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Jan 10, 2020

How Tijani Increased Yields Through Adopting Improved Farming Methods

At the farm.
At the farm.

Self-Help International operates in the mostly rural Ashanti region of Ghana where a high proportion of households consist of farmers who are dependent on agriculture as a primary source of food and livelihood. Productivity in the rural areas is very low due to a number of factors including: unpredictable rainfall patterns; farmers opting for less expensive inputs instead of investing in higher quality supplies; and poor technological resources.

Amidst all these hardships faced by farmers as they strive for prosperity, a farmer named Tijani has already started making headway to turn things around for the better by adopting improved farming technologies and agronomic practices.

Tijani is a 49-year-old farmer who lives with his family in  the village of Fankamawe, and he started working with Self-Help International in 2018. As part of the intake process, Self-Help did a needs assessment with Tijani to identify his challenges and knowledge gaps before Self-Help conducted trainings to address those gaps. Among the identified gaps were: record keeping; lack of access to quality inputs; little education on crop disease and pest management; not practicing conservation agriculture; and little knowledge of improved farming technologies and agronomic practices.

Self-Help worked with Tijani through a series of trainings involving classroom work, field visits, and hands-on training related to the gaps he identified with Self-Help. Initially, Tijani was hesitant to adopt some of the new practices, especially those relating to improved farming methods and inputs such as: using a recommended seed rate of 9 kg/acre (20lb/acre); using higher quality maize seed varieties; treating seed before sowing; planting the seed in rows with a recommended spacing of 80 cm x 40 cm (31 in x 16 in); applying fertilizer; managing crop diseases and pests; and timely harvesting. 

Tijani finally agreed to adopt these practices when he witnessed the results of the harvest recorded by the training center. He was linked to the Planting for Food and Jobs package, an initiative by the government of Ghana to supply inputs to farmers at subsidized prices. Self-Help assisted Tijani with marking his row lines and guided him through the planting of his seed and all of the other farming activities through constant visits to his farm and his home.

Upon harvesting his maize, Tijani recorded a yield of 22 bags at 120 kg per bag (264 lbs) on his four acre land, which was an improvement on his previous yield of 12 bags. Tijani donated some of his maize to support Self-Help’s school feeding program in his community.

The price of maize depreciated to 150 Ghanaian Cedi per bag (around $30 USD) at the time Tijani harvested his maize. This worried Tijani because, when he looked at the money he had invested and the price of maize at that time, he would have only made a little bit of a profit. Self-Help introduced Tijani to the use of Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) sacs, hermetically sealed crop storage bags that allow for the longer and safer storage of grains so that farmers can store their maize and sell it when the price appreciates. Tijani managed to purchase 15 PICS sacs through Self-Help to store some of his maize until he could sell it when the price increased again. He is now happy and has placed additional orders for PICS sacs for his minor season maize, which he has yet to harvest.

Tijani shook the hand of Self-Help’s Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Program Officer, Emmanuel, and said with a smile on his face, “Thanks to Self-Help International for all the support over the years and may God bless and strengthen you to continue this good work.”

Emmanuel at the training center.
Emmanuel at the training center.
PICS sacs.
PICS sacs.
Jan 6, 2020

Innovating Water Chlorination in Nicaragua

Installing a chlorinator in a water system.
Installing a chlorinator in a water system.

It's been seven years since the implementation of Self-Help International’s Clean Water Program in Nicaragua, which has brought simple, understandable, and efficient chlorination technology to disinfect water storage systems in rural Nicaraguan villages. That's been Program Officer Orlando Montiel’s experience, who explains:

Self-Help International started the water program in two rural communities in the San Carlos municipality, Cruz Verde and Los Chiles. Community members participated in the water quality tests and the demonstrations of the disinfection and purification of the contaminated water. When Self-Help saw the success of the CTI-8 chlorinators, it began extending the experience to other communities in the municipality.

There has been a lot of need in rural communities - water shortages, unsafe drinking water, needing to construct community water systems and aqueducts to meet the demand for water, etc. The clean water program has greatly improved the water quality in the communities where chlorination equipment has been installed. 

In the last seven years, Self-Help has managed to provide better quality water to 92 rural communities in nine municipalities of the departments of Río San Juan, Central Zelaya, Chontales and Boaco, benefiting 81,712 people. 

