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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

Home Again: Sustainable Farming Returns Felix to his Roots

My name is Félix. I’m a farmer, but there came a point when I couldn’t support my family anymore. I spent months at a time moving to other parts of the country to find work.  My wife had occasional jobs, but could only earn around 15 cents a day.  We both did what we had to do to support our seven children.  When I heard about an opportunity to receive training on ways to improve my farm and raise more food, I was eager to give it a try.

I made my depleted soil more fertile by planting cover crops and fruit trees, making organic pesticides, fungicides and fertilizer, and rotating crops, and produce a greater variety of fruits and vegetables.

You should see my farm now! I used to grow mainly corn and beans, but now have plantains, sweet potatoes, pineapple, yuca [a tuber], sesame, peanuts, papaya, hot pepper and more.  We eat most of it, but I also sell some so I no longer have to leave my family to make money.  My family’s healthier, too, because food grown in rich soil has more nutrients. I’m also lowering my costs.  My wife encourages me to continue to try new things, and helps me. We believe that you learn by doing. I’m convinced that my land can produce even more.

My hope is that God gives me strength to continue farming my parcel of land so I can leave a sustainable inheritance for my children.  I pray that God continues blessing the donors who make this program possible. I believe that they demonstrate what it really means to love our neighbors.

Photo caption: Felix explains how cover crops replenish soil nutrients

Guatemala Four Departments Program
Led by World Renew and various local partners
25 communities, 750 households, 4, 500 individuals

12/19/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Panna’s Kitchen Garden and “Super Flour” Save Her Son’s Life

My name is Panna. My husband and I live with our two daughters, ten and five, and our three-year-old son in a small home at the side of the road.  Only a year ago, we were just surviving, and my children were having health problems. I didn’t know how dangerously sick my son was, though, until one day, the staff of [local partner] BICWS Nepal was monitoring door to door. When they saw my child they said, “This baby is very weak,” and advised me to take him to the health post. The doctor there said he was malnourished and should be admitted to the hospital.

It was a scary time, but my little boy is well now, thanks to a six-month treatment. I was invited to join a mothers’ group, and we learned how to make “super flour” by roasting and grinding together two types of legumes and one type of whole grain to make a complete protein. I feed my children a porridge made of this lito pitho, fruit and vegetables. It’s made a huge difference in their health!

We also received training on planting kitchen gardens right by our houses. I’m growing okra, leafy vegetables, and pumpkins, and my fruit trees – lychee, jackfruit, banana, mango – are coming along. It’s a relief and pleasure to be able to give my children food that I grow myself.  We continue to learn about nutrition, preparing wholesome meals, and sanitation to make sure our children stay healthy.

I am thankful to the program for saving my little boy’s life and for all the help I’ve received in making a better home for my family.

Caption: Panna and her healthy son

Nepal Bhatigachh Program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner BICWS Nepal
9 communities, 2,603 households, 13,748 individuals

12/18/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Growing Success: Land Donation to Benefit Women Farmers

More women will benefit from training through our Burkina Faso Namentenga program, thanks to a generous land donation. Community leaders agreed to donate 17 acres of communal land to develop into a training site. The site is upstream from a dam to facilitate irrigation, and will be divided into smaller parcels for the women to work and practice on. At least 120 women farmers will learn how to earn an income from market gardening.

To be more inclusive and ensure that each participant feels she is receiving the same benefits, all hands-on training must be done on a communal plot of land. It was critical to find a place everyone could agree on. After a lengthy process of meetings with the authorities of three communities, community-wide discussions, negotiations, and legal work, the original goal of 15 acres was met and exceeded. Community leaders also expressed willingness to participate in work planning. Such community buy-in promotes ownership of the entire process and creates a firm foundation for the women’s long-term success as market farmers.

The program follows Catholic Relief Services’ proven SMART Skills (Skills for Marketing and Rural Transformation) approach. SMART teaches basic skills all farmers need so that they can grow more food, market excess, and earn a sustainable income. By growing their own crops, the women will learn sound farming techniques to improve their soil, increase the quality of their produce, and manage their farms and money with good record keeping.

