Training the teachers who are helping farmers learn to count


    The lives of uneducated villagers in rural Africa are being massively changed for the good by an Olam literacy project in northern Cote d’Ivoire.

    Classrooms are being set up in warehouses, churches and even in the shade of trees to teach adults and children how to read, write and count. The programme launched in 2009 and around 1,700 students have taken classes across nearly 50 villages.

    Tangible results include graduates of the scheme becoming teachers themselves or gaining confidence to take on leadership roles in their villages and co-operatives. Olam invests up to US$30,000 each year into teacher training, with tutors from villages then teaching farmers and children.

    Young farmers being taught basic literacy skills, Côte d’Ivoire.

    “We decided to launch the literacy programme when we realised, while distributing loans to our cotton farmers, that most of the farmers could not count money,” explained Julie Greene, Olam’s Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Manager in Africa. “If farmers cannot count, it is difficult for them to manage their finances and farm investments, and they could also be cheated by people they are dealing with. We could have built one or two solid centres in central locations, but given the distances, few people could have attended.”

    “Instead, we work with farmers to establish literacy centres at informal sites in their villages – sometimes a warehouse or a simple thatch shelter – allowing us to reach hundreds of farmers each year in the most rural and underserved areas. We provide teacher training, classroom materials and supervision. The instructors come from the villages. We wanted to train instructors who had completed at least primary school, but many villages had no one with this level of education.”

    Mr Naviplé Silue (Olam SECO) teaching farmers basic numeracy and literacy at the Nagnihinkaha Village Teaching Centre

    “With our intensive 1-month teacher training program and frequent supervisory visits, we found that bright and motivated instructors, despite little formal education, could successfully bring their students to pass the functional literacy exam at the end of the 60-day course.”

    Farmers of all ages seen taking the literacy exam at the end of their 60-day course

    “When we started in 2009, the region was under the rebel government, and even the NGOs we approached were unwilling to enter the region to help us with the programme.  Now, with peace restored, our centres have been formally recognised and licensed by the government since 2013. Literacy has given these people and others confidence,” said Julie. “They can read newspaper articles and they have the confidence to know they can be dealing fairly with others in their co-op. It has been great to see how the programme changes people’s lives.”

    Among the success stories are:

    * Nawa Kone – She has been through the 60-day course and now manages the women’s group in her village and is the advisor to the village chief for women’s affairs.

    * Lacina Coulibaly – After finishing the literacy course he has become a teacher and now educates new learners

    * P Zana Coulibaly – He has become his cotton co-operative’s warehouse keeper, managing the stock and maintaining records.

    * Nassiata Coulibaly – She manages the women’s association in her village.


    Subscribe to Our News Alerts