During these seven years, innovations have been essential in the process of improving the water quality in rural communities. Each chlorinator must be designed around the specifications of the pipes, batteries, and water distribution tanks, so that the chlorinator may effectively disinfect water. 

Since clean water is so vital to communities, it is important that the installation of each device be thoroughly investigated and analyzed prior to installation. This requires the necessary materials, pipes, fittings and tools, so that water can best be decontaminated. 

Self-Help’s latest focus has been on modifying the vertical laminar flow and laminar chlorinator to ensure duration of a newly recommended type of tablet which is calcium-based. The new modifications must allow for sufficient water circulation to achieve chlorination, but not so much water circulation that the calcium hypochlorite tablet dissolve too quickly.

A switch to calcium tablets from sodium tablets was necessitated by a study released in 2019 entitled “Study on the Chlorine Supply Chain in Rural Systems of Operational Water Supply.” In Nicaragua, there have been three locally available forms of chlorine tablets. Self-Help has historically distributed the most cost-effective locally available form of chlorine tablets, which is made of sodium dichloroisocyanurate. 

However, the new study assessed CTI-8 systems in Nicaragua by comparing the different forms of chlorine tablets in use. The report referenced the World Health Organization’s 2017 findings that sodium-based tablets should be used “as a means of primary disinfection in cases of emergency” but common operator error makes it undesirable for daily use.

Orlando with community members.
Orlando with community members.
Installing a chlorinator in a water system.
Installing a chlorinator in a water system.
Dec 26, 2019

The 2019-2020 Cohort of "Agripreneurs" are Off to a Solid Start

The 2019-2020 cohort for GEP.
The 2019-2020 cohort for GEP.

Graduate unemployment has become a major developmental challenge in Ghana, posing a threat to national security. This unfortunate phenomenon is not only the result of the inability of already existing businesses to offer employment, but also the result of the lack of entrepreneurial skill development among many young people in Ghana. This problem needed a solution along the lines of an agricultural enterprise skills development and capacity building program. It is against this framework that the Self-Help International Graduate Entrepreneurial Program (GEP) was introduced in Jan. 2018 to try to tackle the rising graduate unemployment situation in Ghana by developing agricultural business skills and building the capacity of recent graduates. The program seeks to train, guide, and provide the necessary financial resources to enable graduate entrepreneurs (“agripreneurs”) to develop and implement agribusiness proposals and create employment. 

In Sep. of 2019, two agripreneurs successfully graduated from their entrepreneurial development training. Following their graduation, seven graduates from agriculture-oriented universities and trade schools in Ghana began participating in the GEP to form the 2019-2020 cohort. Agripreneurs in the 2019-2020 cohort of the GEP have projects involved in the small-scale production, processing, packaging, and marketing of hot peppers, corn, mushrooms, carrots, and poultry. These projects were informed by market research and a cash flow analysis to confirm the feasibility, viability, and profitability of these ventures.

The market research and cash flow analysis revealed some important pieces of information. They showed that hot pepper is a very important spice in the Ghanaian market; in a typical Ghanaian market, it is sold in various forms such as fresh, dried, or powdered, and it attracts a lot of buyers. The analysis also demonstrated that producing corn in the rainy seasons, carrots in the dry season, and mushrooms all year round is a profitable venture that reduces the cost of production and takes advantage of the seasonal changes in Ghana. Finally, it showed that the demand for poultry has increased over the past few years following the rapid growth of hotels, restaurants, and the fast food sector.

With just three months (Sep.-Oct. 2019) into the project, the first batch of poultry birds are ready for market, the corn is almost ready for harvesting, the mushrooms have been inoculated and cropped, the pepper has started flowering, and the GEPs are preparing to plant carrots.   The Self-Help team is very optimistic that, by the end of the training, participating graduates will have acquired the knowledge, attitude, skills, inspiration, aspirations, and empowerment needed to: run the agribusiness ventures they have started; responsibly start other ventures; create employment opportunities; and train other young people in their own communities. With these victories, Self-Help’s team in Ghana is hopeful about winning the fight against hunger in its own small way.  

The cohort with Country Director, Benjamin Kusi
The cohort with Country Director, Benjamin Kusi
The cohort with Executive Director, Nora Tobin.
The cohort with Executive Director, Nora Tobin.
 
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