Photo caption: Women discuss seasonal planting schedules

Burkina Faso Namentenga Program
Led by Catholic Relief Services
73 communities, 2,620 households, 15,720 individuals

12/13/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Training Encouraged and Inspired Me

Like other farmers in the Bangladesh Kendua program area, Monowar says he used to grow only rice.  “We thought that rice was the only crop that we could grow, and that it would save us. But when I joined the farmer group, I learned about the importance of nutrition and decided to commit to nutrition-focused agriculture. After a workshop on kitchen gardening, I started growing vegetables along with my rice.”

Monowar has dedicated almost half of his land to the kitchen garden and has seen his family’s health improve with the variety of vegetables they now enjoy with their rice.  

But he didn’t stop there, as he was eager to learn as much as he could. “The SATHI training program also encouraged and inspired me to do environmentally-friendly agriculture,” he says.

Intrigued when he heard about how composting could improve the quality and quantity of his vegetables, Monowar collected all the necessary raw materials and invited FRB’s and World Renew’s local partner SATHI to conduct the practical training session at his house. He wanted other farmers to understand the importance of using compost and growing vegetables for a diversified diet.

In addition to vegetables commonly used in local dishes – spinach, amaranth, beans, eggplants, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and pumpkins – he’s started growing more unfamiliar ones to sell to a larger market. He received a loan from his farmer group’s savings and loan program to begin producing winter crops, and now grows vegetables year-round.
Caption: Monowar working in his kitchen garden.

Bangladesh Kendua program
Led by World Renew and Local Partner SATHI
6 communities, 1,080 households, 5,400 individuals

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

"Pass on the Gift" Provide Families with Nutrition and Income

In remote Armenian mountain villages, employment opportunities are hard to come by and life is a challenge.  Gifts of chickens, lambs and beehives passed from one neighbor to the next mean nutrition and income for hungry and poor families.

Uncle Jahan, who cares for his disabled wife and carries out all house and garden chores, has worked hard all his life.  He saw low yields due to the harsh climate, depleted soil and lack of seeds. He was delighted to receive four beehives from a neighbor, and expects a good honey harvest this year. The lime blossom honey cheers and nourishes his wife, and the income from honey sales allows them to move beyond subsistence to hoping and dreaming again. Jahan also joined a training event on healthy meals intended for community women. “Why not?” he smiled. “I do all the cooking.”

A younger villager, Shoger, supports her family of three as well as her disabled brother and his three children. Thanks to the 15 chickens and a rooster she received, she now has 10-12 eggs a day.  Shoger says, “For a mother, the most desirable thing is to have healthy children and provide proper meals. These chickens are one of the best things that ever happened in my life. My thanks to all the wonderful and kind people living in the U.S. who have thought about us so far away.”

Photo caption: Children help deliver chicks

Armenia FHSLD Program
Led by United Methodist Committee on Relief
3 communities, 156, households, 352 individuals

12/11/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

I've Never Had Such A Harvest in My Life!

My name is Christopher. I’m married with seven children and depend on farming to support my family.  Before I received training, I did not know there was a way to farm that makes your soil fertile instead of depleting it. We learned how to make our own compost, and also how to prepare natural insecticide and fungicide for our vegetables. They also taught us a lot of farm management methods, and how to store our crops after harvesting so we wouldn’t lose them to pests or mold.

I received better maize and soybean seed and cassava cuttings for my 2.5-acre plot. I did a little comparison between the improved maize and some local maize I grew.  I harvested 18 110-lb. bags of improved maize and only nine of the local maize, and five bags of soybeans.  I have never had such a harvest in my life, even though I used to cultivate more land.

I am ready to sell some of my grain to pay for home, farm and school expenses, and will save some of the money to buy the seed for next season. I’ll pay back a tenth of what I’ve produced so other farmers can receive the same blessing I have.  I’m planning on working hard to double the size of my fields. Conservation farming is very good for us small-scale farmers.

On behalf of my family, I thank the organization and all partners for looking into our plight. May God bless you and give back 100 times into your life and resources what you’ve done for us.

