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For Somali Bantus, farming is a fundamental part of life. Hailing from the fertile Jubba Valley in Somalia, Somali Bantus’ wealth of agricultural knowledge and experience has allowed them to today also farm successfully in Maine, overcoming the numerous challenges associated with cultivating in a new environment. Many of the obstacles Somali Bantus have negotiated relate to environmental differences between Somalia and Maine, such as different soils, fertilization regimes, pests, and more. However, an additional challenge facing Somali Bantus beyond environmental factors is that the cultural importance of farming and its potential as a viable career path is currently far less visible in Maine than it was in Somalia. As such, there is emerging an intergenerational gap between older generations of Somali Bantus with farming experience and younger generations who, having grown up in the United States, have not been exposed to agriculture. The Sustainable Livelihoods Relief Organization, a Lewiston nonprofit helping Somali Bantus towards meaningful integration into the community, has therefore expressed interest in developing a program geared towards youth that demonstrates the importance and viability of farming career paths. In this project, we worked with SLRO to provide them with an overview of the key elements and decisions to consider in developing this sort of program.

Our initial step in this process was to establish guiding principles, which we defined as the criteria that would direct our research into existing resources and programs that would be useful for SLRO to refer to. Our guiding principles were informed by early conversations with Mohamed Dekow, the executive director of SLRO, and a review of relevant scholarly literature, and are as follows: 1) exploring the cultural importance of food; 2) presenting food and farming as a viable career; and 3) fostering intergenerational connections. Having identified guiding principles, we then established that we would provide SLRO with two concrete deliverables at the conclusion of this project. The first deliverable is a comparative list of programs that have been implemented by various organizations that address similar goals to what SLRO has identified. From our analysis, we distinguished the key elements that were universal to all relevant programs, which we determined to be staffing, timeline, learning site(s), and funding. For each of these elements, we provide written descriptions of the several programs that, based on our understanding of their mission, are the most relevant for SLRO to consider. Our second deliverable is an organized list of curriculum resources, delineated by four curriculum units: the cultural values of food and farming, youth leadership, farming sciences, and sustainable farming practices. The final step of this project was to offer SLRO our recommendations on their next steps to take towards establishing the program; these were organized around the four logistical elements identified in deliverable 1.