Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Native Seeds: The Once and Future Crops

Local partner Chethana recently held a village rally to convince more farm families to try native seeds and organic farming methods. There was a good turnout of local officials, farmers, seed-saver groups, women’s self-help groups, school children and Chethana staff. Chethana is promoting a return to traditional crops as a means of improving food security now and preserving plant diversity for future generations.

Traditional farmers see the native varieties and sustainable farming as their protection against crop failures and famine. Higher yields mean families have enough to eat and still save seed for the next crop. Returning to traditional legumes and cereal grains – in combination, they provide a complete protein – also improves nutrition and health. Intercropping them prevents erosion, enriches the soil, promotes bio-diversity, and controls weeds and pests.

More and more people are willing to experiment with low-cost methods that bring higher yields and reduce expenses. For years, area farmers have grown only rice. In recent years they’ve experienced low farm productivity, scarce rainfall, depleted groundwater, and water shortages, and they worry about crop failures and famine. Many are deeply in debt from poor returns on investment in high-cost chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

At the recent rally, successful “seed saving” farmer groups displayed native varieties of millet, okra, sorghum and a perennial legume called red gram. Observers noted with interest that these plants are acclimated to the dry conditions, require less water, and respond well to applications of organic compost.

Caption: Harvesting native okra

India South Program
Led by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Local Partner Chethana
30 communities, 500 households, 2,500 individuals

03/14/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Forging Ahead Despite Challenges

Despite multiple challenges in post-conflict South Sudan, local staff has been hard at work training farm extension agents and health technicians to ready farmers and their families for better days. The civil war has ended, yet there continue to be security and infrastructure issues. The remoteness of the area means that people are not in direct danger from residual conflict, but also that basic services are lacking, including phone communications. Recent heavy rains brought flooding, and widespread illiteracy makes training much more difficult. Yet much has been accomplished.

The focus is particularly on women farmers – the backbones of the community. They need to get up to speed quickly on the most effective ways to manage their crops, vegetables, and homes.  Health extension workers have trained “hygiene promoters” to distribute supplies and show women how to treat both well water and river water. Families received soap and instruction on the importance of handwashing.

Agricultural extension workers also identified training needs and mobilized farmer groups to attend training sessions at demonstration plots.  They’ve taught basic principles of crop husbandry and growing vegetables. Because these farmers are starting out new, it has been necessary to distribute seeds and basic farming tools. Farmers are now concentrating on planting okra.

While challenges seem to be vast, it is clear that the will of local partner staff is strong. FRB’s implementing organization, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), is confident that the agriculture and health extension training is laying the groundwork for success for these people as they return to normalcy following the war. Your support and prayers are much needed and greatly appreciated.

Caption: Farmer groups during agricultural training

South Sudan Uror Program
Led by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
1 community, 400 households, 2,800 individuals


03/13/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More
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