Self-Help International

Self-Help International (SHI) devotes its efforts to alleviating world hunger and poverty by providing opportunities to rural citizens that ultimately lead to self-reliance. Since its inception, Self-Help has served as a vessel; training, education, and opportunities are provided to rural citizens and whole communities in developing countries so that they can have better lives. MISSION STATEMENT: To alleviate hunger by helping people help themselves. SELF-HELP'S INITIATIVE Educate: We educate the people of the United States to understand the problems of life in developing countries particularly the awareness of the perpetual struggle by millions to produce and distribute food to batt...
Mar 8, 2016

Getting seed back into the hands of farmers

Alfredo, Rex & Isidro hold Nutrader seed to plant
Alfredo, Rex & Isidro hold Nutrader seed to plant

A little over a year ago, Self-Help imported new Quality Protein Maize (QPM) from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico to get this high-protein corn back into the hands of the farmers we serve in Nicaragua.  We’ve made great strides since planting the demonstration plots in May that we’re excited to share with you. 

The name of the QPM line imported is called Nutrader.  Last October, Alfredo planted the basic seed to multiply the stock in an experimental plot.  He’s worked hard to care for it and ensure the birds did not swoop in to eat the seed.  Once the corn was fully mature, he selected the seed with the best traits and began the harvest – all done by hand. After selecting the best seed corn, he shelled it and in January was finally able to register the seed with IPSA, a division of the Nicagauran Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which will enable us to provide it to the farmers and keep our production in the Quinta Lidia plot as well.

Alfredo welcomed the IPSA inspector, Engineer Rex Castro, who came to provide the final inspection of the experimental plots.  The IPSA inspector praised the time, effort and care that Alfredo took during the daytime, and that Santos, our night security officer, took to ensure that the birds did not disrupt the field. Unfortunately, the birds were not the only challenge faced. Over two hundred ears of corn were stolen from the field during hours that staff members were away from the Training Center and Santos was not on guard yet.  It was clear that someone was watching and waiting to steal the corn from the plots.  This loss affected the progress and process since Alfredo and Santos had to harvest the maize earlier than planned to ensure no more was stolen.  Despite these challenges, the maize is now in good shape and we are in the process of cleaning it and drying it to ensure the moisture content is correct for when we later begin the distribution to the farmers.

The next step in the process is that the famers will reproduce this registered seed under the supervision of IPSA to obtain the “Certified Seed” designation.  Farmers who grow and sell certified seed, which is used as seed corn, rather than commercial seed, are able to earn 3x – 10x the income as compared to commercial seed.  Alfredo, the first farmer Self-Help began working with through the Melchorita Seed Bank, and Isidro, the Presdient of the Los Chiles cooperative, have also planted 2 manzanas of the Nutrader Seed on their own farms to compare the yields to the seed grown at the Fred Strohbehn Experimental Plot at Quinta Lidia.  

Country Director Jorge Campos has been working alongside Alfredo to take care of all of the legal paperwork associated with importing, multiplying, and distributing this new seed.  Thanks to the dedication of Jorge and Alfredo here in Nicaragua, and of Self-Help Board Members in the US who are advising us, we are glad to report that things are moving along smoothly and everything is ready to grow the seed this year and ensure that we are able to get the seed back into the hands of the farmers in Ochomogo and Los Chiles, as well as any smallholder farmers in Nicaragua that request this type of support.  

Finally, last week we planted the next round of corn utilizing drip irrigation since it's still the dry season at both the Training Center experimental plot and at each of the two seed banks in Ochomogo and Los Chiles. When the rains come, the drip irrigation system will supplement the regular rains during dry spells.  

Thank you to all of the people who are supporting our efforts to get this nutritious corn back into the hands of the farmers who need it most so they can better nourish their families and the families of people who buy the corn – particularly the children who need it most!

