Foods Resource Bank Blog

Lives Bloom with Mushrooms

Where they once had to face hunger months and mounting debt, Ngor and her family have experienced a complete change of fortune by growing mushrooms through the Cambodia East program. “I am grateful for the chance to improve my family’s life,” Ngor says.

Before this opportunity, the family scraped by on the rice and cassava they grew in a small field. When food and money grew scarce before the next harvest, Sron, Ngor’s husband, would migrate to distant towns to find work. Ngor and her three children would often subsist on snails and crabs they found in the rice field. The couple was unable to pay for their children’s schooling, and if anyone became ill they could not afford treatment. During times of crisis, they got into debt by borrowing money at high interest rates.

Fortunately, the program offered them a chance to turn their lives around. In addition to becoming a mushroom farmer, Ngor belongs to a women’s Self Help Group whose members support each other and save money together. She and Sron have earned enough to buy seedlings for a variety of crops, build storage for raw materials for their operations, get electricity in their house, and get their children back in school.  The family’s long-range plan is to buy a small truck and motorbike, drill a well, and build a toilet.

While the program was originally intended to help women find a sustainable source of income, it has ended up increasing the standard of living for the entire area. In fact, growing mushrooms is providing such steady money, and there is so much work available, that most husbands no longer need to migrate.  

Participants learn from program staff and local mentors how to build mushroom houses and grow the fungi, which is in high demand in their country. Thera Metrey, a company formed by World Hope International, purchases mushrooms from participants at a fair price and transports them to the wholesale market in Phnom Penh.  The program also helps participants learn to sort and grade their produce, and is seeking alternate markets for products that were previously seen as worthless, such as small mushrooms.

Caption: Ngor and family in front of their mushroom house

Cambodia East Program
Led by World Hope International
5 communities, 1,100 households, 5,500 individuals

02/23/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Getting Creative

María Francisca’s sales of her handmade soaps and hair gels may have started out modestly, but some small-business training has helped her take them to the next level. She initially sold what she made to neighbor women. Word-of-mouth advertising reached a beauty salon in a nearby town which now stocks her products. As a single mother of five, she’s grateful for the additional income.

Since many men in these indigenous Maya Mam communities have migrated for work, local partner CIEDEG staff prioritizes women, food security, and income opportunities as they develop programs. Kitchen gardens are popping up everywhere thanks to training on growing vegetables. If there’s any extra to sell, the women use what they earn to buy school supplies or to cover household expenses.

Women’s groups, or Sociedades Femininas, often meet in churches to share their experiences, organize, or receive training. A workshop on nutrition and creative cooking led to experimentation: radish leaves in omelets, anyone?

Besides María Francisca, other entrepreneurs have felt encouraged to act on their great ideas. Lucía and her sister started a small grocery store in the front room of their home. And three sisters – Juana, Catarina and Santa – have capitalized on their cooking skills to open a small restaurant. In addition to coffee, smoothies, and standard-fare meals, Juana makes chocolate-dipped bananas and, her own inspiration, chocolate-dipped orange slices.

Photo caption: María Francisca shows her wares
Credit: Bethany Beachum, CWS

Guatemala Nebaj-Quetzaltenango Program
Led by Church World Service and local partner CIEDEG
20 Communities, 771 households, 3,855 individuals

02/08/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Beekeeping Proves to be One Honey of an Opportunity

My name is Sara.  I live with my husband, José, and our two daughters, 8 and 5. We recently learned beekeeping through the program, and we love it! Once you’re set up, the bees do all the work to make the honey. We harvest every 15-20 days in the summer, anywhere from two to 60 one-quart bottles, depending on how many coffee trees are flowering around our hives. Our honey is high quality, and we can sell it for a good price – $6.00 a quart. The money allows us to buy food and medicines, and we’ve noticed that eating honey keeps us healthier, too.

