Mar 3, 2021

Swinga Women's Group - Preserving in Uganda

The Swinga Women's Group
The Swinga Women's Group

Hi Folks,

This report comes from Preserve International, our partner in Uganda who is working with Swinga Women’s Group and the Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement. Preserve International strives to develop garden-based nutrition, increase income, and provide access to technical vegetable production knowledge within the communities they serve. These aims help to establish food security, an increasingly important goal for 2021, as food prices are predicted to go up while availability goes down due the prolonged strain of the pandemic on food systems.

Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement houses over 280,000 refugees, primarily from South Sudan. Many of these refugees receive the majority of their food from the World Food Program and UNHCR affiliated organizations. Since support began, rations have been reduced 30% and are projected to decrease further to 50%. This would put many families and communities in crisis.

The Swinga Women’s Group consists of refugees, primarily from Bari speaking tribes, in the southern region of Central Equatoria State in South Sudan. Most of these women fled South Sudan during the reignition of conflict and fall of Kajo Keji in 2016. Bari peoples are traditionally agrarian and the Swinga Women’s Group was particularly eager to begin work on increased vegetable production and food preservation processes. The group quickly became the primary caretakers of the demonstration farm in Yumbe. The farm, in addition to growing food, serves as a safe haven for women who come to work and train--providing beds and facilities in a secure location.

To preserve the harvest, Preserve International purchased two large Sparky Dryers (food dehydrators which run on solar power and organic waste to dry fruits and vegetables quickly) for the farm. These keep the vegetables edible for months instead of days.

“Our relationship with the Swinga Women’s group has deepened greatly [in the months after starting the demonstration farm] and we now feel that they are very much a part of the Preserve International family and will be for years to come. The women have found hope in our partnership and walk with dignity in their community. The economic opportunities have also helped some women avoid making difficult decisions, such as early marriage and dropping out of school. They have also helped us to expand our network to other women’s groups through word of mouth as we continue to build a network of local women in agriculture who support one another.”

- Betty, Operations Manager with Preserve International

Although Preserve International’s original program plan shifted with the events of 2020, the adapted programs address the current needs of the community and aid the women of Swinga in creating lasting change during uncertain times. The new programs help participants achieve food security during the pandemic by equipping them with the tools and training needed to launch farms in a post-Covid world--In Uganda, this may not be until the end of 2022.

From Seed Programs International and Persevere International, thank you. Our work together in 2021, is more important than ever!

— The SPI Team

Cutting okra for drying
Cutting okra for drying
Drying vegetables
Drying vegetables
Women with demonstration garden sign
Women with demonstration garden sign
Feb 22, 2021

Growing Year-round in Guatemala

Catarina in the garden
Catarina in the garden

Hi folks,

This month’s update comes from our longtime partnership with Habitat for Humanity in Guatemala, who you may remember from our {previous report}. Their newest project, Calanté Produces, aims to promote the livelihoods and nutrition of women and their families in poverty conditions through the growing and selling of vegetables. They aim to accomplish this with the construction of a 580 sq. ft. greenhouse, distribution of seeds, and training in biopreparations and agroecology for soil conservation and increased vegetable production. 

Although the project suffered some initial setbacks from COVID-19 and tropical storms Eta and Iota, Habitat has begun construction of the greenhouse. In the meantime, the 15 families participating in the Calanté Produces project are looking at ways to incorporate the vegetables into their diets and market the harvest to sell locally.

During this initial phase, Habitat Guatemala interviewed the mothers involved to learn their perception of the project. The mothers responded positively and were excited about the addition of the greenhouse. 

Catarina:Looking Forward to Tomatoes

Catarina lives with her husband Miguel, and their three children, María, Juan, and Andrés in the community of Calanté, Uspantán. Miguel works in agriculture, and while Catarina is the main caregiver, she is also very involved in the community garden and the greenhouse. Catarina became involved with Habitat Guatemala five years ago during their Family Garden Project.   During the interview, she proudly walks through the community garden, which is filled with a variety of different vegetables. 

“Since we started our family garden, and also by being part of the community garden, we have learned new ways to harvest different vegetables. Most of what we harvest is what we eat at home. I feel happy to be a part of this project, and to have the knowledge to prepare different vegetables for my kids, too.” 

To our donors, Catarina would like to express, 

“We are very grateful for the donation to build the greenhouse! We are looking forward to the greenhouse, as we would like to harvest tomatoes. Before, because of the weather, we could not harvest them in our gardens. Now, the idea is to not buy them anymore. Thank you for thinking about us, for your support.”

Maria: Awaiting Sweet Peppers

María lives with her husband Diego, and their three children, Rosy, Juan Miguel, and Juana in the community of Calanté, Uspantán. Diego works in the city hall, while María takes care of the children. She is also very involved in the community garden and the greenhouse. 

“Before being a part of this project, our children did not receive enough food to keep them nourished. Since we started our family garden, we now have more variety and their health has improved.