Drying the recent harvest of Nutrader seed
Drying the recent harvest of Nutrader seed
Birdseye view of experimental plots & solar dryer
Birdseye view of experimental plots & solar dryer
Drip irrigation allows corn to grow in dry season
Drip irrigation allows corn to grow in dry season
Feb 9, 2016

Women's Leadership Summit

ED Nora Tobin giving out an award to Olivia
ED Nora Tobin giving out an award to Olivia

What a wonderful few months of milestones it has been for women in Ghana!  Micro-credit officers Victoria and Elizabeth have been working hard to celebrate leadership and promote self-sufficiency by linking women to commercial banks, a feat that has taken time.

Many women have made tremendous progress as local businesswomen, so we took some time to celebrate their accomplishments by hosting the first ever Women’s Leadership Summit, which was held at Calvary Methodist Church.  Micro-credit beneficiaries from the communities of Abompe, Asuogya, Bedaabour, Beposo, Kwamedwaa, Afari/Nerebehi, Kwaso, Nkawie, Adagya, and Worapong were brought together to interact, share experiences, business ideas, and exchange contacts together under one roof. Nearly 100 of the 400 women in the micro-credit program were in attendance.  Outstanding leaders including Olivia from Kwaso and Abena from Beposo shared their success stories with the attendees. Outstanding groups and individuals were awarded with certificates of honor to recognize their leadership, dedication, commitment and problem-solving abilities. Each participant was given a T-shirt to thank them, and help advertise the micro-credit program.  The Women’s Leadership Summit challenged groups who have not yet been recognized to step up their performances. Some of the groups have reshuffled and elected new leaders with the hope to win additional awards at the next summit. 

Leadership is important to building a strong community, and so is access to resources, especially for rural women.  If women farmers had the same access to productive resources as men, including training, education, and capital, there would be 150 million fewer hungry people in the world.  It’s a staggering figure to consider, and the very goal that the Self-Help International Women’s Micro-Credit Program is working toward. Self-Help invests in the future of women by providing training, access to loans, and follow up advising to women so they can start up and expand their businesses, generate income, and better provide for their families. 

In addition to the successful Women’s Leadership Summit, the micro-credit program reached a milestone that has been elusive for four years: all 59 women from Kwaso and Timeabu have now opened accounts with the Agricultural Development Bank. Bank identification cards as well as check books have been issued to them. Some of the women have already made deposits into their savings accounts. Approximately 98% of these women have bank accounts for the first time in their lives.

Women's Leadership Summit Group Picture
Group from Kwaso showing their check books
Group from Kwaso showing their check books
Group at Timeabu displaying their cheque books
Group at Timeabu displaying their cheque books
Jan 8, 2016

Expanding Her Horizon- Changing Her Future

Self-Help International’s micro-credit program serves several communities of Rio San Juan and Rivas, Nicaragua, empowering hardworking women with the opportunity to improve their skills, knowledge, education and quality of life. All 125 women we serve live in remote rural areas, and most live nearly 200 miles away from the capital city, Managua. Most of the men in these rural communities are farmers and agricultural laborers, so the woman usually stay home taking care of the house and children. The micro–credit program, started in 2005, has provided women with the chance to grow their self-esteem and learn new skills, and to use those skills to generate income and help their husbands with home finances, particularly between harvests when family finances may run low.

Doña Heliodora, from the community of Las Azucenas, was one of the first member of the micro-credit program in her village. She is married with 8 children. When she first learned about the benefits she and her family could gain by becoming members, she immediately agreed to start working with Self-Help International and started looking for more women in her community to start a micro-credit group.

Doña Heliodora used her initial $50 micro-loan to start a bakery business, and to build her own improved oven after learning how to make one from Self-Help International. She started making bread, cakes, and pizza, once a week, and for Christmas, she also roasted chickens to sell for the holiday dinner.

This small business allows Heliodora help her husband support the need of their and the education of her children. Six of the children are grown up, married and have left the house. The two youngest children are still dependents. With the profits earned from her baking business, Heliodora has been able to send one son to study at the university in Managua, a pipe dream for most rural women. Her youngest son is in high school in Las Azucenas and he helps his mother in the bakery business as well as with home upkeep.

