Greetings from SPI! While winter continues in the US, in East Africa communities are nearing the end of the dry season. In agricultural timing, that means that communities are just a month or so out from beginning to prep their fields for the rains that will come in April and May.
In Uganda, we are partnering with Preserve International to work with refugee communities in Bidibidi Refugee Settlement, one of the largest refugee settlements in the world. Home to South Sudanese refugees that fled their home in 2017 due to growing political instability and civil war, these communities have made Bidibidi their home over the last 5 years.
Preserve International has a unique mission in the agricultural sector: they focus on reducing post-harvest loss to build food security with Ugandan farmers. In developing regions, it is estimated that up to 70% of vegetable harvests go to waste due to surplus during harvest season and a short shelf-life of vegetables and fruits. The time between harvests, what is often referred to as the lean or hunger season, is marked by limited access to food.
Preserve International works to bridge this gap by bringing in innovative food preservation techniques to reduce post-harvest loss and increase access to vegetables well into the ‘hunger season.’ How, you may ask?
A local Ugandan developed an innovative food dehydrator called the Sparky Dryer. This food dehydrator is built with local materials and runs off of cow dung, an abundant source of energy in small-holder farmers’ fields. Through deployment of Sparky Dryers and the training of how to use it, communities are extending the shelf life of their vegetables by dehydrating surplus harvest to feed their families for months to come or have product to bring to the market well after harvest time.
This year with Preserve International, SPI is supporting 4 women’s farmers groups. These groups are receiving agricultural and business training, farming inputs, and access to Sparky Dryers for their food preservation business endeavors. Throughout the whole year, they will be accompanied by extension workers to guide them in their process of growing new varieties of vegetables in sustainable ways, learning to market their product, and how to effectively preserve their harvests to reduce loss.
Every donation allows us to reach more communities to decrease hunger, build climate resilience, and grow more food. Stay on this journey with us to hear about the progress of these four farmer groups!
The SPI Team
We hope everyone is having a great turning of the seasons, where ever you happen to be. In much of the Northern hemisphere we're seeing the the beautiful autumnal change as we get closer to winter, and here in the tropics, many of us are winding down our rainy season in preparation for a long dry season.
In East Africa, this means that second season harvests either recently happened or are underway–a busy and exciting time for farmers to reap the rewards of their hard work. For us at SPI, this heralds a time where we get talk to our partners about both their successes and challenges as they reflect on the last growing season. The trainings have been done, the fields have been plowed, the gardens have been built, the plants have grown.
This season, in East Africa alone, we worked 7 community partners in 3 countries: Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. Today, we want to share about one of these partners that is focused on urban farming.
In the sprawling capital of Uganda, we are working with Sustainable Community Initiative for Empowerment (SCINE) in two different programs. The first one launched in June, where we worked with 100 different households in the slums to start urban gardens for household level nutrition. This program is providing training, materials and seeds that has supported nutrition for 500 individuals. Harvests are ongoing and participants are reporting that their access to nutritious food for their families has increased significantly. Even better, families are bringing excess vegetables to market to produce income to support sustainable livelihoods.
This program is even more impactful due to the longterm effects that COVID-19 lockdowns had on food security for slum families in urban areas, where up to 71% of families had limited access to food.
With the success of our initial program at the household level, we just launched a school garden in one school in Wasswa zone, Makindye division, a slum community in Kampala. The Primary School has 326 students between the ages of 3 and 15, with 10 teachers. While household gardens are important for family wellbeing, schools are important vectors for community wellbeing as they are one of the few central shared spaces in these communities. For many children living below the poverty line, school lunches are the one full meal they get a day, and families depend on this lunch to ensure their children are getting adequate nutrition.
The school garden has now been created and planted. The garden provides students with a living classroom to provide hands-on learning. Students participate in all stages of gardening, including digging, tilling, planting, and harvesting. The schools will prepare and cook the produce to supplement the students' diets to improve their nutrition and enable academic success. The garden will also provide a much-needed green space within a heavily urban community. The green space will allow something new for the children to touch, taste, small, see, and hear. Incorporating gardening into educational settings can help alleviate stress and provide a sense of calm to participants.
