Meet Jake Moore, Our Projects Director
Jake Moore, a softly-spoken graduate of Wabash College, recently joined Cultivate
as Chief Project Officer. His role will be to work with the cocoa farmers in Ghana,
specifically in the Volta region, to move from 100% subsistence farming to more
sustainable methods. The aim will be for the farmers to generate more income for
themselves from their cocoa farms, as well as to start saving. Jake will be working
with the farmers to start small village savings and loan schemes, while building in
information on how to budget and how to keep business records.
Before joining Cultivate, Jake spent three years in Africa as an agriculture volunteer
with the Peace Corps service, before starting his own non-profit, ScholarShop Africa,
for another two years. Unfortunately, due to the unrest in Cameroon, he had to
suspend ScholarShop and leave the country.
His work with non-profits in Africa, and especially with Cultivate, is strongly informed
by his reading of seminal works like ‘Toxic Charity’ by Robert Lupton. Lupton’s book
argues that charities often hurt those they are working to help. He states, “Giving to
those in need what they could be gaining from their own initiative may well be the
kindest way to destroy people.”
With this in mind, Cultivate will undertake Community Needs Assessments in the
form of regular meetings with the local Ghanaian farmers. These gatherings will aim
to listen to what the farmers needs are, and to work with them in discerning the
difference between what they need and what they want. As Lupton argues, “To the
extent the poor are enabled to participate in the system intended to serve
them, their self-worth is enhanced.”
When Jake first encountered Cultivate and their ‘non-toxic’ approach to working with
Ghanaian farmers, he was struck by the fact that Matthew (Development Director)
and Greg (Executive Director) were there in the fields, working hands-on with the
farmers. They were not sitting far away in an airconditioned office writing emails but
were actively engaged in listening and seeing that the farmers got their needs met.
And because Cultivate is a new start-up, Jake feels there is great potential for him to
bring his vision to it, to help shape Cultivate and its work in Ghana.
Jake has just returned from his first visit to meet the Ghanaian farmers and will be
returning soon to spend eight to ten months of the year with the cocoa farmers in
Volta, as well as the moringa farmers near Teshimen. Here he will be working
closely with the Ghanaian Permaculture Institute, helping with training and with
sourcing local experts who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise.
As Lupton argues, a community worker needs “at least six months of being a
listening, supportive neighbour before you should attempt to initiate any new activity
in a place. Actively seek to learn about your community before assuming that you
know what they need.”
In the eight to ten months that Jake will spend in Ghana, he aims to be doing exactly
that. We asked him what a typical day in his life there will look like.
His reply: “My focus is to integrate as much as possible… so I will wake up around
six and leave the house half an hour later, in the cool of the morning. As I did in my
five years spent in villages in Cameroon, I will greet all my neighbours in Ewe*, the
local language. I’ll have as much of a conversation in Ewe as I can, to show that I’m
trying to learn their culture and that I’m not there to push my culture, that I’m actually
wanting to be there. Hopefully that will help to gain their confidence and respect.
Then I’ll have breakfast at a restaurant: definitely some starchy food and some fruit.
Then I’ll do a farm visit, and, by eleven am, after three to four hours of manual
labour, especially with the dry season sun, we’ll be tired. By noon, I’ll come back to
my house and wash, then go and have lunch in town with the locals.
In the late afternoon, depending on whether we are harvesting or planting, the farm
workers will usually take a two to three-hour break because the sun is so hot. On
days I don’t go to the farm I will usually go to the market and buy groceries.
There will also be weekly to bi-weekly meetings with farming groups to see how they
are doing and if they’re on track etc. Then, around four or five pm, I’ll go for a run or
do a little workout. In the evening, I might go to a neighbour’s house for dinner. I’ll
help them prepare the meal and then we’ll sit and eat, and have a conversation
about the day, our lives, our families. Then I’ll head home to read and sleep.”
Jake’s description of typical daily activities highlights the truth in what Lupton says,
which is that “Authentic relationships with those in need have a way of
correcting the we-will-rescue-you mind-set and replacing it with mutual
admiration and respect…”
Jake concludes, “So, it’s a much simpler life. And with that simplicity comes manual
labour and being outside in the sun, and walking, lots of walking.”
It seems like Jake is well on his way to walking down the path alongside the
Ghanaian farmers towards self-sustaining and rewarding agribusiness.
* Ewe: a major dialect spoken in southern Ghana.