May 20, 2020

Building a Foundation in Uganda: Quaker Service Australia & St. Jude

Students creating a tiered garden.
Students creating a tiered garden.

Hi folks,

I truly hope this reaches you safe and well. With so many changes to our daily lives, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed just by paying attention to what’s happening closest to us. During these times, it can help to remember that we’re part of a larger, collective effort to support and bring out the best in each other. Today, we’re sharing a project story from Uganda — a project that your support has made possible. We hope it will encourage and inspire you, as it did us.

This past September, the MDRT Foundation hosted a seed packing event at their annual meeting in Australia. Their members filled over 20,000 seed packets with SPI seeds and shared those packets with new partner organizations who carried the seed throughout the world. Quaker Service Australia is one of those new partners.

About Quaker Service Australia

Quaker Service Australia (QSA) is an aid organization of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). They work in countries throughout the world, including: Cambodia, India, Indigenous Australia, Malaysia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and refugee and asylum seeking groups in Australia. QSA projects focus on health, education, and human rights with a primary focus on food security. The training and education offered through QSA partner projects help ensure that people can grow food now and for generations to come.

Like many organizations, QSA has had to adapt to workplace changes because of COVID-19:

“At QSA we are all working from home as much as possible and staying in touch remotely – we are some of the lucky ones I think, that it is possible with our work. We are keeping up with communications and support to our partners as they are working to devise ways to continue support or work with their communities through their own countries’ lockdowns as well as helping to disseminate health and safety info in the course of their work. While we have some alternative plans with partners in response to COVID-19 these have not quite been able to go ahead as of yet. In most of our project locations it is currently unsafe for them to leave the house not just because of COVID-19, but also because of authorities using means of coercion to enforce the lockdowns.”

Building a Foundation: QSA & St. Jude Family Projects

This past February and March, QSA distributed about 1,500 packets of SPI seed with their partner St. Jude Family Projects in Uganda. St. Jude offers education for the whole community, working with farmers, students, and families. Prior to Uganda’s mandated COVID distancing measures, St. Jude offered training in agroforestry, vegetable growing, preparation, value addition and marketing, seasonal crop spacing, and manure application. Droughts and floods over the past year had wiped out several prior crops, so this recent seed distribution was especially important.

Seed was also shared with three schools that maintain gardens as a classroom for students and teachers. These gardens are important training grounds (no pun intended) that also provide nutritious vegetables for school lunches. St. Jude carefully cultivates these programs, building their curriculum from the ground up:

“We select the most disadvantaged schools from many applications, do a needs assessment, pick up the numbers that we can afford each year to work with, and start working towards a collective vision with those involved.

Meetings begin with school management committees, teachers, parents, and the students themselves to introduce the program. We visit these schools every few weeks to train and monitor their developments and provide advice with proper guidance. For sustainability reasons, it is important to educate the children on nutrition and harvesting. It is amazing to see how the children take these lessons to their respective homes as ‘mini-ambassadors.’ This creates a culture of ownership, and ensures these great lessons of caring for the earth live on. Agriculture is a fruitful venture, not a living to shy away from.”

What a fantastic model for ensuring that everyone involved has the opportunity to shape the program! Ai Leen at QSA adds, “...St Jude Family Projects’ excellent and dedicated community-based trainers [planted] a trial run of SPI seeds during my visit, so they could test and observe germination prior to distributing to farmers, which also allowed them to know how to advise them.” This is clearly an experienced team who cares about their students, community, and craft.

This report includes photos from St. Jude of the most recently completed primary school project (students planting) and the currently ongoing project (tiered garden). Ai Leen and St. Jude are waiting to see what this season will bring. Nothing is certain, but we believe that the quality of care and resources that QSA and St. Jude are providing has established a critical foundation of support for local farmers and students.

Your support of this project supports local collaborations like Quaker Service Australia and St. Jude Family Projects. The work they’re doing with local schools is growing local leaders who will support their communities for generations to come. Thank you!

— The SPI Team

Students planting seedlings.
Students planting seedlings.
Young students in the garden.
Young students in the garden.
QSA & St. Jude testing seeds before distribution.
QSA & St. Jude testing seeds before distribution.
Mar 18, 2020

Grow East Africa: One Year Later

Fate (right) and Birhan Ladies Group members.
Fate (right) and Birhan Ladies Group members.