Doña Heliodora states, “I have been working with Self-Help International through the micro-credit program for 8 years now and I am very happy to be part of this program because I have been able to get several loans; build an improved oven which means now I am saving more wood, money and time efforts; grow my bakery business by selling the products; and be able to earn some money to purchase several things needed in my house; as well as to help my husband with the school expenses for my children.”

Under the leadership of micro-credit officer Yolanda Fletes, there has been an increased emphasis on training for women and youth to ensure long-term empowerment for those who are committed to helping themselves. In order to join the micro-credit program, women must meet basic requirements, such as demonstrating commitment to working, being honest and responsible, having an entrepreneurial vision, and a willingness to accept changes and learn new skills.

When asked about the program’s shift to emphasizing not only loans, but skills training for women and youth, Heliodora responded, “Since my son and I started getting trainings and classes to learn new skills, things got a lot better and it makes me feel so happy and thankful for Self-Help International and it staff.”

Heliodora and her son have attended several trainings, including:  

  1. Self - esteem and Leadership
  2. Business Management and Entreprenuership
  3. Business Plan (Marketing, Finances, Organization, quality of products, value added, etc.)
  4. Business creativity and diversification

With all those training and skills, I realized I needed to do more for my bakery business, and decided that my next loan would be for a small shelter to use as a small shop where I can present all my bakery products and to welcome my clients.”

Heliodora’s business and capital has grown so she has increased her baking once a week to three times a week. “I always keep clean my space following the instruction and advice taught by the Self-Help International staff regarding hygiene and quality of the products. Now, I have more clients, and even one day I had a visit from a doctor from our local Health Post Center asking me to make a meal for him and the rest of the staff for special activities in my house! When I heard this I was so excited that immediately I agreed to do so. Even though it was total different from what I was doing as a bakery business, I knew I could handle it, and said to myself ‘well, I guess this is going to be a new way to earn money: working in my house while I still have time to continue my bakery business and attend my family.’ I said to myself, ‘Oh goodness! All this is happening because I am really following up all the good advice I have been getting from the micro-credit officer and Self-Help International staff.’”

A couple months later, Heliodora’s son who graduated from university called Heliodora from Managua to tell her there was a person who was looking for a partner to start a business in Rio San Juan, the region where Heliodora lives. The business was to sell used electro-domestic supplies such as toasters, microwaves, and refrigerators with a low price so they would be affordable for the rural people who live in small villages and need this type of equipment to make life easier. Heliodora recounts, “I thought about it and I realized we don’t have here any shop selling these type of products and so I decided to do it. The equipments are in good shape and mostly new, since those are the things people from the city usually purchase on credit in major stores but can’t afford all the payments on. So, the company takes them away from those people and puts them in storage. Somehow, they found out that by selling the products to other people for lower price, they can at least get back their investment and also give chance to other people to buy the items affordably. So I said yes, that is what we need here: technology and chance for better in our life! Now, I am selling things like; TV’s, stove, refrigerator, freezer, toaster, electric fan, microwaves, iron, laundry machine, which is giving me a good profit.”

I have been able to do all these types of business – baking, preparing meals, selling home goods – out of my own house thanks to the support of the Self-Help International, who are the people of good heart that are always here to help me out by providing not only loans but skill and self-esteem classes to grow as a human being, mother, wife, a positive member of this society. I am doing all my best to manage the three small business with the support of my two sons and husband whenever he has the chance. The four of us are more than happy to be able to work at home, share our positive attitude with other people and reach our dream working in our daily duties. I know the other women involved in this program have the same feelings like me: they may have a different type of business, but the main thing is we all know now that nothing is impossible if we have confidence in ourselves and in the organization that is helping us. Thank you so much to all of you!  …by the way, I almost forgot that I also learned with you how to save money from my incomes and also how my son found a great job in the San Carlos Social Security office! I am so proud of him!  But my son, my husband and I wouldn’t have been able to reach this goal without all your support, care and interest for my personal and family growing. Now, I am an empowered woman that is not afraid to confront any type of challenge and change to improve our lives. THANKS!”



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