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Rural Leaders


Rural Leaders:  The Work and Community Impact of Graduates of the Asian Rural Institute

by Steven Cutting and Beverly Abma

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Whether you are new to ARI or a long-time supporter, you may find that explaining ARI – what it is, who it serves, and how it accomplishes its goals – is difficult.  This new book makes such conversations easier.  Through enriching stories and vibrant photographs, it takes the reader on a journey around the world into the homes and communities of ARI graduates, showing how they use what they learned at ARI to effect positive change.

ARI has trained more than 1,300 rural community leaders from over 50 countries. In 2013, on its 40th anniversary and with the help of grants from The United Church of Christ and The United Methodist Church, ARI commissioned a study by researchers Bev Abma and former staff, Steven Cutting. They made six trips, each four weeks long, traveling far off the beaten track to reach the villages and homes of over 200 graduates in 12 countries. The authors wanted to get first-hand accounts of how graduates connect with their communities in meaningful ways, and they wanted to understand both the joys and challenges of that work.

Rural Leaders is a photo-filled collection of stories and essays that depicts the lifework of ARI graduates. One can flip the book open to any page to read a lively account of the tough issues graduates face in their communities, together with the unique and diverse ways in which graduates tackle these issues. Diverse is a key word here. ARI graduates take many different paths after their training and have proven to be extremely versatile, able to work with their people whatever their needs may be.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Fr. Josemarie Kizito and Emmanuel Sempiira assist refugees in Uganda to set up small farms that will allow them to be more food self-sufficient;
  • Lhingnu Thoutang started an orphanage in her town in Northeast India which incorporates organic gardens to provide the children with nutritious meals while teaching them the skills of sustainable cultivation;
  • At great risk to her life, Babycha Mangstabam advocates for basic human rights in a part of India that is kept under a form of martial law;
  • Liharson Sigiro sets up savings and credit cooperatives that help the poor to pool the little money they have and start small businesses;
  • Jane Francis Berinyuy forms farming groups in which members work together, share ideas, and experiment with new techniques.

These and many more stories come alive with detail and human interest on the pages of Rural Leaders. Also, interspersed among the stories are helpful essays which dig into topics like “What is Development?” or illuminate ARI’s unique training methods.


Bev with the Yabi Mbot Farmers Group in Cameroon

Unless you’ve been lucky enough to go on an ARI GraduateStudy Tour or visited ARI itself, this book is the one you’ve been waiting for. You will be inspired and challenged by these graduate stories, and you will be affirmed in your support of this remarkable patch of land in Japan.

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