Kildare man Michael Reade wants a free tractor.
But it’s not a top-of-the-range Massey Ferguson or high-tech John Deere that Michael has his sights set on.
He wants some kind-hearted Kildare farmer to see if they have an old machine - with a few years’ life left in her - lying around their yards, and for them to donate it to a very good cause.
The tractor will make a world of difference to a recently-established family subsistence farming co-operative in rural Nigeria. The female-headed households scratching a living from the soil in Ilesun, where Michael heads up the efforts of Kildare-based charity The Patsy Furlong Foundation, will be able to till their rented fields better with the help of a tractor. They will also be able to rent the valuable machine out and earn a little cash, which could make all the difference to their children’s futures.
And Michael says that a small, older, low-tech tractor will be easier to fix and maintain with the rudimentary mechanical skills on offer in the part of Nigeria where he works.
“A new tractor would actually be a liability as it could not be repaired,” he said.
The Patsy Furlong Foundation - named after one of its late founder members - is a Kildare town-based organisation that works in the small city of Ilesun in south west Nigeria.
It is currently working with seven vulnerable women-headed households in a subsistence farming co-operative, called Igba Otun or New Dawn, to try and give them an income by growing maize, cassava and yams.
The charity is also involved in a local housing scheme, which provides a home for three female-headed households and nine children aged between one and a half and 12. It also runs a small library, and runs street sports and music classes for local youngsters.
“We are trying to teach the kids to embrace a new life and develop their minds,” he said.
But it is through the agricultural work that Michael, currently home in Ireland to raise desperately-needed cash for the charity’s work, sees will give these women and their families a brighter future.
“There are little flowerbeds in front of the house and the women are always growing things in that,” he said, noting that agriculture is in their blood.
The seven families in the co-op were chosen because they are part of the most vulnerable in Ilesun society, where the standard of living is unimaginabely low by Irish standards.
“There are a huge amount of widows in the city, and these families were chosen because they are so vulnerable,” said Michael.
A recent sale of work held in the CYMS in Kildare town raised E1,200 for the charity, but Michael is still looking for donations before he heads back to Nigeria.
He has been working in the region since 2007, after The Patsy Furlong Foundation moved its operations from Romania, and works in conjunction with a local organisation run by a woman, Ibiyemi Fakande, who he describes as “Nigeria’s version of Adi Roche”.
If anyone would like to help with the charity’s quest to find a tractor, please contact Michael on 086 0384398.