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...
Jun 15, 2016

The Best Water in All of El Castillo

Orlando, Gonzalo & Salvador show clean water test
Orlando, Gonzalo & Salvador show clean water test

***TODAY IS A BONUS MATCHING DAY - READ HOW YOU CAN INCREASE YOUR IMPACT BELOW***

Salvador Fletes and his companion Gonzalo sit at a worn wooden table after a long day of work, relaxing in the dusk glow and laughing back and forth. The two men became friends three years ago when both were elected to be CAPS (Comité de Agua Potable y Saneamiento  -- Water Sanitation Committee) leaders for the community of Laureano Mairena, home to approximately 1,550 residents.

Today, thanks to your support, the 190 families living in Laureano Mairena have daily access to clean, safe drinking water. “It wasn’t always like this,” Gonzalo explains. Until two years ago, the community's water was totally contaminated. "Our storage tank was left open to the elements, animals, and everything else.”

They had lived for decades with untreated water. Salvador describes the pueblo’s initial mentality, explaining, “People knew the stomach and skin sicknesses they received were because of the water, but having purified water still wasn’t a priority…People don’t want to pay a tariff for clean water if they don’t understand how crucial it is.”

This attitude changed drastically when Orlando, Self-Help’s Clean Water Program Officer, conducted a presentation for the community in February 2014, discussing the importance of chlorinated water and presenting the affordable and functional CTI-8 water chlorinator. He then collected a series of samples from Laureano Mairena’s storage tank, and had them analyzed in a nearby lab.

The results of the test, which revealed dangerous levels of fecal contamination in the water that the entire town was ingesting, prompted Salvador, Gonzalo, and other community leaders to call a town-wide meeting, attended by heads of every household. Convinced by the tests that the contaminated water was the cause of the constant widespread sickness, the town deliberated and voted to purchase the CTI-8 system. The system was installed within a month. Recently, we returned to interview the CAPS leaders about the long term impacts of clean water on the community as a whole.

Salvador and Gonzalo shared that they cannot understate the effects the chlorinator has had. It has caused the growth of economy and families, because everyone has access to potable water and avoids the regular stomach illness we used to suffer,” Gonzalo says.

The Nicaraguan Ministry of Health recently visited Laureano Mairena to conduct tests on their water supply. “They said it was the best water in all of El Castillo,” Salvador says with a sly grin. El Castillo is one of Nicaragua’s 15 departments, proportionally comparable to a state in the United States. This status is a noteworthy accomplishment for all of the residents of Laureano Mairena and the CAPS leaders in particular. 

People want to live here now, to move here, because they know we have clean water… it’s definitely good for all the businesses,” Salvador affirms.

When asked about the impact for his family, Gonzalo explains that the water in their house used be so dirty that they would go to the nearby river to wash their clothes. “My wife would either bring our clothes to the river, one kilometer away, or she would bring water from the river back to the house to wash with it… It can be dangerous going there though – there are river snakes that bite people.” Now, Gonzalo and all members of his community need not exert themselves in such a fashion, with access to clean, safe water right in their homes.

Concluding the interview, Gonzalo and Salvador explain that over the course of the last year, they have noticed people from the nearby areas coming to their village to request water. “They don’t have access to potable water, and are starting to realize the importance of it… We are happy to share with them! Water is life!

With your help, we are continuing efforts to bring clean water to more communities like Laureano Mairena. To date, we have brought clean water to 16 communities in El Castillo and 84 communities across Nicaragua.  Because of your support, 65,000 people now have clean, safe drinking water each day.  Together, we can bring clean water to 50,000 more people by 2020.  Help us get there!

***When you make a donation TODAY, June 15, your gift will be matched by 50% while funds last!  This opportunity begins at 8AM Central / 9AM Eastern. Click here for more details. To ensure your gift qualifies for the match, donate at or shortly after 8am Central / 9am Eastern to ensure your gift brings clean water to 50% more people!!***

"Best Water in El Castillo" - Ministry of Health
"Best Water in El Castillo" - Ministry of Health
Jun 1, 2016

10 Farmers to Plant QPM Seed Corn this Season

Isidro & sons stand amidst their treated seed corn
Isidro & sons stand amidst their treated seed corn

As we shared in the last update in March, our Nicaragua Quality Protein Maize (QPM) team has been working hard to re-introduce QPM and QPM seed corn production back into the country. After passing inspection by the Institute for the Protection of Animal and Plant Health (locally know as IPSA) and harvesting, we obtained sufficient Basic seed to plant fields at three sites in Nicaragua (SHI-Quinta Lidia, Alfredo’s farm at Melchorita, and Isidrio’s farm near Los Chiles) in order to produce Registered seed.  We also held back several hundred ears for use in maintain the supply of Basic seed.

As a result of this agricultural seed production, today Self-Help has 200 pounds (8 bags) of Basic seed and 900 pounds (36 bags) of Registered seed. Isidro and Alfredo also have 10,100 pounds of Certified seed available for planting or sale.  The seed is packaged into 25 pound bags and treated with fungicide; each bag is sufficient to plant 1 manazana of land (1.73 acres). 

The current plan is for 10 of our best farmers to plant 1 manazana each of Registered seed in this grow cycle (June – September) for the production of Certified seed; 6 manzanas in the Ochomogo area and 4 manzanas in the Los Chiles area. In Ochomogo, Javier, Mario, Teofilo, Joel, Domingo, and Vicente are prepared to plant multiply the seed under IPSA's supervision this season. In Los Chiles, Isidro, Ariel, Santana and Celestino have risen to the challenge.

