grains

Native Seeds: The Once and Future Crops

Local partner Chethana recently held a village rally to convince more farm families to try native seeds and organic farming methods. There was a good turnout of local officials, farmers, seed-saver groups, women’s self-help groups, school children and Chethana staff. Chethana is promoting a return to traditional crops as a means of improving food security now and preserving plant diversity for future generations.

Traditional farmers see the native varieties and sustainable farming as their protection against crop failures and famine. Higher yields mean families have enough to eat and still save seed for the next crop. Returning to traditional legumes and cereal grains – in combination, they provide a complete protein – also improves nutrition and health. Intercropping them prevents erosion, enriches the soil, promotes bio-diversity, and controls weeds and pests.

More and more people are willing to experiment with low-cost methods that bring higher yields and reduce expenses. For years, area farmers have grown only rice. In recent years they’ve experienced low farm productivity, scarce rainfall, depleted groundwater, and water shortages, and they worry about crop failures and famine. Many are deeply in debt from poor returns on investment in high-cost chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

At the recent rally, successful “seed saving” farmer groups displayed native varieties of millet, okra, sorghum and a perennial legume called red gram. Observers noted with interest that these plants are acclimated to the dry conditions, require less water, and respond well to applications of organic compost.

Caption: Harvesting native okra

India South Program
Led by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Local Partner Chethana
30 communities, 500 households, 2,500 individuals

03/14/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Men Get Cooking!

To promote growing and eating legumes, the Zimbabwe Mwenezi program's local partner SCORE recently held an entertaining and informative “Men Can Cook” competition among farmers. Since cooking is traditionally a women’s role, SCORE designed the competition to encourage men to participate in this household task.

Competing in teams, the men came up with their own recipes, prepared delicious meals that were judged by local officials, and then had the opportunity to taste each other’s creations and feed the women as well. One competitor, Mr. Tamuka, said, “Now that we know how to cook, men are becoming the best chefs in our households!  I want to make a meal for my in-laws some day.”

The competition was a milestone in SCORE’s mission to improve family nutrition and gender equity. More farmers are intercropping grains and legumes and feeling empowered by being able to eat better on locally-grown foods.  As another farmer, Mrs. Sibongile, put it, “My wealth is in the soil.”

The men and women farmers had previously received training in improving their soil and conserving moisture by planting legumes like lablab and pigeon pea. At workshops on meal prep and nutrition led by local home economics teachers, they learned that legumes combined with grains like rice or millet form a complete protein. Mr. Tamuka said, “Lablab is my favorite legume, and it is good for my health!”

Caption: “Men Can Cook”competitors show off their aprons and prizes

Zimbabwe Mwenezi Program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner SCORE
2 Communities, 320 Households, 2,240 Individuals

03/01/2018 | 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
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