Foods Resource Bank Blog

Farmers Share Knowledge in Self-Help Groups

Participants in FRB’s Kenya-Ngong Intashat program who join Self-Help Groups (SHG) learn a variety of skills that help them improve their families’ lives.

For example, Esther’s SHG received training on growing vegetables in sacks as a first step in starting their kitchen gardens. She became interested in the workshop during her community’s Participatory Rural Appraisal exercise on how to cut household costs through producing her own food. She started out with one sack garden set up near her kitchen and now has two. Once she began harvesting vegetables she realized how much they improved her family’s nutrition, and hopes one day to have 10 sack gardens. As she put it, “My children no longer eat only ugali [a starchy porridge] with tea. We have a balanced diet.” She uses the money she saves at the market to cover other household expenses. Esther encourages group members whose sack gardens are at the early stages of development by sharing her experience and suggesting possible solutions to challenges that may arise.

Members of six SHGs attended a two-day training on conservation agriculture and establishing demo plots on their fields so they could share their learning with others in their communities. Attendees learned how to select seeds, apply both organic and inorganic fertilizers, plant, and maintain the demo plots. Three demo plots were immediately established, and the farmers have begun interacting and training other people from other communities and sharing their new ideas.

Some groups are receiving training in "table banking" (community savings and loan practices) to learn to be more self-sufficient and reduce their dependency on donors. When groups save money together at regular meetings, they amass enough capital to provide low-interest loans to members who are then able to start or maintain income-generating activities. One such endeavor was to make and sell liquid soap. Since people have to use soap daily, soap making is an excellent way for SHG members to earn money. One SHG held a workshop on making liquid soap, and was able to sell 80 liters of surplus soap at market.

Kenya-Ngong Intashat encompasses 10 communities, 4,500 households and 31,500 individuals

04/07/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

A Small Business Started in Martha's Garden

My name is Martha Elena. I’ve always enjoyed having plants in my yard, and used to try to grow vegetables but without much success; they would wilt and not produce. I figured my soil wasn’t any good, or I just didn’t have a “green thumb.” I also got very discouraged when the animals would eat all my plants.

Then, a year ago, I participated in a workshop with ACJ about how to grow a vegetable garden. They showed us pictures of how folks like me had done it in other communities where they work. I agreed to give it another try, so the technical staff showed me how to prepare the earth for planting and how to use recycled materials like plastic bottles and other containers to plant in.

We constructed raised beds, out of the way of the animals. I was worried about how I would get enough water for my plants, but the ACJ staff assured me that they wouldn’t need as much in the containers. It was very satisfying for me to find that I could harvest lots of vegetables like onions, cucumber, beets, peppers and tomato after all. What’s more, our family can enjoy eating all our fresh produce knowing we aren’t consuming toxic chemicals, because we know what we put in our soil.

I’ve also learned how to keep my own seeds for planting. That helps me save money because I don’t need to buy seeds or fresh vegetables any more. And I’ve started a small business pickling vegetables from my garden to sell to local restaurants. My kids are learning right along with me, since they help me with our garden. They’ve learned about recycling at school, and they like to find ways to make good use of our plastic garbage.

I’m grateful to God for giving me strength and perseverance, and I hope to continue learning about how to grow healthier, tastier food in my garden.

FRB’s local partner, ACJ, has learned that women are motivated by concern for their children to learn to grow, prepare and eat healthy foods. Using creative planting containers like sacks, bottles, or raised beds makes it easy for them to look after their vegetables close to their homes. Not only do containers conserve more water than traditional open beds – especially important during the dry season – but placing them close to their homes means they don’t have to carry water very far, and can re-use wash water for their plants.

Nicaragua-Boaco encompasses 8 communities, 210 households, and 860 individuals

04/07/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Women’s Self-Help Group Looks with Hope Toward the Future

In December of 2015, twelve women from a village in Northeast India attended a meeting where FRB’s local partner NEICORD was mobilizing Self-Help Groups as part of its India-Umsning program. The women liked the idea of receiving training designed to help farm families achieve maximum productivity on their land. The concept of Self-Help Groups also appealed to them since they often had difficulty making ends meet, despite the hard work their families did as day laborers.

These women formed a Self-Help Group of their own, and since then have participated in a number of workshops on a wide range of topics, from farming to group management, bookkeeping and leadership. The new agriculture techniques they’ve learned include Sloping Agriculture Land Technology (SALT), System of Rice Intensification (SRI), kitchen gardens, composting, water harvesting and livestock rearing. All 12 members have now planted kitchen gardens, and their families enjoy the nutritional benefits of a wide variety of vegetables. A group member declared that, “The kitchen garden has increased our nutrition security in the family.” Most have either begun or will soon begin using SALT and SRI practices as well.

The women all take part in monthly lessons organized by NEICORD on health, hygiene and nutrition. They also started raising pigs, using their savings to buy piglets and rear them as a group income-generating activity.

