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

Now I am a more powerful woman!

Migdalia bakes breads to diversify her business
Migdalia bakes breads to diversify her business

Doña Migdalia is a 51-year-old married mother of three from the community of Aldea del Mañana. Like many women in rural Nicaragua, she wanted to help support her family financially. So Migdalia decided to use her back garden area to plant fruit trees including mandarin, lime, orange, and guava, so she could sell the harvest in the local markets.  She also grows garden vegetables such as tomatoes, hot peppers, and sweet peppers.

To sell her produce, Doña Migdalia traveled to the Masaya market, which is about 50 miles from her community. However, since the produce she grows is relatively common in the region, she wasn’t able to sell them for very high prices.  When she went to the market, she incurred fees for transportation each way, as well as purchasing a midday meal while she was selling her produce. 

 “I usually took a big basket of around 450 mandarins with me to the market, and I got paid 200 córdobas ($7.40) per basket.  From that money, I had still to pay my meal and the transportation fees for myself and each basket I took with me,” Migdalia shared.

Doña Migdalia says that before the training workshops, she had never thought about all the expenses that went into operating her business selling market vegetables, and she really didn’t know whether her business was operating at a profit or a loss. She had never factored her expenses into the income she earned from her sales to find out.   

But after I became a member of the micro-credit program and got trained in business management, making a business plan, and basic bookkeeping among other skills developed, I realized that I was wrong and that I should change my strategy on selling my products.

Now, I add value to some of my products like the hot sauce I make from the hot peppers in my garden.  I plant the seed, harvest the pepper and then prepare it and bottle it to sell it for a better price. And now I sell the fruits and vegetables by unit in my own community instead of in bulk at the market. For example, now I sell each mandarin at 2 córdobas each ($ 0.07 each) and multiplying that by 450 per basket, I get 900 córdobas ($33.33) per basket instead of 200 córdobas ($7.40) per basket.

“It is better than what I was earning before I realized this issue, plus now I don’t have to pay any extra expenses for my meal and transportation to Masaya.  Even better, I can be home taking care of my house, children, husband and any other things like bottling and preparing the hot sauce [instead of traveling all day to Masaya].  Last batch I made 80 bottles of hot sauce, and sold them for 25 córdobas ($ 0.92) each bottle, so in total I earned 2,000 córdobas ($74.00) which is great income to keep.”

Doña Migdalia also shared that some days during the week, she bakes bread which is sold in her own community along with the rest of the other products she sells, so now she earns more profits and spends less money by selling locally. Plus, during the weekends, she has the time to help another lady to sell her products in the nearby Rivas market. 

The lady pays me 200 córdobas ($7.40) every time I go with her, plus she covers the transportations fees and meal, which is great for me because I am earning extra money to keep supporting my family needs, and am also using that income to re-invest in my business by purchasing and planting more fruits trees to have more varieties of fruits.

Doña Migdalia is really thankful with Self-Help International because the training helped her to learn new skills and manage in a better way her business. “Thank you for give me the change of being part of you and become a more powerful woman,” she said. “I am really happy to be part of your team and I hope to keep growing with your program.”

Thank you for your generous support, which is empowering women like Migdalia.  When you donate to this project, you fund free business management and bookkeeping training workshops that help make it a little easier for hardworking mothers like Migdalia to provide for their families. 



Yolanda (L) issues a micro-loan to Migdalia (R)
Yolanda (L) issues a micro-loan to Migdalia (R)


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

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