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...
Dec 18, 2015

The Resources to Make Ayishetu's Dream Come True

Veronica w/ rice straw to use to grow mushrooms
Veronica w/ rice straw to use to grow mushrooms

Ayishetu is a migrant from the north and mother of seven. She has never had any formal education since it is not culturally practiced to send females to school in the north. Like many, Ayishetu and her husband migrated south for better economic opportunities.

For a time, Ayishetu engaged in petty trading, selling fabric, foodstuff, and sometimes traveling to the north to sell. Alas, she had no access to capital to improve or expand her inventory. She poured all of her profits into caring for her children and paying their school fees; so eventually she ran out of inventory and went out of business. Presently, Ayishetu and her husband cultivate rice and maize in Atwima Boko.

After one of Self-Help’s trainees, Solomon, discovered that mushroom composting can be done very effectively using rice straw as a substrate, Self-Help’s Training Center Manager, Justice, began visiting rice farms nearby and reaching out to rice farmers he met to share this new opportunity available to them: they can now use rice straw waste to grow mushrooms. With relatively little startup capital, they can generate additional income to support their families. Even if they have no other formal qualifications, they can attend training sessions free at the Fran Mueller and Virginia Lageschulte Young Adult Training Center (YATC) to learn mushroom production and other enterprises, and after successful completion and demonstrated interest, they are eligible for a micro-loan for startup capital.

Ayishetu visited the YATC for the first time on Monday, September 21, 2015. When asked why she was seeking the training and what she hoped to gain from learning a new enterprise, Ayishetu shared that her dream is to keep her youngest two daughters in school as long as possible to ensure they get the education she never had. “You can hardly accomplish any dream if you do not have the necessary resources,” she said. So she is there to learn, and the center is there to provide access to those resources.

Out of Ayishetu and her husband Mustapha’s seven children, their eldest daughter never attended school, as educating girls is still not common practice in the north. Like many girls in rural villages, her eldest daughter was pregnant by the age of 17. After migrating south, their second daughter made it all the way to her first year of Senior High School. Then she fell in love and dropped out. She is now a farmer as well. Their third daughter made it to her second year of Senior High School, before becoming pregnant. Pregnant girls are not allowed to attend school, so she left for a year. She is now trying to return to complete her last two years of high school, if she can find a new school that will admit her.

Ayishetu and Mustapha could not afford to send their fourth daughter to high school, so she attended trade school and is now a seamstress. Their fifth child, and only son, had little interest in school and dropped out after 5th grade to become a driving apprentice like many of his friends. Their final two daughters are now in 5th and 4th grade respectively. Ayishetu hopes that the pair will see all the way through high school graduation if family finances permit.

Ayishetu and Mustapha recently had to relocate, but despite the move and long journey to visit the training center, she is persisting in learning about mushroom production.  So far, she has completed two training sessions in mushroom production, and looks forward to the day mushroom production may become an additional source of income for her family so they can see their youngest children through high school graduation.

Thank you for your support, which is ensuring that women like Ayishetu are able to complete training courses and access a loan to start mushroom production upon successful completion of all training sessions. This combination of knowledge and funds to put that knowledge into practice will improve quality of life for Ayishetu's entire family, and enable herto cover even high school fees to ensure her daughters get the education she was never afforded. We look forward to sharing further updates once Ayishetu's new venture is up and running. 

Please consider giving the gift of knowledge this holiday season, to ensure illiterate women like Ayishetu can access the resources they need to accomplish their dreams and help their children achieve the same. 

Veronica with rice harvested from her family farm
Veronica with rice harvested from her family farm


Dec 16, 2015

Clean water & new restrooms at training center

New addition and water tank installation
New addition and water tank installation

The Fred Strohebhn Training Center in Nicaragua now has a new water tank installed to provide clean, safe drinking water to hundreds of trainees! Thanks to the generosity of donors to this project, there were sufficient funds to not only install a new water tank, but also new restrooms at the training center.

Self-Help’s Nicaragua training center opened its doors in late 2013 to provide practical hands-on training to empower the rural poor – especially women – to better provide for their families. It serves as the main office for Self-Help’s staff trainers and is the main location where water chlorinators are built and promoted. Yet in July, we discovered that the water tower on the premises was rotting and had become a breeding grounds for moquitos and bacteria. Staff and trainees experienced illnesses caused by the untreated water available.  Thanks to your generous support, we received sufficient funds to fix this problem by Thanksgiving.

The first water tank was made with wood and sat atop a high tower, which made cleaning and regular maintenance difficult and unsafe. With the funds donated by GlobalGiving supporters, we were able to construct a new water tower from concrete as planned.  Having learned from the problems of the previous tank, the new water tower is made of concrete instead of wood, and two small filters were installed to clean the debris – including mosquito larvae – from the drinking water.

As always, to maximize the benefit of this new construction project, the bottom of the water tower was used to construct new restroom facilities to promote good sanitation and hygiene.  We installed two toilets and one sink for handwashing, and will complete construction of the door and window for privacy in the coming months.  The bathrooms inside the building are now used just for the ladies, and the more basic newly constructed facilities are for use by the men. In the photos below, you can see the newly constructed shed/restrooms below the water tank.

