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Dec 19, 2019

The Right Push Can Make All the Difference

Adwoa.
Adwoa.

Adwoa is the only daughter of her parents’ eight children. Her family migrated from the Ivory Coast to the small village of Yawmensah in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. 

Yawmensah is a very small village, and it doesn’t have a school. After Adwoa’s family settled there, Adwoa had to walk around 2 km (1.2 mi) every day to school in the larger neighboring community, Timeabu. 

Since Adwoa’s mother tongue was French and classes in Ghana are taught in either English or Twi (one of the major languages in Ghana), studies became difficult for her. Adwoa had difficulty communicating with her teachers and her peers, which made being in school very uncomfortable for her. Adwoa’s situation continued to worsen, and she was asked to repeat a grade in school. This impacted Adwoa’s social life and isolated her from her peers. 

During this time, Adwoa heard about Self-Help International’s Teen Girls Club, which aims to help teen girls in rural communities with reading, writing, life skills training, and moving upward through school. Adwoa eagerly joined in 2016. She knew that her struggles were rooted in not being able to communicate at school, so she took the reading and writing class seriously. Adwoa said that, although the club was helping immensely, Self-Help’s Project Coordinator, Victoria, was the one who saw her plight and provided additional assistance and support.

After a year, Adwoa - who previously could hardly write, speak, or understand English and Twi - was learning at an accelerating rate, and her learning was reflected in all the subjects she was studying at school. Adwoa was promoted to the next grade level where she is now the second best student in her class. 

Additionally, her unbeatable performance in school qualified her for the 2019 inter-schools quiz in the district, a highly sought after and respected accomplishment in the district. Her teachers and the headmaster are all impressed by her performance. 

Adwoa is now a happy girl and feels proud of herself. She said the club has helped her academically and has also helped her improve her self-esteem.

Adwoa at school.
Adwoa at school.
Adwoa with her classmates.
Adwoa with her classmates.
Dec 16, 2019

A Daughter's Dream, a Mother's Determination

Salamatu
Salamatu

Salamatu is a dedicated mother working hard to provide a steady source of income for her three daughters. She is a member of a group of women in the Juaben Municipality who farm and produce palm kernel and palm oil. Due to Salamatu’s excellent leadership skills, her group has done very well, and it has became a model group for other women in Juaben.

“When cost of producing palm kernel becomes too high for my group of producers, we resort to farming until we are able to afford the production cost again,” Salamatu said. 

“One day, some of the women and I were farming on our cassava plantation by the roadside, and the district Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) officers saw us. They liked our group’s commitment to our farm,” Salamatu said.

“After talking with us, the MOFA officers found out that farming is a second income option for us, and that we struggle to compete in the market due to our limited funds. They gave us improved cassava sticks to use for cultivation,” Salamatu said. “The MOFA officers also introduced us to Self-Help International’s micro-credit program to help us boost our palm kernel production and farming. My startup loan from Self-Help was $15 USD.” 

Although Salamatu wasn’t among the first members of Self-Help’s micro-credit program in Juaben, she has been with the program since 2007. Her time with the program has allowed her to dream bigger.

“My oldest daughter was in junior high school when I started Self-Help’s program. She was barely 12 years old,” Salamatu said. “She was a very intelligent girl; she was at the top of her class all the time. She had always wanted to be a nurse, and I was determined to help her with that dream - an opportunity I never had” 

For a period of six years, Salamatu and her group were able to compete in the palm fruits business for the processing of palm oil and palm kernel because of their access to loans from the micro-credit program. Their cassava farm also yielded more produce due to improved techniques the MOFA officers taught them. The other group members were all doing well; their commitment and dedication to their group and loan repayment was unparalleled.

“Thanks to several trainings by Self-Help on topics such as financial management and resource mobilization, I really came to understand that I couldn’t survive the changing market without getting into the habit of saving money,” Salamatu said.

“I also realized I needed more ways to generate extra income because my daughter was finishing senior high school. Her examination results were good, but I didn’t have enough money to put her through nursing school,” Salamatu said. “I was due for another loan from Self-Help and I had started actively saving money, so I added all of the money to my savings to cover her school fees instead of reinvesting the money in my processing business.”

“I needed to find other ways to repay my loan because I couldn’t reinvest in my business,” Salamatu said. “I got jobs doing anything: being a janitor, farmer, petty trader - I just did whatever came my way in order to pay for my loan and keep supporting my daughter through school.”

Salamatu’s daughter, Ayishetu, is now 24 years old, and she is a registered state nurse with a district hospital.

“My daughter has successfully completed nursing training college as a state registered nurse and is currently enrolled as a national service person with the Duayaw Nkwanta District Hospital,” Salamatu said.

“Self-Help’s support has been so immense and timely. My daughter is now a nurse, and it’s because of the support I received from Self-Help,” Salamatu said. “I want to express my sincere gratitude to Self-Help for the trainings because they really equipped me with knowledge I needed to improve myself and my business.

