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Apr 23, 2020

Program Officer, Rodolfo, Follows Up With Farmers Who Planted Biofortified Beans

Coop leader, Isidro, holding bushels.
Coop leader, Isidro, holding bushels.

The biofortified bean varieties, INTA-Nutritivo and Rendidor, were evaluated in various regions and climates of Nicaragua by the Nicaraguan Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA). These beans contain higher contents of iron (86 ppm) and zinc (43 ppm) than traditional bean varieties which only have 50 ppm of iron and 28 ppm of zinc. It is a seed variety that adapts to humid tropical climates, and its bushiness and short height make it ideal for Self-Help’s double-row planting technique. 

Because Self-Help promotes crops with high nutritional value, Self-Help decided to start promoting biofortified bean varieties with 30 farmers and their families. All of the farmers are members of the San Marcos and San Lucas de Los Chiles RL Cooperative because they have extensive experience in bean cultivation. Each family received 15 pounds of seeds for the establishment of plots that are 1,320 m2.

In March 2020, Agriculture Program Officer,  Rodolfo Ricardo Hernández Navas, met with a group of 10 farmers who came to the cooperative to return the 30 pounds of INTA-Nutritivo and Rendidor bean seed, and Rodolfo spoke with them about their experiences. They talked about the quality of the seed, which is excellent, although some farmers have not finished harvesting their beans completely because of the heavy rains.

A farmer named Santana from the La Rampla community harvested 100 pounds of beans. The harvest was lower than expected due to the high incidence of Meterworm (Trichoplusia ni) pests and heavy rains in the first days post-planting. Santana said he did not use any fertilizers or chemicals. He also said that if he had not used the new biofortified bean seed, he would not have harvested anything. 

Of Santana’s 100-pound harvest, he repaid Self-Help with 30 pounds of beans. The rest of his harvest will be used as seed for the next cycle in October 2020.

Another farmer named Serafín  from the community of Los Pavones N ° 2 planted 15 pounds of beans with the same double-row planting technique used on the Quality Protein Maize (QPM) crops; however, the distance between the rows was greater than Self-Help’s agriculture team typically recommends. He applied commercial chemical fertilizers and employed good agronomic practices. However, during cultivation there were attacks by pests such as the Meterworm (Trichoplusia ni) and excessive rain as winter ended. 

Serafin and his family harvested 450 pounds of beans.

“My yield would have been higher, but that worm plague attacked my crops,” Serafin said. “During the next harvest, I will be better prepared to combat the worms.”

“I am going to save 100 pounds for seed for the next harvest and 100 pounds for my family's consumption,” Serafin said.  “The rest of the 250 pounds I am going to sell in my community.”

Silverio, another farmer from the Melchora community No. 2, obtained a yield of 200 pounds. However, he did not use commercial chemical fertilizers, only organic fertilizer in foliar form (Phosphite-Frix PK). He did not do any weed or pest control. 

“I didn’t manage the beans well, but those beans are good. The land didn’t help, because it was full of weeds and bush. The bush was too big when I finally decided to apply a herbicide,” Silverio said. “Despite all of that, I still yielded 200 pounds. This bean is good because it is bulky and bushy. If it had been the normal Creole bean, I wouldn’t have harvested anything at all."

Silverio is planning to save about 50 pounds to sow in November. His family has already experimented with using the beans in soup. The taste of beans in cooking is critical to rural farming families accepting a new bean variety into their diets. They liked the beans, and the family decided that the remaining 120 pounds will be consumed at home instead of selling it like they normally do with surplus crops. 

Coop leader, Isidro, is from the San Agustín community. He harvested 300 pounds from his initial 10 pounds of seed (he gave the other 5 pounds of seed to his neighbor, who ultimately didn’t plant it because it was too late in the season). Due to the heavy rains, Isidro’s batch of beans failed because of flooding and rotted seed. Isidro applied a 20-pound mixture of fertilizer 15-15-15 + Ammonium Sulfate + Potassium Muriate 0-0-60, as well as organic fertilizer Phosphite-Frix PK, in the form Foliar. This product is an inducer and fixer of bean flowers and has fungicidal properties and provides good results. Isidro would have obtained a harvest similar to Serafín’s if there hadn’t been heavy rains.

“The quality of the beans and the soup is very good even though red bean varieties are normally disliked for their taste and how thick they make the soups,” Isidro said. “This nutritious variety surprised me because it is very good, soft, and it cooks quickly. My whole family liked it.” 

Isidro will sow 150 pounds in November and will save 100 pounds to consume with his family.

Bean crop.
Bean crop.
Farming family's bean crop.
Farming family's bean crop.

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Apr 15, 2020

Combating Gender Stereotypes in an Agribusiness Club

Gender Empowerment Dialogue in action.
Gender Empowerment Dialogue in action.

Gender issues have become a major concern globally, and societies are waking up to the fact that empowering women can contribute to a country’s economic growth. Ghana is no exception; however, Ghana’s ethnic, cultural, and agro-ecological diversity make an overview of gender relations and their consequences for women’s access to resources, decision making, and status extremely difficult.  

Gender issues are more intense in the northern part of the country due to strongly patriarchal family structures, women’s lack of influence in decision making, and a history of male outmigration which has tended to increase women’s labour burden. All of these factors result in generally more limited options for women. Even though women are numerically significant in the population of Ghana, they experience gender-based discrimination including: domestic violence, powerlessness, poverty, and social and political exclusion from active participation in the national development of the country.

