Yesterday's weekly UK-Nigeria online meeting was a truly global affair, involving no fewer than three continents and nine people! John Dada was travelling in Asia, Pam and Nikki were in Europe (UK) and, of course, we were joined by our six Fantsuam participants in rural Nigeria, Africa.
Despite a minor problem accessing some links, we were able to cover in some depth topics ranging from witchcraft in rural Nigeria to the inclusion in the community of those with disabilities - and the building of links with NITEL to provide local affordable phone and internet connectivity.
We also discussed microfinance and funding Business Development Services. Phew! All in all, not bad for an hour's work. Though a few of us did remain to chat after the official hour ended . . .
Victims of Witchcraft
Yesterday's online UK/Nigeria meeting saw several exciting developments. First and foremost was the news that Fantsuam has reached agreement to broadcast its radio signal through the communication towers of Nigerian Telecoms company NITEL.
Because these towers are much bigger and higher than those currently used, Fantsuam will now be able to serve a far wider area! In fact ,Fantsuam will be able to mount it's equipment on masts in Kafanchan and Zonkwa which will enable them to reach distances of up to 70kms.
Also as a result of the meeting between these organisations, the telecoms company has asked Zittnet to become its wholesaler for bandwidth. Which sounds very impressive and I have yet to fully understand the implications of this :-)
Initially, the phone market will operate only within Kafanchan. However, the long-term goal is for Fantsuam Foundation to eventually serve Southern Kaduna state.
Participants at this week's UK/Nigeria online meeting were eager to share feedback following Dadamac's successful 5th anniversary celebrations of Teachers Teachers from BarCampAfrica.
It was agreed by both teams that the day had proved both enjoyable and productive.
Most meals in rural Nigeria are cooked over open wood fires. This is simple and familiar. Traditionally fuel has been cheap and fairly easy to find.
However demand for firewood has increased in line with population growth. As trees are cut down the environment suffers from deforestation, soil loss and eventual desertification. There is also increasing awareness of the damage to health caused by wood smoke, especially when cooking takes place indoors.
The need to find alternative livelihoods for local Nigerian women has become a recurring theme in recent online/Nigeria meetings.
In particular, concerns have been expressed about the issue of those who collect firewood to sell. This practice is unsustainable and is contributing to de-forestation.
The women themselves recognise this but cannot afford to stop until they have an alternative source of income. Initially the team believed that the purchase of efficient wood stoves would be benificial. But they are very expensive and it was felt that this would not be feasible until a new stream of income is in place.
THIS week's UK/Nigeria meeting provided another fascinating and informative hour, covering subjects as diverse as the training of local Nigerian instructors, crayfish and sms credit!
And all this despite an intermittent problem with time delay, which served as a gentle reminder that connectivity is still a considerable problem for most rural communities.
What particularly caught my attention was Fantsuam's ability to identify and respond to their communities' local needs. They are concerned, for instance, that their women farmers - comprising of around 1,500 of their microfinance clients - have difficulty affording fertiliser. This of course affects their productivity and ability to repay loans.
To combat this Fantsuam has put in order for a delivery of organic fertiliser to serve these women, which is due to arrive within a fortnight. They will then monitor the situation to see if this helps alleviate the problem. Should it do so, the order will be repeated!
I was also interested to learn of research by the new VSO at Fantsuam, which is focusing on two main local agricultural markets - namely catfish and soya bean. We will look forward to hearing the results in due course.
I need to remind myself not to become blasé about today's extraordinary and productive meeting, how privileged I am to be part of such a fantastic and innovative team . . . and just how much we managed to achieve in the space of a single hour!
It was our usual Wednesday online meeting.