Sep 22, 2020

Afia Makes Nutritious Weaning Food for Her Youngest Daughter

Afia feeding her daughter porridge.
Afia feeding her daughter porridge.

Good nutrition plays a crucial role in a person’s life and serves as an important tool in preventing numerous diseases. It is imperative that children receive the nutrients they need for their growth and brain development, especially in the first 1,000 days of their lives. This critical stage in development can affect children throughout their entire lives.

Parents in the Growing Healthy Food, Growing Healthy Children (GHFGHC) program at Self-Help International are very concerned about the growth and development of their children. Some parents only feed their children staple foods like cassava or yams (mainly carbohydrates) which don’t provide adequate protein. As a result, their children experience protein energy malnutrition (PEM). Self-Help is working with mothers in two communities in Ghana - Beposo and Kukubuso - to ensure mothers have access to quality protein maize (QPM) for their families’ porridge, animal protein from eggs, and the knowledge to take care of themselves and their babies.

Afia is a 45-year-old mother of six living in the village of Beposo who has partnered with GHFGHC. According to Afia, she ate mostly carbohydrates prior to connecting with the GHFGHC program. The program and Self-Help’s staff nutritionists helped to reshape her choice of food to incorporate vegetables and forms of protein into her diet. She said she was not prioritizing eating fruits and vegetables because she did not know that they  contain nutrients that are important to the body. 

“The staff’s nutrition counseling has taught me that I need to add protein, fruits, and vegetables to my diet,” Afia shared. 

Madam Afia sees her daughter’s growth and development and attributes that to the eggs and the protein-rich porridge she fed her as a baby. She noted that the growth of her youngest child compared to her previous children has been different.

“[My daughter] is growing healthier and I haven’t incurred the same hospital bills. My older children used to fall sick when they were younger, but [my youngest daughter’s] case has been different - she is almost two years old and we have never been to the hospital,” Afia said.

“My daughter likes eggs and tom brown (a porridge that consists of QPM and peanuts roasted and milled together),” Afia said. “Some children only eat egg yolks and reject the [egg white], while others only like the [egg white]; but my daughter eats both the yolk and the [egg white].”

Afia said that through the program, she has learned how to diversify the weaning food she is giving to her youngest daughter by incorporating more nutrient-rich ingredients.

“I have moved on from preparing porridge with only corn and sugar to preparing more nutrient rich porridges with ingredients like corn, sugar, powdered fish, soya beans, groundnut paste or whole egg.” 

Through nutrition education, mothers like Afia are learning how to implement changes in their families’ diets that will have lasting effects on their children as they grow and develop.

Afia's daughter loves eggs!
Afia's daughter loves eggs!
Sep 11, 2020

Keyla is an Innovative and Determined Entrepreneur

Keyla in her yard growing crops!
Keyla in her yard growing crops!

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Keyla is a 32-year-old mother from Melchorita, Nicaragua is a 32-year-old and a member of the Women’s Empowerment Program (WEP). Keyla’s two children, an 8-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy, study at the local primary school, and she supports them by waking up at 4:30 a.m. every day to take care of their home and run her business. 

Prior to joining Self-Help’s WEP, Keyla sold chocolate covered bananas, ice cream, enchiladas, tacos, natural juices, and plantains with cheese. She walked around her community selling her products house-to-house and operated her own mini-store. One of the advantages of selling around the community was that people walking by or in buses noticed her food for its quality presentation, which Keyla displayed in cases. 

Keyla also frequently changed the food she served so that her customers weren’t bored with the same products every day, and her customers knew that her food was delicious. Despite Keyla’s continuous innovation, she wasn’t making enough income to pay for expenses around the house and her children’s school expenses. 

A year ago, Keyla’s neighbor met with her to discuss the WEP and its policies. Keyla was motivated by their conversation and asked for the phone number of the WEP’s Program Officer, Yolanda Fletes. Keyla called Yolanda and asked how she could be part of the program. 

Yolanda coordinated a visit at Keyla’s home to check the current state of her small business and to explain more details about the program. Yolanda told Keyla that program members must be motivated to learn and improve, and that they would be trained in topics like self-esteem, leadership, business management, entrepreneurship, and writing business plans.  She also explained that the program would teach members how to manage basic accounting by recording income and expenses, and that it would teach them how to invest in, optimize, and carry out an emergency savings plan.

After completing the WEP trainings, Keyla requested a $200 USD loan to invest in supplying her store. She needed to buy more products like bananas, pineapple, chicken, melon, toilet paper, soap, bleach, notebooks, pencils, rice, sugar, refill credit for her phone plan, oil, cream, and sodas. 