We met with the ten farmers at the seed banks last month, and they are appropriately reluctant to plant more in this cycle because the crop will be harvested during the rainy season and is very difficult to dry to appropriate storage conditions so that the seed quality remains high.   More farmers will plant for the production of Certified seed during the next cycle (October-January) which is the best time to grow corn.  Naturally, storage of seed in the tropics from harvest to subsequent planting is always a problem and we are exploring methods to ensure that the Basic and Registered seed is grown and stored in sequences that ensure that the best Certified seed is available for commercial planting during the primary maize growing season (October – January). While in Los Chiles, we helped Isidro and his sons treat the seed corn so it could be bagged and marketed the following day. 

In early 2016, we tested the amino acid profile from the first increase of the seed we obtained from CIMMYT.  The results clearly indicated an elevated level of lysine and tryptophan consistent with QPM genetic profile.  It will be important to periodically repeat these test (e.g. every three growing cycles) to ensure that Basic seed genetic materials have not been exposed to contamination during subsequent increases.  As long as the Basic seed is increased in a disciplined fashion, the nature of the nutritionally improved food crop can be maintained.  This discipline was reinforced during this visit and as a result one field exposed to possible contamination was downgraded from Registered to Certified to ensure that there was no possibility that it would be further increased.

There is still significant need for soil testing and management of nutrients.  At the Self-Help training center, we utilize intense farming practices using all three growing cycles during the year including irrigation during the drier periods.  This rotation process and the nature of crops can place significant pressure on micronutrients.  And, the volcanic soils with high permeability can result in significant leaching of essential micronutrients from the root zone. As a result, we are seeking out a collaboration with a soils expert/volunteer in such a way that we can plan and develop an appropriate soil testing, remediation and crop rotation plan to ensure that the productivity of our resources can be optimized. In addition, some of the knowledge may transfer over to other commercial farmers.  

Thank you for your support which has provided the means to re-train Isidro, Ariel, Santana, Celestino, Javier, Mario, Teofilo, Joel, Domingo, and Vicente in seed production after so many seasons without Registered seed available. Now, they are prepared to re-establish the QPM supply in the country for the long term to improve nutrition for those who cannot afford animal-source protein on a daily basis.  

Please support our micro-project, Help 5 Farmers in Nicaragua Produce 20,000 Meals, to ensure that we can finance the inputs for all ten of the farmers who will plant the QPM seed corn this season. 

Pouring seed corn into barrel to be treated
Pouring seed corn into barrel to be treated
Isidro
Isidro's son spreads out the treated seed to dry
Multiplying the seed corn at the training center
Multiplying the seed corn at the training center

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Jun 1, 2016

Osei's Story: Saving the Environment while Earning a Living

Osei: the adaptive entrepreneur
Osei: the adaptive entrepreneur

For fifteen years, Osei worked as a timber merchant. He would go to the forest to cut down trees, send them to his factory, and cut them into smaller sizes both for local use and also for export. But due to deforestation, there are fewer trees to cut and the timber business is no longer lucrative. Besides, for the past five years, Ghana has suffered a major power crisis which has led to the collapse of many industries that rely on a regular source of electricity including Osei’s timber factory.

Osei and his wife have four children; two boys and two girls, ages 30, 27, 22 and 10 years old. Though he is now 53 years old, he has no plans to retire since his children are still schooling. With the collapse of his factory, finding an alternative source of livelihood is a must.

On February 26, 2015, Osei enrolled at the Fran Mueller and Virginia Lageschulte Training Centre (FMVLTC) and learned how to produce mushrooms using sawdust.  He was greatly relieved to discover that the stockpile of sawdust at the factory site could be used to produce mushroom to generate revenue. In the past, he would set the sawdust on fire to dispose of it, which caused considerable environmental pollution and lung infections. Neighbours complained each time he burnt sawdust. Now this practice is no more.

Now, a year later, Osei has three employees including his wife and two local men, and together they produce 1,500 bags every month. It costs three cedis ($0.75) to produce one bag of mushrooms, which is then sold for 8 - 10 cedis ($2 - $2.50). Demand for his produce is high: he is currently working to fulfil an order to supply 10,000 bags of spawned compost.

Osei also learned how to rear snails at the FMVLTC and this second business is also picking up gradually. The spread of knowledge goes beyond Osei: his friends who were also in the timber business are now leaning from him how to produce mushroom and rear snails as well.

As present production rates, Osei will utilize approximately 17 tons of sawdust annually which otherwise would have been burnt to pollute the atmosphere. With his friends following his lead and turning their sawdust into mushroom production as well, indiscriminate burning of sawdust and the associated atmospheric pollution will be reduced, and lung-related diseases among children living in timber mill communities will be reduced as well.

Saving the environment while earning a living constitutes sustainable development, but  still we know our work is not done: with our forest almost depleted, an alternative growth medium must be found. After the initial successes Solomon experienced in producing mushrooms in rice straw, the FVTC is currently supporting a student from Kwadaso College of Agriculture to study the performance of rice straw as a growth medium for mushroom production.  The results of the study will be shared widely to ensure all practicing mushroom producers can put this new knowledge into action. 

**JUNE 15TH IS GLOBALGIVING BONUS DAY!  All donations to this project from $10 - $1,000 are eligible for a 50% match on June 15th only, starting at 9AM Eastern / 8AM Central, while funds last!!  Set a calendar reminder now to multiply the impact of your gift & empower the next farmer like Osei!**

Osei employs two men to help produce mushrooms
Osei employs two men to help produce mushrooms
Preparing the mushroom bags for sterilization
Preparing the mushroom bags for sterilization
Osei with his snail beds
Osei with his snail beds
Osei
Osei's 10 year old daughter, home from school

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