The inspiration for the Butterfly Project - Nigeria 20072
Posted for Butterfly Project, Uganda
by Ben Parkinson on Mar 24 2012, last modified on Mar 24 2012.
Back in 2007, when we piloted the programme, I was working with Ashoka fellow Emmanuel Nehemiah on a project to consider the potential for biofuels to alleviate poverty in remote rural Northern Nigeria. Kaduna, where I was located, had an oil refinery, so it made a lot of sense to uncover local enthusiasm…
Back in 2007, when we piloted the programme, I was working with Ashoka fellow Emmanuel Nehemiah on a project to consider the potential for biofuels to alleviate poverty in remote rural Northern Nigeria. Kaduna, where I was located, had an oil refinery, so it made a lot of sense to uncover local enthusiasm for such a project. When people talk about Nigeria, then it is viewed sometimes as a rich country, which can solve its own problems with the money it derives from oil revenues. That may well be true, but on the ground, the rural areas are more disadvantaged than anywhere I have been in Uganda, where the government has been more open to outside visitors. During our research, we decided to question groups of men, women and children separately. I said I would also like to travel to a remote area and so Akurjini was added into our itinerary. Akurjini was extremely unusual and a two hour motorcycle ride from the main road. The village somehow had its own grinding machinery. It was selling specific crops which produced high value and low weight for transport. For instance they ground up cayenne pepper. When we visited the children in the village, they were confident,eloquent (in Hausa) and had a certain steel about them, which impressed. One boy, who was 15 stood up and said he was fed up of his life in the village, where every day things were the same. He and his friends needed something more than this life. I had hoped we could run our project in Nigeria, so we decided to pilot the programme in this area and we invited a number of children who we had met for a testing programme, to find out their capabilities. We recruited six children to go through the testing process and what we discovered was really quite astonishing. Dogarra (previously mentioned) was 15 but could not write his name, but he was a talented leader. One of the girls we talked to was determined to be the president of Nigeria and another was angry about her lack of quality educational facilities. Another boy, who was one of 20 children in his family, was incredibly brilliant academically. So in this group was a microcosm of the change that Nigeria needed for the rural areas. However, there was no project around that was taking this talent and mobilising it in a way to nurture the children to “be the change” that they desired so much. So, when we moved to Uganda, I decided to do something similar and root out children who wanted to be the change and thus the Butterfly Project was born.
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