In order to help Ethiopian youth develop the skills and tools necessary to create innovative solutions to their communities’ challenges, the UW is collaborating with local implementing partners to develop and implement NEFSE-Ethiopia. This program will help youth build better futures by teaching leadership, teamwork, and communication skills among teams of rural youth and youth leaders. The curriculum is intended to provide resources and support to help youth take lessons back home and implement projects through youth associations in their local communities, building resilience, and strengthening local food systems.
An ecological systems theory and developmental asset model approach has been used to inform the NEFSE program design, helping youth examine the interconnectedness among themselves as individuals, the communities of which they are a part on both a human and environmental level, and the multi-directionality of these connections. This will serve to both foster a sense of themselves as leaders, but also as supported, valued, and responsible members of a larger whole. The three areas the NEFSE curriculum focuses on are youth leadership development, systems thinking development, and utilizing education and empowerment as tools for social change.
What is NEFSE?
With many complex factors affecting the health of rural Ethiopian communities, approaches are needed to understand the determinants that shape health from an interdisciplinary perspective. These approaches should include participatory methods to recognize the wisdom of indigenous knowledge about local landscapes coupled with scientific information in order to affect appropriate and sustainable action. Such approaches would then inform health and agriculture policies that would create healthy rural places that consider the health of the whole community: people, economies, and environment.
At the core of the NEFSE curriculum is this belief and value in the interconnectedness of life and health. Each of the units takes a sequenced approach to help students consider first their own lived experiences, engage in lecture and group discussions and critically evaluate new concepts, and then apply these ideas in practical, mostly hands-on activities. Lesson topics included in the NEFSE curriculum were identified collaboratively by colleagues in Ethiopia and Wisconsin, and the lessons were edited by Ethiopian faculty and youth to help ensure cultural and contextual relevance.
The NEFSE curriculum was designed to be taught to Ethiopian youth coordinators, program managers, and other instructors who can then adapt and implement these lessons within their local contexts. Thus, the curriculum is assembled into an Instructor Manual and is aimed to build capacity and a local cadre of Ethiopian instructors to support sustainability and align efforts with broader Government of Ethiopia rural development strategies. The approach emphasized is one of facilitation (rather than instruction), so that participants can share their own lived experiences as they create innovative solutions.
Our hope is that the NEFSE Youth Leadership curriculum will model the existing UW-Ethiopia twinning partnership model, whereby we will build collaborations between Ethiopian and Wisconsin institutions to support bi-directional exchanges of ideas and innovation. Food insecurity and youth leadership are important topics in Wisconsin, and it is important for Ethiopian and American youth to learn how interconnected they are and develop ways to learn not only about but also from other cultures. This will yield a process where local participants can drive inquiry into ecological and health systems to foster local ownership and facilitate youth understanding about their communities’ needs and human and natural capital assets.
- 25 Ethiopian participants completed NEFSE workshops, including youth, youth coordinators, and teachers
- 30 Wisconsin participants including UW students and community partners
- 10 participants have completed NEFSE instructor course
- In Ethiopia, 100% of NEFSE instructors gained confidence in core content areas of health, nutrition, food systems, and facilitation. 100% of instructors will incorporate NEFSE content into their work with youth.
- In Wisconsin, 95% of participants gained knowledge in food systems; 88% increased confidence in how to get involved in local health, food systems, and/or youth development activities; and 76% increased ability to identify personal, social, and environmental factors that contribute to good health.
This program was made possible with support from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine & Public Health and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
The materials are a compilation of new and existing materials that were adapted to the southern Ethiopian context to ensure contextual relevance. Lessons modified upon existing materials reference the source. Multiple individuals contributed to the curriculum, representing several institutions from Ethiopia and Wisconsin:
- Addis Ababa University
- Enga le Enga
- Hawassa University
- International Livestock Research Institute
- International Potato Center
- People 2 People
- University of California-Berkeley
- University of Colorado
- University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension
Contact Heidi Busse for more information about NEFSE.
Looking Ahead: Future Goals for NEFSE
- Finalize and publish the NEFSE-Ethiopia curriculum
- Implement NEFSE Training of Trainers workshops with community partners from university, government, and NGO partners in Ethiopia through the UW-Ethiopia Twinning Partnership Program
- Develop a cohort of NEFSE-Wisconsin instructors and pilot a NEFSE Training of Trainers workshop to reach students from various disciplines: medicine, public health, agriculture, life sciences, and humanities
- Expand our number of community service projects, including school gardens in Ethiopia, community gardens in Wisconsin, and health improvement projects