Dec 28, 2020

Innovation Across Two Programs Solves Big Problems

Cultivating orange-fleshed sweet potato.
Cultivating orange-fleshed sweet potato.

Since 2018, the Self-Help International Women’s Empowerment Program has supported rice farmers in Adankwame, Ghana to improve their production practices so they can increase their crop yields. Through the program, the farmers are able to access micro-credit loans on time, buy inputs at relatively cheaper cost, and plant in time to catch the early rains.

With increased yields and profits, the women are able to afford nutritious food for their families, pay school fees and hospital bills, and provide for other household needs. They live happily with their families.

The increased rice production resulted in high volumes of rice husks that the farmers didn’t immediately need, so the rice millers resorted to burning the husks. This resulted in environmental pollution. Thick smoke could be seen kilometers away. Self-Help worked with producers to find another use for the rice husks, which cleared the pollution caused from burning them. The solution to this problem also helped solve another problem Self-Help was facing: improving orange-fleshed sweet potato cultivation.

In 2018, Self-Help also started a program to support pregnant and lactating mothers, the Growing Healthy Food, Growing Healthy Children (GHFGHC) program. The program provides postnatal counseling and guidance on how to grow and consume nutrient rich crops like orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) and quality protein maize (QPM), a high protein maize variety. 

OFSP was a relatively new crop for the women in the program to cultivate and consume. With education and training, the mothers in the program adapted and many adopted the crop. In the major rainy season of 2019, 40 out of 80 women planted OFSP, but unfortunately many of the women lost about 60% of their crops to millipede infestations. This lowered their interest in OFSP cultivation. Controlling millipedes in the soil using chemicals was costly, and the women could not afford the necessary products. 

The Self-Help agriculture and nutrition teams worked together and came up with a compost made of rice husk and poultry droppings that supports OFSP cultivation very well. The yield obtained in 2020 using the compost was good, restoring the confidence of the women to go back into OFSP cultivation and consumption. The compost is a boost for container gardening as well. Empty cans, which for years have served as breeding grounds for mosquitoes, are becoming fertile grounds for the production of nutrient rich crops. With increased cultivation and consumption of OFSP and improved access to nutritious foods, Self-Help can continue to work with mothers to ensure that their children will be stronger and healthier.

Orange-fleshed sweet potato.
Orange-fleshed sweet potato.
Dec 17, 2020

Innocent Sets Up a Home Garden to Help His Family Improve Their Nutrition

Innocent tending his garden.
Innocent tending his garden.

According to nutritionists, including vegetables and fruits in a diet can reduce the risk of some diseases. The COVID-19 pandemic poses a great threat to human health and all aspects of society, including food security. In addition to the individual measures that have been laid out to prevent the spread, people are also recommended to stay strong and healthy to be able to fight against the disease. The Ghanaian diet is largely made up of starchy roots and cereals like cassava, maize, and yam, which are all good sources of energy but lack essential vitamins that can help fight against diseases. The divide between food access in rural and urban communities is stark, and the most malnourished and vulnerable are usually women and children.

Self-Help International is working with rural communities to increase the cultivation and consumption of healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables. The Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Development (AED) team offers rural communities vegetable and fruit garden training involving hands-on demonstrations and also supplies them with planting materials to start their gardens.

Innocent, an 11-year old boy who lives with his parents in Nkontomire, Ghana, is determined to promote the growing and consumption of vegetables and fruits in his community. Self-Help gave Innocent and his family hands-on training on vegetable and fruit gardening. Self-Help’s AED team also supplied Innocent with vegetable seeds and seedlings to start his garden to feed his family. 

The family had land space around the house which mostly had plantain crops. Innocent, in his quest to start his garden, resorted to clearing a portion of the land occupied by plantain to create space for his garden. Self-Help’s AED team coached Innocent as he started his garden, and he currently has nine varieties of vegetables and fruits. When Self-Help’s staff asked Innocent what he was going to do with the vegetables in his garden, he said that he will make sure he eats some with his family and sells the remaining produce to buy clothes.  

Innocent has started telling his friends about gardening at home and he assists those interested in preparing their backyard for a garden. He also links people to Self-Help’s home gardening project to start their gardens. 

Innocent’s mother is very happy and supportive of the gardening project in her house. She said her son now wakes up with a sense of responsibility knowing that he has a garden to attend to, and she believes they will soon be eating from the garden. She believes her son will be very helpful to the community with the kind of good agricultural practices he is developing and will be able to share his knowledge with other families and farmers in Nkontomire.

Innocent and his family in their garden.
Innocent and his family in their garden.
Innocent in his garden.
Innocent in his garden.
Dec 14, 2020

The Women's Empowerment Program Benefits Rural Women Personally and in Business

Beatriz.
Beatriz.

34-year-old Beatriz lives in the small Nicaraguan community of Laurel Galán. She lives with her husband and their four children - two boys and two girls, who attend elementary and high school. 

Beatriz’s business used to involve selling homemade bread door-to-door with her children early each morning. She didn’t make much money in her business, and she used to complain desperately to her neighbor about wanting to make more money so that she could better support her household and her children’s education. The neighbor invited Beatriz to a training session with Self-Help International’s Women’s Empowerment Program. 

The first Self-Help training Beatriz attended was about self-esteem and leadership. These were completely new concepts to her. It was especially poignant to Beatriz to learn how she could build on her self-esteem because of her own personal life experiences. Self-Help staff told Beatriz that all people are valuable, which was a radical concept to Beatriz when she first joined the Women’s Empowerment Program.

Now, Beatriz and her husband live a life filled with respect for one another. They regularly attend church as a couple, and Beatriz credits Self-Help with helping her grow more confident. Today, Beatriz works as a counselor in her church, counseling couples on how to succeed and sharing her own life experience as an example. 

After her first training with Self-Help, Beatriz continued attending more training sessions by Program Officer Yolanda Fletes. She attended the Business Creativity Training, the Business Management and Entrepreneurship Training, and a training about writing business plans. 

Beatriz really wanted to learn from the training sessions so she could implement the lessons in her business. Even though she had to sell her bread in the morning, Beatriz made sure to be up extra early so that she could show up on time for training sessions. Also, because Beatriz had never had the opportunity to learn to read or write, she brought her daughter to each training so that her daughter could help Beatriz take notes.

Beatriz continues to like participating in the training sessions because she enjoys the diverse topics and always learning new things. She feels the training sessions have helped her change her life.

Beatriz also received a loan of $5,000 cordobas (approx. $143 USD) from Self-Help to invest in her business. As of Oct. 2020, her business sells vegetables, natural juices, and her homemade bread. Beatriz is happy that Self-Help’s training sessions have helped her take better financial control of her businesses. Before, she didn’t know if she was profiting or losing money in her day-to-day sales; now, with the support of her 14-year-old daughter, her business has better documentation of its costs and its income.

Beatriz thanks the good-hearted people that have made this program possible. She is especially thankful that she has empowered herself personally and in her business.

Beatriz and her family.
Beatriz and her family.
 
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