Monday, November 25, 2013

Final Despatches from Moringa Community.Org. November 2013.

The Moringa project has entered its final phase: the validation phase. Will the Moringa project achieve our goal of long-term self-sustainability? 

After an enormously successful fund drive in late 2012, MoringaCommunity.Org raised sufficient funds to enable the construction of a student hostel, in addition to a three unit teacher accomodation building (both pictured) on the Moringa Community School of Trade’s facility in Central Region, Ghana.  Completion of this latest construction project is key to the organization’s overall viability and was ably lead by our Moringa Ghana president, Abu Abdullai.  We are proud to have achieved this last major goal that will finally enable the Ghanaian part of our project to become self-sustainable and independent of support from the USA. Through their generosity, project donors and supporters from the USA and elsewhere have empowered this milestone.  Now, as we have envisaged from the outset of this project, it is the turn of the Moringa Community School of Trade in Ghana to forge ahead on its own and carve out its own destiny. 

MCST Youth Hostel Exterior
In this, my last blog entry, I firstly want to thank all of our project supporters, and secondly, give an overview and some perspective to all of you who have believed in, and taken a chance with us on this great journey.  

Organization Background
Genuine self-sustainability, we realized from the outset, could only be achieved if the Ghana Non-Profit business entity was fully and independently Ghanaian owned.  We strongly felt that independent ownership would foster a healthier, self-rewarding environment for growth as a profitable business and educational enterprise for the good of its staff and for the good of the students trained at the school.  From its inception in 2008, the project has consisted of two separately incorporated non-profit organizations. First is the MoringaCommunity.Org entity, incorporated in the USA (hereafter referred to as Moringa USA); the second entity being Moringa Community Org, incorporated in the Republic of Ghana (hereafter referred to as Moringa Ghana). The two organizations have no formal legal bond. 

Moringa USA was created solely to advise the project in Ghana and act as the primary funding resource.  Moringa Ghana was charged with using and effectively developing the significant quantity of resources and technical advice provided by Moringa USA in order to realize the project mission. 
Each unit will house two-three teachers each.
That mission was to create a trade school that would teach others how to mitigate the harsh rigors of typical rural African life through labor saving, site-built mechanized devices; and to greatly improve food security through the implementation of a successful home canning program, among many other things. This training center is the Moringa Community School of Trade (MCST).

It was decided right from the outset that the project would not be the typical, never-ending third world charity project.  Instead, we would work together to develop a properly founded school that would provide valuable service to the immediate community of roughly 3,500 villagers, as well as be accessible to the more remote regional population. We would provide unique, practical and culturally appropriate educational services in a sustainable way.  To achieve this goal, we’ve completed the construction of comprehensive facilities consisting of multiple classroom and laboratory buildings, separate girls’ and boys’ dormitory buildings and associated staff quarters. In addition, we have outfitted each program with enough tooling and resources that each department could function independently as a successful and ultimately self-funding local business for the benefit of the school as a whole.

Moringa USA, with its donor support, has been highly succesful in achieving its goals.  As you’re probably aware, since September 2008, the Moringa project has faced innumerable nearly insurmountable roadblocks to our forward momentum.  Through the help of our Moringa USA project donors, coupled with the immense committment and dedicated work of Abu and the many key associates of Moringa Ghana and local community members, we have to date overcome nearly every obstacle laid before us.  These obstacles are too numerous to list here, but I shall mention some of the more significant.  

The Moringa Woodshop also produces
student desks and furniture for other schools.

Our first major challenge was the need to bridge a river to enable vehicular access to the compound.  Admittedly our bridge, which is now five years old, is currently somewhat compromised due to ongoing flash flood conditions that periodically render it impassable to vehicular traffic, but it has always remained crossable by human and cart traffic and has become the lifeline of the school.  Next, we secured formal land ownership for the Moringa Ghana Project with legally uncontestable deed documents for Moringa Ghana’s land ownership (a nearly impossible thing to achieve in W. Africa). We overcame enormous interference and costly obstruction from an extremely intransigent and unco-operative officialdom.  We secured licensing from the Ghana Ministry of Health certifying our Moringa-made canned goods for sale in the market place.  We established a woodworking facility and modern workshop; a weaving and fabric arts department capable of commercial clothing manufacture.  Agriculturally, we’ve firmly established our Moringa Olifera plantation and developed and capitalized on Moringa product sales within the wider West African community with some additional sales in Europe.  There are so many more achievements I could mention, but one additional thing I’m particularly proud of is that the Moringa Community School of Trade is one of only a very few building compounds in the region to have on-demand running water through our artesian rain water collection and distribution system that we designed and built ourselves for the compound.  

