Foods Resource Bank Blog

Better Together: Shared Learning Spreads Success

When introducing new concepts to villagers in our West Africa* program, our local partner always starts out with a “Moussa and Halima” story.  Moussa is a traditional farmer who never changes and never gets ahead, and the dynamic Halima is always learning and improving her practices.  One villager reacted by saying, “Halima didn’t do what was right. She didn’t share her idea of how to improve her field with Moussa! You should always share what you’ve learned with others, even if they don’t ask!”

In that same spirit, some sixty people from different community groups recently gathered for an annual meeting under a large shade tree to learn from each other’s experiences, mistakes, and successes.

One group said their first attempt at organizing failed because they didn’t enforce membership rules. The second time around, they laid out the rules more clearly, as well as how they would be enforced. Several years later, the group reports long-term success.

Another group started a community garden with 30 participants, but had a crop failure from watering too much. The following year, only seven people had the courage to try again. But, when the other villagers saw the turnaround in how much they harvested and how the food had helped their families, more and more people joined. There are now 60 people gardening together.

A third group goes beyond simple gardening and marketing advice, helping each other when someone is sick, or giving marriage advice when couples are having difficulties.

West Africa* Program
Led by World Renew and local partner SEL (Showing Everyone Love)*
*For security reasons, all names are changed.  
64 communities, 2,500 households, 17,500 individuals


11/16/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

These Little Piggies Went to Market…and Changed Fortunes

The simple gift of a piglet from FRB’s Dominican Republic Bateyes program changed the fortunes of two mothers. And they, in turn, are “paying it forward,” enabling 10 neighboring families to make life-changing improvements to their circumstances as well.


Ramona is a widow with three children who feared she would become destitute. But things started to turn around when she received and raised her first piglet. She gave four of that sow’s initial offspring to neighbors and sold eight, using the proceeds to invest in more animals. She’s sold over 50 pigs to date and made more than $4,000.  Ramona’s business has thrived with help from her children and the day laborers she hires from among her neighbors. She now has nearly 100 animals and a brighter future.


Likewise, Juliana, mother of three, saw everything improve thanks to that one small gift. She has made $620 so far from selling piglets after giving six to neighbors. She’s thrilled that the money helped her send her two sons to school and pay for their school supplies, uniforms, backpacks, shoes and transportation.  


Best of all, Juliana’s pig business has brought her back to her community. She used to be a domestic worker in the nation’s capital, Santo Domingo, and made the commute home only on weekends.  Now, she earns enough to stay home, raise and sell pigs, and run a small grocery store she and her husband opened in their home.

Photo courtesy of CWS. Caption: Juliana with one of her pigs

Dominican Republic Bateyes Program
Led by Church World Service and local partner Servicio Social de Iglesias Dominicanas (SSID)
22 communities, 465 households, 3,255 individuals

11/14/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Village Men are Following the Women’s Lead

People who fled their homes and villages due to conflict and extreme danger during the country’s civil war have been moving back to the area during the past five years.  Some villages had been abandoned for over 15 years, so people had to start over again, from scratch.

The farmer in this picture has taken advantage of all the conservation agriculture (CA) instruction the program offered. A simple but effective practice is mulching to retain soil moisture and improve soil fertility and composition.
 
She started out by planting a few test plots, with and without mulching, and readily saw the difference. Even though there has been less rain, and an invasion of army worms is devastating corn yields in the region, she will get a higher yield from her mulched plots.

When she was just learning about CA, she had a hard time convincing her husband to try it.  Now that he has seen the results he is fully on board. What’s more, other men who have observed the improved yields are asking the women to teach them what they’ve learned. In this way, the overall resiliency of the community is improving. Participants are moving from covering their basic needs to earning incomes and making improvements on their farms and in their lives.

Photo caption: Mulching improves soil and yields

Uganda Teso is Led by World Renew and Local Partner Katakwi Integrated Development Organization (KIDO)
12 communities, 802 households, 4,812 individuals

11/10/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Home Gardening Helps Women Bloom

These four women show how participating in our Burkina Faso Central program is improving their families’ food security.


Egnomo: The Savings for Change group I belong to allows women to be independent. We pay dues each week, our group covers loans for small business ventures or to take care of problems, and each year we distribute our savings.  The meetings provide an open environment where everyone can feel comfortable. Together, we gain so much: money, joy, entertainment, solidarity, unity, advice and help. We support each other during the happy times and the sad.


Marie: Gardening offers us a lot of benefits, and we have become important in our husbands’ eyes. Because of our gardens, we can take care of the majority of our families’ expenses: food, education, children’s clothing, medical fees, and more. I just had my newborn baptized and covered all the costs of the celebration myself. Our improved good diet helps us avoid certain medical problems. All the members of my family are in perfect health, and we live in harmony. No more fighting, no more sadness, no more sickness. There are only bursts of laughter because everyone is joyful now.


Evourboue: Gardening is a noble activity that helps us to live well. I was always very worried about how I would feed my children and pay for their school fees and clothing. Since I started gardening, my problems have decreased. I grow many types of crops so I can vary my family’s diet. My children are no longer malnourished. I sell a part of my harvest to take care of my family’s needs. I can even keep my head high in front of all the women because I dress well, and I shine like a 30 year old! When I host a stranger, I give him or her some gifts from my garden, and this is such an honor for me. Like the blossoms on the plants in our gardens, we really are blooming.

Photo caption: Egnomo

Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner Office du Développement des Eglises Evangéliques
20 Communities, 250 Households, 2,500 Individuals

11/08/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Women Now Earning 5x More; Planting Trees Saves Watershed

There is much to celebrate as FRB’s Honduras Orocuina and Liure program completes a second three-year phase for farmers and single mothers, including a significant increase in monthly income.

By starting small in-home grocery stores, single mothers are now earning five times more, with an average monthly income of 5,000 Lempiras (about $250). They can now provide for their children and are seen as role models in their community, giving hope to other women.

On the agricultural side of the program, environmentally destructive slash-and-burn agriculture is on the decline. Approximately 80% of farmers have stopped burning their fields, and more join them every year. These farmers have seen first hand how conservation agriculture improves their yields and how the loss of forests impacts the weather and their water supply.

Farmers are also diversifying their crops and diets beyond corn, to include fruits and more vegetables such as squash and yuca (a tuber). Some are growing cashews, sesame and passion fruit as cash crops. Diversification was an important factor in communities’ food security when insects destroyed the sorghum crop. Many community groups are saving a portion of their corn and other grains in seed banks to protect against future losses.

What’s more, a healthy forest now stands around a local watershed thanks to a community’s hard work and dedication in planting 13,000 trees. The river in this watershed is the only one that did not dry up during a recent drought.

Photo caption: Doña Ilce’s store fills a community need and improves her income

Honduras Orocuina and Liure Program is Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner CODESO
8 Communities, 255 Households, 1,740 Individuals

11/07/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Slow and Steady Progress Brings Lasting Results

Even extremely challenging areas like the enormous, sparsely populated and under-served Central African Republic (CAR) can move from a food-aid mindset to one of development, with the proper encouragement and commitment. FRB and our partners in the CAR Gamboula program have been working hand in hand since 2003 to help that process along. The program helps local partner CEFA develop and strengthen the skills they need to support more communities on their road to food security.

FRB is one of a very few non-government organizations focused on development in CAR. Aid organizations tend to come in briefly, hand out food or tools, and then leave. At its agricultural training center, CEFA emphasizes empowerment and is seeing real progress as participants share what they learn when they go back home. Communities are becoming aware of the cyclical nature of dependence on outside help and agree to develop from within.

Community representatives from around the country learn a variety of sustainable farming techniques at the center. They take disease-resistant cassava or nursery-raised fruit-tree seedlings back to their communities, sharing what they have and what they know. Participants are forming cooperatives and tree nurseries and learning to depend on each other rather than wait for a handout.  

The center is bringing in nearly enough income from pressing and selling palm oil to become self- sustaining. Soon, program monies can be used to expand extension services and outreach across CAR. As more farmers use recommended practices to improve their soil and raise more food they improve their families’ diets and begin to earn incomes from farming.

The process of changing a country-wide mindset from aid to empowerment is slow, but the results are lasting.

Photo caption: CEFA training center visitors

Central African Republic Gamboula program
Led by Evangelical Covenant/Covenant World Relief and local partner CEFA
30 communities, 600 households, 3,000 individuals

11/06/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Multipurpose Farming Keeps Duot Close to Home

Cambodian farmer Duot used to spend much of his time away from home due to his work as a “middleman,” buying and selling pigs, chickens and cows.  However, when local partner OREDA began providing agriculture training in his village in 2014, he started to see that farming could provide him with a good income, right there at home.  


He joined the program as a “multipurpose farmer” because he wanted the opportunity to expand his knowledge, learn new techniques from others, and innovate on his own. He especially enjoys the exchange visits the program offers because he likes to see the creativity and solutions of people in other areas.


Duot has had a great deal of success with raising chickens and ducks. His income is now supporting a family of four including his wife, one of his children and one of his grandchildren. Recently, when two of his other children were married, he had enough poultry to supply both receptions with meat. What’s more, Duot is sharing his extra vegetables with neighbors instead of selling them. In the future, he hopes there will be enough vegetable farmers in the area to consistently supply the market.  


