Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa

by Seed Programs International
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa
A farmer with her new vegetable crops
A farmer with her new vegetable crops

Hi folks, 

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

Training field visits with training leaders
Training field visits with training leaders
Planting season and prepping beds
Planting season and prepping beds
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Buzunesh
Buzunesh

Hi all!

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 

Birhan Ladies Group
Birhan Ladies Group
Tomato saplings
Tomato saplings
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Joseph in his garden
Joseph in his garden

Hi folks,

This report comes courtesy of our partner in Malawi, the Grace of God Orphan Ministry. They’re working to provide families in need with access to seeds, knowledge, and the tools needed to help grow those seeds. This is done to help combat food insecurity, as well as provide proper nutrition to families all throughout Malawi. SPI sent them seeds in April and now those seeds have grown and provided fresh vegetables for families in need. In Malawi, 90% of the country is living in poverty or near poverty, so making sure local families and communities have access to proper vegetables and nutrition is incredibly important.

Two families in particular, Joseph’s and Emmanuel’s, have some great stories to share with you. Joseph, his wife Mary, and their four children have made their own garden with the seeds, and their garden is well underway with all sorts of vegetables and fruits being grown for the family to enjoy. They’ve had so much success that Joseph plans to expand their garden and add different vegetable varieties. He will then sell excess produce for income. 

Joseph also gives credit to the garden for changing his family’s eating habits and providing greater nutrition to his children, helping them become stronger and healthier. They’ve grown all sorts of vegetables, from spinach and tomatoes to onions and peas. To ensure that the kids don’t get bored of eating the same thing all the time, they continually find new ways to cook and eat the vegetables and fruits they’ve grown.

Emmanuel’s story is similar. He says that seeds have been a great help to them. By growing and selling them, Emmanuel says he will be able to pay for his kids’ school, and be able to continue feeding his family. 

The seeds are an important step to self-reliance in Malawi. Families are looking into fertilizer and water pumps to help combat the dry seasons in East Africa and to grow the seeds year round. The agricultural industry in Malawi is a massive part of its economy, so access to seeds and equipment to grow plants and vegetables is essential to Malawi’s economic growth, and improving the lives of the people living and working there. Making sure families in need have access to affordable seeds is crucial to ensuring the health and nutrition of families everywhere, and in an impoverished area like Malawi, that’s especially important.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the world in a massive way, and it’ll take all of us working together to return to a sense of normalcy. On behalf of Seed Programs International, thank you so much for your continued support this past year, and into 2021!

— The SPI Team

Joseph's garden
Joseph's garden
Emmanuel in his garden
Emmanuel in his garden
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The Swinga Women's Group
The Swinga Women's Group

Hi Folks,

This report comes from Preserve International, our partner in Uganda who is working with Swinga Women’s Group and the Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement. Preserve International strives to develop garden-based nutrition, increase income, and provide access to technical vegetable production knowledge within the communities they serve. These aims help to establish food security, an increasingly important goal for 2021, as food prices are predicted to go up while availability goes down due the prolonged strain of the pandemic on food systems.

Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement houses over 280,000 refugees, primarily from South Sudan. Many of these refugees receive the majority of their food from the World Food Program and UNHCR affiliated organizations. Since support began, rations have been reduced 30% and are projected to decrease further to 50%. This would put many families and communities in crisis.

The Swinga Women’s Group consists of refugees, primarily from Bari speaking tribes, in the southern region of Central Equatoria State in South Sudan. Most of these women fled South Sudan during the reignition of conflict and fall of Kajo Keji in 2016. Bari peoples are traditionally agrarian and the Swinga Women’s Group was particularly eager to begin work on increased vegetable production and food preservation processes. The group quickly became the primary caretakers of the demonstration farm in Yumbe. The farm, in addition to growing food, serves as a safe haven for women who come to work and train--providing beds and facilities in a secure location.

To preserve the harvest, Preserve International purchased two large Sparky Dryers (food dehydrators which run on solar power and organic waste to dry fruits and vegetables quickly) for the farm. These keep the vegetables edible for months instead of days.

“Our relationship with the Swinga Women’s group has deepened greatly [in the months after starting the demonstration farm] and we now feel that they are very much a part of the Preserve International family and will be for years to come. The women have found hope in our partnership and walk with dignity in their community. The economic opportunities have also helped some women avoid making difficult decisions, such as early marriage and dropping out of school. They have also helped us to expand our network to other women’s groups through word of mouth as we continue to build a network of local women in agriculture who support one another.”

- Betty, Operations Manager with Preserve International

Although Preserve International’s original program plan shifted with the events of 2020, the adapted programs address the current needs of the community and aid the women of Swinga in creating lasting change during uncertain times. The new programs help participants achieve food security during the pandemic by equipping them with the tools and training needed to launch farms in a post-Covid world--In Uganda, this may not be until the end of 2022.

