frb newsletter

Many Hands Make Light Work

Newsletter: 

“Many hands make light work.” In Haiti’s Northwest Department, this is more than just a common saying. This is the principle behind the work that Foods Resource Bank supports through CWS and other partners.

I recently traveled to Haiti and met with some of the cooperatives that the program supports. Through the work of local partner SKDE – translated to the Center for Christian Integrated Development – the program supports 12 cooperatives that reach nearly 5,000 families. 

06/08/2016 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Farming as a Family, the Impact of Gender on Agriculture

Through its partnership with Lutheran World Relief, FRB supported a pilot project called Learning for Gender Integration. Read about the results in the article below. 

Farmers in the Flor de Pancasán area of Nicaragua’s Matiguás municipality were struggling. They were seeing low crop yields for a variety of reasons, including soil depletion, a lack of resources to make key investments and weather fluctuations, and this was affecting their ability to feed their families. Through its Learning for Gender Integration project, Lutheran World Relief wanted to see whether an initiative to increase agricultural production and improve food security might be bolstered with efforts to reduce gender gaps.

06/08/2016 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Seeing is Believing

Land is scarce in Tan Son district in North Central Vietnam, and growing enough food to last throughout the year is a challenge. It is no wonder that farmers are hesitant to adjust their practices without proof that it will work. The Tan Son program is working to provide the needed proof, and farmers are slowly changing their practices. 

One of the major changes that is already being seen across the area is the use of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI).  Farmers who are using it seem convinced that the wider spacing and use of a single seedling per planting station are making a difference and increasing their yields.  The main question most farmers still struggle with is about the amount and type of fertilizer they should use.

Fertilizer helps plants to grow well, so many farmers figure that more fertilizer is better, and use as much as they can afford.  The Tan Son program is encouraging farmers to experiment with three different approaches. The first is to use as much as the farmer can afford.  The second is the amount recommended by the local extension agent, applied at three different times during the growing season. The third is one application of slow-release fertilizer at a low dosage.  Each approach was modeled across several villages, allowing farmers to observe the resulting yields and decide for themselves which method works best.

Cuong experimented with a single application of slow-release fertilizer.  Using this method, she produced enough rice to last her family throughout the year. After seeing a 70% increase in her production with reduced fertilizer, she is enthusiastic about using this method again.

Uyen followed the advice of the district agriculture consultant and used three applications of fertilizer.  While she saw a 29% increase in production, she suspects it is from her switch to SRI, since she used the same fertilization method as before. She plans to experiment with several types of fertilizer during the next growing season to determine which works best.

Tim used both slow release fertilizer and compost.  Her yield has doubled thanks to the use of SRI.  One of her fields did not do well since fertilizer runoff from a neighbor’s overuse affected her field.  This helped her to conclude that it is very important not to overuse fertilizer.

A member of the Kim Thuong Commune Project Management Committee noted that the program has been instrumental in helping people learn to use fertilizer appropriately and enabling them to grow enough rice through SRI to meet their food security needs.

Vietnam Tan Son program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and
People's Committee of Tan Son District
6 Communities, 512 Households, 2,212 Individuals

09/18/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Mulching Means More Maize

Salome spends a lot less time on farm work because the mulching she does suppresses weeds and frees her from hoeing, a task that used to consume most of her time.  

Like most farmers in this dry region of Kenya, Salome’s maize yields were increasingly disappointing until she tried a number of techniques aimed at building soil fertility and retaining moisture.  This harvest, Salome’s production tripled in spite of a lack of rain.  She had improved her soil with such conservation agriculture practices as minimum tillage, applying manure as fertilizer, crop rotation, agroforestry, and using drought-tolerate varieties. But, for Salome, the technique she most appreciates is mulching. With less overall work, her harvest increased from one to four 220-pound bags of maize in the same small plot.

She and other farmers have also started practicing better post-harvest grain handling and storage, including drying maize on tarps in the sun to prevent the poisonous fungus aflatoxin. Many are storing their grain now in hermetically sealed bags that prevent moisture and pests without chemicals. Higher yields and reduced post-harvest losses mean more overall food for their families, more to sell, and more to plant the following year.

Participant farmers are also planting trees to produce fruit, fuel, wood, shade, and mulching materials. All these and other improved practices are taught at the program’s two hands-on Farmer Field Schools and disseminated through their communities by trained facilitators. When they see the great results that conservation farming yields, area farmers go on to put their new knowledge to work on their own farms.

Kenya Tigania encompasses 7 Communities, 200 Households, 1,000 Individuals
Led by World Renew and local partner ADS - Mt Kenya

09/14/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Faith and Farming Empower Communities

Newsletter: 

Pastor Santiago is the spiritual and community leader of a place called Las Cabeceras. A farmer himself, he uses his influence with his deeply devout community to address water scarcity and prolonged drought and bring about real improvements in people’s lives. As he puts it, “We are all responsible for caring for Creation.”