José breaks rocks in the quarry for construction, and we both work as laborers during the coffee harvest. So, when [local partner] PAG offered training in beekeeping or raising pigs, chickens or tilapia, we started dreaming about earning more by selling honey.

Initially, we spent time with a beekeeping family in another community, learning about bee management and honey production. After that orientation, PAG gave us technical training, two beehives, and bee-handling equipment. Once we had a little practice, we began to find and capture natural bee swarms in the mountains, and expanded our honeybee operations to ten double-box hives in less than a year. We are preparing two extra hives to give to the next family as part of the “pass it on” program run by PAG.

Our goal is to have 30 double-box hives to provide us with a good additional income for our family. We’re thankful to God and the program for this opportunity.

Photo caption: José shows the family’s double-box hives

Honduras Comayagua Program
Led by Church of the Brethren and Local Partner Proyecto Aldea Global (PAG)
22 communities, 180 households, 1,960 individuals

02/06/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Catching Raindrops Eases Tensions

Rebeca and Nestor are promoting peace in their communities thanks to rooftop rainwater harvesting. Conflicts over land and water rights between indigenous people and “criollo” settlers have been a reality for nearly 100 years in the Argentine and Bolivian Chaco. Today, the settlers are as poor as their indigenous neighbors, and the existence of both groups is threatened by frequent six-month droughts. As Nestor puts it, “When it comes to water, there is no difference between us.”

Rebeca is the granddaughter of a criollo rancher, and Nestor a member of the indigenous, historically hunter/gatherer Wichi people. They evaluate and work with communities in the hot, semi-arid region of South America known as the Gran Chaco to find solutions to their chronic water deficits.

Rebeca is one of the few women on a local inter-ethnic team that surveys families. The team calculates water needs and creates maps using GPS in order to ask authorities to prioritize assistance in these remote locations. Nestor is a skilled construction worker who builds 4,000-gallon cement cisterns to hold rainwater collected from rooftops during seasonal rains, and teaches others to do so as well. A natural peacemaker, he is often called on to help solve or prevent conflicts among the groups.

Storage tanks are a practical solution that is proving to ease tensions. Humans and livestock can drink the collected rainwater, and it can also be used for household and agricultural needs that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to carry out during dry seasons.

Photo caption: Rebeca puts community at ease

Argentina-Bolivia Gran Chaco program
Led by World Renew and Local Partner CERDET
45 communities, 318 households, 2,226 individuals

02/01/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

“Hunger Months” Are a Thing of the Past

As the successful Mozambique Garden program winds to a close, families have more food and better nutrition during “hunger months” – the period between when stored food is eaten and the next harvest. Community members testified how much the program has helped them survive – and flourish! – through the off season, and expressed their gratitude to all. 

After traditional crops of corn, beans, cassava and peanuts were harvested, no one used to plant anything during the cool, dry months of June, July and August because of lack of rain. People depended on their dwindling stores of grain, and often lost livestock during that period because they couldn’t feed or water them.

But with our support, families now plant and irrigate vegetable gardens on communal plots of land arranged around community wells. They use abundant cattle manure to enrich the sandy soil and increase the nutritive value of the vegetables they grow. Where they used to get by during the off season on one meal a day of a cassava or maize porridge called xima (pronounced “shima”), they can now count on having two or three meals a day during that time. Their cassava or grain stores last longer when they mix their xima with tasty cassava leaves, cabbage, tomato and onion, and their health and energy improves.

A final survey indicates that 85% of families now grow enough to sell some of their crops or produce for income. Almost 83% said they have been able to save money to buy seeds for the next crop season and purchase household staples and needed medicines.

An interesting observation is that, while all participants now fertilize their gardens with manure from the area’s cattle, 78% of them had never used it on their crops prior to receiving instruction. They all said they would continue to fertilize row crops and gardens with manure.