Hi folks,

One year ago, we started this project with gratitude. Gratitude for your support. Gratitude to GlobalGiving for their tremendous support of this Project. Gratitude to Grow East Africa for the truly amazing work they’re accomplishing in collaboration with local leaders in Ethiopia. And gratitude from Wato and Fate who are on the ground with Grow East Africa.

Over the past year, we’ve shared how Grow East Africa has cultivated a new communal garden, increased the expertise of their farmers, and supported women like Fate who have led the way in strengthening their cooperative. Today, we’re glad to share a recent update from Fate.

First, if you’re not familiar with Grow East Africa, they’re a cooperative near Moyale in Ethiopia that prioritizes women’s access to resources like land, training, and tools. Many of the women have been displaced from regions and tribes that have been historically targeted for displacement.

Fate joined Grow East Africa in 2016 and has become an integral part of the Grow East Africa collective and local community. In a recent interview, Fate described the start of her new life with Grow East Africa.

“My name is Mrs. Fate. I am 45 years old, a mother of seven children, member of Mega IDP [Internally Displaced Persons], the chairlady of Birhan Ladies group, and an active contributor to my community.

After our migration from Mega area of Borana Oromia region Ethiopia, we worked on construction sites as daily laborers. We fetched firewood to sell and worked on someone’s farms. Our children did not attend school. Every night, we were worried if we could get our next day’s bread for our families. Since we are farmers, with our free time we individually grew just cabbage next to our settlement site. The district officials, looking at our initiatives, gave us permission to use the space in the compound around their meeting hall to develop the vegetables. And it was the beginning of our new lives.

In 2016, Dr. Yohannes (Grow East Africa Founder) found us working in this compound. He interviewed us and organized us in group of 30s, and gave us the starting funds and different vegetable seeds like: quinoa, tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, onions, and pepper to plant. ... When he revisited us in 2017, he again gave us additional funds to start cereals trading as an alternative means of income generation during the off season. The vegetable gardening and cereal trading activities helped some of the families to move from living at the camp in the tent to rental houses. Yes, we were getting enough food for our families and our children attended schools. Grow East Africa also legally registered our group as a small enterprise and we started our own business on vegetables and cereals trade.“

It can be easy to read Fate’s story without hearing the tremendous work it takes to start a new life after being displaced. This work includes establishing a new livelihood to provide for family, managing the psychosocial strain of displacement, acclimating to a new environment, and learning to live in a new community whose critical resources are already stretched thin.

Fate’s an inspiration — she has not only established her own livelihood, she has helped ensure that the other women in her own collective and neighboring collectives continue to grow. Here, Fate summarizes some results from her collective’s work throughout the years:

“The positive changes we experienced since the beginning of the interventions are:

  • We have started sending our children back to school and we too get mental satisfaction and growth in confidence for engaging ourselves on our own vegetables and cereals farming and businesses; 
  • Changes in our diets by feeding our children with different vegetables and highly nutritious grains like: quinoa, teff, tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, onions and pepper;
  • We acquired different skills trainings on: marketing and financial management, group by-law and its management, vegetables development and management of its different disorders; 
  • Our social status and standings in the community changed from daily laborer who think of next day bread every night to vegetables and cereals producers and suppliers and now started to think of our future plans and projections on how to maximize our output and income; 
  • We arranged an opportunity of short-term access to credit for our group members to build their financial capabilities…;
  • We (our farm) become a learning center for the farmers and build the capacity...with drip irrigation system, solar technologies, and also learning...from our technician…”

Today, they’re looking into what it would take to scale their production using machinery and creating business networks that will allow them to supply local markets and institutions. Their collective has already become a model for other groups that have been started in the district.

Our partnership with Grow East Africa is only possible because of your support. We would like to extend a special thank you to GlobalGiving for coordinating the Africa Drought and Famine Crisis Relief Fund and awarding Seed Programs International with a supplementary grant for this work. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Grow East Africa in 2020.

From Grow East Africa, and from our team, thank you for making this project possible.

— Team SPI

Fate harvesting carrots.
Fate harvesting carrots.
Birhan Ladies Group member fixing a dripline.
Birhan Ladies Group member fixing a dripline.
Fate (right) and group members with peppers.
Fate (right) and group members with peppers.
Mar 4, 2020

Tools for a Livelihood: The Family Gardens Project

Mangloris shows off a beet from the garden.
Mangloris shows off a beet from the garden.

