.
Gender Focus
This project will include an initial group of twenty-three children aged from 11 to 18 years, twenty boys and three girls, with an average age of 14.9 years old, they correspond to the profile of children in street situation as described in the study mentioned above. The high proportion of boys in this project can be explained by their high vulnerability to social ills such as delinquency as 26% of them already have antecedents with the law, but also due to the fact that boys are usually more concerned with the phenomenon of street children than girls (62.9% of street children are male in Mauritius while the rest 37.1% were female). Attention will be given to female participants so as not to ensure that they are equipped to face issues proper to their gender both during the program and afterwards. Input for extra courses will be considered on a gender specific basis and feedback during evaluation will consider gender issues.
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Indicators
Livehood
Number of individuals (gender diaggregated) who have benefited* from SGP project 24

Partnership

FORENA, FAREI, Earth Market

Grantee Contact

Ms Ismahan Ferhat
Phone: 433 4371
Fax: 433 46 28
Email: manager@safire-ngo.org
 

Address

Joensu’s Bldg, Royal Road
Moka ,

SGP Country office contact

Mrs. Pamela Bapoo-Dundoo
Phone:
(230) 213 53 84
Fax:
(230) 212 14 11
Email:

Address

2nd Floor, Sugar Industry Pension Fund Building, 1 Remy Ollier Street
Port Louis, Mauritius

Country Website