Photo caption: Lush gardens fertilized with the area's abundant manure

Mozambique Garden Program
Led by World Hope International
16 communities, 1,455 households, 8,730 individuals


01/31/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Sturdy Construction, Risk Reduction

When natural disaster strikes and homes and crops get damaged or destroyed, Haitian farmers often have to resort to eating the seed they’d saved for the next planting season or sell off any surviving livestock to pay expenses.  Both lead to more hunger in the months following the catastrophe. To improve their level of preparedness, members of all nine farmer cooperatives received training in managing risks and building sturdy homes, latrines and animal enclosures.  

Having a sound plan and strong structures reduces loss of life and serves to strengthen food security in the face of Haiti’s frequent hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. When people understand and follow the building code they’re more able to withstand the country’s inevitable emergencies without having to start over again each time. One cooperative member said, “I give God thanks because this training protects people’s lives.”

People generally build their own homes, mud-and-stick structures without foundations, so the training sessions start by reviewing the need for digging a foundation, using rebar, and mixing cement to form concrete blocks. The co-ops buy materials in bulk to lower the cost to members, and offer loans and discounts as well, to encourage participation. When families are ready to build, engineers from Church World Service are there to supervise.

Roger, another coop member, said, “Now we don’t need to be afraid anymore, with the work the engineers do.”

Photo caption: Explaining reinforced concrete construction

Haiti Northwest Program
Led by Church World Service and SKDE
10 communities, 6,000 households, 21,000 individuals

01/22/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Efforts by all result in water for all

My name is Marvin, and I’m the coordinator of our community water committee here in Nicaragua. After years of effort, we’re just about ready to inaugurate a system of piping purified spring water directly into all our homes.  You’ll understand what a big deal this is when you learn that our wives used to have to fetch water many times a day from a well almost half a mile away.  We never helped because men just didn’t do that in our community.

I used to prefer to keep to myself, so I was very unsure about accepting the responsibility when I was elected coordinator. I wanted to do something about our lack of access to clean water, though, so I decided to rise to the challenge.

We first presented our water problem years ago to our municipal authorities, and then to some international organizations, but we never got a response. When FRB started a new program with World Renew and Acción Médica Cristiana (AMC) that included water, we requested their support.

With lots of coordination with the technical staff of AMC and the municipality, we started the process of preparing a project proposal, taking field measurements, preparing a budget and submitting our proposal. We’ve all donated labor and funds, too. What a great achievement it’s been for us – a lesson in persistence and patience – to have clean water coming from a tap! Our children will be healthier, and our wives are done for good with the drudgery of hauling water.

We’re better organized as a community. Everyone’s more willing to volunteer and give of their time without expecting payment: no one’s saying “not my problem” anymore.  And we share more work with our wives now.

Caption: Marvin pauses as visitors inspect the work on the water system
 
Nicaragua Farmer Program
Led by World Renew and local partner Acción Médica Cristiana
7 communities, 361 households, 1,625

01/12/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Tree Nurseries Provide Multiple Benefits to Farmers

Environmental conservation is an important focus of FRB’s Kenya Tigania program.  With training on better stewardship of water, soil, and forest resources coupled with conservation agriculture practices like mulching and crop diversification, farmers lessen the risk of crop failure due to drought in this dry region.

Two farmer groups recently completed training in planting and managing tree nurseries in their communities.  When their trees are large enough to transplant to members’ farms, they will strengthen the soil structure and provide material for mulching. Mulching and shade will conserve precious moisture during the growing season. Fruit trees will add to the diversity of the local diet, fodder trees will supplement the feed given to area livestock, mainly goats and dairy cattle. Other tree varieties will provide a renewable source of fuel and lumber.

After training, the groups received watering cans, machetes, hoes and seeds of a wide variety of trees. Six men and 35 women prepared the nursery beds, and are currently raising 10,000 seedlings for distribution to their members.

