frb newsletter

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

Mushrooming Success for Cambodian Farmers

Channy and Chantol, a young Cambodian couple, have seen many changes over the last few years, all thanks to a fungus.  They were among the first to adopt mushroom growing when World Hope began working in their village three years ago.  “We were skeptical at first, said Channy, “so we just built a small mushroom house to test it out.”  After realizing how beneficial mushrooms could be, they built a second, larger structure and their parents built two structures as well.
 
The couple works hard, and has become skillful mushroom growers.  Although they typically average an income of $300 per month, they have earned as much as $1,000 in a month from mushrooms alone.  This is especially impressive considering that the GDP per capita in Cambodia is $1,159.   On the off days between planting and harvest, Channy sells sugarcane juice for additional income.

As a result of their efforts, the couple has been able to purchase a motorbike, buy land, and build a new house. They are also raising chickens and ducks, and eating higher-quality food now, given their improved income. Their mushroom houses are still behind their parents’ home, but they plan to build additional structures on their own property soon. 

Although Channy and Chantol are in many ways model mushroom farmers, their success has not come without challenges.  Their parents recently filled in the land in front of their home, so when it rains hard, the water flows downhill into the mushroom house, bringing with it debris that can damage the growing crop.  In addition, now that others are also growing mushrooms, the necessary materials (rice straw and mung-bean pods) that were once readily available and free, are becoming very valuable and hard to find.


Cambodia East program
Led by World Hope
3 Communities, 340 Households, 1,700 Individuals



10/13/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Water Security Flows Into Food Security

During a severe 2014 drought, a neighboring community and its 10,000 head of cattle survived because of sand dams, the only source of water.  So, when the 15 members of a self-help group in FRB's Kenya Ngong Intashat program decided it was time to build one, they were able to recruit their entire community to pitch in.

These concrete structures, built across sandy areas along seasonal rivers, capture and hold water and sand from flash floods. As the raging waters slam into the dam, sand carried by the water sinks, and water collects in the sand in the hole dug for the purpose. More water is held in a pond on the other side of the wall, and used throughout the year for household needs, agriculture, and livestock.  When a drought hits and the pond is dry, water that’s been stored in the sand away from dirt and insects can be reached by digging. 

The dam in Kajiado County was inaugurated in April, and the community received instruction on its care and efficient use. Because maintenance is in the hands of the residents, they know it’s up to them to keep it in good order. They’ll be building a fence to keep livestock out, and directing water to collection points below the dam for cattle to drink.

This community has started a small vegetable garden near the dam site, planting kales, spinach and onions. Because most people’s experience and livelihoods are based on cattle, they receive training from MIDI, the local partner, on keeping bees, tending kitchen gardens, and creating small-business activities. Self-help groups are also learning dryland farming techniques to diversify their food sources and protect themselves from total crop failures.

Kenya Ngong Intashat program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and local partner MIDI
10 communities, 4,500 households, 31,500 individuals




09/28/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Childhood Malnutrition Drops Dramatically

FRB’s Castrovirreyna program is the only NGO presence in eight remote Andean villages in Peru’s poorest state. At up to 15,000 feet, temperatures are below freezing at night, and hailstorms, floods and droughts are common. Yet the inhabitants are so grateful for the assistance that they quickly put into practice everything they learn. The most remarkable result so far is a dramatic reduction in child malnutrition, from 55% to 22%.

The yield of vegetables from farmer Rubén’s greenhouse is so good he has extra to sell. His organic methods control pests and fungi, and he’s raising disease-free potato seedlings to share with his community. Rubén says, “More potatoes mean more income and a better life for my family.” His children are all in school, and he foresees a brighter future for them.

Mario and Lucía raise guinea pigs and chickens, grow vegetables in their greenhouse for home and market, and plant 100 different varieties of potatoes and tubers. Each has a special flavor, unique nutrients, and traits such as suitability for mashing, baking, adding to soups, or as an entrée, or can withstand drought or excessive rains.

