Sep 13, 2019

Gardens Support Whole Health

Garden Selfie!
Garden Selfie!

Hi folks,

If you’re familiar with our programs, you might know that many of our partner communities are located in outlying or isolated regions. Today’s report from the Rotary Club of Manila 101 in the Philippines is different. Working with schools throughout the Philippines, this Rotary focuses on gardens that can thrive in an urban environment.

“Urban Edible Gardening at the FMGES hopes to have pupils, as well as their parents and the community realize and be inspired with the benefits, feasibility, and potential of growing food for one’s own table.” — Urban Edible Gardening purpose statement

Their Agripreneruship and Environment flagship program, Urban Edible Gardening, introduces students to urban gardening concepts. This isn’t only a technical introduction — students are encouraged to explore their connection with the land and gain an understanding of how gardens and gardening can promote personal wellness. Learning about the connection between the land, where food comes from, and wellness is important in an urban setting where this connection may not be obvious.

Urban Edible Gardening engages the entire family in holistic wellness. At the Fernando Ma. Guerrero Elementary School, the program starts with a training of the trainers. Rotary Club of Manila 101 partners with a local expert to offer a session on “Healthy Soils, Healthy Crops, Healthy Lives.” The children’s parents then prepare the garden plot, while children are led through mindfulness exercises connected to planting the seeds. One such exercise, led by Past President Majella, aims to “create joy, peacefulness, and happiness within.”

The school’s children then sow their seeds: lettuce, mustard, okra, eggplant, and marigold that will provide some of the school’s supply of organic vegetables. Training continues throughout the season, including sessions about the use of fertilizer, growing seeds into healthy seedlings, and general nutrition and wellness. For instance, students were treated to a “Health is Weatlh” talk by the Rotary President that includes a section about dance as exercise. How fun!

“Thanks to Seed Programs International for making this possible for our nation through their seed donation grant program!”

It’s worth noting that a program like this requires a tremendous amount of collaboration. A lot of resources are needed to succeed at this scale, and Rotary Club of Manila 101 is doing a fantastic job of enrolling the next generation of healthy farmers. Through your support, and the support of other programs like Rotarians Against Hunger, these students are gaining access to the resources they need for future livelihoods and wellness.

From us, Rotary Club of Manila 101, and a generation of students — thank you!

— The SPI Team

Working with seedlings.
Working with seedlings.
Parents preparing the garden plot.
Parents preparing the garden plot.
Consulting about seedlings.
Consulting about seedlings.
Sep 4, 2019

Experimenting with New Crops and New Nutrition

GEA cooperative farmers at harvest.
GEA cooperative farmers at harvest.

Hi folks,

Today’s report comes from GrowEastAfrica in Ethiopia via Yohannes Chonde, GrowEastAfrica Co-Founder. One of our deeper partnerships, we try to understand what’s working for them, what’s not working, and how we can support their cooperative's growth and goals. This means not only learning how vegetables fit into their work, but also learning about how the other parts of their program fit into their broader aims.

If you’re not familiar with GrowEastAfrica, they’re a cooperative near Moyale in Ethiopia that prioritizes women’s access to resources like land, training, and tools. Many of the women are IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) from tribes and regions that have been historically targeted for displacement.

Vegetables: Cabbage, Peppers, and Tomatoes

If you have been following GrowEastAfrica (GEA) through our reports, you’ll know the tremendous work that has gone into preparing and learning about their fields. Thanks to their planning and preparation, including negotiating cooperation with the surrounding community, their plots are irrigated and doing great. The cabbage doesn’t have any disease or pest issues, and the soil is perfect for the crop. The peppers are also growing well, though some of the plants appear weak.

“Things are growing wonderfully; it helps people to have fun. The cabbage harvest was not large enough to sell, but does provide food for the family. Our plan after the season is to expand land for peppers and [cabbages].” — Yohannes

Mentioned in our last report, a local commercial farm donated the tomato seedlings for this season’s crop. A photo of the staked seedlings being stringed for support is attached to this report. Unfortunately, almost half the crop was lost to a fungus. Farmers in the group have been trained on the effective use of fertilizer and disease prevention, but they work the crops two days each week and day labor the other five days. This is not enough time to manage their farms, and they are seeking additional labor and better equipment.

Re-establishing viable farming livelihoods in a new area isn’t easy. In addition to learning the nuances of their new farmland and climate, the women of GEA’s farmer group have to manage the psychosocial effects of displacement and setbacks from natural and human causes. They continue forward together, a testament to their collective ingenuity and resilience.

Teff & Quinoa

Teff is an important traditional grain crop for this region. Injera, a flatbread typically made from teff flour, is the national dish of Ethiopia. The plants are labor-intensive due to the work involved in removing weeds and collecting the grain. Because machines are not available in this area, the harvested plants have to be threshed by hand. A photo of their recent harvest, double the size of the prior season’s harvest, is attached to this report. As a traditional crop, teff is more easily sold at market. Money from this crop will be reinvested back into the cooperative.

