Foods Resource Bank Blog

Improved Farming Knowledge, Improved Income

Since Theresia began receiving training and support from the Kenya Kathonzweni program and experiencing success in her pasture farming, she foresees a bright future for herself and her family. She says, “This season I have put three more acres into pasture. I’m getting much better returns than ever before.”

Theresia is a small-scale pasture farmer who, like others in the area, used to sell her hay directly to local livestock farmers at low prices. She signed up with the program because she wanted to improve her knowledge and skills and find ways to market hay more effectively.  At the program’s Farmer Field School, which focuses on training farmers in sustainable Conservation Agriculture practices, she says she “learned by doing, and from demonstrations,” how to establish and manage a pasture and harvest grass seeds for sale.

Theresia has met and exceeded her expectations for taking part in the training. She now markets her hay and seeds through the program’s Farmers’ Cooperative. After just one year, she was able to sell 3300 pounds of pasture for a good price, and earned more than double the income from her grass seed. The money allowed her to pay her granddaughter’s school fees and buy a dairy cow.  She says, “Now that I have enough pasture for at least two cows I would like to venture into dairy farming as well.”

Caption: Theresia’s increased hay yields

Kenya Kathonzweni Program
Led by Dorcas Aid International Foundation and Local Partner Kitise Rural Development
3 communities, 1,094 households and 7,660 individuals

 

04/18/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Community Action Plan: A Roadmap to Success

A process of community discernment encouraged by the program helped a village identify … and solve … their biggest obstacle to success: the lack of a road. With a four-mile footpath between the village and the nearest road, it was difficult to get produce to market or reach medical assistance, and impossible to get in or out on any vehicle larger than a motorbike.  Women in single file used to carry market goods on their heads to the road, then wait for a vehicle to come by which would allow them to hitch a ride. There was only one bus that went to town in the morning and came back in the evening.  If they missed it they had to go back home and try again the next day. Produce brokers would sometimes come by and offer to buy products from the waiting women, but at sharply discounted prices. 

So the villagers carefully crafted a community action plan to build a road.  First, they organized into subgroups to focus on specific tasks.  They planned the route, cleared the trees and shrubs, and widened and leveled out the path so vehicles could pass. It took them 3-½ months to complete but now cars and trucks can reach the village! The access opens up opportunities to rent a truck to take goods to market as a cooperative effort, or for people in the community to invest in cars. 

The community recently hired a motorcycle driver to come right to the village to pick up corn for market that they’d shelled as a group. Before the road was completed, he never would have come, or would have demanded a steep fee to leave the main road and take the path to the village. The road constitutes an enormous change for the better, and the community is proud that they made it happen through teamwork.

Caption: Community effort readies shelled corn to be picked up for market

Kenya Magarani
Led by World Renew and Local Partner ADS - Pwani
10 communities, 1,800 households, and 4,836 individuals

04/13/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Rabbits Replace Desperation with Hope

When Nehal was notified that her family was given priority to receive rabbits and training, her stress-related health conditions started to subside. She had been at her wits’ end trying feed and manage all the daily struggles experienced by her family of seven without a source of income. With instruction on animal husbandry and small business management, she soon had enough rabbits for food, and more to sell to take care of household expenses. And her children, whose school attendance and grades had suffered, are now better able to focus on their studies.

Despite deteriorating living conditions and the lack of employment opportunities in Gaza, 100% of the families involved in the rabbit program have managed to add variety to their meals and increase their weekly intake of protein. This in a context in which at least 92% of the population must resort to such coping strategies as reducing portion sizes or number of meals, eating market leftovers or purchasing food on credit. According to latest data provided by the Socio-Economic and Food Security Survey, 47% of the population across the Gaza Strip are either moderately or severely food insecure and struggling to meet food needs. Local partner Al Najd identifies families experiencing the greatest need and offers instruction and support.

Sabren, too, is pleased and grateful to begin the process of breeding rabbits to improve her children’s diet and earn money. She lives with her family of eight in an overcrowded apartment, and her husband is unemployed. She’s thrilled with the fast progress she’s made in learning basic rabbit care and feeding, and is already able to include this rich protein source in weekly meals.  As she completes training in small business management she’ll be able to sell some to relieve the tight financial situation they’ve been living in.  For Sabren, the biggest reward is the smiles on her children’s faces.

Caption: Sabren’s rabbit operation

Palestine Gaza Program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and local partner Al Najd
12 communities, 255 households, 1,785 individuals

04/12/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Deltinora has Transformed her Land and her Life

Deltinora rarely grew enough on her small plot of land to feed her family until she joined a Self-Help Group (SHG) involved in the India Umsning program. Now there’s enough food and income from selling what the family doesn’t need to eat that her husband no longer has to work as a day laborer to make ends meet. In fact, her whole household of seven is committed to becoming the most progressive farmers in the village to share what they’ve learned and inspire others.

Through her SHG, Deltinora has attended countless training events, from effective kitchen gardening, water harvesting, composting, and raising small livestock to cultivating rice and improving sloping land to grow additional crops.  She also has access to government workshops on such topics as food processing. She used to have to buy any vegetables she needed at the local market, but now the family only eats what she grows, including beans, mustard leaves, red chilies, cabbages, yams, and foods used locally. She’s even raising pigs for profit!

