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Executive Committee

Team Jon Bart, PhD serves as president of Village Hope, Inc. Dr. Bart had a long career as a research biologist with the U.S. Department of the Interior. His specialty is applying classical survey sampling methods to natural populations. He has visited Sierra Leone eight times since 2007 and has had staff on the ground continuously since then. His main focus during these trips has been assessing the market, and analyzing and documenting best operational practices for producing gari. Dr. Bart will be directly involved with all aspects of the project, and will be particularly involved with long-range planning, research, and selection of other staff.

Team A Village Hope, Inc. Board of Directors member, Chris Siegler has been a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch since 1998 and, then, Wells Fargo Advisors. Prior to that, he worked in healthcare consulting and hospital administration. Mr. Siegler was an agricultural development worker as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone 1967–69. Since 2004, he has been involved in several development projects in Sierra Leone, including vocational training for disenfranchised youth and microfinance for women’s village cooperatives. He has a BA degree from the University of Notre Dame and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Montana.

Team David Arkoosh is an attorney in Boise with long experience assisting charitable organizations. He advises Village Hope on all legal matters.

Team Curt Beckmann is an engineer and MBA and co-founded the online library Appropedia. He currently works in Paris, France. He has been involved with many charitable groups and visited Village Hope in Sierra Leone during its first few years of operation.

Team Paul McNamara, PhD is a member of the Village Hope, Inc. Board of Directors. Dr. McNamara teaches international economics at the University of Illinois and manages a large, international development project for the US Agency for International Development. He has worked extensively in Sierra Leone particularly with Njala University and with the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI).

Team Kyle Richardson recently returned from Rwanda where he worked for the Peace Corps. He taught school in a small village and started a commercial bakery to provide employment for village residents. He assists Village Hope with a wide variety of work.

Team Kent Rock is the Chief Financial Advisor for Village hope. He served as the Treasurer of Boise for nearly 30 years and is now a senior financial advisor. He is responsible for all financial issues and will concentrate on maintaining proper financial controls as the project grows.

Team Alusaine Samura is Vice President of Village Hope and is a research pathologist at Sierra Leone Agricultural Institute (SLARI). In 2011 he was instrumental in recruiting Village Hope to work on cassava and has remained active in the cassava project.

Managers (Sierra Leone)

Team Usman Fornah has retired from a successful beverage distribution company in Makeni, to become more involved with the management of the Village Hope farm in Masori. Mr. Fornah is the son of one of the four land-owning families and serves as the liaison between Village Hope and the community.

Team Freetown Rotary Club Past-President Christian Kamara remains active in the club and also serves as the National General Secretary and CEO of the YMCA-Sierra Leone, one of the most dynamic development organizations in the country. He has traveled widely and has been involved with numerous development projects. During the summer of 2014, he provided critical assistance to Village Hope in clearing a container at the docks. Recently, he has helped lead the fight against Ebola.

Team An expert on cassava, Lansana Sesay is a research agronomist at Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI). He became involved in the Village Hope cassava project during 2013. He now directs the cassava project on a day-to-day basis. Even after the business is launched, he will remain deeply involved with the project provide technical and strategic advice.

Team Ahmed Muckson Sesay is a successful farmer and entrepreneur from the Mile 91 area in northern Sierra Leone. He serves as Chairman of the Sierra Leone Farmers Association, based in the Tonkolili District; as Director of Opard Sierra Leone; as Chairman of the Board of AXE (AgricXperience) an agricultural production and consulting company; as Founder and Director of Radio 91; and, as Founder and Director of Ishaak Muckson Technology Training Center. Mr. Sesay gained national prominence for his role in facilitating the end of the 1991–2002 civil war in Sierra Leone.


Team Reinhardt Howeler, PhD, is one of the foremost cassava researchers in the world. He has written numerous books and research publications on all aspect of cassava cultivation. He serves as a technical consultant for the project.

Team Sondra Miller, PhD, PE, is Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at Boise State University. With extensive experience in environmental engineering, Dr. Miller, together with Dr. Plumlee, is designing and building the cassava processing center.

Team Recognized internationally as an expert on cassava, Bernardo Ospina is Executive Director of CLAYUCA, the CIAT-based Latin American and Caribbean Consortium to Support Cassava Research and Development. The consortium supports cassava research and development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Team Donald Plumlee, PhD, PE, is Chair of the Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering Department of Boise State University. Dr. Plumlee, together with Dr. Sondra Miller, is designing and building the cassava processing center.


Team Working in Boise and Seattle, Jolene Anderson is a Development Consultant for Village Hope. She has extensive experience with business and charitable organizations in Boise, Seattle, and elsewhere, including serving as President of the Boise/Sun Valley Keiretsu Forum of investors as well as Soroptimist Chapter President: Boise.

Team Teresa Beahen Lipman is a Development Consultant for Village Hope working in the Sun Valley area. Formerly, she was CEO of the Wood River Community YMCA, in Ketchum, Idaho, during its successful $23 million capital campaign.


Team Will Von Tagen is an actor, writer and producer living in Boise, Idaho. His recent film, Almosting It, has gained wide praise in the Northwest and elsewhere. He has assisted Village Hope on planning a major event in Sun Valley and on producing a documentary about the work Village Hope is doing.

Our team includes five of the best and brightest young professionals in Sierra Leone.
They serve, without pay, as managers for Village Hope operations in Sierra Leone daily.

Village Hope, Inc | PO Box 1636, Boise, 83701 | (208) 870-9806 | info@villagehopeinc.org

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Part of our second cassava farm, planted in 2013

Our first enterprise under the “charity-business model” (see What We Do) is a cassava farm and processing center. Cassava is a tuberous plant, widely grown in the tropics.