Project Validation Phase
Now, we have reached the final validation phase of the project, where compared to previous years, the obstacles appear relatively few. It therefore behoves us to consider at what point the continued assistance and involvement of Moringa USA translates from an essential and integral element of the project to an emotional and financial crutch, which may actually hinder the future momentum and independent progress of Moringa Ghana.  In essence, we need to be wary of turning this amazing and successful undertaking into a never-ending third world charity program that has doomed so many others like it from their inception.  We have to ask ourselves, ‘At what point do we push the child out of the door and require it to stand on its own two feet and support and feed itself?’  MCST now has virtually all it needs, both infrastructurally and organizationally to move forward on its own. We believe, therefore, we must now task the Moringa Ghana organization to endeavor to provide for its own long-term future, without dependence on assistance from its USA associate, through use of its Moringa-owned farm lands, its physical plant and its own tools and resources to develop its own self-sustaining identity.
We've built our 60 student beds but remain in need of funding
 for mattresses, sheets & covers

Our Final
Punch List

We have every confidence that with the exception of some few remaining physical supplies that Moringa USA has yet to provide, Moringa Ghana is poised to make a real run at project self-sustainability.  All of our long-term supporters will remember my pledge at the end of 2012 not to come back with the begging bowl out yet again, provided we were able to raise enough funds to construct our dormitory and youth hostel in 2013.  Well, we’ve completed that mission and have completed construction of the dormitory, so I have no intention of going back on my word.  I had indicated from the outset that this experiment would not be an eternal, never-ending project. We always intended that this project would have a defined beginning and end point in so far as Moringa USA involvement was concerned, and this end point would be marked by the successful achievement of all of our stated project goals. I am happy to say that with the exception of a few minor elements, we have together succeeded in achieving all of those major goals. 

I’ll only reference in passing Moringa Ghana’s final punch list of needs for which Moringa USA currently has no remaining funds to cover.  Should any of you be inclined to lend the project financial assistance towards securing these key remaining essentials for Moringa Ghana, we will most certainly accept your assistance through your tax deductible donation to MoringaCommunity.Org (Moringa USA) and we will see your money gets put precisely where intended. 
You’ll find this Punch List on the Moringa website ‘Support Us’ page.

The Future?
As for what happens from now on regarding this unique and life-changing venture, it is our intention that will remain as a 501C3 charity entity until such time it seems there is no longer any reason for it to exist.  Anyone who wishes to continue supporting this project will be able to make ongoing contributions in future years if they wish and any such funds will be wisely applied towards the mission.  My wife Linda and I, having invested five years of our life in the creation and nurture of this project, will be stepping back from active management of the organization starting January 2014.  What this means is that, in the absence of any other individuals willing and/or interested in taking over active management of the Moringa USA 501C3 Non-Profit, Jeffry & Linda Lohr will remain as the president and vice president of record respectively in name only.  We will continue to file the State and Federal annual reports required but we will not be actively campaigning or fundraising on behalf of the organization effective January 2014. We feel we have done our job well, have given of ourselves fully and without hesitation, and have set this project on the right course for success.  After completing what we have set out to do, success or failure of the project as it moves ahead on its own will lie squarely on the shoulder of Moringa Ghana, where it was intended to be from the outset of the project in 2008.  

I would like to offer an enormous and heartfelt thank you to everyone who has trusted and believed in this project enough to put their help and financial muscle behind it and enable it to surpass our expectations.  In the end, although enabled by myself & Linda and with the help of several key US volunteers, this project could never have been brought to life without the vision, work ethic, and remarkable leadership of Abubakar Abuduali, the Moringa Ghana project founder.

Thanks to all. 

Jeffry Lohr