Posts in women

Community Greenhouses are Improving Lives

Juana is a member of a women’s collective greenhouse in her Guatemalan community. But long before she joined the program and began receiving instruction from local partner CIEDEG, she was watching and learning. She is a great example of how our food security programs reach “secondary beneficiaries” – those who are not officially registered, but whose lives improve just by taking note of what their neighbors are doing to grow more nutritious food.

Juana carefully observed how the greenhouses were constructed and saw the ways in which women began to grow a wider variety of foods both under cover and outdoors. She and her husband used their own savings to purchase a sheet of plastic in Guatemala City, and built a smaller version of the community greenhouses right next to their house. She bought some tomato seedlings and started other vegetables from seed in a small area of her greenhouse reserved as a nursery.

Now, in addition to the tender vegetables she grows indoors, Juana is also producing cool-weather veggies on her land, including carrots, broccoli, onion and celery. She was happy to be invited to join the community greenhouse collective as well to take advantage of the opportunity to grow even more food and market some of it along with the women in her collective.

CIEDEG encourages secondary beneficiaries like Juana to participate. It is the organization’s goal to expand access to a variety of healthy foods across the Nebaj area of Guatemala, and to empower families to stay intact by finding ways to earn incomes and flourish in their own villages.  Juana’s enthusiasm, willingness to innovate and success are inspiring others to try their hand at greenhouse production.

Caption: Juana in her greenhouse
Photo credit: Bethany Beachum


Guatemala Nebaj Quetzaltenango 
Led by Church World Service and Local Partner CIEDEG

06/11/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty with Savings

Dorcas, a farmer who participates in one of the program’s Village Savings and Lending Associations (VSLA), can hardly contain her excitement about the improvements program activities have made in her life.  “Before this I only grew crops, and did not have any other sources of income or protein. Look! I now have chickens running around in my compound, and they give me eggs and meat.  I am also selling them in the market and making some cash. For a 4-month-old chicken I’ve raised I can earn up to ten times what I paid for the chick.” 

All of the farmers involved in these VSLAs are like Dorcas – they have limited sources of income and have always relied mainly on rain-fed agriculture to feed their families. After the staff of local partner ADS-Mt. Kenya East convinced Dorcas and the other farmers of the importance of saving money together, they began meeting regularly to encourage each other to save and to share learning and experiences. They also received training on group leadership, managing loans, and establishing by-laws to ensure that all members respect the rules of the group.

Periodically, group members take out loans from the pooled savings, and pay them back with modest interest. Annual payouts from the collective savings can be heady experiences: many members are astonished to learn they have saved a substantial amount for the first time in their lives. Most use their loans to purchase farm inputs, pay their children’s school fees, and diversify their farm activities, and now see a way out of poverty.

Dorcas says, “I am definitely happy to be a member of my VSLA.’’

Caption: Dorcas feeds some of her chickens

Kenya Tigania
Led by World Renew and Local Partner

05/31/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Fertile Soil, Higher Profits with Conservation Agriculture

Even though she’s started improving her yields with conservation agriculture (CA), Specioza’s piece of land is too small to sustain her family, so she rents an additional plot. She says, “Even so, I still ended up with losses because the soil was exhausted, and our once-predictable climate has changed, making it hard to know what to plant when.”

Local partner PAG encouraged her to try a number of CA techniques aimed at replenishing the soil, like mulching and fertilizing with manure “tea” (liquid manure). During her training, she planted some climbing beans using traditional practices, and used CA on another plot, just to see the results from each.  She was astonished at the huge difference in quality and yield, and declares, “I will not stop practicing conservation agriculture now. After applying all this new knowledge both on my land and the rented land, the soil has started to regain its fertility and now I am making some profits.”

When one of her neighbors realized that the rented field had regained fertility and that Specioza was earning more profits, he thought he would take advantage of her hard work. He went to the land owner and tried to rent the plot at a higher price. Specioza was quite worried, but then gratified by the land owner’s generous reply:  “My land used to be worn out and exhausted, but now it has regained fertility because of Specioza. She is deserves to remain on it, since she takes such good care of it.”

