One of our projects while in Ghana is for the Perpetual Education Fund of the LDS Church. Church leaders found that their young missionaries were returning home with no prospects for education or meaningful employment. They created a scholarship funded by special donations from other church members. The fund provides higher education grants for young members of the church in developing countries. Recipients repay the loan upon graduation.
Church leaders were finding that many loan recipients are still having trouble finding jobs, and they are trying to find the cause. Our project involves interviewing PEF participants to understand their experience with the program, its impact on recipients, and the motives that drive career and degree selection. We want to find out how to improve the program before they expand it to other West African countries. We met in the morning with some church leaders in charge of the PEF in Ghana. We discussed potential issues and the main questions they wanted to answer, and scheduled all of the interview dates. As we travel through Ghana we'll meet with as many PEF recipients as we can and interview them. Then we will compile the data, analyze it, and present our findings to church leaders before going home. It's going to be an interesting project.
After meeting with the PEF we drove out to the suburbs to meet with an NGO called IDE. They commissioned us to begin the market queens study to learn how farmers participating in their programs can get their crops to market. We had a good discussion with them. We found out that much of the produce, especially tomatoes and onions, is produced in other African countries like Burkina Faso and Niger and shipped in by the market queens. Imported produce is very expensive, but stringent Ghanaian laws regarding what crops can be planted in the country have prevented Ghanaian farmers from growing varieties of tomatoes that can be harvested year-round. This leads to price shocks. In addition, poor crop storage facilities lead to market gluts, whe farmers must sell their bumper crops for sometimes a tench what they could get during other times of the year.
As we talked, I remembered the man I had sat next to on the plane. He is a purchasing and quality control agent for a large fruit exporter, and knows the distribution markets very well. I gave them his card and they were grateful. I'm finding that little chance encounters and small miracles like that have been happening on a frequent basis.
We drove home, ate some dinner and went to the temple for an evening session. It was an amazing experience, thinking that the blessings of the temple are available in Africa. The temple interior is gorgeous. The furniture and woodwork is exquisite: there are brown and white striped woods, dark mahogany, teak, ebony, and velvety-looking panels.
When we got back to the hotel there was a dance party around the pool. Sharply-dressed Ghanaians were salsa dancing around the edge of the pool. As we walked in, some men slipped out of the crowd and whisked away the girls. Some of the guys entered the fray as well. I was tired (and married) so I went up to a third-floor balcony overlooking the patio and relaxed while a crowd of beautiful people danced below.