Deltinora and her family are in the process of identifying their own plot of sloping land to cultivate now that they know it can be farmed effectively. Her hard work and dedication have impressed the members of her SHG enough to elect her as their secretary, and she makes it a point to encourage other women she meets to take part in SHG activities.

Caption: Deltinora in her kitchen garden

India Umsning Program
Led by World Renew and Local Partner NEICORD

Excerpted from a story by Annamika Khar Lyngdoh
12 communities, 500 households, 2,500 individuals

 

04/11/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Community Voices

“Having to leave the country to look for work is a huge cost, financially and in terms of the family and community, and people often return no better off than when they left. This program has made it possible for us to earn a living at home. Now we can say, ‘Here in Honduras there are riches.’ We didn’t go buy this food in the market. We produced it ourselves. That, to me, is being rich.” – Rafael

“We are grateful for [local partner] CASM because they work on a personal level in solidarity with families who have few resources. They encourage us to contribute our own efforts to carry out various community projects. They offer alternatives that are changing the way we live.” – Lilian  

“I’d never imagined that anything could be so effective for cooking as an eco-stove and also keep the smoke out of the house. It used to be impossible to control the smoke in the house with our traditional stoves. It damaged the roof and made the air unhealthy to breathe. The eco-stoves are energy efficient and economical – look at how few pieces of wood there are in there, but that’s all I’ll use all day to cook! Before, my husband was constantly carrying firewood for me. Now even he gets a rest.” – Lurbin

“I feel that we have achieved many changes in our community. Before, because we are so remote and it’s hard to get here, no government or international organizations ever came to offer us support. But this program has helped us so much. I feel really content and proud that I am improving my family’s nutrition and can even share all the products I have been able to grow. Greetings to all the donors who make this program possible, and thank you!” – Miguel Angel

Caption: Lurbin and her new eco-stove

Honduras Nueva Frontera
Led by Church World Service and Local Partner Comisión de Acción Social Menonita (CASM)
14 communities, 626 households, 3,130 individuals

04/09/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Hope for the Future

“May God bless everyone from UMCOR and the FRB community who have helped disadvantaged families in Armenia have a vision for the future, sharpen their skills, and strengthen their food security.” So says the staff of local partner UMCOR Armenia Foundation (UAF) as the program comes to a close. “Witnessing the progress of the program fills our hearts with joy as we observe results and the positive changes in the lives of our participants.”

Samvel, head of a household of five, says, “You’ve made it possible for me to realize my longstanding dream of having a sheep farm. When my mother got sick a couple of years ago, I sold my last cow to be able to care for her. After that, misfortunes followed one after another, and we were so unhappy. Thanks to the program, I now have three sheep and two lambs on my farm. I even envision doubling and tripling my flock in the near future, since the ewes are pregnant. My wife has received nutrition training as well, and our meals have more variety. She knows how to make cheese and sour cream, and we sell some of our dairy products to take care of our debts. What you’ve given us is a way to make a living, and hope.  Thank you.”

UAF staff says the effects of the support and encouragement given to marginalized families in remote villages will live on. Pass-on-the-gift practices have made beehives, chickens, and sheep available to additional families to improve their nutrition and have a source of income to take care of a variety of expenses. The entire community benefits from the availability of eggs, meat, dairy, wool, and honey, and relieves people of having to make long trips into towns for supplies.  Training and follow-up have ensured that farmers know how to care for their animals for continued success.

“Words are not enough for expressing gratitude on behalf of all these families,” says Norayr, a representative of one community whose futures have changed because of the program.

Caption: Chickens improve lives like Alvina’s

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

 

04/06/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

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

Milking Infants' First 1,000 Days

Newsletter: 

Evaly and other mothers are finding ways to overcome many of the logistical challenges of farm work so they can breastfeed their babies for a longer period. The Nicaragua Río Coco program is focusing on maternal and child nutrition and the first 1,000 days of babies’ lives, the most critical for the healthy development of their bodies and minds.

Evaly explains, “A lot of us start to feed our children solid food at three to six months. We have to leave them with neighbors while we go to work in our fields, which are far from home. They can’t give them breast milk, so they feed them mashed potatoes or a little porridge. We’re learning through this program that infants get much better nutrition from our milk, so we’re eager to make any changes that will keep our little ones healthier.”

Local partner Acción Médica Cristiana teaches women how to plant kitchen gardens close to their homes. A community health agent comes to talk to them about nutrition, and expectant mothers and families with young children actively seek her advice. With workshops on cooking and how to combine the vegetables they grow, the health of mother and child alike improves. Participants also learn how to market and sell their surplus produce, and the extra income is helping meet other needs.

Evaly says she has a much better understanding of the nutritional importance of breastfeeding, when and how to start a baby on solid food, and what to do if a child is malnourished.  Her daughter, Kati, is starting off healthy because she’s been putting into practice everything she’s learned.

Caption: 1) Evaly and daughter Kati
Photo credit: Laura Curkendall, CWS


Nicaragua Río Coco Program
Led by Church World Service and Local Partner Acción Médica Cristiana
17 communities, 1,325 households, 10,370

03/09/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More