Program communities are often cut off from the rest of the world by distance and impassable roads, so people depend on each other for their survival. Santiago is one of 20 active community organizers and promoters in the FRB food security program, and encourages neighbors affected by the three-year drought to find ways to become more resilient.

Santiago came to Las Cabeceras 15 years ago because of the good conditions for agriculture – fertile soils and plenty of rain. However, in the last six years, yields have been declining as result of the combination of very high temperatures and poor rain patterns, which in turn have resulted in severe economic losses.

Since Santiago joined the program, he’s better able to support his family economically with his “diversified farm,” growing maize, beans, sorghum, banana, cassava and more so that he still has food if one or more crops fail. Farmers are finding solutions to water scarcity, improving soils, protecting their watersheds, engaging in reforestation, and experimenting with a variety of climate-specific seeds and seed banks.

He says, “The hands-on Farmer Field Schools in the program are important because they allow us to come together and look for a solution to a common problem like the drought. We share our ideas and experiences and reinforce the need for everyone in the community to seek compromises and solutions.”

Pictured:  Felix and his diversified farm

Nicaragua Carazo program
Led by Church World Service and local partner CIEETS
8 communities, 220 households, 1,251 individuals


09/12/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Community Pools Resources to Overcome Drought

Once community members in FRB’s Kenya Magarini program realized they had the resources at hand to overcome food insecurity despite their challenges, including a regional drought, they poured themselves into making positive change happen. The inspiration came from a hands-on Participatory Rural Assessment (PRA) process that helped them analyze their challenges, identify solutions and create a community action plan to guide their development.  

“If it hadn’t been for this program and the PRA, we would not be farming as a group and we could not know the benefits of coming together as a community,” says Saidi, a trained community resource person.

He tells how they started with two Farmer Field Schools with demo farms. The first planting season was challenging because of the drought. They only planted a few crops -- just enough to establish a kitchen garden for the farmers to learn about crop diversification as a way to reduce their risks of crop failure. But when they also tried planting on their individual farms, the farmers harvested little or nothing due to the drought.

That’s when the field school members decided to join forces to plant a community garden. A member loaned them two acres of land that had adequate water for irrigation so they could produce vegetables for income and family consumption. They received a loan from their community-based savings and loan association to purchase insecticides and, with additional capital from members, they bought seeds.

"Member families had access to nutritious vegetables that they could either buy or receive on credit,” says Chrispine, a farmer in the program. At times members even received free produce to motivate them to work in the garden.

Saidi reports that they made a total of $773 from the sale of the second harvest, and $360 from the third. That harvest was smaller because of some challenges the group faced with the farm owner, but they are now clearing and preparing a different plot for their fourth planting season.

The community is buying PVC pipe and a water pump for irrigation, and bricks to construct a shallow well for easier access to water. They also have money in their account for fuel for the water pump, land preparation and farm inputs.

“The challenges didn’t stop us from doing what we love,” says Saidi. “We are really grateful.”

Kenya Magarini encompasses 10 communities, 1,842 households and 4,836 individuals

Led by World Renew and local partner ADS Pwani

06/01/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Devaputra Leads Neighbors in Adopting Organic Farming

Devaputra, his wife, and their six children are experiencing increased food and nutrition security from eating the traditional crops they now grow organically on their farm. They say they feel safer because they know there are no chemical residues in their food, and they appreciate the economic benefits of not having to buy seeds, fertilizer and insecticides.

Farmers like Devaputra are conserving and using native seeds and adopting organic farming practices to help them flourish in spite of this year’s drought and other weather-related effects in Southern India.

Devaputra has been a member of a farmers’ cooperative since 2013 which later joined FRB’s India South program. He has participated in a number of capacity-building programs and workshops that focus on organic agriculture and emphasize the need for genetically diverse food crops, especially native millet, in adapting to climate change. As a result, he and the other participants have been able to adjust their farming practices, maintain optimal soil pH and fertility, protect beneficial insects, and achieve greater yields.

As a member of his co-op’s governing body, Devaputra wants everyone to experience his family’s success. He has emerged as a role model for the other farmers of his village and surrounding villages, actively promoting native seed saving and conservation agriculture. He recently hosted a field day on his farm to show the benefits of organic farming.


India South encompasses 30 communities, 500 households, and 2,500 individuals

 

05/30/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Warming Trend: Winter Crops Increase Family Food Security

Tam and Oanh are neighbors and close friends whose small fields are side by side. Every day, when one of the women is ready to work on her field, she calls to her friend and they walk to their plots together. Mixed into their conversations about work, family, weather and more are the sustainable farming techniques they’ve learned through FRB’s Vietnam Tan Son program.

