Jun 7, 2019

Peace Corps Morocco: Sprouting Change

Clearing space for a garden at the dar taliba
Clearing space for a garden at the dar taliba

Hi Folks,

We are happy to report that this update comes from our Peace Corps partners in Morocco. Peace Corps Morocco volunteers serve in remote, mostly rural areas, focusing on empowering youth and local communities. Seeds are used to teach students about agriculture and environmental issues, assist in starting local garden projects, and encourage the community to grow some of their own food. Seed distribution and planting is a multifaceted activity. In fact, most volunteers used the seed program as an opportunity to teach about the environment, botany, agriculture, and keep people linked to their land with an understanding of botanical life.

A large portion of this activity occurs in youth centers and boarding schools. Making these establishments not only a place of learning for the children, but also a hub for the local community. One Peace Corps Volunteer shares a story on this topic:

My garden project took place at the dar taliba (girls boarding school) in my community, a dormitory for girls from the surrounding rural communities who study at my site's middle and high schools during the week. The building has a large outdoor courtyard area, most of which was largely untended — and provided a great space for a garden! A group of girls from the dar taliba worked with me between their classes on each step of the garden, from pulling weeds and removing rocks to breaking up the soil to planting. It quickly became a project for the whole dar taliba community; the women who run the building and the cooks often joined us as well. The cooks hope to use the vegetables from the garden in the meals they prepare for the girls during the week.

Because the girls at the dar taliba come from smaller, rural communities, many of their families have gardens at home. They were both excited to plant vegetables they grow at home and curious to learn about varieties they had never seen before. Our time in the garden so far has also provided a wonderful opportunity for conversation and cultural exchange, as we've discussed everything from Ramadan to gardening in the United States while breaking up the soil and planting seeds. I'm really grateful we had access to these seeds.”

- Abby Senuty, Peace Corps Morocco Volunteer

Environmental awareness and stewardship plays a large part in Peace Corps Morocco’s message. This past Earth Day, many of the schools and youth centers focused on planting.

“During Earth Day, there were presentations on the environment and then after the kids made bird feeders and these little planter bottles where we gave the kids seeds for their planters! We still have some seeds left over and are planning to do similar planters at our preschool.”

- Maggie Blackburn, Peace Corps Morocco Volunteer

“I have used some of the seeds sent to me for an activity during Earth Day. Because there is no open space for a garden at the local Dar Chebab, we chose to plant the seeds in cardboard boxes to practice reusing and recycling local materials. The students will take turns watering the plants, and we eventually hope to find a spot to transplant them in the future.”

- Ilana Shapiro, Peace Corps Morocco Volunteer

We hope to have more reports to share from Peace Corps Morocco as they continue growing inspiration and wonder in children with just a little seed and knowledge. It is through support like yours that SPI can continue partnerships like these all over the globe. Thank you for your trust and support of SPI and our partners.

With gratitude,

The SPI Team

Planting at the dar taliba
Planting at the dar taliba
Planting Earth Day seedlings
Planting Earth Day seedlings
Starting garden seedlings in Tighomar, Morocco
Starting garden seedlings in Tighomar, Morocco
Ready to grow!
Ready to grow!
May 29, 2019

A Self-Sufficiency Cycle: Balancing the Now & Later

Transplanting seedlings at Burji
Transplanting seedlings at Burji

Hi folks,

Since our last report, Yohannes and GrowEastAfrica have been laying out the next steps to meet their communities’ greatest needs. Water access understandably continues to be a top priority. Water is scarce in Ethiopia, and water access is critical for everyone — not just farmers. Community leaders are working with GrowEastAfrica toward an exit strategy, toward a time when each community will be self-sustaining and able to weather new challenges.

“What is our long term? To stay with a given community for 3-5 years, then move to another community. We’ve been in Burji working with these IDP families for three years. Southern Ethiopia is a drought-sensitive area. Water is always a challenge, even now. On the land we have, we are lucky because there is a well. As we try to expand, that is the main limiting factor.” — Yohannes Chonde, GEA Co-founder

In addition to your support, we’ve received a generous grant from GlobalGiving to help address drought and famine in East Africa. As part of that grant, we’re taking Yohannes’ lead in how to best use those funds for water access. He’s outlined several possibilities, including digging new wells and piping water to different areas within each community. Currently, rainwater is being caught from roofs and stored, which works when there is rain to catch. However, relying on the weather can hinder crop expansion when the rainy season ends. While wells are a longer-term solution, they are cash-intensive. GrowEastAfrica is trying to balance access for multiple communities with affordability in an area where digging a well can be quite expensive.

We’re also consulting with GrowEastAfrica as advisors to select the most appropriate drought-resistant vegetables. Their programs provide access to resources and skills that alleviate hunger and build livelihoods, and education around nutrition is woven throughout their trainings. Nutrition from vegetables is important for a region whose primary sustenance often comes from grains. While grains can provide a daily meal, Yohannes continues to encourage the communities’ cooperative leaders to make space in their gardens for vegetables.

“In regards to what they are growing right now — whenever I call them and talk to their cooperative leaders — they need to have something to eat at the end of the day. Teff is important in Ethiopia, one of the widely-grown crops. I look at vegetables as an important complement. They need something to eat for survival, and they need to balance their nutrition.” — Yohannes

Applied knowledge is another resource necessary for proper growth and sustainable agriculture. Recently, Fate and the Soyama Women’s Association (who you may remember from our previous report) visited a commercial tomato farm to expand their own farming methods. The farmers toured the greenhouse and saw a demonstration about seedlings grown in trays that will be transplanted into an open garden. They discussed various growing components like soil health, protection against disease, and nutrient demands. Finally, they discussed the differences between conventional and hydroponic tomato growing methods.