Once Eusebia and Juvenal learned that storing cooking and eating utensils on the floor exposed them to parasitic diseases from their chickens and guinea pigs, they were quick to build recommended shelving. Eusebia says she can’t remember the last time her kids were sick, now that they boil water for drinking and cleaning and keep their utensils stacked in their new cupboard.

When Marcos and his wife, Basilisa, were asked whether the program should invest more in his community or expand to others, Marcos replied, “We’ve already been so blessed.  More people should be blessed like we’ve been.” At a loss for words in Spanish, their second language, to express what the program has meant to them, Marcos and other participants simply say, “Gracias. Gracias. Gracias.”

Pictured: Eusebia with shelving unit


Led by Lutheran World Relief and Local Partner CEDINCO
8 Communities, 112 Households, 557 Individuals

09/26/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Seeing is Believing

Land is scarce in Tan Son district in North Central Vietnam, and growing enough food to last throughout the year is a challenge. It is no wonder that farmers are hesitant to adjust their practices without proof that it will work. The Tan Son program is working to provide the needed proof, and farmers are slowly changing their practices. 

One of the major changes that is already being seen across the area is the use of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI).  Farmers who are using it seem convinced that the wider spacing and use of a single seedling per planting station are making a difference and increasing their yields.  The main question most farmers still struggle with is about the amount and type of fertilizer they should use.

Fertilizer helps plants to grow well, so many farmers figure that more fertilizer is better, and use as much as they can afford.  The Tan Son program is encouraging farmers to experiment with three different approaches. The first is to use as much as the farmer can afford.  The second is the amount recommended by the local extension agent, applied at three different times during the growing season. The third is one application of slow-release fertilizer at a low dosage.  Each approach was modeled across several villages, allowing farmers to observe the resulting yields and decide for themselves which method works best.

Cuong experimented with a single application of slow-release fertilizer.  Using this method, she produced enough rice to last her family throughout the year. After seeing a 70% increase in her production with reduced fertilizer, she is enthusiastic about using this method again.

Uyen followed the advice of the district agriculture consultant and used three applications of fertilizer.  While she saw a 29% increase in production, she suspects it is from her switch to SRI, since she used the same fertilization method as before. She plans to experiment with several types of fertilizer during the next growing season to determine which works best.

Tim used both slow release fertilizer and compost.  Her yield has doubled thanks to the use of SRI.  One of her fields did not do well since fertilizer runoff from a neighbor’s overuse affected her field.  This helped her to conclude that it is very important not to overuse fertilizer.

A member of the Kim Thuong Commune Project Management Committee noted that the program has been instrumental in helping people learn to use fertilizer appropriately and enabling them to grow enough rice through SRI to meet their food security needs.

Vietnam Tan Son program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and
People's Committee of Tan Son District
6 Communities, 512 Households, 2,212 Individuals

09/18/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Mulching Means More Maize

Salome spends a lot less time on farm work because the mulching she does suppresses weeds and frees her from hoeing, a task that used to consume most of her time.  

Like most farmers in this dry region of Kenya, Salome’s maize yields were increasingly disappointing until she tried a number of techniques aimed at building soil fertility and retaining moisture.  This harvest, Salome’s production tripled in spite of a lack of rain.  She had improved her soil with such conservation agriculture practices as minimum tillage, applying manure as fertilizer, crop rotation, agroforestry, and using drought-tolerate varieties. But, for Salome, the technique she most appreciates is mulching. With less overall work, her harvest increased from one to four 220-pound bags of maize in the same small plot.

She and other farmers have also started practicing better post-harvest grain handling and storage, including drying maize on tarps in the sun to prevent the poisonous fungus aflatoxin. Many are storing their grain now in hermetically sealed bags that prevent moisture and pests without chemicals. Higher yields and reduced post-harvest losses mean more overall food for their families, more to sell, and more to plant the following year.

