Chakra Announcements

World Bank rewards two Ghana innovators

by Harinam-nanda das

Posted July 29, 2005

Shastra das, a Ghanaian devotee and his South African wife, Ila dasi, who started the first Hare Krishna school in Africa four years ago and who last October organized the "First Historical Ratha Yatra" to mark the 25th anniversary of ISKCON's registration in Ghana, have won the $22,000 Bronze Prize of the World Bank Innovation Award competition.

The prize was awarded at the University of Legon, Ghana on June 25. The World Bank African Director, many State Ministers and dignitaries from the United States and the European Union were present. Many television and radio stations broadcast the programme live. Ghana is the ninth country where the World Bank has organized such a competition for entrepreneurship, innovation, sustainability and job creation. The competition started last year with over a thousand competitors.

Shastra das dedicated the award to his spiritual master, explaining that in 1983 HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami proposed cottage industry projects attached to African temples for trades training, citing the example of early Christian missionaries who had built schools and hospitals as a part of their missionary activities. Shastra and Ila prabhus received their award just two days before Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja left his body.

The two devotees presented a simple way of manufacturing school writing chalk, insecticide chalk, crayons and citronella mosquito-repellent candles using a simple rubber mould, as well as how to make plaster of Paris and many other small-scale projects. They are going to train and equip 30,000 people annually to produce chalk for export to other African countries (which currently import chalk from China), taking advantage of cheap raw materials in Ghana. Shastra das is currently Vice President of the Ghanaian Chalk Manufacturers Association.

The four Universities in Ghana have made it mandatory for all new entrants to be trained in entrepreneurship, and have chosen Shastra and Ila to lecture on the topic. The South African Broadcasting Corporation has also entered their film My Hare Krishna Family, which will be shown on South African television stations in August (SABC 2), for a documentary film award.

Shastra das said winning the World Bank award is one of the "miracles" that will help in spreading Krishna consciousness, paving the way for more preaching and expansion of Srila Prabhupada's mission. He and his wife will use part of the award proceeds to order more books of Srila Prabhupada, to print Bhakti Tirtha Swami's books for Africa, and to start a daily Food for Life programme in Accra serving 2,000 plates.

HH Kavicandra Swami suggested they form a "Business forum" for devotees worldwide who want to go into any business ventures in Africa. Presently a few devotees export musical instruments, vegetables, fruits, palm oil, herbal products, neem products, shea butter, etc. to America and Europe. Many Christian organizations are doing similar ventures to generate financial support for their missions. Those interested in transacting business from Africa can contact them at Shastra.bts@pamho.net or Ila_dd_mvs@yahoo.com