Rather than growing all of their vegetables from seed, the cooperatives have begun collaborating with the Meki commercial farm to adopt planting seedlings grown in trays. This provides a more controlled environment and increases the likelihood that seeds will grow into healthy plants. Seeds are provided to the Meki farm, and seedlings are returned to the cooperatives in Burji. Attached to this report, you can see some of the seedlings being packaged for transport.

Farming is hard work that requires both manual labor and expertise — these resources are not a handout. GrowEastAfrica’s programs strive not only to provide access to resources, but also to educate and train farmers who can pass on their knowledge and training to other farmers. As a result, these IDP communities have produced healthy food for themselves and have also sold some of their harvests to provide meaningful income. Money can be saved for the lean season and also reinvested in the next planting. They’ve created a cycle of self-sufficiency that will provide a strong foundation for generations to come.

We appreciate your support of Seed Programs International and Garden’s Give Hope, Health, and Income in East Africa. Thank you from us, our partners, and the farmers whose lives have changed because of your generosity!

The SPI Team

Soyama Ladies Assoc. visiting Meki Commercial Farm
Soyama Ladies Assoc. visiting Meki Commercial Farm
Using oxen to prepare the field, Spring 2019
Using oxen to prepare the field, Spring 2019
Laying drip lines, planting seedlings, Spring 2019
Laying drip lines, planting seedlings, Spring 2019
Packaging seedlings for transport from Meki
Packaging seedlings for transport from Meki
May 22, 2019

Growing Resilience

Arriving for the commercial farm demonstration
Arriving for the commercial farm demonstration

Hi folks,

Today’s project update comes from GrowEastAfrica, an SPI partner who works with IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) families in Soyama, Ethiopia. If their name sounds familiar, that’s because we’ve been working with them since 2016 back when they were DBCO, and we’ve shared some of their story before.

“GrowEastAfrica’s agricultural projects work with vulnerable farmers, many of whom are women, by training them in improved practical agricultural methods, helping them access quality agricultural inputs and technology, and linking them to viable markets. Such efforts help farmers grow more food for themselves or to sell. In doing so, farmers are able to prevent hunger, preserve land for future use, and obtain long lasting food security.” — Yohannes Chonde

GrowEastAfrica’s co-founder, Yohannes Chonde, has adapted their programs over the years to meet the most urgent needs of the families they serve. They not only provide a short-term solution for folks who are fleeing their homes and establishing new lives, but they are moving toward long-term solutions that enroll and integrate local communities in ways that benefit both groups.

For instance, water is scarce in Ethiopia, and water access is critical for everyone — not just farmers. Rather than competing with the community, they’ve worked to establish reliable water sources for their farmers in collaboration with the local community.

Yohannes knows that access to farming resources — like good seed, tools, and training — can change life for someone who has been displaced. To be clear, these resources are not a handout. Farming is hard work that requires both manual labor and expertise. GrowEastAfrica’s programs strive not only to provide access to resources, but also to educate and train farmers who can pass on their knowledge and training to other farmers.

Fate is one farmer who has forged a new livelihood from the resources and education she accessed through GrowEastAfrica. Fleeing dangerous conditions, she left everything behind to start her life over in Soyama. Soon after arriving, Fate participated in farming and postharvest training with the Soyama Women’s Association offered by GrowEastAfrica in collaboration with the Burji District Agricultural Department. As one of the first participants, she’s witnessed how her community has changed because of GrowEastAfrica and her community’s determination to reestablish themselves:

“Just a few years ago, we were a community that was worried about what we would eat tomorrow and what the future looks like. … Today, not only are we growing our own food, but we're making plans for the future of our people and our community.”

Fate’s journey is one of survival and resilience. Building upon her training, she’s stepped into leadership with her Association to increase her community’s self-reliance:

“We are creating markets for ourselves, we're inspiring and empowering each other, and we're saving money and contributing to our own development. … We’re building on what we’ve already accomplished to include neighboring villages and communities. Hope has come back to us, and we hope to grow our project so everyone — us, our communities, our villages and our country — can become fully self-reliant.”

Fate and her Association are continually seeking new ways to learn and grow. Working with GrowEastAfrica, they are refining the Association’s supply chain to reach larger markets. They recently visited a commercial farm to see different techniques demonstrated that they can incorporate into their own practices. Photos from that visit are attached to this report.

Your support makes these programs possible. Thank you. Earlier this year, Fate shared a letter of gratitude for your support and the partnership between SPI and GrowEastAfrica. We’ll leave you with her words.

“Because of the support from Seed Programs International and Yohannes, we now have access to water where there was none. ... Thank you for choosing to invest in our community and in our well-being. We are going to be good stewards of your trust and your resources and will continue to share updates of our growth and successes, as well as challenges, for many years to come.”

The SPI Team


P.S. If you’d like to read more frequent updates about GrowEastAfrica, they will be featured in our new Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa project here on GlobalGiving.

Visiting Meki Hydroponic Tomato Farm
Visiting Meki Hydroponic Tomato Farm
Learning about growing saplings in a tray
Learning about growing saplings in a tray
Using compressed wood fibers instead of soil
Using compressed wood fibers instead of soil
 
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