MyFarm wants to train anybody and everybody who wants to learn. No one is turned away if they have the right attitude to learn…no one. As our head trainer, Isatou Bah says, “I want to train those that need it most, ladies in rural villages, disabled people, and people who have a real need for that skill”. When the opportunity came to train and support inmates at Mile 2 prison in The Gambia, we had to accept.
The training program would be a 3-week intensive course in soap production, micro gardening, and entrepreneurship with 30 inmates at Mile 2 prison in The Gambia. The three-week program aimed to first equip trainees with a tangible and marketable skill to support and facilitate their reintegration back into society. Then to boost their knowledge of business and business principles to help them either start their own businesses or gain good full-time employment and thus contribute back to society.
In week 1 Isatou and the processing team engaged the inmates in soap production training. Here trainees learned how to make a variety of fragranced soaps, body butter, lip balm, and laundry soap. Soap production training is very practical and the trainees enjoyed getting their hands dirty (or clean :)). Valuable and transferable skills are taught throughout this program, including measuring, labelling, packaging, timekeeping, and record keeping. We make soap at MyFarm nearly every day, and have trained hundreds of people how to make it; none have been as enthusiastic and as willing to learn as the inmates at Mile 2. By the end of the week, the trainees made, on their own and without any guidance, all of the beauty products demonstrated throughout the week.
A micro garden is an intensive agricultural technique that utilities small spaces for big yields and was the focus for the second week of the program. It is perfect for the Gambia and other African countries, especially in the cities. Anything with a shallow root system can be planted and either consumed or sold at the market for a profit, and the best part is, virtually everything in a micro garden is recycled or can be purchased for extremely small amounts of money. Lettuce, onion, herbs, aubergine, radishes, and carrots are just some of the plants that thrive in a micro garden. During the week the trainees were taught how to make a micro garden table, how to recycle bottles, tyres, and gallon containers into usable and productive garden beds. They were shown how to make and use a hydroponic system to grow mint using abandoned waste pipes. The week also introduced some key garden principles including planting distance, making fertiliser, how to control pests, and labelling and record keeping.
Before the training, our partner Leap Learning (www.leaplearning.no) developed educational applications specifically to reinforce learnings for soap production and micro gardening. These were on hand throughout the training and helped all the trainees further their knowledge.
The third and final week was a thought-provoking, practical based entrepreneurship week that is designed to introduce and develop knowledge of key business principles. At MyFarm we don’t just stand in front of trainees and preach. We engaged them with expert trainers, specially developed training materials, fun and relatable games, group role-plays and discussions, and educational applications. The entrepreneurship week brings all the other learnings together, we believe it is the most robust training of its kind. On hand throughout the week was MyFarm’s ‘How To Make Money’ newspaper, which is the most fun and thorough business training guide we have seen (download it here… it's free…). Dipeo…the entrepreneurship board game, where players can buy and sell goods at market, this is always trainees favourite. Our entire collection of entrepreneurship applications with 27 categories covering a complete curriculum of business principles from planning, to marketing, to knowing your customer. And. Many more materials we are testing for the brand new entrepreneurship lab we are developing to use all around the world (Learn more here… [Leap Learning])
This project doesn’t stop after the 3-week program. We and our partners have a commitment to sustainability. 5 prison officers were also trained during the program, so they could carry on producing soap and growing in the micro garden long after we have left. YEP, the funder for the project allowed money to create a hub at the prison, so everything the prison needs to make soap and make the micro garden flourish has been left at the prison. 2 tablets pre-installed with our entire collection of educational apps has also been gifted to the prison; these will not only help reinforce the learnings from the training, they now have over 500 educational applications covering a complete curriculum of literacy, numeracy, and logic. After leaving the prison, the inmates have the opportunity to come to MyFarm and receive more training and support for free, this will help ease them back into society and give them the confidence, skills, and knowledge to ensure they do not re-offend.
A program like this cannot be done without partners…and we have worked with two great ones. Firstly ITC and YEP Gambia, who funded and supported the project. Their vision and commitment to support the youth of The Gambia is second to none. We have worked with YEP on several projects before and their brilliant team realised the benefit the micro garden we had at MyFarm could have for others in the country, and have worked with us to spread the word through skills training programs (find YEP here…). Secondly Mile 2 prison. We have been so impressed with the prison whilst working with them over the last few weeks. The team are truly committed to becoming a correctional centre and are working on many programs designed to give inmates skills for when they leave.
This program then was a collaboration of institutions in The Gambia and overall was a huge success. The graduation ceremony attracted media from all around The Gambia, and the trainees are proud of the new skills they have acquired. We cannot wait to do more training programs at Mile2 in the near future.