From Seed Programs International and Persevere International, thank you. Our work together in 2021, is more important than ever!

— The SPI Team

Cutting okra for drying
Cutting okra for drying
Drying vegetables
Drying vegetables
Women with demonstration garden sign
Women with demonstration garden sign
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Pepper harvest in the rain
Pepper harvest in the rain

Hey there, folks. 

As a supporter of this project, you are probably familiar with GrowEastAfrica and what they’ve accomplished over the past year. [link past report in underline] This month, we are excited to share their latest work using sustainable processes to help improve Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) families' livelihoods in the Burji District of Ethiopia.

Burji district is located in southern Ethiopia. The district has a slight majority of women: total popu79,241 compared to 76,439 men. Burji is also one of the poorest districts in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's (SNNP) region of Ethiopia. The district’s poverty is reflected in its infrastructure — Burji has no paved roads, no hospital, and only two high schools to serve twenty-six different villages.

GrowEastAfrica (GEA) and Seed Programs International (SPI) have partnered in Burji district to augment rural farmer families’ traditional knowledge about local farming and agriculture. By gaining access to high-quality vegetable seeds and learning new farming practices, families reduce their food vulnerability by growing nutritious vegetables and quinoa for self-sufficiency.

The GEA-SPI partnership focuses on the Birhan Ladies Group: a fifty-member women’s farming cooperative that was formed after 2,000 refugee families relocated near the town of Mega in southern Ethiopia. The refugee families—all traditionally-skilled farmers—fled their homes to escape inter-ethnic clashes between two Oromo tribes, the larger Borana tribe and smaller Burji tribe.

Leaving their farms and animals behind, families traveled 200 miles to take shelter in the Burji district, their ancestral home. Since then, about half of the refugee families have returned to their former homes, while others remained in the Burji district to start new lives — like the Birhan Ladies Group who are regaining power over their own lives through this project.

In the first phase of this project, the Birhan Ladies group introduced vegetables and quinoa as new crops alongside the traditional teff crop on 4.5 hectares of farmland. The farmers prepared the soil using new techniques learned from GEA training, sowed seeds accessed through the partnership, and tended the plants. Their skilled care led to a higher yield than the previous harvest seasons. The harvests were shared for consumption among the members, and a portion was sold at the local and surrounding markets. The increased yield correspondingly improved the livelihoods of over 300IDPs and increased access to nutritionally-diverse vegetables for many in the community. Their resounding success increased the surrounding community’s interest in home vegetable gardens and the nearby farmers' interest in growing quinoa on their farms.

Worldwide, climate change and responses to COVID-19 have posed significant challenges for folks working in locations already stressed from historical violence and exploitation. The Birhan Ladies are no exception. Unexpected and continuous heavy rain washed away seeds and waterlogged sapling plants, ultimately resulting in crop loss. COVID-19 restrictions further stressed the group and community, straining the group’s cooperative efforts. In response, the GrowEastAfrica team quickly implemented training that mitigated the environmental and social stressors, and they developed a strategy to minimize the impact of water stagnation and waterlogging on the farm. For instance, farmers dug new drainage ditches to divert excess water from the crops and implemented COVID safety standards on the farm to continue their work. 

The Birhan Ladies Group faces additional challenges because they are women.. Burji is a primarily male-dominated society. Burji women are not allowed to participate in or hold any meaningful decision-making roles, and there are very few women working in the district offices, especially at the management-level. As part of GEA’s program\, the Birhan Ladies Group is laying the groundwork to improve  gender equality through farming. As they become key contributors to the local economy through their vegetable production and local cereal market participation, they are establishing their presence in the supply chain. If men recognize the value of women's leadership development because it results in income generation, social attitudes — and the corresponding material benefits — could shift toward greater gender equality.

With GrowEastAfrica’s assistance and the perseverance of the Birhan Ladies, the success of their project remains steady. Crop yields are again projected to increase from previous years, and the community’s nutrition is improving. The Birhan Ladies’ confidence has been key to this success. GrowEastAfrica reports:

“This partnership has increased the amount of nutritious food available for families. As refugees, the Birhan Ladies received a few kilograms of grain, typically maize, for consumption. Today, they grow their own vegetables, teff, and quinoa. Not only do they have access to more food, but the food is nutritionally diverse, providing a more balanced diet for their family's—and the community’s—health and well-being.“

Our partnership with GrowEastAfrica is only possible because of your support. We look forward to sharing more about the Birhan Ladies Group in the coming months. From GrowEastAfrica, the Birhan Ladies Group, and from our team, thank you for making this project possible.

- The SPI Team

Pepper harvest
Pepper harvest
Tomato saplings
Tomato saplings
Cabbages
Cabbages
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Seed Programs International

Location: Asheville, NC - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Greg Bonin
Asheville, NC United States
$122,181 raised of $150,075 goal
 
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