Our work with SCINE has just began. Together, we are creating create abundant food security for urban communities all living below the poverty line. Thanks to your support, we will continue to do just that.
It's amazing what a little bit of vegetable seed, access to appropriate support, and a little training in bookkeeping and marketing can do for a family. We'd like to tell you about Maka Abai*, a woman member of the Birhan Ladies Farming Group, in Ethiopia.
Maka has been a part of the Birhan women's group for sometime now, who we've been supporting with crop diversification, farm inputs, agricultural extension worker services, and training around marketing and bookkeeping. We just got this little blurb directly from Maka herself (which we've translated, of course) that we'll share with you here:
"I am Maka Yaye. I am a 28 year old mother of seven children. Three of my children are school age, two are in second grade, and the remaining children are at home.
Since joining the Birhan Ladies, I have developed many skills to plant and care for the saplings and vegetables. I learned how to use a new drip irrigation system to grow plants year-round. This project has helped me improve my livelihood. I invested my harvest dividend in goats. Today I have seven goats and a young cow.
I hope to continuously improve my life. I plan to grow with the Birhan Ladies project, earn more to lease land to farm, and purchase a house for my family. Our plan is to expand our produce market share beyond our local market and capture higher value."
Maka is proof that when you support women farmers, you're not just increasing crop production; you are investing in a woman's future, a family, a community, and an entire generation. The surplus from her crops helped purchase goats and cows, which will increase her economic wellbeing tenfold. The multiplier effect that has ripples out into kids' education, health indicators, and community development.
From Maka and all the women of the Birhan Ladies Group, thank you for supporting Seed Programs International. Your donation makes all this work and more possible.
*Last name changed for privacy.
At SPI, we know food security is more than just food security. Food security is an imperative string in a woven tapestry of well-being. Food security must be matched with community health access, women's empowerment, financial access, among a slew of other factors, for communities to be healthy and thriving from a holistic lens. But it's even deeper than that.
Food security is at the intersection of people and planet. How, you may ask? Community well-being is dependent on their ability to access good, quality food, and food security is dependent upon the ecosystem being stable enough, resilient enough, and fertile enough to be able to produce food. The two are intricately interconnected.
Our partner in Kenya, AMPATH, knows this. That's why we've been thrilled to work with them in introducing vegetable gardening and horticultural practices to their Group Integrated Savings and Health Empowerment (GISHE) members in western Kenya. Both GISHE and AMPATH are supporting the new Universal Health Coverage initiatives in Busia County.
With nearly 600 direct farmer beneficiaries, we've been able to provide trainings on; land preparation using organic manure, nursery bed preparation and management, transplanting seedlings and spacing guidelines, pests and diseases management, the importance of vegetables in human nutrition, organic farming, marketing strategies, and post harvest handling of vegetables.
Read that again. You see, at SPI, we do our best to not silo our work. We provide holistic trainings that go way beyond just the input of seeds and tools. We believe that is what makes meaningful change.
Two participants have shared their stories about the impact of our blossoming program. The first comes from Ester, a founding member of Mama Murindi’s self-help group, in the surrounding village. In 2015 Ester started agribusiness activities with the help of her husband and children but reported having some difficulties managing crops. She knew she needed training but her opportunities were limited until AMPATH organized their vegetable garden training. She believes that through the best practices training she received she is better equipped to manage her vegetable crops and tackle disease/pest damage. When our seeds were delivered mid-April, Ester was one of our beneficiaries who received the seeds at no cost. Now, she can provide extra nutrition to her family and increase her business’s profits.
