A-maize-ing Results: “My Family is Better off All Around”

At the close of this program in Timor Leste’s Viqueque region, Manuel says his family is better off all around. “We don’t have to buy as much in the market so it’s a saving for us. And, a few months ago, I sold some of my harvest and earned enough to cover my family’s basic needs. I also bought some equipment to improve and expand my planting area,” he says.

Another farmer, who only used to be able to grow enough for five months, says, “Nearly a year after harvest, we still have food.”

Manuel says he is getting greater yields of improved-quality maize and has learned to dry it and protect it from pests and mold by storing it in airtight containers like water bottles. Besides maize and rice, he plants a wider variety of foods – beans, taro root, cassava, papaya – for better nutrition.

According to the program’s final report, all of the farmers who took part in the training are using one or more of the environmentally-friendly farming techniques they learned.  At the start of the program, maize yielded around 1,036 pounds per hectare (2.5 acres). Everyone met or exceeded the target of 1,343 lbs./hectare, some harvesting as much as 2,320. And, by drying and storing maize in airtight containers – instead of hanging it in unprotected sheaves outdoors – their losses to mold and pests are minimal.

Local partner staff and extension workers from the Ministry of Agriculture live and farm in the same villages as program participants, and will continue to model improved farming and storage techniques on their own land. The Ministry of Agriculture will continue to assist farmers with seed, training, moisture testing and new ideas.

Caption: Manuel’s great results from improved seed and environmentally-friendly farming

Timor Leste Viqueque Program
Led by Catholic Relief Services and Local Partner Fraterna
5 communities, 380 households, 3,268 individuals

03/02/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Men Get Cooking!

To promote growing and eating legumes, the Zimbabwe Mwenezi program's local partner SCORE recently held an entertaining and informative “Men Can Cook” competition among farmers. Since cooking is traditionally a women’s role, SCORE designed the competition to encourage men to participate in this household task.

Competing in teams, the men came up with their own recipes, prepared delicious meals that were judged by local officials, and then had the opportunity to taste each other’s creations and feed the women as well. One competitor, Mr. Tamuka, said, “Now that we know how to cook, men are becoming the best chefs in our households!  I want to make a meal for my in-laws some day.”

The competition was a milestone in SCORE’s mission to improve family nutrition and gender equity. More farmers are intercropping grains and legumes and feeling empowered by being able to eat better on locally-grown foods.  As another farmer, Mrs. Sibongile, put it, “My wealth is in the soil.”

The men and women farmers had previously received training in improving their soil and conserving moisture by planting legumes like lablab and pigeon pea. At workshops on meal prep and nutrition led by local home economics teachers, they learned that legumes combined with grains like rice or millet form a complete protein. Mr. Tamuka said, “Lablab is my favorite legume, and it is good for my health!”

Caption: “Men Can Cook”competitors show off their aprons and prizes

Zimbabwe Mwenezi Program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner SCORE
2 Communities, 320 Households, 2,240 Individuals

03/01/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Beekeeping Proves to be One Honey of an Opportunity

My name is Sara.  I live with my husband, José, and our two daughters, 8 and 5. We recently learned beekeeping through the program, and we love it! Once you’re set up, the bees do all the work to make the honey. We harvest every 15-20 days in the summer, anywhere from two to 60 one-quart bottles, depending on how many coffee trees are flowering around our hives. Our honey is high quality, and we can sell it for a good price – $6.00 a quart. The money allows us to buy food and medicines, and we’ve noticed that eating honey keeps us healthier, too.

José breaks rocks in the quarry for construction, and we both work as laborers during the coffee harvest. So, when [local partner] PAG offered training in beekeeping or raising pigs, chickens or tilapia, we started dreaming about earning more by selling honey.

Initially, we spent time with a beekeeping family in another community, learning about bee management and honey production. After that orientation, PAG gave us technical training, two beehives, and bee-handling equipment. Once we had a little practice, we began to find and capture natural bee swarms in the mountains, and expanded our honeybee operations to ten double-box hives in less than a year. We are preparing two extra hives to give to the next family as part of the “pass it on” program run by PAG.

Our goal is to have 30 double-box hives to provide us with a good additional income for our family. We’re thankful to God and the program for this opportunity.

Photo caption: José shows the family’s double-box hives

Honduras Comayagua Program
Led by Church of the Brethren and Local Partner Proyecto Aldea Global (PAG)
22 communities, 180 households, 1,960 individuals

02/06/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Efforts by all result in water for all

My name is Marvin, and I’m the coordinator of our community water committee here in Nicaragua. After years of effort, we’re just about ready to inaugurate a system of piping purified spring water directly into all our homes.  You’ll understand what a big deal this is when you learn that our wives used to have to fetch water many times a day from a well almost half a mile away.  We never helped because men just didn’t do that in our community.

I used to prefer to keep to myself, so I was very unsure about accepting the responsibility when I was elected coordinator. I wanted to do something about our lack of access to clean water, though, so I decided to rise to the challenge.

We first presented our water problem years ago to our municipal authorities, and then to some international organizations, but we never got a response. When FRB started a new program with World Renew and Acción Médica Cristiana (AMC) that included water, we requested their support.

With lots of coordination with the technical staff of AMC and the municipality, we started the process of preparing a project proposal, taking field measurements, preparing a budget and submitting our proposal. We’ve all donated labor and funds, too. What a great achievement it’s been for us – a lesson in persistence and patience – to have clean water coming from a tap! Our children will be healthier, and our wives are done for good with the drudgery of hauling water.

We’re better organized as a community. Everyone’s more willing to volunteer and give of their time without expecting payment: no one’s saying “not my problem” anymore.  And we share more work with our wives now.

Caption: Marvin pauses as visitors inspect the work on the water system
Nicaragua Farmer Program
Led by World Renew and local partner Acción Médica Cristiana
7 communities, 361 households, 1,625

01/12/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Tree Nurseries Provide Multiple Benefits to Farmers

Environmental conservation is an important focus of FRB’s Kenya Tigania program.  With training on better stewardship of water, soil, and forest resources coupled with conservation agriculture practices like mulching and crop diversification, farmers lessen the risk of crop failure due to drought in this dry region.

Two farmer groups recently completed training in planting and managing tree nurseries in their communities.  When their trees are large enough to transplant to members’ farms, they will strengthen the soil structure and provide material for mulching. Mulching and shade will conserve precious moisture during the growing season. Fruit trees will add to the diversity of the local diet, fodder trees will supplement the feed given to area livestock, mainly goats and dairy cattle. Other tree varieties will provide a renewable source of fuel and lumber.

After training, the groups received watering cans, machetes, hoes and seeds of a wide variety of trees. Six men and 35 women prepared the nursery beds, and are currently raising 10,000 seedlings for distribution to their members.

Photo caption: Women prepare soil for their tree nursery

Kenya Tigania Program
Led by World Renew and Local Partner ADS-Mt. Kenya East
7 communities, 200 households, 1,000 individuals

01/11/2018 | 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

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
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