They participated in a training course on planting crops that would perform well in the climate and soil conditions of the winter season when, after two harvests, farmers traditionally let their fields lay fallow. Tam and Oanh agreed that the practice wasted precious resources that could allow them to feed their families without having to work on someone else’s land for cash.

The farmers were encouraged to experiment with rotational cultivation and increase the variety and number of crops in order to get more food and prevent soil diseases. After training, some pilot households received seed. Tam and Oanh were not on the pilot list, but their interest was high enough that they each bought seeds and committed to following what they learned at the training.

Oanh chose to grow sweet potatoes. Tam chose corn. Last year, Tam and Oanh were able to harvest their fields three times. By adding winter crops, their families did not suffer a food shortage. Tam notes, “We’ll plant winter crops next year. Having corn in winter makes us feel warm in our stomachs.”

The Tan Son program will continue to use agricultural models to evaluate and promote the effectiveness of different crops and farming techniques. Training activities not only help people in difficult areas achieve sustainable food security, they promote good relationships within the community.

Vietnam Tan Son encompasses 6 communities, 512 households, and 2,212 individuals

05/08/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Farmer Field Schools Lead to Lasting Changes for Douglas

My name is Douglas. I’m 43 years old, married with 3 children, and I’m a member of a Farmer Field School. I’ve worked the land all my adult life, growing corn and beans on my 5-hectare (12-acre) plot. We used to have set planting times, and prepared the land by burning and raking. Our yields weren’t so good, so we had to go to pick coffee on other farms for a few months a year to earn money for food and home expenses.

Thanks to the training workshops, I’ve made a lot of changes over the past year. They include waiting for the best time to plant by consulting with others and listening for crop and weather information on the radio. And instead of burning and raking, leaving the ground naked, I use careful placement of organic refuse to protect the soil from erosion. I’m also trying out different drought-tolerant seed varieties.

Now, I don’t just grow corn and beans, but have filled our land with other food plants. Corn and beans are expensive to cultivate, and have not yielded well in past years. Instead, we are planting more crops for our families to eat, and we are also learning to grow coffee, cocoa and other cash crops. In fact, I’m even intercropping my bananas, chocolate, coffee, and cassava to use my land more efficiently.

These changes have helped my family’s wellbeing. We’re improving our house, have bought a cow, and have replaced a part of our land that we had sold. Now we only go to the coffee harvest for a couple of weeks a year. I am working at convincing more of my neighbors try these new techniques so they can know the same success I have had.

FRB’s local partner, AMC, says that an initial needs assessment on each farm allows them to invest resources wisely. AMC staff has learned that adapting new practices is a long-term process with the farmers, so individualized technical visits to farms are a priority. Attendance at workshops is not necessarily an indicator of success, so follow-up with participants after workshops is a must to promote lasting change in attitudes in the farming families.

Nicaragua-Farmer encompasses 7 communities, 361 households, and 1, 625 individuals

04/10/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Surrounded by Problems, Jogindra Finds Help and Hope

My name is Jogindra. I am 55 years old. My father died when I was young, so I lived with my elder brother and helped him in his work. He arranged my marriage when I was only 14. It was hard for me to provide for my wife, but I was always thinking about how I could improve. I decided to lease land to start farming, and was eventually able to purchase 3 kattha [about ¼ of an acre] and began growing vegetables and rice. However, I often found it difficult to run my house as smoothly as I wanted. I was tense and found it hard to deal with my daily problems.

Then, one day, I had an idea: why not look into one of the farmers’ groups organized by BICWS Nepal? Since I joined this past year, my knowledge has been built up so much. We now eat fresh vegetables, and I grow enough food to keep us well fed. We also have enough to sell some of it in the local market. I’ve made 24,000 rupees ($228) in a season, with a profit of 16,000 rupees ($152), a significant improvement over the past. I plan to lease an additional 5 kattha of land [approximately ½ acre] to increase my production of vegetables.

I am thankful and happy that this program was there to help me when I was surrounded by so many problems. I have learned a lot by attending classes and training events on how to grow my vegetables, make compost fertilizer, and protect my plants from pests through Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Men and women farmers in FRB’s Nepal-Bhatigachh program receive training in vegetable farming, seed saving and making worm compost to fertilize their fields. In addition to rice, they have mainly been growing eggplant, cabbage, cauliflower, chili peppers, potatoes, leafy greens, tomatoes, and radish. Most of the farmers had better yields due to sufficient rains in the last six months, and sold their excess produce at their local market. They used the money for family health and education needs and to cover a variety of household expenses.

Nepal-Bhatigachh encompasses 9 communities, 2,603 households and 13,748 individuals

04/10/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More
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