They’re saving small but significant sums of money every month. Says one, “Now we have access to loans through the internal-lending aspect of our group.” They even opened a group account at a local bank where they deposit their savings after every meeting. The members make loans to each other when requests are approved by the group. These women are looking forward to a better future. They understand that lasting change takes time, and they are willing to work hard and wait patiently for the best results for their families.

India-Umsning encompasses 12 communities, 190 households, and 950 individuals

04/06/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Farming as a Family Business Brings Smiles

"I have a reason to smile,” says Shila, a 33-year old participant in FRB’s Uganda-Teso program. “My farm production has increased dramatically every year I’ve been involved. After receiving training in Conservation Agriculture (CA), Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), vegetable growing, and participating in my farmer group and Village Savings and Loan (VSL) group, I have made it through this year’s challenges in spite of the drought. I am now a role model in our community.” 

Shila, her husband, and their 10 children are now “Farming as a Family Business,” and everyone is engaged in the production cycle at all levels. With timely planting, mulching, crop rotation and other CA practices, they earned 4,200,000 Shillings ($1,200) from selling beans and maize. They used part of the money for baking bricks and purchasing cement to build a permanent house. Says Shila, “Our plan is to finish the house next year, save for next year’s farming, and continue paying school fees for all of our children.”

Julius, 24, is married, with a baby girl. He and his Village Savings Loan group began saving money in 2014, and he recently had enough to buy a heifer. He says, “This year I was selected to serve as a Community Resource Person. I participated in many different training events so I could pass my learning on to my community.  My vision is to acquire land, since I inherited only two acres from our family land share.” In addition to helping others, Julius says, “I am championing my own development.”

Farming as a Family Business participants like Richard realize that farming is not just a lifestyle or a game but a long-term commitment to investing, planning, monitoring, reviewing and evaluating their farms for success. Richard says, “I have rented a simple treadle pump to help me during this dry spell. I want to make the most of this season. I have planted eggplant, cabbage, tomatoes and green pepper. I’m using small water reservoirs in the swamp for watering, and all the members of my household are carrying out tasks best suited to their abilities and preferences.”

Led by World Renew and local pattern Katakwi Integrated Development Organization (KIDO), FRB's Uganda Teso program encompasses 12 communities, 802 households and 4,812 individuals.

03/31/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Model Farmers Spread Learning

Lyly, 34, was selected in 2014 to be a model farmer in FRB's Cambodia-South program, and has been active ever since in learning and trying out new techniques. Before her involvement with the program, her family depended on her husband's income as a barber and part-time construction worker, and she grew mainly rice and a few varieties of vegetables. She is now growing a wider variety of crops and replacing her use of standard fertilizer and other inputs with a number of organic practices. 

Lyly's vegetables, chicken and fish are not only for personal consumption but also to sell for income. With her overwhelming success in agriculture work, her husband now spends most of his time at home helping her with the farm. Open to sharing her experience with others, she is the type of person being recruited as model Multi-Purpose Farmers in a new phase of the program.

The program's local partners are signing up Farmer Field School (FFS) members and others who have been successful with new sustainable agriculture techniques and continue to experiment. Candidates must demonstrate a high level of responsibility and motivation, have a strong work ethic and an aptitude for adapting and innovating with agricultural practices. They must be willing to continue to share what they have learned with their neighbors. 

During the next six months of the program, the first group of 12 multi-purpose farmers will begin to prepare their farms by installing ponds, canals, and planting sites. They will visit a high-performing multi-purpose farm to learn about farm design. They will also receive training on soil enhancement techniques, raising animals, and year-round fruit and vegetable production.  They will start implementing what they have learned right away. As a group, they will meet quarterly at each other's farms to share experiences and progress. An expert farmer will visit their farms periodically to offer coaching.

The goal is to improve food security and income for rural farming households in Cambodia through the use of sustainable intensification practices and farming systems that enhance the productivity of farms and farmers' access to markets. This program seeks to establish 65 multi-purpose model farms over a three-year period which will help support learning for an additional 600 farmers.  

03/23/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Food for Thought

These wise “Ten Commandments of Food” were developed by Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit and the World Council of Churches to address the existential challenge of hunger and inequity in an innovative and spiritually engaging manner.

12/14/2016 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Better Together: FRB and OAIC Form Partnership

Foods Resources Bank (FRB) and the Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) recently announced a partnership agreement that strengthens their efforts to reduce hunger through sustainable agriculture and improved nutrition. By working together, the two organizations will now be able to share a network of learning and deepen their reach into communities at the economic margins of Africa.

“This is an exciting opportunity to create more paths to solving world hunger and learn from each other,” says FRB CEO Marv Baldwin. OAIC joins FRB's network of 23 partner organizations all focused on creating lasting food security programs in developing countries."

Adds OAIC Secretary Reverend Nicta Lubaale, “Being African means being resourceful. We are using local resources and teaching sustainable agricultural techniques to transform the way smallholder farmers grow food to improve their yields as well as the nutritional variety of the foods they produce and consume.”