Our second perspective comes from Abdalla, a GISHE group trainer and farmer in Makunda village. He is also one of the farmers who received tomato, onion, kale, coriander, capsicum, watermelon and spinach seeds. Abdalla praises the vegetable gardening training for supporting him and his livelihood. He has also voiced concern about crop management causing problems with his production and sales. Abdalla cites the virtual Integrated Pest Management training, which provided pesticide-free avenues for crop protection, as being particularly useful and he plans to incorporate it on his farm. Producing safe, healthy crops for himself and the market enable him, like Ester, to ensure his family and community are well-nourished. Taking his skills further, as an experienced leader and trainer, Abdalla has offered to host a demo plot to help support other beneficiaries. He prepared the seed beds by applying the skills he learned at the January training.
New projects like our partnership with AMPATH are made possible by your continued support. We would like to extend a sincere thank you for your help to enable our team to make a difference in the lives of Abdalla, Ester, and nearly 600 others through this program alone.
-- The SPI Team
Greetings from Ethiopia, where we work with GrowEastAfrica to reduce hunger and malnutrition, while also providing women with income to keep their children in school and increase their financial stability. Currently, our focus is on improving the lives of internally displaced persons through active women’s groups. We’d like to introduce you to Buzunesh, one of the women of the Birhan Ladies Group.
Before, Buzunesh and her husband, Oume, worked on the family farm growing teff, beans, and wheat. She sold excess cereals, like teff, at the local market, but had neither the training nor the support to expand her trade. Money was tight on a good day with a good harvest, and Buzunesh, like many women like her, knew that one poor harvest–due to missed rains, grazing cattle, or a rise in internal conflict–could easily put her and her family in a dire situation.
After being approached by her community coordinator, Buzunesh joined the Birhan Ladies Group with the hope of expanding opportunities for herself, her husband, and their six children. Since joining the group, Buzunesh has not only received training for new skillsets, but the camaraderie of a group of like-minded women all trying to do right by their families with the resources they have. Now, Buzunesh has worked with the group to cultivate her vegetable and quinoa farming skills, and has been a part of trainings that taught her important skills in market development approach and bookkeeping.
That’s not all. GEA, a local organization driven by local solutions, ensures that every training is holistic and all-encompassing. In addition to market development and bookkeeping, as well as basics in diversifying crop types, Buzunesh also learned to incorporate modern drip irrigation systems and solar energy into her farm. Her farm has expanded to include tomatoes, kale, round head cabbage, onions, peppers and carrots. With a growing family, she values the added nutrition and food security the new crops provide her and her children.
Her market endeavours have expanded too: she trades at fruit stands and prepares local drinks as a value-added agricultural product, which brings her more income than the base ingredient ever could. This is made possible by collaborating with the fellow women in her group and a GEA program which matches their investment dividends. For example, last year members contributed 1,000 Birrs ($21) each to a fund that GEA matched, giving the group a total of 10,000 Birrs ($214!) to invest in their community. After selling teff in the local market, their fund grew to 13,000 Birrs, and is projected to grow. This projection is in part due to the “Equibb” savings plan, where members save 100 Birrs a week to set aside for investments. With their newfound financial abundance, Buzunesh and her women’s group are excited to expand their vegetable and grain production.
The women’s group has been a smashing success, and it’s safe to say that the women are prepared to build off that success. With the group now having the skills to meet and adapt to problems as they come–from market changes to climate variability–the women have a well-founded sense of optimism for their futures. For example, Buzunesh explained to us that while the 2020 floods ruined their teff and quinoa crops, they were able to shift gears and invest their time and energy into preserving their vegetable fields. This hard work paid off, and shows that crop diversification leads to great resilience, as now they have multiple avenues for increasing successful seasons.
These programs are able to continue in part thanks to donors like you. On behalf of Buzunesh, the Birhan Ladies Group, GrowEastAfrica, and our team here at Seed Programs International, thank you for your support. We hope you’ll continue on this journey together, to provide seeds of change to communities throughout the world.
- GEA and the SPI Team
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.
We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.
Support this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page.Start a Fundraiser