Hi folks,

This month’s update comes from our partnership with Habitat for Humanity in western Guatemala and features our Rotarians Against Hunger seed grant program. Habitat Guatemala founded the Family Gardens Project in 2013 to help establish and improve family and community gardens as a way to address malnutrition and poverty. In 2014, Habitat Guatemala worked closely with the community to expand their Family Gardens Project to El Canaque, San Marcos.

We know that only starting a garden is not enough. Disadvantages like malnutrition and poverty often stem from restricted access to resources and a lack of knowledge about how to use those resources. After the gardens were established, Habitat Guatemala offered families and communities training on the organic production of vegetables and seeds — that is, a way to expand the use of the original resources and the resources provided by these gardens.

During the initial phase, malnutrition in the community was reduced by 52%. Several community members were also inspired to found a bio-factory that prepares and sells different organic inputs and products, the Bio-fabrica. The challenges faced by these communities are not gone, but this project has provided resources and education to develop new tools that can help provide for fundamental human needs like nutritious food and income. 

Mangloris: Strengthening Families & Communities
Mangloris joined Habitat Guatemala’s Family Gardens Project when it opened in 2014. A mother living with her husband and five children in the El Canaque community, she tended a small family garden prior to participating in the community project. Mangloris has since become deeply involved in the communal garden and currently serves on the local Health Committee. Describing some of what she’s accomplished through the project, she shares:

“Through the support of the organizations and our own means, we have learned and improved as a family and team. We have harvested big crops of carrots, onions and trees to sell abroad. ... We started working on our own, and bought new seeds and other items to keep on growing and growing. The main goal of the project was to teach us how to work on our own, and now we are ready.”

Mangloris describes two important aspects of garden projects — they’re collaborative, and they’re hard work. Seeds are a resource that only bear fruit (or vegetables) when people can readily access everything needed to nurture that seed from sowing through harvest. When nurtured, seeds and education can provide a livelihood that provides family nutrition and income. Income is critical because it’s versatile. It can provide access to supplemental foods, improve gardening methods, and it supports the local economy that other community members rely on for their own livelihood. In short, programs like Habitat Guatemala’s Family Gardens Project improve people’s quality of life and help people gain more power over their own lives.

Six years into the project, Mangloris describes how she and her family have applied the principles learned through the project.

“We learned to use every part of the vegetables that we grow by cooking them in different recipes for our children. We also use the seeds from the vegetables for future harvests. ... It has been a great experience, because we have learned, grown and worked together! It has not been an easy road. But we continue moving forward. My dream is that one day, we will be selling all of our products in different towns.”

In 2019, Habitat Guatemala partnered with Seed Programs International in support of the Family Gardens Project as part of our Rotarians Against Hunger seed grant program. Rotarians Against Hunger is led by US Western North Carolina-based Rotary Clubs in Rotary District 7670. This program grants vegetable seeds to partners worldwide who are involved with nutrition, education, and income development projects.

Asked about the seeds supplied by Seed Programs International through the Rotarians Against Hunger program, she says, “The radishes grew really big! I prepared them in different dishes for my children and they loved it! We learned how to take full advantage of everything here, and now, all of the products are growing properly.”

Dreaming Big
So, what does the future look like for Mangloris?

“My dream is to keep working as a team. We need to work together as a community to continue improving. And I am hoping to keep working with Habitat Guatemala and America Solidaria too. I want to keep on dreaming and dreaming big! I have always enjoyed working with communities, motivating my team and showing them how to keep on dreaming to expand and grow.”

Your support of this project makes these partnerships possible. We cannot do our part without the support of folks like you who have contributed your resources in support of our own. You have the sincere gratitude of our team, and from Mangloris:

“We are very grateful for the seeds! They have been of great use to all of us. We have harvested and eaten them already. Thank you and may God bless you.”

— Team SPI

  

Mangloris in the Habitat Guatemala garden.
Mangloris in the Habitat Guatemala garden.
Carrots! Kids! The garden has everything!
Carrots! Kids! The garden has everything!
Touring the Habitat Guatemala community garden.
Touring the Habitat Guatemala community garden.
 
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