laurie's blog

Proud to be a Farmer

Rajib, a young farmer in Bangladesh, says, “I used to think that only poor people became farmers, but now I see agriculture as a noble profession. It is a source of income, nutrition, and food security. I’m proud to be a farmer.”

Until the program’s local partner SATHI offered agricultural training to this subsistence farmer, he’d been using techniques he’d learned as a child. When his father died, he’d had to quit school and take over the responsibility of their family farm. Because his father grew only rice, that’s what Rajib did as well. But, he said, “SATHI taught me rice alone cannot meet all the nutritional needs of our body.”

He joined a farmers group and learned about growing vegetables in kitchen gardens, fertilizing with organic compost, and managing pests with environmentally-friendly farming methods. The farmers group also functioned as a savings and lending group, and Rajib began saving regularly.  He was able to take a small loan from the group to buy a variety of seeds. SATHI staff and other skilled farmers were there to support and guide him in his new venture. He was amazed at the quantity and quality of all he was able to harvest -- spinach, red amaranth, long bean, eggplant, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, cucumber, tomato and sweet gourd. More than enough to feed his family and earn a small income.
 
Encouraged by his success, Rajib recently took a poultry-rearing workshop from SATHI which motivated him to purchase 10 chickens. He is now waiting for them to lay eggs and supply meat for his family.

Caption: Red amaranth growing in Rajib’s kitchen garden

Bangladesh Kendua Programs
Led by World Renew and Local Partner SATHI

Photo and storyline credit: Lipy Dhoni

05/24/2018 | 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

Village Savings and Loan Group Turns James’s Life Around

James, a farmer and the director of the school in his village, says that the ag training and support he has received from the program changed his family’s story from one of desperation to hope. Trained in information technology, he found it very difficult to earn enough money in the city to support his wife and three girls. He took a big risk by moving back to his village to take up farming. His first exposure to what the program had to offer was joining fellow farmers in starting a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). “This,” he says, “was the beginning of the turnaround for my family.”

James and his group received training in conservation agriculture techniques, growing vegetables, and Farming as a Family Business. This year, he and his family planted one acre of groundnuts (peanuts) to sell, and two acres of cassava to eat. What they earned from the groundnuts allowed them to buy a cow, and the milk adds protein to their diet. With their VSLA savings they bought five bags of cement and built another room onto their home. “I plan to borrow money from the VSLA to complete the work,” says James.

James’s story is representative of the general success of the program in his village. His VSLA is doing so well that it made a contribution to the school he was instrumental in starting. James was able to buy a blackboard, chalk and textbooks and even pay the teachers with the funds.

Caption: Village schoolchildren benefited from a donation by James’s savings group

Uganda Teso Program
Led by World Renew and local partner PAG-KIDO
96 communities, 11,624 households, and 51,944 individuals

05/16/2018 | 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

Improved Farming Knowledge, Improved Income

Since Theresia began receiving training and support from the Kenya Kathonzweni program and experiencing success in her pasture farming, she foresees a bright future for herself and her family. She says, “This season I have put three more acres into pasture. I’m getting much better returns than ever before.”

Theresia is a small-scale pasture farmer who, like others in the area, used to sell her hay directly to local livestock farmers at low prices. She signed up with the program because she wanted to improve her knowledge and skills and find ways to market hay more effectively.  At the program’s Farmer Field School, which focuses on training farmers in sustainable Conservation Agriculture practices, she says she “learned by doing, and from demonstrations,” how to establish and manage a pasture and harvest grass seeds for sale.

Theresia has met and exceeded her expectations for taking part in the training. She now markets her hay and seeds through the program’s Farmers’ Cooperative. After just one year, she was able to sell 3300 pounds of pasture for a good price, and earned more than double the income from her grass seed. The money allowed her to pay her granddaughter’s school fees and buy a dairy cow.  She says, “Now that I have enough pasture for at least two cows I would like to venture into dairy farming as well.”

Caption: Theresia’s increased hay yields

Kenya Kathonzweni Program
Led by Dorcas Aid International Foundation and Local Partner Kitise Rural Development
3 communities, 1,094 households and 7,660 individuals

 

04/18/2018 | 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

Community Voices

“Having to leave the country to look for work is a huge cost, financially and in terms of the family and community, and people often return no better off than when they left. This program has made it possible for us to earn a living at home. Now we can say, ‘Here in Honduras there are riches.’ We didn’t go buy this food in the market. We produced it ourselves. That, to me, is being rich.” – Rafael

“We are grateful for [local partner] CASM because they work on a personal level in solidarity with families who have few resources. They encourage us to contribute our own efforts to carry out various community projects. They offer alternatives that are changing the way we live.” – Lilian  

“I’d never imagined that anything could be so effective for cooking as an eco-stove and also keep the smoke out of the house. It used to be impossible to control the smoke in the house with our traditional stoves. It damaged the roof and made the air unhealthy to breathe. The eco-stoves are energy efficient and economical – look at how few pieces of wood there are in there, but that’s all I’ll use all day to cook! Before, my husband was constantly carrying firewood for me. Now even he gets a rest.” – Lurbin

“I feel that we have achieved many changes in our community. Before, because we are so remote and it’s hard to get here, no government or international organizations ever came to offer us support. But this program has helped us so much. I feel really content and proud that I am improving my family’s nutrition and can even share all the products I have been able to grow. Greetings to all the donors who make this program possible, and thank you!” – Miguel Angel

Caption: Lurbin and her new eco-stove

Honduras Nueva Frontera
Led by Church World Service and Local Partner Comisión de Acción Social Menonita (CASM)
14 communities, 626 households, 3,130 individuals

04/09/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More
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