Caption: Specioza’s climbing bean crop in a plot under conservation agriculture

Uganda Kabale Program
Led by World Renew with Local Partner PAG

05/29/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

My family now knows happiness

"My name is Hélène. Thanks to this program, my family knows happiness.  I’ve received training on farming practices and leadership that has helped me in my home life, in groups, and in my field work. I now help my husband with some of the expenses for our 15-member household, so there are no more fights.

"This season, in spite of the failing rainfall, I have hope for a good harvest. I got training on a conservation agriculture technique called intercropping, and then received some improved sorghum and bean seeds. I’ve planted them together in a half-acre field. I’m happy in the field because both crops have survived periods of drought and are developing well.

"In the dry 'off' season I keep a vegetable garden. It invigorates me to have work to do during this otherwise difficult time. Having cabbage, tomato, eggplant and onions available right here has helped me feed my family during times when we used to have less food. I put all these vegetables in my sauces, which taste great and are loaded with nutrients. I also sell what we don’t need to eat, and that’s allowed me to buy clothes for the children, dishes, soap and more. I was even able to send some money to my mother.

"With all these advantages we’ve received from those who support and encourage us, all I can say is, '“Thank you.'"

Caption: Hélène in her field intercropped with sorghum and beans

Burkina Faso Central
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner Office de Développement des Eglises Evangéliques (ODE)

05/22/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

A New Lease on Life

"My name is Rekha.  I am thankful and happy that my children are well-fed and healthy and that I have a steady income, but this wasn’t always the case.

My husband and I used to have a small home near the road in our village, but we were forced to leave it because of road expansion.  We moved to a different village, but because we didn’t own land, we built a small place on public land. Soon afterward, my husband left for India to look for work.

The big problems started when we lost everything during a major windstorm that destroyed our home. When my son got sick, we didn’t have money for his treatment. I borrowed some from a moneylender, and had to borrow even more to continue caring for him. I started sharecropping and growing rice, but I was all on my own and extremely worried about how I would pay back the loan.

That’s when the staff of [local partner] BICWS stepped in. They encouraged me to join a farmers group, and I leased a small plot of land for growing vegetables. I began to attend classes on vegetable farming, ways to protect my plants from pests, and making compost fertilizer to enrich the soil and improve the nutritional quality and taste of the food. My children and I not only eat fresh vegetables every day, we also sell some at the local market. In one season I earned enough to pay off the medical loan.  In the future I hope to earn enough to purchase my own land.  Once again, I am grateful from my heart to the program for the support and knowledge I’ve gained."

Rekha, particpant Napal Bhatigachh program, Nepal

Caption: Rekha and 3 of her 4 children

Nepal Bhatigachh Program    
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner BICWS

05/10/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Raising Chickens Brings Gender Equality

When Agnes’s children need school supplies or tuition is due, finding the money to pay for them is no longer an issue. She has plenty of eggs and chickens to sell thanks to training she received in caring for poultry, as a member of a Self-Help Group (SHG) supported by the Kenya West Pokot program. The hens and eggs bring in a good income in addition to adding protein to meals.

Agnes is not the only woman who is making a valuable contribution to her family’s income. Thanks to local partner Jitokeze’s training and encouragement, SHG members are bringing about gender equity. Pokot men herd cows and goats and have traditionally been seen as the providers, while women do the lion’s share of caring for the family and home. Women might keep a few chickens but didn’t recognize their potential. As the women started earning money from their poultry, they started gaining their husbands’ respect and are now being treated more as equals.  In fact, now that the men have realized the value that the women are bringing to the community, they are supporting the women’s efforts by taking a more active role in the family. One day a week, the men take over household responsibilities like childcare and cooking so their wives can meet with their SHGs to share their experiences or receive additional training.  This was once unheard of in their culture, since men don’t normally help with chores at all, and shows how much they appreciate the women’s contributions.

Agnes is so dedicated to putting what she learns into practice that she now has 60 mature birds and 40 chicks. A big breakthrough in her production levels came when Jitokeze helped her construct an energy-efficient stove with a “chepkube brooder” below.  The warmth of the stove makes for a cozy incubator and protects chicks from the cold and from predators.

Caption: Agnes incubates chicks in a warm compartment under her energy-efficient stove

Kenya West Pokot Program
Led by World Renew and Local Partner Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika
22 communities, 440 households, and 2,640 individuals

05/07/2018 | 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

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