In celebratation of Earth Day, here’s a look at some programs that are improving community health through soap.
Development is complex, and is never as easy as 1-2-3. It must take into account many human factors – our diversity, experience, present realities, personalities, cultures – but that’s not all. Climate change, natural disasters, societal pressures, politics, global markets, environmental degradation from industry or local practices: all have an influence on how our program participants can adapt to change and adopt practices that will help them break the cycle of poverty. Even a seemingly simple practice like using soap promote health and hygiene may not be so simple for some people in our world.
FRB’s Uganda-Busoga program is based on the premise that the food security of smallholder maize farmers increases when husbands and wives learn to work together toward the goal of increasing their maize production. Traditionally, women and men have farmed separately, with women’s efforts going toward caring for the whole family, and men raising money that sometimes went to the family but most often went to meet their individual needs. This program encourages both spouses to think about the family as a unit that needs to be cared for first.
Because there is little government presence where FRB’s Haiti-Northwest program is working, local people understand the need to organize for the protection, development and growth of their communities. The twelve program communities have created cooperatives which address the varied needs and concerns of its members.
Training Co-ops provide training on many topics, among them appropriate agricultural techniques like intercropping as a way to take the best advantage of available land and ensure that, if one crop fails, the others might survive. More farmers are planting peanuts, congo beans (pigeon peas), and root crops like manioc (cassava) and sweet potato because of their excellent survival rates.
To put into practice what they had learned in trainings on health and hygiene, and to get around the high cost of soap that stood in the way of fully adopting the measures, participants in FRB’s West Africa 1 program are making their own soap, saving money, and earning income for their groups.
Community members understood how their health and food security are connected to hygiene. However, they were not putting into practice what they had learned about the importance of washing their hands, because soap was just too expensive. The program responded to people’s request for more knowledge by organizing a training on soap making,
In the semi-arid Ndeiya region of Kenya, FRB's food security program focuses on resilience and coping with recurrent drought through alternatives such as conservation agriculture and raising small "pass on the gift" animals - rabbits, chickens, goats -- for protein or to sell for income. Participants are female-headed and orphan-headed households, landless people, internally displaced persons, children, and people living with HIV. On-site farmer trainings and exchange visits promote no-till farming, improving soil fertility and water retention with manure and crop residues, and recycling household water for watering vegetables.
Grace N., a farmer who'd had to resort to low-paying, menial work in an effort to support her family, is back to farming and has benefited from the loan of a dairy goat and improved, indigenous chicks
A farmer group in FRB’s Tanzania-Sengerema program is processing freshly-harvested cassava (a starchy tuber) into clean, high-quality flour, and packaging it on-site. The 82-member group, including 44 women, is satisfying the high demand for the product at market, and bringing in good income.The group grows, harvests and peels the cassava, grates it and presses out the moisture using a machine designed and made by local entrepreneurs from the Sengerema Informal Sector Association (SISA), and picks out woody fibers as the grated cassava dries in the sun for two hours.
When the moisture content is below 10%, it is milled into flour with another SISA-made machine, and bagged. The finished product can be used immediately, or stored for up to a year. With SISA’s help, the group has obtained certification for labelling their packages, and can now sell its flour in commercial markets in nearby towns, which further increases profits.
Malecio is a 27-year-old farmer in rural Honduras who lives in a mountainous part of the country, three hours from the closest paved road, with his wife and two children. Earlier this year, Malecio heard about sustainable smallholder ag training through FRB’s Honduras-Nueva Frontera program. He was interested in the training because he had seen other farmers in the area using the new methods, and their crops looked and produced much better than his. So he got in touch with Cesar, an extension agent who works for CASM, FRB’s local partner.
When Cesar came to look at his farm, Malecio explained to him that he was planting only corn, beans, and coffee, the yields were never enough to make it through the year, and low coffee prices meant that he wasn't able to purchase the food his family
When Foods Resource Bank and Mennonite delegations visit the farmers who participate in FRB’s “Cacao not Coca” program in the Chocó region of Colombia, it becomes clear that the moral support implicit in their presence is quite meaningful.
The program encourages Afro-descendant and indigenous families whose desire is to turn away from illegal coca production, to return to traditional farming through training and follow-up. In May, visitors and farmers alike were shocked to find that their rice, vegetable and cacao (cocoa) crops had been erroneously wiped out by aerial spraying of glyphosate,
Note: The Mozambican unit of exchange is the metical (plural meticais)
One of the unique facets of FRB is that it allows time for programs to study unexpected results and challenges, learn from them, and share their findings with other programs and partners. FRB’s Tete-Mutarara program works with local farmers to improve their harvests so that nutritious food is available to them year-round. However, unusual and extreme weather patterns can cause emergency situations that alter well-laid plans.
After flooding in early 2013 destroyed much of the newly planted crop, the program provided over 21 metric tons of improved seeds to the disaster survivors.
Foods Resource Bank’s Guatemala Four Departments program works through local indigenous partners of World Renew, an FRB member organization, in four geographic regions of the country. One of these, Asociación de Desarrollo Integral Polochic (ADIP), assists famers in remote Mayan communities in adopting sustainable agriculture practices to improve their production and crop diversification.
Lucía, an active participant in this program, recently shared her story: