Sometimes a little help can go a long way. That is what brothers Gilad and Yonatan Millo thought when they decided to found a non-profit organization to promote better sustainable agriculture and self-empowerment in Africa.
Israel for Africa (IFA) of, which Gilad is Chairman and Yonatan Vice President, uses the knowledge and technological advances achieved in Israel to empower the people of Africa.
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After serving as Deputy Ambassador at the Israeli Embassy in Kenya and then as Consul for Media & Public Affairs at the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles, Gilad chose to leave his Government career and move back to Kenya in order to work for Amiran Kenya (an Israeli company, which is today the leading private sector agricultural entity in East Africa).
According to Yonatan Millo, Amiran provided his brother with the knowledge and understanding of the needs of the small and medium scale farmers in East Africa.
Helping Africans help themselves
IFA, which started its operations in 2011, has focused its maiden activities on two project concepts, both anchored on agriculture. The first is “IFA Sustainable Community Center,” which supplies agricultural tools and technologies to communities in need, coupled with agribusiness training and a sustainable model that allows the community to maintain the center based on the income it generates.“This project includes the donation of an Amiran Farmers Kit (AFK),” Yonatan tells NoCamels. The award winning AFK includes a Farmer’s Greenhouse, a gravity fed drip irrigation system from Netafim, seeds, fertilizers, agro-chemicals, training and extension services from Amiran.
“It is an all-inclusivesmall scale farmers unit, which incorporates Israeli technology and methods to achieve quality yields at higher amounts compared to traditional farming methods,” Yonatantells NoCamels.
Yonatan claims that with the farmer’s kit, recipients will be able to produce horticultural crops and much higher yields and “Israeli” quality, since the seeds in the kit are from Israel. The target audience for this program includes, at this point, communities from rural areas in Kenya, but IFA intends to extend the program to neighboring African countries in the near future.
The second project is “IFA Youth Empowerment,” which helps youth that come from poverty to empower themselves. “The main goal is helping them to cross the psychological barrier” explains Yonatan, “to teach them that they have the power to do so much for themselves and their communities, and that they don’t have to just look for food in order to survive, but also acquire skills that will enable them to be truly independent.”
This project is in its pilot year, and includes about two groups of 35 youths; aged 18 to 30, from Nairobi’s Kibera slum, which is the second largest slum in the world. According to Yonatan, next year IFA aims to expand it to 30 groups and 500 youths.
A family history in foreign service
Since its inception two years ago, Israel for Africa was warmly welcomed by the international development community in East Africa and by the Israeli Agency for International Development Cooperation also known as “MASHAV.” In a congratulatory letter to IFA, Ambassador Daniel Carmon, Head of MASHAV, hailed the formation of an Israel NGO headquartered in Africa and pledged to work together to promote development in Africa under the flag of Israel.
“My family’s history in Israel’s foreign service helped us to get Mashav’s attention,” says Yonatan. “My father, Yehuda, served in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign affairs for 37 years and was Israel’s Ambassador to Turkey and Italy among various other positions. He passed away a decade ago and IFA is our way to honor his memory as a family,” Yonatan tells NoCamels.
The current Israeli ambassador to Kenya, Gil Haskel, will officially launch IFA’s activity in Kenya this October. “We also received a wonderful letter of congratulations and support from the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations,Ron Prosor,” Yonatan tells NoCamels.
Family founded and family funded
So far IFA hasn’t attempted to raise any money from exterior sources and has funded the organizations activities from their own money, but the brothers say they hope to raise at least $200,000 in the coming months, with the aim of expanding their activities.
The IFA team in Kenya is a small one: Gilad, his wife Hadas and Vanessa, a Kenyan Project Coordinator, who is supported by two more local staff members. The office in Kenya is responsible for the fieldwork, while the office in Israel, which includes Yonatan and three Israeli volunteers, is responsible for the strategic planning, fundraising and public relations activities of the organization.
“As our work in Africa grows in scope, we plan on recruiting more volunteers from Israel and Africa, especially through the Israeli international development community and universities,” says Yonatan who is excited about the upcoming launch of “Israel Volunteers for Africa” the organization’s next project.
Photos: Israel For Africa on Facebook