Photo caption: Women prepare soil for their tree nursery

Kenya Tigania Program
Led by World Renew and Local Partner ADS-Mt. Kenya East
7 communities, 200 households, 1,000 individuals

01/11/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Catholic Farmers Make an Impact on Global Level

The following article, written by Shannon Philpott-Sanders, is shared with permission from "The Belleview Messenger," a Catholic newspaper for the Diocese of Belleview, IL.

When Fran Etter and her son Max had the opportunity to travel to El Salvador with Friends Across Borders in 2013, she didn’t know just how much the trip would impact her family.

“I was looking for more of a way to make an impact on a global level,” said Etter. “Having seen how our farming practices impact the world, I think that we have a duty to help.”

Mark and Fran Etter, parishioners at St. Felicitas in Beaver Prairie, found a way to make an impact at home.

The couple has set aside a section of their acreage for the Catholic Relief Services-partnered Foods Resource Bank and have enlisted the help of their farming neighbors Jim and Katie Buehne of St. Rose to do the same.

Etter was contacted by a Foods Resource Bank representative and she decided to look at the rural angle of global solidarity. This wasn’t her first experience with FRB, though. “I was introduced to FRB when I was a part of the Just Faith Program with partner parishes of the diocese,” she said. “I realized there are many issues globally we should be concerned about.”
“I like the idea of being involved in rural life,” said Etter. “My husband is a farmer and this is something he can be involved in, too.”

The Foods Resource Bank sponsors more than 200 U.S. growing projects, companies, organizations and volunteers to help people in developing countries grow their own food. The Etters and the Buehnes make an annual contribution of an acreage of profits each year to Catholic Relief Services, which is then funneled to the Foods Resource Bank program.

“We don’t have an official group at the moment, but I would like to encourage other farmers to get involved,” said Etter. “It takes a lot of individuals to grow this type of program, but if people spread the word, parishes and individuals may get on board to host fundraisers or encourage farmers to earmark some of their acreage.”

Etter already has plans to spread the word about the needs of the Foods Resource Bank. She will be sharing her story at an informational meeting for farmers in the diocese Feb. 10 at St. Mary’s in Mt. Vernon. The brainstorming meeting, sponsored by CRS, will focus on the farmer to farmer program and features speakers such as Etter and ag specialists.

For Etter, a teacher at Belleville West High School, the farmer to farmer program is a part of her family’s life. “It’s important work to keep me grounded and it keeps me connected to the rural lifestyle of farmers.”






01/10/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Marshila's Transformative Nutrition Education

Marshila says her life has been transformed by the India Banka Dumka Jamui program’s emphasis on agriculture, nutrition and sanitation.  As a child bride, she had little knowledge about the world or ways to improve her family’s health. To her, food was for filling the belly to have the energy to work. The family generally ate only rice and potatoes and, even though lemons, guava and custard apple grew in their yard, Marshila did not know enough about them to add them to meals.

She always wondered how she could save her children from disease and malnutrition, so when the program offered agriculture and nutrition training in her village she jumped at the chance.

The first training she received through her Self-Help Group (SHG) helped her to understand the importance of nutrient-rich foods and a diversified diet for good health.  She learned about “Tri-color Meals” – white for carbohydrates, green for vegetables, and yellow for protein-rich legumes. She now grows vegetables in her kitchen garden and has learned delicious ways to serve them. She has taken to heart the lessons on the importance of a clean home environment, and her children think it’s fun to wash their hands before meals.

Marshila’s SHG also gives workshops on dramatically increasing rice yields, and basic animal husbandry and veterinary skills for caring for goats. Women in her remote village, formerly isolated and hopeless, now feel they are part of the larger world. Their SHG and Village Organization belong to a wider federation whose members share knowledge and envision transformation.

Photo caption: Kitchen gardening improves family health
Photo courtesy of LWR

India Banka Dumka Jamui Program
Led by Lutheran World Relief and local partner PRADAN
12 communities, 640 households, 2,163 individuals

 

12/20/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More