One of GEA’s aims has been to add new crops that complement and fill out the nutrition available from a traditional diet. Vegetables play a large role in providing new sources of nutrition, and quinoa has been introduced as a grain alternative to teff. Market crops are important for economic growth, and having an alternative relieves the tension of deciding whether to eat or sell a crop.

GEA farmers are experimenting with both white and red quinoa, both of which can be used for injera or boiled as a grain. They’ve already learned that quinoa cannot be planted the same way that teff is planted (walking animals over the seed) because the seed is pushed too deep into the soil and will not germinate. Having learned from this, they will adjust their training.

Higher in protein, quinoa has been growing well in this environment. Red quinoa also has a larger, edible leaf and a larger seed head (the head produces the grain), but the plant takes up more space. They’ll continue growing both varieties and expanding the crop size as land and labor allow. A photo of farmers standing in red quinoa are attached to this report.

Further, the cooperative is trying to bring a more drought-tolerant quinoa into the country by working with universities. They’ve planned to provide farmers outside the cooperative with quinoa samples to show its benefit and possibly spread the crop (and its benefits) in the region. 

What’s Next?

The next planting season is October through December, which leads into the dry season. Because farmers will rely on irrigation to water their crops, they are working with a local extension officer (an expert agricultural consultant) to learn about new drought-resistant crops that might do well during this season. We’re looking forward to learning what they decide for the next season, and we will report on their work in a future report.

For now, thank you for your support of this project and GrowEastAfrica. Gardens and farms really can provide a foundation for hope.

— The SPI Team

Stringing staked tomato plants for support.
Stringing staked tomato plants for support.
Teff harvest, twice the size of last season's.
Teff harvest, twice the size of last season's.
GEA cooperative farmers showing red quinoa.
GEA cooperative farmers showing red quinoa.
Aug 26, 2019

Safe Hands for Girls: Fostering Relationships, Changing Tradition, and Growing Empowerment

Jaha speaking with a gathering of women.
Jaha speaking with a gathering of women.

Hi folks,

We recently heard from Safe Hands for Girls, our partner working in The Gambia. Safe Hands for Girls accomplishes important work in The Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Atlanta USA, fighting female genital mutilation / cutting (FGM/C) and child marriage. Founded in 2013 by Jaha Dukureh, a Gambian woman, Safe Hands for Girls advocates for women and girls through a combination of education, community discussion, and local and national legislative advocacy.

Jaha and Safe Hands for Girls often visit communities with a high percentage of women and girls affected by FGM/C to hold community discussions that include everyone affected by FGM/C: girls and women who have been cut, women who cut, village leaders, and community clerics. Jaha and Safe Hands for Girls are effective precisely because they foster these relationships. Changing cultural traditions is difficult, and they are slowly facilitating healthy change through their work.

Because the short- and long-term effects of FGM/C are severe — shock, hemorrhaging, infection, and anemia are a few of the effects — nutrition is a critical for both girls recovering from recently being cut and women whose immune systems have been compromised from being cut. SPI partnered with Safe Hands for Girls in 2018 as a way to complement the work they were already doing by establishing community vegetable gardens for women. Not only do gardens provide important nutrition, but they can provide a livelihood alternative for cutters who depend on income from the practice. Economic freedom also helps women throughout the community claim more power over their own lives.

Safe Hands for Girls writes:

“It is with extreme gratitude that [these communities] acknowledge and thank you for your services and support to the women groups. The Seed Programs Initiative partnership with safe Hands For Girls has supported and empowered women by giving them financial independence.

After handing over of the donated seeds, Safe Hands for Girls CEO (Jaha Dukureh) through the organisation funded the digging of 6 wells/ boreholes for easier access to water. This request was made by the women during a follow up visit by the team after the seed donation, the women cited the need for water and how it has affected the garden, the garden is about 275m by 175m square approximately. 

[...]

Thank you again for your service, your thoughtfulness means so much to our organisation and the women we serve. We care deeply about the communities we serve and we appreciate your commitment to helping us serve to an even greater capacity.

I have attached some photos of the garden and the amazing women who work on them.”

Safe Hands for Girls is changing lives and traditions, and safeguarding the lives of generations of women to come. You can see the garden and the amazing women who work on them attached to this report. Your gift supports gardens like this and our work with partners like Safe Hands for Girls.

From us, and from Safe Hands for Girls, thank you.

— The SPI Team

A garden started with Safe Hands for Girls.
A garden started with Safe Hands for Girls.
The well referenced in our recent letter fro SHFG.
The well referenced in our recent letter fro SHFG.
Onions from the garden.
Onions from the garden.
 
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