With the profits Keyla made from the first loan, she began diversifying the products she offered daily, making milk cakes, pizzas, rice pudding, flour tortilla, fruit ice creams, and pinolillos (sweet corn-based drink). On the weekends, she made chicken soup and grilled beef and chicken. 

After one training at Self-Help’s training center in Quinta Lidia, Keyla realized that her yard was big enough to diversify her existing crops. She added papaya, green bananas, passionfruit, coriander, and mints in order to supply her business. Keyla is now able to supply her own products to sell instead of buying the products to resell them.

At the same time, Keyla also purchased 10 hens with help from her father and bought an enclosure so they wouldn’t escape. The hens provide her four eggs every day which her children love eating for breakfast. Keyla began saving an additional 20 cordobas a day since she no longer had to buy eggs. 

Keyla exemplifies someone who manages a loan well - in fact, she multiplies its results. With her second loan she wants to improve a plastic shed in front of her house to protect her business from getting wet from the rain. Keyla's goal is to send her children to college when they grow up - something she didn’t have the opportunity to do - so that they can be professionals. As a mother, she wants the best for them.


This report was translated by Katie Seifert, Latin America Program Specialist.

One of Keyla's cakes.
One of Keyla's cakes.
Keyla with her products.
Keyla with her products.
Aug 31, 2020

Creating a Demand and Developing a Taste for Oyster Mushrooms

Mushroom barbecue!
Mushroom barbecue!

This report was originally written by Richmond Kalai and Vida Nti, members of the 2019-2020 Graduate Entrepreneurship Program (GEP) cohort. It was edited by Jessica Crawford, Program Specialist for Africa, and Megan Sehr, Development Director.

In oyster mushroom cultivation, mushrooms are usually grown on a mixture of sawdust, wheat bran, and soybean residue. This process goes through composting, bagging, sterilization, spawning, incubation, and finally harvesting.

Oyster mushroom fresh fruiting bodies show a high moisture content (90 %), where both dry and fresh oyster mushrooms are rich in carbohydrates (57.6 %), protein (29.2 %), fat (2.1 %), fiber (8.2 %) and ash (9.8 %). Therefore, the oyster mushroom is a consumable mushroom. It contains sufficient amounts of phosphorus, iron, protein, lipid, riboflavin, and thiamine,  and it’s known as, “the meat of the veggie lover” (Khan et al. 1981). Mushroom proteins are considered to be between vegetable and animal proteins. The essential amino acids of the human body are found in the oyster mushroom (Kaushlesh et al. 2012). 

Creating a market for mushrooms around Nkawie, a bustling market center just outside of Kumasi, was a huge challenge. People in the area are more used to eating wild mushrooms, which can be found in the forest and sprouting from decaying palm trees.

Team VCJR is one of the groups of recent graduates testing out their proposed agribusiness model in Self-Help International’s Graduate Entrepreneurship Program. Their business venture is centered around mushroom production, so they have been cultivating mushrooms at Self-Help’s Agricultural Training Center for nearly a year. Producing the mushrooms was not a problem, but they were eager to tackle the challenge of creating a new market for their product. 

The team eventually came up with the following plan:

  • Provide some mushrooms for free to members of the Nkaakom community and get feedback from them.
  • Prepare a “mushroom barbecue” dish and sell it along with the fresh mushrooms. People who have a different perception about this kind of mushroom will buy the mushroom barbecue; after enjoying the taste of the mushroom barbecue, they will buy the fresh mushrooms.
  • Run door to door sales.
  • Target sales and marketing to the municipal assembly, police service, fire service, and churches.

The team put these strategies into place, and eventually people in the community developed a taste for the mushrooms. The demand for the mushrooms grew bigger than the amount that the team was able to produce; so in the second cycle of production, Team VCJR increased the tonnage of the compost to meet the demand of their customers. New customers continued to drive up the demand for the mushroom.

There have been so many positive comments and reviews about the mushrooms related to both the taste and their nutritional value. 

One of Team VCJR’s best customers, Joyce, who is a police officer at the Nkawie Divisional Police Station said, “I have never seen or tasted this kind of mushroom before, but seeing that you all are graduates from [a local] agricultural college and completing your National Service* with Self-Help International, you can’t give me poison to eat. Ever since I bought some the first day you came to my house, I have never regretted buying them. I can’t prepare any food without having some mushrooms in it.” 

With reviews like this and an effective production model in place, the demand and yield keeps going up and up and up.

*National Service is a government sponsored year of service, required for all Ghanaians

Fresh mushrooms.
Fresh mushrooms.
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