Working closely with government scientists, we planted 50 acres of cassava in 2012 and another 130 acres in 2013. We were ready to harvest the tubers by 2014, but unfortunately the Ebola epidemic began then. Cassava tubers can remain in the ground for up to two years after they mature, however, so we can still harvest them in 2016.
Cassava  is  the  third  largest  source  of  carbohydrates  in  the  tropics.



Gari is packaged in moisture proof bags and sold retail
in 1-kg bags (upper) or wholesale in 65-kg bags (lower)

Gari is a dried, roasted, granular product made from cassava tubers (see Cassava Farm). We have studied the value chain for gari intensively. Using traditional methods to produce gari, it is not possible to pay workers high wages and make any profit, but with modern methods a substantial profit can be made. These methods include:

  • Farm equipment to grow and harvest the cassava
  • Mechanical peeling of the tubers
  • Processing peels into pellets for pigs and chickens
  • Mechanical grating and sieving
  • Large rotary roasters
  • Packaging equipment
  • Trucks to transport the final product to market
  • Gari  is  widely  consumed  throughout  West  Africa.


    Other Businesses

    Farmers learning how to use modern methods.
    A large network of extension agents, supervised by government scientists, exists in Sierra Leone.

    During the past four years, we have investigated several other potential businesses: While more study is needed, our initial findings are:

  • Rice offers high potential for growth and profits
  • Aquaculture may be useful but involves substantial technical problems
  • Coffee is better suited to higher areas of the country but then might be profitable
  • Poultry could be a good source of nutritious food and employment but will probably not produce significant surplus funds.

  • Overall, we conclude that we are not restricted to cassava; many other opportunities exist for businesses that can pay high salaries and will generate funds for community projects.
    With  proven  success  in  one  business,  we  expect  to  operate  many  others  as  well.



    Obai Kamara of Robomp to whom we gave a small
    loan so he could start a black smith shop.

    In 2009, we established 8 microfinance groups, with a total of 80 women and men, in 8 villages surrounding Lunsar. We worked with them for the next few years but found that they were unable to make money — a result that has occurred, unfortunately, in other remote areas of Africa.

    Our new program, however, should make it easier for entrepreneurs to succeed, because we will be able to offer them more assistance, for example:
  • market analyses
  • Transportation
  • Repair shops

  • In the Farmers Assistance Program, which we will carry out with Extension Agents, cooperating farmers will be offered much larger loans enabling them to obtain fertilizer, use of tractors, and markets for their products. This assistance should substantially increase their incomes.
    Loans  are  an  essential  part  of  our  approach  but  other  activities  are  also  be  needed.


    Gender Equality

    Kadiatu Bangura, the leader of one of
    our first microfinance groups.

    Women were our best microfinance customers, and our first team leader in the cassava business was a woman. Typically, women in the villages where we work are serious about employment and professional advancement. Toward promoting gender equality, our plans include the following goals:

  • Half the employees — and supervisors — are women
  • Women receive the same salaries as men
  • Women are encouraged to hold all jobs
  • Day care programs are provided

  • Health
  • Free food is provided to pregnant women
  • Family planning assistance is available on request

  • Professional development
  • Adult education classes are available at nominal cost
  • Training and low-cost loans are available to women entrepreneurs
  • Opportunities exist to save
  • Formation of women’s groups is encouraged
  • Village  Hope  is  committed  to  helping  women  realize
     their  full  professional  and  personal  potential.


    During 2009-2012, we worked with MIT and the Harvard Graduate School of Design on the ways to build more inspiring schools using local materials.

    A school we built using standard methods in Sierra Leone is shown at the left. It’s a big improvement over no school, but local materials like bamboo (below, left) and fired clay brick (below) offer a chance to use our money for salaries not cement and at the same time construct gorgeous buildings.
    Children  everywhere  deserve  a  chance  to  pursue  their  dreams.



    We expect mentoring to be a major part of the educational program. We are particularly interested in sister school programs in which American students tutor African students in English, math, and other elementary subjects and African students help Americans learn about a culture far different from their own. We have named the program after the local word for sister, sista (see-sta). SISTA stands for:

  • Students In Service To Africa
  • Students In Service to America
  • SISTA:  Students  In  Service  to  Africa/  Students  In  Service  to  America



    St. John of God Hospital in Lunsar, run by a religious
    group from Italy. In 2008, the Director sadly
    told us, “For most patients, we are just working on the
    symptoms of malnutrition. The solution is not better
    hospitals; it is better agriculture.”

    Our project area has a health clinic with intelligent, dedicated staff. But the facility needs to be improved, medical equipment and supplies are insufficient, and better medical and logistics support is needed. Based on interviews with the staff, we have established the following health goals:
  • Restore the clinic and supply it with needed items
  • Pay for regular visits by a doctor from Makeni
  • Provide transportation for the nurses and for patients
  • Introduce internet-based medical methods
  • Insure that a dentist and eye doctor visit regularly
  • Provide a computer and help the nurses keep records
  • Support the nurses’ efforts in public health
  • Provide opportunities for continuing education
  • Malnutrition,  malaria,  intestinal  parasites,  hernia,  cholera,  typhoid  fever,  and  now  Ebola



    Kids at a well we built in 2010.

    In developed countries, governments provide public utilities. The government of Sierra Leone is not yet able to provide these services so we will establish and maintain them using surplus from the cassava business. Carrying out community projects like these is an essential component of our charity- business model. The services include:

  • year-round roads
  • electricity
  • high-speed internet
  • a public water supply
  • adequate waste disposal
  • Many development experts say the barriers to development are "roads, roads, roads."