Jun 22, 2021

Continuing Growth with the Swinga Women's Group

Carrot harvest
Carrot harvest

Hi there folks, 

This project update comes from our partners at Preserve International and the Swinga Women’s Group. They are working to grow vegetables from SPI seeds for their community in Yumbe, Uganda. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they are facing several challenges in accomplishing their goal of growing and dehydrating vegetables and fruits for their community.

Currently, Preserve International and the Swinga Women’s Group are still navigating the realities of living and working in a pandemic, such as limited access to supplies and restrictions on movement. Thankfully, they received training using the Sparky Dryer, and payment for their work so far. Because of COVID-19, they are moving towards more income-producing activities, to help improve local economic conditions.

While Preserve International and the Swinga Women’s Group faced challenges with their initial goals and objectives, they are still making great progress. They aren’t just growing vegetables and combating food insecurity and malnutrition, but creating an economic boost for Yumbe. Growing these vegetables gives the group more independence as they contribute greatly to their community. Even early on, the economic impact that growing these vegetables had was massive, helping women and girls in the community continue with their education, and preventing early marriage. 

Slowly but surely, the Swinga Women’s Group reached out to other women’s groups in local communities nearby and developed a support network dedicated to agricultural pursuits. Encouraging the autonomy of these women, whether it’s through growing vegetables or something else entirely, is a great thing. Preserve International said the partnership with the Swinga women’s group grew through these difficult times. They are looking forward to working with them and other women’s groups for years to come.

That being said, the Swinga Women’s Group is still working hard to accomplish their original goals, including becoming self-sustainable with their agriculture. The COVID-19 pandemic is still affecting Uganda and the rest of Africa, so unfortunately, it may be awhile until self-sustainability is reached. However, they are going to keep working and learning, so that they eventually end food insecurity and malnutrition in their community. SPI looks forward to continuing to work with them and thanks donors like you for your support. 

— The SPI Team

Tilling garden
Tilling garden
Working in rows
Working in rows
Platning seeds
Platning seeds
Apr 29, 2021

Preparing for the Future

Junel with cabbage
Junel with cabbage

Hi Folks, 

This update comes from our partners Feed the Children, who are working with private and public schools in Haiti and Guatemala to implement school gardens. These gardens will be cultivated areas around the school premises and will be cared for by students, parents, and school personnel. School gardens in Haiti are particularly important for supplementing healthy student meals that are rich in vitamins and nutrients. Healthy meals enable students to grow, develop, and focus on their learning during the school day. This program will focus on four schools in Guatemala and three in Haiti.

As you can imagine, the project was widely affected by COVID-19 when schools shut down the entire school year in both countries.During the school shutdown,, Feed the Children prepared different aspects of the project so everything was in place for the students’ return. 

For example, in Haiti the primary source of water for the school gardens will be the potable water systems on site at each school. During the rainy season, very little irrigation is typically necessary. However, due to significant changes in weather patterns, including long droughts, it is necessary to have irrigation year-round. Since water is scarce for many of the schools, having the capacity to capture and store rainwater is important for day to day school activities. To ensure water access, Feed the Children implemented a conduit and capture system to collect rainwater off the school roof during the rainy season to be stored throughout the dry months.

Junel, Director of the Père Coatalem de Dufresney school in Haiti had this to say about the projects and their impact on the community:

I would like to thank Feed the Children and Seed Programs International for all the support provided in our community, particularly the school support. I want to especially highlight the school garden project, which has become more important than the initial objectives, namely, to diversify and strengthen the food that is given to children in the canteen.

The whole community benefits from this project, in the sense that people discover other economic opportunities because of what we produce in the school gardens. The vegetables that the schools grow were not typical for the community. Initially, they did not think that the area could produce these vegetables or that there was a market for these vegetables. So, I'm talking about real economic opportunities that are opening to us in the community because its products are indeed in great demand.

- Junel, Director of the Père Coatalem de Dufresney

 

It is important to emphasize that the school garden project goes beyond technical learning for the  students. Children who receive the training and knowledge become student advocates for garden activities and are able to teach other students, as well as their family members, to encourage additional  school, community, and household gardens. As part of project implementation, community leaders and volunteers were also trained to monitor the garden and provide on-going support.

This is especially important, going into the second year of the COVID-19. Widespread global food shortages are predicted, so being able to take these skills from the classroom to a home garden are necessary to combat pandemic food insecurity in communities worldwide.

We look forward to updating you as this project progresses. Projects like this are possible in part because of donors like you, so from Feed the Children and Seed Programs International, thank you for your support!