All these issues and more are very evident in the operational areas of Self-Help International. Land and farms are owned by men who are the sole decision-makers regarding the affairs of the family. Gender stereotypes and gendered divisions of labour are also prevalent in many households, with clear distinctions between jobs that are generally thought to be performed by males and females. This has been an obstacle to achieving equality between men and women. It tends to place unhealthy demands on both sexes, which inhibits their natural talents and interests from developing.

In general, all Self-Help communities exhibit one or more of the gender-related problems, but they have been especially present in the village of Kukuboso. Gender issues (especially stereotyping, division of labour, and discrimination) are so widespread that they’re communicated consciously and unconsciously to children by parents, community members, and early learning experiences.

Members across Self-Help’s agribusiness clubs (clubs formed in primary and Junior High Schools to enhance the capacity of the youth through livelihood and life skills development) engage in gender stereotyping and divisions of labour; however, the situation in Kukuboso was worse because the male students were preventing female students from joining the club by saying that the clubs’ activities were exclusively for boys/men. 

Out of the 51 members recruited to join Kukuboso’s agribusiness club, only one girl was able to fight her way through to join the club by resisting the efforts from her male counterparts to stop her from joining. This pattern continued, and it got worse when girls who joined the agribusiness club meetings became spectators because they could not actively contribute at meetings.

To curb the issue of gender stereotypes and divisions of labour in the clubs, Self-Help’s agriculture team trained all agribusiness club advisors on how to organize Gender Empowerment Dialogue using the club’s gender manual. A follow-up visit was made to Kukuboso by Self-Help’s Youth in Agriculture Project Officer to help the community’s club advisor organize a Gender Empowerment Dialogue training on gender stereotypes and divisions of labour.  The approach adopted included storytelling, discussion, and activities. Both sexes were engaged in activities perceived to be for a particular gender group, and the outcome of the Gender Empowerment Dialogue was enormous. The six new girls that joined the agribusiness club meetings were all welcomed by the boys, and the only girl who initially joined the club is currently serving as the club’s secretary.

Mr. Augustine, a teacher and a club advisor said, "We want to be able to host an empowerment dialogue for the whole community. Even if the present cannot be changed, we are hopeful the future is bright.’’

Both boys and girls can clean!
Both boys and girls can clean!
Both boys and girls can cook!
Both boys and girls can cook!
Apr 1, 2020

Zenaida's Children Brag That Their Mother is a Businesswoman with Self-Help International

Zenaida and her son, Robin.
Zenaida and her son, Robin.

30-year-old Zenaida lives with her four young children in Laurel Galán, Nicaragua. She is a baker, and she uses a big pan on top of an open flame to bake bread, pastries, enchiladas, and tacos. In addition, she makes natural juice drinks and fruit salads. Zenaida wakes up at 4 a.m. every day to prepare her foods, which she sells at the nearby school. 

Zenaida’s older children - her 9-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son - help a lot with her business. When Zenaida’s younger children, ages 7 and 8, come home from school each day, they also help their mother with her business. Zenaida’s youngest son, Robin Jr., sells her products on the buses. Robin is already thinking of a better future for himself, and he dreams of growing up to become a doctor to help those in need.

Three months ago (Jan. 2020), Zenaida was walking around Laurel Galán with her tray of bread for sale when she noticed a group of women gathered around - it was a Self-Help International Women’s Empowerment training session. With her bread still in her hands, she joined the group of women at their table and asked what they were doing and how she could be a part of their program. Zenaida became frustrated when she saw the women writing, and she explained that the only thing she could write was her own name. The other women insisted that Zenaida join their group, and they all agreed on a date for their next meeting.

On the day of the meeting, Zenaida arrived with her son Robin, who helped her take notes during the training. She learned about topics such as: self-esteem and leadership; the power of the mind; poverty and its causes; business management and entrepreneurship; accounting; and preparing a business plan. Zenaida hoped that with Robin’s support, she could access a loan from Self-Help to strengthen her business and install an improved oven for her bakery. 

“I like to participate in the training provided by Self-Help’s Women’s Empowerment Program because I learn something new and put it into practice,” Zenaida said. “Since joining the program, I can feel a change in my mentality. 

“I am taking better control of my business because I’m now able to keep track of my costs with the help of my son. Before the training, I only knew that I had profits when I noticed I had extra money left over from what I had invested.

“Now, I’ve learned to keep track of monthly savings for emergencies and investments. I feel very motivated and I thank everyone who takes the time to support the program in Nicaragua,” Zenaida said. “We are low-income women, and with the support of Self Help and the Women’s Empowerment Program, we can now get ahead.

“My greatest wish is to see my four children go to school and become professionals. I have faith in God I can achieve this goal because of Self-Help’s support,” Zenaida said. “Self-Help gives us not only loans, but also training, consultancies, follow-ups, recommendations, and meetings - both in the communities and at the training center. 

“My children and I are very grateful and happy with the support Self-Help is giving us. My children are very happy that I am participating in the program, and they tell the other children at school that their mother is a businesswoman with Self-Help.”



The whole family.
The whole family.
Baking!
Baking!
 
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