Foods Resource Bank Blog

Families Now Producing Most of Their Own Food

As FRB’s Guatemala Sibinal program concludes, local families are now producing 75% of their own food, meaning they can spend more on education, health care, and housing. Magdalena tells her family’s story.

Before the program, my family only produced corn and a few vegetables. We didn’t have a source of income, though, so my husband traveled to Mexico for months at a time to work on the coffee farms. I was left to take care of the children, the house and the farming all by myself. We had no hope things would ever change.

But when we began our education in agro-ecology our situation started to change. I like farming the earth naturally, making our own organic fertilizers and insecticides and planting a greater variety of vegetables. At first, it was hard to stop using chemicals because that’s what we were used to. But gradually we found that what we grew organically tasted better, and we had less and less need to buy pesticides and fertilizer.

My husband is home more. He and I and our children farm the earth together and are more united as a family. We’re healthier because our food is better, more varied. We even earn an income. People come to our house to buy vegetables, and we also sell them at the Mexican border. Our whole community has improved because several families are farming and caring for our Mother Earth or eating more nutritious food from our farm plots.

We want to say thank you to everyone who supported us through the years. We gained knowledge, we put it into practice, and we continue improving every day.

Caption: Simple techniques like transplanting seedlings promote more frequent harvests and profitability

Guatemala Sibinal
Led by Mennonite Central Committee
4 Communities, 125 Households, 549 Individuals

12/01/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Saralin’s 10-Year Struggle Takes a Dramatic Turn

Before Saralin joined a Self-Help Group (SHG) through FRB’s India Umsning program, she’d struggled for 10 years as the head of her household to make ends meet and keep her two children in school. Besides farming, she also tried raising poultry. However, due to her lack of expertise, she didn’t earn as much as she expected from either activity.  

The training she and her SHG received in kitchen gardening and livestock rearing has transformed her life. Saralin now produces a variety of nutritious vegetables in different seasons to meet her family’s needs. And, after comprehensive livestock management training at a vocational center, her poultry business is thriving.

What Saralin learned gave her the confidence to take a loan from her SHG to purchase 500 chickens. It took her only two months to start earning a profit from selling eggs and chickens. She quickly paid back her loan, bought more chicks, and is even applying for a bank loan to further expand her business.

Through hard work and the steps she has taken to improve her life, Saralin has set a great example for other community members. She is now seen as one of the progressive poultry entrepreneurs in the village.

Says Saralin, “Since my Self Help Group formed, we’ve learned the importance of working together as a group, and have reaped the benefits of helping one another in the community.”

Story courtesy of Shamborlang Lakhiat
Caption: Saralin’s thriving poultry farm


India Umsning Program
Led by World Renew and local partner NEICORD
12 communities, 500 households, 2,500 individuals

11/30/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Benjamin Breaks the Cycle of Poverty

Benjamin, married with three children, has managed to break the cycle of poverty with the support and encouragement of FRB’s Kathonzweni program.

Like other small-scale farmers in his region, he used poor farming methods that produced small yields, and sold his harvest to middlemen who paid low prices. His fortunes changed when he joined the program. He began learning a variety of Conservation Agriculture techniques to improve soil fertility and yields, crop care, and post-harvest management practices. His enthusiasm and success led to his being certified as a Trainer of Trainers (TOT). As a TOT, he’s able to reach out to other farmers in the community to bolster peer-to-peer learning.

Benjamin also enrolled in Kitise Farmers’ Cooperative, which guarantees purchase of his produce, and at a better price than the brokers give. As a co-op member, he received further training in leadership and management, collective marketing, grain quality control and store management.

Last season he harvested nearly 600 lbs. of green grams (the legumes we know as mung beans) where before he’d reaped only 155. He sold 430 lbs. to pay off his son’s school fees, at double the price he’d formerly received from the middlemen. This season Benjamin has expanded his use of Conservation Agriculture based on his impressive results. He is hopeful that, with support, more farmers can increase their production and marketing of green grams.

Caption: Benjamin sells his green grams at the co-op

Kenya Kathonzweni Program
Led by Dorcas Aid international with local partner Kitise Rural Development
3 communities, 1,094 households, 7,660 individuals

11/29/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

A "Crazy" Idea Reaps Great Improvements

Once Victor started re-purposing cast-off plastic bottles as mini grain-storage bins, as suggested by FRB’s local partner ACJ from our Nicaragua Boaco program, he saw more than just a few benefits. He explains:

“If you want to have enough food for your family, you’ve got to have a good way to store what you grow. I used to pile up my corncobs with the husks still on and just threw a pesticide on them. It was easy and protected them from weevils.

“When I first started collecting pop bottles my wife, Lucrecia, thought I was crazy! She thought I’d never have enough, but my neighbors gave me their old bottles. You can fit six pounds of grain in each bottle. Before long I’d managed to store 400 pounds of corn and beans!

“After six months, Lucrecia and I checked them: sure enough, no weevils. When she saw how the beans cooked up as soft as if they were newly harvested, she was sold on the idea. Now she helps me collect used bottles!

“There are so many good reasons to use old bottles to store my grain. We don’t have to spend money on chemicals. It’s no more work than what I used to do, but it’s safer and healthier. I don’t have to buy seed for planting, and I even have leftover seed to sell. There’s never any shortage of used plastic bottles, and people usually just throw them out.  So using them even cleans up the environment. I’ve taught my friends and neighbors how to keep their grains like this, too. I’m proud to have learned the technique and proud to have shared it. God helps those who help themselves!”

Photo caption: Beans and corn, not pop, in those bottles

Led by World Renew and Local Partner Asociación Cristiana de Jóvenes de Nicaragua (ACJ)
8 communities, 201 households, 860 individuals

11/28/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

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