Under-nourishment in Sub-Saharan Africa is a big challenge. The 2015 report of the State on Food Insecurity in the World indicates that 220 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are living in a state of hunger. In the East African region, 37 million are undernourished. Both FRB and OAIC see agriculture as a lasting solution to hunger. By organizing community groups and providing tools and training to smallholder farmers, these farmers are able to generate sufficient food for their families, share the excess as well as sell some to afford household staples and school requirements for their school-going children.

“Charity never ends poverty,” says Lubaale. “But once you have productive land, you will not go hungry.”

FRB has supported one million people as they have transformed from living in chronic hunger to becoming food secure in its first 15 years and has set a goal to reach the next million in half that time. OAIC is targeting 3,000 congregations and farmers’ organizations to reach 400,000 smallholder farmers in three years. With an average of five family members per household, approximately two million people will realize food and nutritional security and improved incomes through OAIC’s outreach. 

 

 

 

 

 

11/17/2016 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

"Humanitarians In the Richest Sense"

Congratulations to Foods Resource Bank’s own Ron DeWeerd and Reverend Joan Fumetti named as the 2016 Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award winners. This prestigious award is given annually to recognize an Iowan who has provided significant leadership in confronting hunger and alleviating human suffering both at home and abroad. This is the first time the honor has been bestowed on two people.

“We are deeply gratified by this recognition of the humanitarian gifts of two people who have shaped FRB’s mission and ministry,” says FRB President and CEO Marv Baldwin.

When announcing the award recipients at a press conference on Monday, The World Food Prize organization lauded FRB as “one of the most dynamic and innovative agricultural assistance programs in America.”  The award will be formally presented to Ron and Joan at the Iowa Hunger Summit on October 10 in advance on of the World Food Prize October 12-14.

“Hunger is simply not acceptable in this era,” says Ron. “This award shines a light not only on the issue of hunger, but also on the organizations that are taking action to address it.”

Adds Joan, “We have heard first-hand from the farmers we have helped across the globe how the money we have raised is directly making a difference in people’s lives. I am profoundly thankful for the global network possibility FRB has helped create.”

Since 1999, FRB’s volunteers, community projects, member organizations, individual donors, corporations and foundations have made it possible for over a million people around the world to achieve food security. If you’d like to join FRB in reaching The Next 1 Million people, please donate online.  FRB has received the top, 4-Star rating of Charity Navigator, one of the nation’s most trusted charity evaluators.

Ron, FRB’s director of resource development, has been with FRB since it’s founding in 1999. Joan joined FRB as a volunteer in 2001, became our director of growing project development in 2002, and transitioned back to volunteer work when she retired from FRB in 2014. Together they have inspired thousands of people in Iowa and across the country to change the conversation about world hunger from food aid to supporting small farmers and their communities as they grow their own lasting solutions to hunger.

 “Ron and Joan have taught us, with their words and their actions on behalf of FRB, that all people everywhere deserve the opportunity live healthy, more productive, more hopeful lives,” says FRB board director Geoff Andersen, who spoke at the World Food Prize press conference announcing the winners. “By their example, they have demonstrated how each of us can play a part in ending world hunger. Thousands have heeded their call, and for that we are all grateful.”

Together, Ron and Joan inspired farmers, landowners, rural and urban people, churches, businesses, civic groups, youth organizations, and volunteers of every stripe to give the gifts they could give – time, expertise, elbow grease, or money – to allow FRB to offer practical and innovative ways to grow their own food, care for their families, and stay in their own communities.

“Our success would not be possible without FRB and the volunteers, farmers, churches and many U.S organizations that joined us in our mission,” says Ron. “That also includes the journalists that have helped tell our story to thousands across the Midwest and nation.” 

Adds Joan, “We have never done anything on our own. By connecting a network of people around the world, we’ve created lasting bonds between U.S. farmers and their farming neighbors half a world away.”

Both Ron and Joan continue to educate people about the complexities of world hunger: climate challenges, soil and water degradation, international markets, land grabs, natural and man-made disasters, and how all these affect the poor and the vulnerable. They are tireless advocates for peace and social justice and the potential of smallholder farmers to feed their communities as long as they have training and support and feel empowered to determine their own goals and realize their own dreams for their future.

 Says Geoff, “I know you join me in thanking Ron and Joan for their vision, their passion, their energy, and their belief in the dignity and value of all people. They are humanitarians in the richest sense, and I am grateful for their service to FRB and to all humankind.” 

09/28/2016 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Global Food Security Act (GFSA) Passes in Congress

Newsletter: 

On July 6, the US House of Representatives passed the Global Food Security Act, and the bill now only has to receive the approval of the President. The GFSA is an important step in advancing the efforts to combat global hunger that FRB supports.

07/11/2016 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

DuPont and the Alliance to End Hunger Host Briefing on Food Security

Recently, FRB's director of development Ron DeWeerd participated in a congressional briefing on the issue of food security. 

DuPont Executive Vice President Jim Collins described food security as “representing one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century” during a June 9 briefing on Capitol Hill to release the findings of the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).  The event was sponsored by DuPont and the Alliance to End Hunger.

06/28/2016 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More