MCC

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

Easing the Effects of Drought

Considered a kind of miracle by some, sand dams are easing the effects of a devastating drought in these Maasai communities in Kenya. With your support over the years, participants have built dams over seasonal rivers. People and cattle use the water in the reservoir, and even when that dries up, can continue to draw water trapped in the sand.

While the drought has been extremely hard on cattle, families have turned to raising chickens and growing produce in kitchen gardens. These activities demand less water, enabling folks to get by despite the severe challenges.

Emmanuel, one of 15 members in his self-help group, got the idea of raising chickens during one of the program’s agricultural learning tours. He’d kept a few chickens before but, with training, he learned how to increase his efficiency, reduce losses, build better coops, and manage his business.

A little over a year ago, he started rearing 200 chicks, and they are now producing eggs. He collects about six trays of eggs a day and sells them at the nearby Ngong market. Emmanuel says keeping chickens is more profitable than cows.

He plans to expand his operations now that he has the experience, knowledge and skills. Emmanuel is also trained as a model farmer, and three other farmers have followed his lead so far.

Captions: 1) Women scoop water from a sand dam 2) Emmanuel’s chicken operations

Kenya Ngong Intashat Program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner MIDI
10 communities, 4,500 households, 31,500 individuals

03/05/2018 | 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

Panna’s Kitchen Garden and “Super Flour” Save Her Son’s Life

My name is Panna. My husband and I live with our two daughters, ten and five, and our three-year-old son in a small home at the side of the road.  Only a year ago, we were just surviving, and my children were having health problems. I didn’t know how dangerously sick my son was, though, until one day, the staff of [local partner] BICWS Nepal was monitoring door to door. When they saw my child they said, “This baby is very weak,” and advised me to take him to the health post. The doctor there said he was malnourished and should be admitted to the hospital.

It was a scary time, but my little boy is well now, thanks to a six-month treatment. I was invited to join a mothers’ group, and we learned how to make “super flour” by roasting and grinding together two types of legumes and one type of whole grain to make a complete protein. I feed my children a porridge made of this lito pitho, fruit and vegetables. It’s made a huge difference in their health!

We also received training on planting kitchen gardens right by our houses. I’m growing okra, leafy vegetables, and pumpkins, and my fruit trees – lychee, jackfruit, banana, mango – are coming along. It’s a relief and pleasure to be able to give my children food that I grow myself.  We continue to learn about nutrition, preparing wholesome meals, and sanitation to make sure our children stay healthy.

I am thankful to the program for saving my little boy’s life and for all the help I’ve received in making a better home for my family.

Caption: Panna and her healthy son

Nepal Bhatigachh Program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner BICWS Nepal
9 communities, 2,603 households, 13,748 individuals


12/18/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

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

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

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

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

Warming Trend: Winter Crops Increase Family Food Security

Tam and Oanh are neighbors and close friends whose small fields are side by side. Every day, when one of the women is ready to work on her field, she calls to her friend and they walk to their plots together. Mixed into their conversations about work, family, weather and more are the sustainable farming techniques they’ve learned through FRB’s Vietnam Tan Son program.

They participated in a training course on planting crops that would perform well in the climate and soil conditions of the winter season when, after two harvests, farmers traditionally let their fields lay fallow. Tam and Oanh agreed that the practice wasted precious resources that could allow them to feed their families without having to work on someone else’s land for cash.

The farmers were encouraged to experiment with rotational cultivation and increase the variety and number of crops in order to get more food and prevent soil diseases. After training, some pilot households received seed. Tam and Oanh were not on the pilot list, but their interest was high enough that they each bought seeds and committed to following what they learned at the training.

Oanh chose to grow sweet potatoes. Tam chose corn. Last year, Tam and Oanh were able to harvest their fields three times. By adding winter crops, their families did not suffer a food shortage. Tam notes, “We’ll plant winter crops next year. Having corn in winter makes us feel warm in our stomachs.”

The Tan Son program will continue to use agricultural models to evaluate and promote the effectiveness of different crops and farming techniques. Training activities not only help people in difficult areas achieve sustainable food security, they promote good relationships within the community.

Vietnam Tan Son encompasses 6 communities, 512 households, and 2,212 individuals

05/08/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Conservation Agriculture Webinar Available!

What is conservation agriculture (CA)? How does it work? 

The UN's Food and Agricultural Organization describes conversation agriculture as: a concept for resource-saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment.

In the recorded webinar, MCC staff based in Southern and Eastern Africa share

10/29/2014 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More
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