With the greenhouse we are going to improve even more, because we are going to be able to grow tomatoes and sweet pepper. Our community is very cold. I have tried to harvest tomatoes and peppers before, but the cold weather did not allow for them to grow. With the green house, we will be able to produce these for ourselves, saving money that we would normally spend at the market.” 

She continues, 

“We are going to improve our health by harvesting more vegetables. And without any chemicals, everything is organic. We are happy to be a part of this project. Thank you for your  support, for supporting our community that needs it very much!” 

In summary, the Calanté Produces project has been an opportunity for the community to learn the importance of creating livelihoods and promoting nutrition. The families participating in this project can reinvest the profits in garden production while adding to their personal savings. This model allows families to reinvest in themselves and their community, improving their living conditions in a progressive way.

From the participants of Calanté Produces, Habitat for Humanity Guatemala, and Seed Programs International, thank you for your support. 

-the SPI Team

Maria at the greenhouse site
Maria at the greenhouse site
Carrying supplies
Carrying supplies
Greenhouse construction
Greenhouse construction
Radishes from the community garden
Radishes from the community garden
Dec 29, 2020

Swinga Women's Group: Responsive Innovation

Betty distributing new farm tools to the Group
Betty distributing new farm tools to the Group

Hi Folks, 

This report comes from Preserve International, our partner in Uganda who is working with Swinga Women’s Group and the Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement. Preserve International aims to develop garden-based nutrition, increase income, and provide access to technical vegetable production knowledge within the communities they serve. These aims help to establish food security, an increasingly important goal as we continue into the ninth month of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Thus far, Preserve International has been pivotal in addressing some of the community’s immediate needs resulting from the pandemic, namely food shortages.

Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement houses over 280,000 refugees, primarily from South Sudan. Many of these refugees are receiving the majority of their food from the World Food Program and UNHCR affiliated organizations. Last month a 30% reduction in rations was announced with rumors of a further reduction to 50% in the next several weeks. This has put many families and communities in crisis. 

Preserve International supplies the quarantine center with food for people in mandated quarantine in addition to several locally run and managed orphanages, and individuals in the community living with mental and physical disabilities. Many are homeless, and the community donates extra food when they can. However, folks find it difficult to spare food in an already strained environment, which amplifies the risk for those who have additional challenges to accessing food and nutrition.

It is absolutely vital that farmers are able to plant now so that they have a strong harvest in a few months. Further, efficient preservation and distribution can help ensure that nothing goes to waste in the event that the food shortages continue. Unfortunately, because of the total lockdown, many farmers have been unable to access the necessary tools and seeds they need due to the closure of agro-shops.  

Preserve International has engaged with Swinga Women’s Group, refugees primarily from Bari speaking tribes in the southern region of Central Equatoria State in South Sudan. Most of these women fled South Sudan during the reignition of conflict and fall of Kajo Keji in 2016. Bari peoples are traditionally agrarian and the Swinga Women’s Group is particularly eager to begin work on increased vegetable production and food preservation processes. The group quickly became the primary caretakers of the demonstration farm. Seeds and farm tools were distributed. With supporting funds, two large Sparky Dryers — food dehydrators which run on solar power and organic waste to dry fruits and vegetables quickly — were purchased for the farm so the harvest can be preserved for months instead of days. 

 

“...the women were feeling hopeless and helpless to improve the situation for themselves and their families. Since we have begun working with them they now go with dignity because they have value in their homes and communities. Hiring the women to work the demonstration farm has had a double impact. Not only is it providing hands-on training, but it is also a means of income for women in an extraordinarily difficult time. 

This is especially impactful for some of the younger, school-aged women who have not been able to attend classes since spring. We are seeing a huge trend of very young women and girls marrying early or getting pregnant because they do not feel they have any other options. The young women that are working on the demonstration farm are learning about agriculture, food preservation, and food-based businesses as well as earning an income. They feel more hopeful about their futures and their ability to survive and thrive without marriage or pregnancy so young. 

For us, this is a huge win! Perhaps not the goal we originally set out for, but a wonderful result from the programs that we hadn’t thought about.

- Betty, Operations Manager with Preserve International

 

This year has been challenging, but in many ways it has still been a great success for Preserve International and SPI. The initial goals of helping that community to become completely self-sufficient through sustainable agriculture and food preservation in 2020 have been pushed back due to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, our partnership has had a positive impact in the community — not only through the provision of high-quality seeds, farm tools, and food preservation training, but also through additional economic and educational opportunities provided by the demonstration farm.

From Seed Programs International and Persevere International, thank you. As you can see, our work together is more important than ever going into 2021.

— The SPI Team

The Swinga Women's Group with their new farm tools
The Swinga Women's Group with their new farm tools
Betty performing a demonstration with Sparky Dryer
Betty performing a demonstration with Sparky Dryer
Preparing the produce to be preserved
Preparing the produce to be preserved
Loading the Sparky Dryer
Loading the Sparky Dryer
Dried and packaged produce
Dried and packaged produce
 
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