As part of the Cambodia South program, Duot will train other farmers to follow a similar multipurpose approach.  The seven families he has selected want to stay in the community and are willing to work hard on their farms to do so.  They don’t want to migrate like many rural Cambodians are forced to do to make a living.   Duot said, “I am excited about sharing my learning with others.  I see it as an opportunity for myself and for my community.  If we have more meat and vegetables available, we can work together as a producer group so that we can consistently supply the market in a way that we could not do alone.”   

Photo Caption:Duot intercrops fruit and vegetables in order to maximize space and productivity

Cambodia South program is Led by World Renew and Local Partners
15 communities, 840 households, 3,600 individuals

11/03/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Neighbor Solidarity Turns Dreams into Reality

As staff members from FRB's local partner in the Mexico Chiapas Ocosingo program, INESIN. travel among the communities to hold training sessions, they are touched by the generosity of the families. “They always give you the best. Many times, this is something that we forget to do in the cities, to share our food, our house, with anyone who comes.”

Participants often come a long way on foot to attend workshops on conservation agriculture, rainwater harvesting, patio gardening, healthy cooking, using medicinal plants, community organizing, and leadership skills.  Typically, the workshop host families offer a meal so people don’t go home hungry, or participants bring food from their gardens to share. “It is important to them to share the life and abundance of food that Mother Earth has gifted us,” say INESIN staff members. Such sharing represents community ownership of the program – everyone gives something in return for participating.

Improving crop yields and nutrition is the focus of the program, but an even greater benefit comes from the opportunity for far-flung neighbors to be together, learn from each other, establish friendships, and share hope that their dreams of building a good life from farming can become reality.

INESIN staff says, “Whenever we do group visits to gardens, there is always some kind of exchange happening with medicinal plants, ornamental plants, and seeds. Since the project began, we have seen significant changes in relationships within the working groups. There is greater cohesion and confidence, and many groups are showing solidarity by supporting each other in their gardens.”

Caption: Elena makes a medicinal tincture for her husband’s cough

Led by Mennonite Central Committee
6 Communities, 150 Households, 4,003 Individuals


11/02/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Sylvia Builds Success Brick by Brick

Sylvia, a young farmer, entrepreneur, and participant in our Kenya Makueni program, is proud to be able to support her family. She’s proud, too, that she’s making it possible for other young people to earn an income. She employs up to four young people in her brickmaking business, each of whom earns about $3 a day.

And, thanks to support from our program, the youth farming group that Sylvia belongs to is flourishing. They went from nearly abandoning farming to generating income from their fields and greenhouse and starting small businesses.

When the group first tried to raise kale on their farm, their lack of technical know-how led to failure and frustration. Some members began moving to towns in search of employment, but many stayed on when offered practical training. They learned a number of sound conservation agricultural practices like drip irrigation, and received seeds, a greenhouse, and a quarter acre of land to use. The group planted tomatoes in the greenhouse and peppers in the field, and received regular advice from our local partner. They made enough not only to cover their expenses and set aside personal savings but to start a Village Savings and Lending Association (VSLA) group. The VSLA will help members find even more ways to earn an income.

Sylvia took out one of the first VSLA loans to start a brick-making business. She hired four young people to help her at a penny a brick, eventually selling 5,000 bricks at a nickel apiece, for a net profit of $170. She has since been able to repay her loan and expand her business. She looks forward to continued success both as a farmer and a business owner and employer.

Picture caption: "Soil ripping, a conservation ag practice

Kenya Makueni Program is Led by Lutheran World Relief
4 Communities, 244 households, 6,221 individuals

11/01/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Every Family has a Story of Struggle and Triumph

FRB’s local partner CASM says, “When you see tables in reports about program progress, you just see numbers of participants -- this many men, this many women, this many children. We never forget that each number represents a person or a family, each family or individual is unique, and each one has a story of struggles and triumphs.”

Take Doña María, for example. Yes, she counts as a program participant, but she is also a valued leader in her community. She is always motivating other women to try new things like energy-efficient stoves, organizing a training event on vegetable gardens, or attending a reforestation rally or a nutrition workshop. She is a highly motivated person who always thinks about others first. At the same time, she is a widow caring for three grandchildren aged 12, 9, and 7 since their mothers migrated to the city looking for jobs.

The program includes supporting rural families in improving the sanitation, health and hygiene condition in their homes. María has helped many neighbors’ families get access to a stove, cement flooring, or latrines.  Her neighbors encouraged her to be a recipient as well.

Said María on the day materials for her latrine were delivered, “This is a day of great joy for us who live in a village forgotten by the authorities but supported by FRB.  We are happy because in one week we will build our latrines. We invite you to come into our homes to show you how this program has supported our families and changed our lives for the better.  We thank you very much."


Honduras Nueva Frontera program
Led by Church World Service and local partner CASM
14 Communities, 626 Households, 3,130 Individuals

Story and photo courtesy Church World Service

10/23/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More