Posts in women

I Learn Best When I Try It Myself

World Renew explains that it takes hearing something several times before people will apply what they have learned, particularly for smallholder farmers who risk hunger if things do not go as planned.

When Ounteni and his wife, Hamsatou, finally put into practice what they’d heard about intercropping legumes like cowpeas with grains and feeding livestock rather than letting animals roam, they were astounded at the difference it made! Imagine their relief when they found that, despite the drought this year, their millet harvest was better than that of other people in their community who had not intercropped. The couple’s diet improved by combining cowpeas with the grain for a complete protein, and they had plenty of plant residue to store on their roof to provide fodder for the animals.

People generally let their animals roam around looking for food, but walking for kilometers every day to try to find something to eat often wore the animals out and, as a result, they did not gain much weight. Local Partner SEL has for several years been encouraging intercropping grains and legumes and penning animals, but it finally clicked for the couple when it sank in that animals would grow faster if they fenced them in and fed them.

So Ounteni and Hamsatou planted a legume called cowpea with their traditional millet. While those grew, they built a pen for their sheep and cows. The legumes added nitrogen to the soil and also protected the normally bare ground from the hot sun, retaining moisture. In addition to having enough food for themselves, Hamsatou proudly showed visitors how healthy the animals were now that she and her husband had changed their farming and animal husbandry practices.

Caption: Hamsatou proudly shows off her healthy livestock

West Africa 1 Program
Led by World Renew and Local Partner Showing Everyone Love (SEL)
64 communities, 2,500 households, 17,500 individuals

(Partner and participant names have been changed for security reasons)

03/28/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

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

Forging Ahead Despite Challenges

Despite multiple challenges in post-conflict South Sudan, local staff has been hard at work training farm extension agents and health technicians to ready farmers and their families for better days. The civil war has ended, yet there continue to be security and infrastructure issues. The remoteness of the area means that people are not in direct danger from residual conflict, but also that basic services are lacking, including phone communications. Recent heavy rains brought flooding, and widespread illiteracy makes training much more difficult. Yet much has been accomplished.

The focus is particularly on women farmers – the backbones of the community. They need to get up to speed quickly on the most effective ways to manage their crops, vegetables, and homes.  Health extension workers have trained “hygiene promoters” to distribute supplies and show women how to treat both well water and river water. Families received soap and instruction on the importance of handwashing.

Agricultural extension workers also identified training needs and mobilized farmer groups to attend training sessions at demonstration plots.  They’ve taught basic principles of crop husbandry and growing vegetables. Because these farmers are starting out new, it has been necessary to distribute seeds and basic farming tools. Farmers are now concentrating on planting okra.

While challenges seem to be vast, it is clear that the will of local partner staff is strong. FRB’s implementing organization, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), is confident that the agriculture and health extension training is laying the groundwork for success for these people as they return to normalcy following the war. Your support and prayers are much needed and greatly appreciated.

Caption: Farmer groups during agricultural training

South Sudan Uror Program
Led by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
1 community, 400 households, 2,800 individuals

 

03/13/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

A-maize-ing Results: “My Family is Better off All Around”

At the close of this program in Timor Leste’s Viqueque region, Manuel says his family is better off all around. “We don’t have to buy as much in the market so it’s a saving for us. And, a few months ago, I sold some of my harvest and earned enough to cover my family’s basic needs. I also bought some equipment to improve and expand my planting area,” he says.

Another farmer, who only used to be able to grow enough for five months, says, “Nearly a year after harvest, we still have food.”

Manuel says he is getting greater yields of improved-quality maize and has learned to dry it and protect it from pests and mold by storing it in airtight containers like water bottles. Besides maize and rice, he plants a wider variety of foods – beans, taro root, cassava, papaya – for better nutrition.

According to the program’s final report, all of the farmers who took part in the training are using one or more of the environmentally-friendly farming techniques they learned.  At the start of the program, maize yielded around 1,036 pounds per hectare (2.5 acres). Everyone met or exceeded the target of 1,343 lbs./hectare, some harvesting as much as 2,320. And, by drying and storing maize in airtight containers – instead of hanging it in unprotected sheaves outdoors – their losses to mold and pests are minimal.

Local partner staff and extension workers from the Ministry of Agriculture live and farm in the same villages as program participants, and will continue to model improved farming and storage techniques on their own land. The Ministry of Agriculture will continue to assist farmers with seed, training, moisture testing and new ideas.

Caption: Manuel’s great results from improved seed and environmentally-friendly farming

Timor Leste Viqueque Program
Led by Catholic Relief Services and Local Partner Fraterna
5 communities, 380 households, 3,268 individuals


03/02/2018 | 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

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

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