“Now, I don’t have to solely depend on my processing or farming businesses anymore,” Salamtu said. “When one business is not doing well, I just have to look around and there are always other options. With the loans from Self-Help, I have been able to secure my eldest daughter’s future. The younger ones are emulating her success to pave a way for themselves.”

Salamatu in front of her home
Salamatu in front of her home
Dec 3, 2019

Community Leaders are the Strongest Agents for Change

Los Chiles Coop leader, Isidro, talking to farmers
Los Chiles Coop leader, Isidro, talking to farmers

The Self-Help International Nicaragua agriculture program needs a new motorcycle so that Rodolfo, the Agricultural Program Officer, can reach more rural communities! Check out the GlobalGiving micro-project here!

This report was written by Latin America Program Specialist, Katie Seifert, following her October 2019 trip to Nicaragua.

The Self-Help International Nicaragua staff have always “trained the trainer,” even if they haven’t called it that. Each program officer knows to identify community leaders across the country, and these leaders help attract their peers to Self-Help’s programs. Plus, leaders who know our programs help educate their own neighbors and community members on things like bettering water quality and sanitation, improving businesses, and innovating agricultural practices.

In 2010, Self-Help began working with farmers from the Los Chiles community who were learning maize seed reproduction by way of Self-Help’s agriculture program. Four years later, these seed producers founded the Los Chiles Cooperative, which would supply loans to small-holder farmers so that they could access inputs prior to planting season and repay the cooperative post-harvest. A key input the cooperative supplied was quality protein maize seed (QPM) - the very seed these farming leaders had learned to reproduce. But, the cooperative’s operation has remained small these past five years, making it harder to access sufficient funding through traditional avenues. As a result, Self-Help has supplied periodic agricultural loans to the cooperative, so that its members can access the supplies they need to farm Los Chiles’ QPM.

Nicaragua Country Director, Jorge Campos, and Program Operations Manager, Lucia Vega, have long dreamt of expanding Self-Help’s reach by way of agricultural loans. This year, with the dedicated work of new Agriculture Program Officer Rodolfo Hernandez, the Self-Help team managed to reach 59 new small-holder farmers by way of the training-the-trainer method. Rodolfo cultivated relationships with farming community leaders across four different communities: Nueva Armenia, Ojo de Agua, San Agustin, and Las Minas. These “expert” farmers, who are well respected in their communities, have good relationships with Self-Help and employ our improved farming techniques.

In the second maize planting season (October 2019), these community leaders joined Self-Help and the Los Chiles Cooperative in an expansion of our training-the-trainer practice. SHI provided loans to the cooperative and the community leaders in order to secure sufficient agriculture inputs for the 59 farmers. On average, SHI loaned approximately $238 USD worth of inputs to each of the farmers, who will plant using the methods taught to them by their community leaders. They are expected to repay in full after April 2020’s harvest. 

I had the privilege of being at the cooperative the day the agricultural inputs were distributed to the farmers. We arrived at Los Chiles early and already dozens of farmers were milling about, eagerly awaiting their supplies. Some had arrived on horseback, and a slew of horses were tied to trees outside the large building. Most came together on a bus, per the instructions of their community leader. The energy was palpable, and the operation was even more organized than I’d expected. Each farmer had a specific amount he or she would receive and signed for their loan once the repayment process had been explained to them. Names and communities were clearly labeled on each product, then loaded into the bus. 

We made sure to share a few words with the farmers under the shade of a mango tree just outside the building. I was so pleased to see the local leaders take the floor to talk to the other farmers. They explained the importance of the loans and repayments. They reminded everyone that inputs were being provided so that farmers would employ our improved farming techniques for higher yields and less fertilizers needed. Additionally, they shared how working with Self-Help had impacted their lives Their increased crop yields meant more food and income to share with their families. I loved hearing from these farming leaders because, as the staff pointed out to me, the farmers’ words mean more to their peers than our words as Self-Help staff ever can. It was inspiring, and I also realized that these loans meant that the QPM the cooperative produced would stay within the region. Self-Help can be assured that local farmers have access to a high-quality product that we know to be healthier for communities.

Today for GivingTuesday, GlobalGiving is offering a $500,000 incentive fund. The Incentive Fund will be distributed to participants proportionally based on final fundraising totals. This means that, at the end of GivingTuesday, the projects that bring in the most dollars will win the largest portion of the Incentive Fund and every project that activates donors will earn something. Gifts made between 12:00 AM and 11:59 PM on Dec. 3 will be eligible for the incentive fund! Read all the terms and conditions here.

Handing out the inputs
Handing out the inputs
Handing out the inputs
Handing out the inputs
Farmers collecting the inputs
Farmers collecting the inputs

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