With limited funds available and so much need around us, nothing at our training center goes to waste.  The initial water storage tank that used to be at the top of the rotting tower will now be re-purposed to help train farmers and women in the micro-credit program about gardening how to use drip irrigation to grow produce even in the dry season.

The final step in this project will be for Orlando, our clean water project officer, to install the CTI-8 water chlorinator in the new water tank.  Orlando has been very traveling to Nueva Guinea and Muelles de Los Buelles to install CTI-8 systems for rural communities, but we expect that work to slow down as the holidays approach so we will be able to install the CTI-8 system then.

Thank you for your support, which is providing clean water for our staff and trainees so we can put into practice what we preach about good hygiene and sanitary practices, and provide safe water for all trainees who come to learn at our training center. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!

New sanitation facility
New sanitation facility
New men
New men's restroom at training center
New water tank installed with restrooms below
New water tank installed with restrooms below


Dec 1, 2015

Teach me to farm & I'll eat for a lifetime

Training with Dr. Kofi Boa at the No Till Center
Training with Dr. Kofi Boa at the No Till Center

Self-Help International's approach to alleviating hunger in Ghana is to "teach people how to fish" - or in this case how to farm - to better feed their families long after Self-Help is gone. Last year, six farmers (4 women and 2 men) from Bedaabour were trained and given credit for inputs to cultivate two acres of quality protein maize (QPM) each. Based on the successes recorded in improved yields and increased self-sufficiency, twenty more farmers (seven women and thirteen men) were selected in 2015.

All twenty farmers from Beposo, Bedaabour and Fankamawe participated in the improved agronomic training sessions at the No Till Center at Amanchia in March where Dr. Kofi Boa, renowned researcher and agronomist, trained them. The farmers learned, among other things, that to obtain maximum maize yields, every acre requires 10 kilograms (kg) of certified seed, 100 kg of fertilizer (NPK), 50 kg of Sulphate of Ammonia, 1 liter of Nicoplus (herbicide), and 2 liters of Sunphosate (herbicide). In addition to learning that, for rain-fed agriculture, time is of essence.

After the training, the farmers demonstrated a good understanding of the subjects taught during the training sessions, and some even shared their new knowledge and trained their colleague farmers who did not attend the training. But even with this new knowledge, not all of them had the funds necessary to buy the right quantities of inputs to put their knowledge into action and plant on time for the rains.

After seeing the commitment these farmers had to improving their livelihoods by implementing improved farming practices, Self-Help drew up loan agreement documents and provided credit for the inputs needed to ensure farmers could plant on time and repay the loan in kind after harvest. This enabled the farmers to plant on time as well as apply the right quantities of fertilizers and herbicides to maximize yields.

The farmers planted in April and harvested in the first week of August. SHI, together with the farmers, monitored farmlands to ensure strict adherence to the farmers’ trainings. The yield was tremendous compared to past years: double the yields! Typically, farmers from these villages yield between four and six bags of maize per acre, but this season they recorded at least ten bags of quality protein maize (QPM) per acre.

The farmers emphasized that learning and implementing improved agronomic methods to cultivate maize were the key factors in doubling their yields. The farmers tell SHI that they will always choose Obatanpa (an open pollinated variety of QPM) seeds anytime they cultivate maize in the future because is the best out of all of the local varieties in terms of yield and nutrition. Best of all, they also promise to grow more maize to support the school feeding programs in their respective communities.

At harvest time, the market price for a 110 kg bag of maize was GHC120. If sold, it would have resulted in a net loss for the farmer, so SHI collects loans from farmers in kind rather than requiring farmers to market their maize and pay in cash to ensure they do not sell at a loss. Part of this maize will be used to prepare breakfast for pre-school children within the SHI school feeding program, and the rest sold to purchase inputs for farmers next season.

To avoid selling their maize at a loss, farmers must store their remaining maize until the market price increases. Yet storage is a huge challenge facing farmers in Ghana due to inadequate space and storage structures. Self-Help supports farmers with additional loans so they can purchase silos and other storage facilities to ensure they are able to sell their miaze at a profit, and teaches farmers how to treat and store maize properly: removing it from the cob, winnowing and sun drying before storing it stored in silos to prevent spoilage.

Supporting farmers to own silos and other storage facilities helps better their lots and sustain their resolve to contribute to alleviating hunger.  We need your help to continue to educate and serve twenty more farmers in Ghana next year, who are eager to learn improved practices.

Please consider making a recurring monthly donation to Self-Help International to help with day to day costs of the training center. A donation of $20/month will provide training and inputs to three farmers each season so they can better feed their families and their communities for many seasons to come.

SHI providing loans in the form of farm inputs
SHI providing loans in the form of farm inputs
SHI&its farmers monitoring selected farmer
SHI&its farmers monitoring selected farmer's crops
Shelling maize with the new maize sheller
Shelling maize with the new maize sheller
This year
This year's harvest of maize sun drying
Maize stored in silos,awaiting higher market price
Maize stored in silos,awaiting higher market price

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