Photo caption: Raised-bed vegetable garden

Zambia Northwest Program
Led by Nazarene Compassionate Ministries and local partner NCM Africa
47 communities, 450 households, 4,500 individuals

12/08/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Families Now Producing Most of Their Own Food

As FRB’s Guatemala Sibinal program concludes, local families are now producing 75% of their own food, meaning they can spend more on education, health care, and housing. Magdalena tells her family’s story.

Before the program, my family only produced corn and a few vegetables. We didn’t have a source of income, though, so my husband traveled to Mexico for months at a time to work on the coffee farms. I was left to take care of the children, the house and the farming all by myself. We had no hope things would ever change.

But when we began our education in agro-ecology our situation started to change. I like farming the earth naturally, making our own organic fertilizers and insecticides and planting a greater variety of vegetables. At first, it was hard to stop using chemicals because that’s what we were used to. But gradually we found that what we grew organically tasted better, and we had less and less need to buy pesticides and fertilizer.

My husband is home more. He and I and our children farm the earth together and are more united as a family. We’re healthier because our food is better, more varied. We even earn an income. People come to our house to buy vegetables, and we also sell them at the Mexican border. Our whole community has improved because several families are farming and caring for our Mother Earth or eating more nutritious food from our farm plots.

We want to say thank you to everyone who supported us through the years. We gained knowledge, we put it into practice, and we continue improving every day.

Caption: Simple techniques like transplanting seedlings promote more frequent harvests and profitability

Guatemala Sibinal
Led by Mennonite Central Committee
4 Communities, 125 Households, 549 Individuals

12/01/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Saralin’s 10-Year Struggle Takes a Dramatic Turn

Before Saralin joined a Self-Help Group (SHG) through FRB’s India Umsning program, she’d struggled for 10 years as the head of her household to make ends meet and keep her two children in school. Besides farming, she also tried raising poultry. However, due to her lack of expertise, she didn’t earn as much as she expected from either activity.  

The training she and her SHG received in kitchen gardening and livestock rearing has transformed her life. Saralin now produces a variety of nutritious vegetables in different seasons to meet her family’s needs. And, after comprehensive livestock management training at a vocational center, her poultry business is thriving.

What Saralin learned gave her the confidence to take a loan from her SHG to purchase 500 chickens. It took her only two months to start earning a profit from selling eggs and chickens. She quickly paid back her loan, bought more chicks, and is even applying for a bank loan to further expand her business.

Through hard work and the steps she has taken to improve her life, Saralin has set a great example for other community members. She is now seen as one of the progressive poultry entrepreneurs in the village.

Says Saralin, “Since my Self Help Group formed, we’ve learned the importance of working together as a group, and have reaped the benefits of helping one another in the community.”

Story courtesy of Shamborlang Lakhiat
Caption: Saralin’s thriving poultry farm

India Umsning Program
Led by World Renew and local partner NEICORD
12 communities, 500 households, 2,500 individuals

11/30/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Benjamin Breaks the Cycle of Poverty

Benjamin, married with three children, has managed to break the cycle of poverty with the support and encouragement of FRB’s Kathonzweni program.

Like other small-scale farmers in his region, he used poor farming methods that produced small yields, and sold his harvest to middlemen who paid low prices. His fortunes changed when he joined the program. He began learning a variety of Conservation Agriculture techniques to improve soil fertility and yields, crop care, and post-harvest management practices. His enthusiasm and success led to his being certified as a Trainer of Trainers (TOT). As a TOT, he’s able to reach out to other farmers in the community to bolster peer-to-peer learning.

Benjamin also enrolled in Kitise Farmers’ Cooperative, which guarantees purchase of his produce, and at a better price than the brokers give. As a co-op member, he received further training in leadership and management, collective marketing, grain quality control and store management.

Last season he harvested nearly 600 lbs. of green grams (the legumes we know as mung beans) where before he’d reaped only 155. He sold 430 lbs. to pay off his son’s school fees, at double the price he’d formerly received from the middlemen. This season Benjamin has expanded his use of Conservation Agriculture based on his impressive results. He is hopeful that, with support, more farmers can increase their production and marketing of green grams.

Caption: Benjamin sells his green grams at the co-op

Kenya Kathonzweni Program
Led by Dorcas Aid international with local partner Kitise Rural Development
3 communities, 1,094 households, 7,660 individuals

11/29/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More
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