Participant farmers are also planting trees to produce fruit, fuel, wood, shade, and mulching materials. All these and other improved practices are taught at the program’s two hands-on Farmer Field Schools and disseminated through their communities by trained facilitators. When they see the great results that conservation farming yields, area farmers go on to put their new knowledge to work on their own farms.

Kenya Tigania encompasses 7 Communities, 200 Households, 1,000 Individuals
Led by World Renew and local partner ADS - Mt Kenya

09/14/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Faith and Farming Empower Communities

Newsletter: 

Pastor Santiago is the spiritual and community leader of a place called Las Cabeceras. A farmer himself, he uses his influence with his deeply devout community to address water scarcity and prolonged drought and bring about real improvements in people’s lives. As he puts it, “We are all responsible for caring for Creation.”

Program communities are often cut off from the rest of the world by distance and impassable roads, so people depend on each other for their survival. Santiago is one of 20 active community organizers and promoters in the FRB food security program, and encourages neighbors affected by the three-year drought to find ways to become more resilient.

Santiago came to Las Cabeceras 15 years ago because of the good conditions for agriculture – fertile soils and plenty of rain. However, in the last six years, yields have been declining as result of the combination of very high temperatures and poor rain patterns, which in turn have resulted in severe economic losses.

Since Santiago joined the program, he’s better able to support his family economically with his “diversified farm,” growing maize, beans, sorghum, banana, cassava and more so that he still has food if one or more crops fail. Farmers are finding solutions to water scarcity, improving soils, protecting their watersheds, engaging in reforestation, and experimenting with a variety of climate-specific seeds and seed banks.

He says, “The hands-on Farmer Field Schools in the program are important because they allow us to come together and look for a solution to a common problem like the drought. We share our ideas and experiences and reinforce the need for everyone in the community to seek compromises and solutions.”

Pictured:  Felix and his diversified farm

Nicaragua Carazo program
Led by Church World Service and local partner CIEETS
8 communities, 220 households, 1,251 individuals


09/12/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Community Pools Resources to Overcome Drought

Once community members in FRB’s Kenya Magarini program realized they had the resources at hand to overcome food insecurity despite their challenges, including a regional drought, they poured themselves into making positive change happen. The inspiration came from a hands-on Participatory Rural Assessment (PRA) process that helped them analyze their challenges, identify solutions and create a community action plan to guide their development.  

“If it hadn’t been for this program and the PRA, we would not be farming as a group and we could not know the benefits of coming together as a community,” says Saidi, a trained community resource person.

He tells how they started with two Farmer Field Schools with demo farms. The first planting season was challenging because of the drought. They only planted a few crops -- just enough to establish a kitchen garden for the farmers to learn about crop diversification as a way to reduce their risks of crop failure. But when they also tried planting on their individual farms, the farmers harvested little or nothing due to the drought.

That’s when the field school members decided to join forces to plant a community garden. A member loaned them two acres of land that had adequate water for irrigation so they could produce vegetables for income and family consumption. They received a loan from their community-based savings and loan association to purchase insecticides and, with additional capital from members, they bought seeds.

"Member families had access to nutritious vegetables that they could either buy or receive on credit,” says Chrispine, a farmer in the program. At times members even received free produce to motivate them to work in the garden.

Saidi reports that they made a total of $773 from the sale of the second harvest, and $360 from the third. That harvest was smaller because of some challenges the group faced with the farm owner, but they are now clearing and preparing a different plot for their fourth planting season.

The community is buying PVC pipe and a water pump for irrigation, and bricks to construct a shallow well for easier access to water. They also have money in their account for fuel for the water pump, land preparation and farm inputs.

“The challenges didn’t stop us from doing what we love,” says Saidi. “We are really grateful.”

Kenya Magarini encompasses 10 communities, 1,842 households and 4,836 individuals

Led by World Renew and local partner ADS Pwani

06/01/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More
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