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Easing the Effects of Drought

Considered a kind of miracle by some, sand dams are easing the effects of a devastating drought in these Maasai communities in Kenya. With your support over the years, participants have built dams over seasonal rivers. People and cattle use the water in the reservoir, and even when that dries up, can continue to draw water trapped in the sand.

While the drought has been extremely hard on cattle, families have turned to raising chickens and growing produce in kitchen gardens. These activities demand less water, enabling folks to get by despite the severe challenges.

Emmanuel, one of 15 members in his self-help group, got the idea of raising chickens during one of the program’s agricultural learning tours. He’d kept a few chickens before but, with training, he learned how to increase his efficiency, reduce losses, build better coops, and manage his business.

A little over a year ago, he started rearing 200 chicks, and they are now producing eggs. He collects about six trays of eggs a day and sells them at the nearby Ngong market. Emmanuel says keeping chickens is more profitable than cows.

He plans to expand his operations now that he has the experience, knowledge and skills. Emmanuel is also trained as a model farmer, and three other farmers have followed his lead so far.

Captions: 1) Women scoop water from a sand dam 2) Emmanuel’s chicken operations

Kenya Ngong Intashat Program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner MIDI
10 communities, 4,500 households, 31,500 individuals

03/05/2018 | 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

Catching Raindrops Eases Tensions

Rebeca and Nestor are promoting peace in their communities thanks to rooftop rainwater harvesting. Conflicts over land and water rights between indigenous people and “criollo” settlers have been a reality for nearly 100 years in the Argentine and Bolivian Chaco. Today, the settlers are as poor as their indigenous neighbors, and the existence of both groups is threatened by frequent six-month droughts. As Nestor puts it, “When it comes to water, there is no difference between us.”

Rebeca is the granddaughter of a criollo rancher, and Nestor a member of the indigenous, historically hunter/gatherer Wichi people. They evaluate and work with communities in the hot, semi-arid region of South America known as the Gran Chaco to find solutions to their chronic water deficits.

Rebeca is one of the few women on a local inter-ethnic team that surveys families. The team calculates water needs and creates maps using GPS in order to ask authorities to prioritize assistance in these remote locations. Nestor is a skilled construction worker who builds 4,000-gallon cement cisterns to hold rainwater collected from rooftops during seasonal rains, and teaches others to do so as well. A natural peacemaker, he is often called on to help solve or prevent conflicts among the groups.

Storage tanks are a practical solution that is proving to ease tensions. Humans and livestock can drink the collected rainwater, and it can also be used for household and agricultural needs that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to carry out during dry seasons.

Photo caption: Rebeca puts community at ease

Argentina-Bolivia Gran Chaco program
Led by World Renew and Local Partner CERDET
45 communities, 318 households, 2,226 individuals

02/01/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

“Hunger Months” Are a Thing of the Past

As the successful Mozambique Garden program winds to a close, families have more food and better nutrition during “hunger months” – the period between when stored food is eaten and the next harvest. Community members testified how much the program has helped them survive – and flourish! – through the off season, and expressed their gratitude to all. 

After traditional crops of corn, beans, cassava and peanuts were harvested, no one used to plant anything during the cool, dry months of June, July and August because of lack of rain. People depended on their dwindling stores of grain, and often lost livestock during that period because they couldn’t feed or water them.

But with our support, families now plant and irrigate vegetable gardens on communal plots of land arranged around community wells. They use abundant cattle manure to enrich the sandy soil and increase the nutritive value of the vegetables they grow. Where they used to get by during the off season on one meal a day of a cassava or maize porridge called xima (pronounced “shima”), they can now count on having two or three meals a day during that time. Their cassava or grain stores last longer when they mix their xima with tasty cassava leaves, cabbage, tomato and onion, and their health and energy improves.

A final survey indicates that 85% of families now grow enough to sell some of their crops or produce for income. Almost 83% said they have been able to save money to buy seeds for the next crop season and purchase household staples and needed medicines.

An interesting observation is that, while all participants now fertilize their gardens with manure from the area’s cattle, 78% of them had never used it on their crops prior to receiving instruction. They all said they would continue to fertilize row crops and gardens with manure.

Photo caption: Lush gardens fertilized with the area's abundant manure

Mozambique Garden Program
Led by World Hope International
16 communities, 1,455 households, 8,730 individuals


01/31/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Sturdy Construction, Risk Reduction

When natural disaster strikes and homes and crops get damaged or destroyed, Haitian farmers often have to resort to eating the seed they’d saved for the next planting season or sell off any surviving livestock to pay expenses.  Both lead to more hunger in the months following the catastrophe. To improve their level of preparedness, members of all nine farmer cooperatives received training in managing risks and building sturdy homes, latrines and animal enclosures.  

Having a sound plan and strong structures reduces loss of life and serves to strengthen food security in the face of Haiti’s frequent hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. When people understand and follow the building code they’re more able to withstand the country’s inevitable emergencies without having to start over again each time. One cooperative member said, “I give God thanks because this training protects people’s lives.”

People generally build their own homes, mud-and-stick structures without foundations, so the training sessions start by reviewing the need for digging a foundation, using rebar, and mixing cement to form concrete blocks. The co-ops buy materials in bulk to lower the cost to members, and offer loans and discounts as well, to encourage participation. When families are ready to build, engineers from Church World Service are there to supervise.

Roger, another coop member, said, “Now we don’t need to be afraid anymore, with the work the engineers do.”

Photo caption: Explaining reinforced concrete construction

Haiti Northwest Program
Led by Church World Service and SKDE
10 communities, 6,000 households, 21,000 individuals

01/22/2018 | 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
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