December 19, 2005 ORT helps farming communities in Chad stay on their land An ORT project in sub-Saharan Africa is helping thousands of people continue to live on their ancestral lands. Traditional farming communities in sparsely populated parts of southern Chad have lost significant parts of their arid land in recent years because of a World Bank-backed project to develop oil reserves there. Hundreds of wells are being sunk, a 1,000-kilometre pipeline laid through neighbouring Cameroon to the coast and living quarters for oil workers built in a multi-billion-dollar bid by ExxonMobil to bring the oil onto the world market and in the process generate much needed income for a country, 80 per cent of whose people live below the poverty line. ORTs International Cooperation (IC) arm provides technical assistance and training to improve agricultural techniques and animal breeding for farmers in the cantons of Kome, Miandoum and Bero as part of a compensation plan for those who surrendered land for the oil field development. The Director of ORT ICs Washington bureau, Celeste Angus, has successfully negotiated a 12-month extension to the Chad Improved Agricultural Programme with ExxonMobil. The work, which started in 2002, will now continue until the end of 2006. The programme is going very well, Ms Angus said. Were now working directly with about 200 farmers. However, they in turn share their new skills with other farmers so theres a multiplier effect. At least 5,000 people stand to benefit over the four-year course of this project. ORTs Celeste Angus (right) sees some products made by Doba village women trained by ORT. The ORT project is the runaway favourite of the three compensation options offered to people affected by the Esso Pipeline Exploration and Production plan. The alternatives were relocation and learning a new trade. These options were not attractive to most people, Ms Angus said. They have lived on this land for thousands of years, they dont want to leave it. And most are not interested in learning a new trade; they have a deeply ingrained agricultural tradition. The improved farming techniques ORT teaches are vital if local people want to continue their way of life because they need to make the land they have left more productive. Improved methods of enhancing and preserving soil fertility, of land preparation, planting and crop care and plant protection are taught. Their main day to day need is water. Without water they die, Ms Angus said. In some cases, we provide motor pumps where requested and the farmers join together to use it and buy petrol for it. Usually, we focus on teaching irrigation techniques so that they can make better use of what water they have. Other methods include the use of nurseries for seedlings. This allows plants to be placed closer together, requiring less water and as the plants mature they are replanted in the bigger fields. Celeste Angus at a seedling nursery with programme workers and beneficiaries. ORTs programme is executed thanks to technical delegates, specially trained volunteer farmers who are respected in their local communities and who pass on their new skills to others in line with the ORT philosophy of helping people to create self-sustainable improvements in their lives. An additional ORT trainer helps women in eligible communities to develop local products and crafts to generate extra income. ORT has also been instrumental in forming farmer associations in selected villages. Each association is registered with the government and, with ORT training, is able to obtain credit for the farmers in order to increase production for higher yields resulting in additional income. World ORT, founded in St Petersburg in 1880, is the worlds largest Jewish educational and vocational training non-government organisation with some 270,000 students Jewish and non-Jewish in 58 countries. Through its International Cooperation (IC) arm, ORT has benefited some two million people in 92 countries since 1960 with non-sectarian, humanitarian support.