-the SPI Team

Creating garden beds
Creating garden beds
Learning about the garden
Learning about the garden
Planting seeds
Planting seeds
Apr 16, 2021

Growing Up, To Grow Up Strong

Women's group with seeds
Women's group with seeds

Hi Folks, 

This update comes from our partnership with US-based college, Virginia Tech, who is running programs in Senegal to combat plastic waste and food insecurity in schools in one fell swoop. The negative environmental impact of plastic waste has reached an irreversible level in Africa.  By 2030, approximately 235.3 metric tons of polymers and plastics would be used by consumers in 33 African countries. In Senegal, where fishing and tourism are the main industrial activities, the fishing industry is  experiencing a decline due to overfishing and water pollution. Plastic products of every kind litter the villages along Senegal's coastline. 

In April 2020, Dakar Greenpeace Africa announced the implementation of Senegal’s ban on single-use plastics. This is welcome news to tackle the impact of plastic on the environment and the livelihood of the Senegalese population. There is still a need to find innovative ways to reduce, if not eliminate, the use of plastic in most African countries. In December 2020, Counterpart International, in collaboration with Virginia Tech and Seed Programs International, implanted a  simple practice: a gardening tool called the recycled-bottle Green Wall. 

The recycled-bottle Green Wall is an idea taken from The Solar Garden, an educational  organization based in Israel. The design involves attaching recycled plastic bottles to one another and then attaching them to a frame, wall, or fencing. Each bottle can be watered individually, but by drilling holes in the bottle caps, excess water, that is not absorbed by the soil in the top bottles, will drip down to the water bottles below, leading to more efficient water usage. This system can be placed anywhere, as it’s vertical aspect allows it to take up very little space and its mounting flexibility allows it to stand anywhere.

To start, the Green Wall was implemented in 10 villages at elementary schools and 2 women-owned gardens. In addition to recycling the plastic bottles by using them as planters, the practice is also used as a pedagogical tool to teach the students the use of vertical space, efficient use of water, and the health benefits of the vegetables grown. In most cases, green leafy vegetables are hard to come by, especially during the rainy season, where the focus is on growing row-crops. Aside from increased nutrition, the importance and value of direct exposure to the natural environment can enhance learning by improving student attention and behavior. 

“Thank you for introducing the new school project “Recycled Bottle Green Wall”. Our project is going very well, my friend. The students love it very much and the wall is already greening-up.”

- Mamoune, the director of the school in Thiago, Senegal

Virginia Tech will continue expanding the project, with plans to introduce several project-based Green Wall programs to local schools, and to continue observing the effects on-student learning, well-being, and nutrition at various educational levels. As always, thank you for your support of our programs worldwide and if you would like to make your own vertical garden the instructions are below! 

-The SPI Team 

 

Recycled Bottle Green Wall Instructions 

Materials

Large plastic bottles (preferably light colors like clear, green, or blue to allow  maximum sunlight), hammer, scissors, knife, metal rod for heating up to melt through plastic, nail for drilling holes in bottle cap, and rope.

How to Build

1. The plastic bottles should first be washed with soap and water to clean off any contaminants that could negatively affect plant growth. A square  should be cut into the bottle, about half the height of the bottle, using scissors. Two holes should  be drilled into the bottle cap to allow for water flow in between bottles.

2. A hole the size of the mouth of the bottle (about 1 inch) should be drilled through the bottom of the bottle. The hole  should be just wide enough for another bottle mouth to fit very snugly inside. Another identically prepared bottle should be attached through this hole and the cap should then be screwed on to secure the bottles together. One more bottle should be attached in the same fashion to make a total of 3 bottles per row. 

3. Lastly, add a small layer of rocks to the bottom and fill up the  rest of the bottle to the opening with soil. You are now ready to plant! 

How to care for the recycled bottle Green Wall

After installation of the Green Wall, there should be very little maintenance. The plants will need to be watered, as necessary based on the individual water needs,  keeping in mind that the plants in the lower containers are also getting any water not retained by the soil in containers above and will therefore need less water. 

What to grow

The main constraint with what can be planted using the Green Wall is the space inside each bottle. Plants must have smaller root structures and receive proper sunlight in the location the Green Wall will be. Ideas for plants that could be grown well include: mung bean, small onion and garlic varieties, herbs (like mint, coriander, and parsley), and  leafy green vegetables.

Cutting windows in bottles
Cutting windows in bottles
Learning about the Green Wall
Learning about the Green Wall
Setting up the Green Wall
Setting up the Green Wall
Finished construction
Finished construction
 
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