4-H is Alive and Well!
Many times when I tell people that I am a 4-H Agent their first response is “Wow, 4-H is still around.” There are some common misconceptions about 4-H such as it’s all about showing livestock, it is only for kids who live on a farm, or it no longer exist altogether. 4-H definitely exists and is active in Caldwell County, North Carolina, and throughout the nation. The program is not merely continuing to exist but growing. One area where 4-H has seen growth is the establishment of 4-H programs in other countries. These programs are set up as their own organization in each country while holding to the same 4-H values and vision. One region where this growth is evident is Africa.
I had the opportunity to see the growth of 4-H in Africa first hand when I visited Liberia, a small country on the western coast of Africa, on a personal trip earlier this month. The Liberian people were so friendly and welcoming. There are many challenges and hardships in their lives such as a civil war that ended in 2003, an Ebola outbreak in 2014, lack of education, and a struggling economy. Amongst all these challenges, I saw people regaining a sense of hope for a better tomorrow in their country.
One of those glimmers of hope came from a 4-H club I visited at Rick’s Institute, a boarding school in Virginia, about sixteen miles east of Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. We met during the students’ recess time. The club leader and members were so excited to have a visitor from the USA. We had a great time exchanging experiences of 4-H there compared to the USA.
The club members shared about their gardening project which is their main focus. The club members work together on all aspects of their garden from preparing the soil, planting, weeding, to harvesting. The goal is to teach the 4-H participants entrepreneurial skills through selling vegetables from their garden and doing other fundraisers to provide tools and seeds for their garden. These skills help these youth become productive citizens that can improve their country.
After visiting the 4-H club, I wanted to learn more about 4-H in Liberia which was established in 2006. I knew just the person to visit. Umaru Sheriff is the National Executive Director of 4-H in Liberia. Sheriff. He and I first met when he was in North Carolina in summer of 2017 for a program called Mandela Washington Fellowship Program for Young African Leaders. I had a special interest in Liberia because I have been there multiple times working with another organization.
Sheriff was excited I would be able to see what 4-H Liberia is doing first hand. I met with Sheriff at the 4-H Liberia national office in Monrovia. We were joined in our meeting by Melissa Tabke from Agricorps. This organization provides recent graduates from the USA the opportunity to spend a school year in Liberia or Ghana teaching agriculture and facilitating FFA and 4-H programs at the school where they teach. From our meeting, I learned there are currently about 80 4-H clubs throughout six counties in Liberia. The clubs are established at schools with a teacher as the club leader. All the clubs focus on the gardening project like I saw at Rick’s Institute. In 2016, 4-H Liberia held its first agricultural fair. Participants from various 4-H clubs brought their best vegetables from their 4-H gardens to be judged. Sheriff and the other leaders of 4-H Liberia have a vision to continue expanding the 4-H program throughout Liberia.
So to answer those who wondered if 4-H is still around it is a definite yes. 4-H is continuing to impact the lives of youth throughout the USA through helping them developing life skills but it does not stop there. The vision and values of 4-H have spread across the globe impacting youth in countries like Liberia to provide youth with life skills to become productive citizens. Youth participants, volunteers, club leaders, and 4-H staff are striving to live out the 4-H motto: “To make the best better” around the world.