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
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
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
Today’s update comes from Daniel Wanjama, Seed Savers Network Kenya (SSNK) Founder and Director. SSNK is a grassroots NGO headquartered southeast of Nakuru in Gilgil who works with resource-poor farmers to promote sustainable rural livelihoods. SSNK has strong support for local community groups, providing access to agricultural training, good vegetable seed, tools, and other resources. We recently connected with Daniel who told us about some of the work he’s been doing with the village of Emkwen.
Emkwen Village is a farming community located in the Loboi area of Baringo District in west central Kenya. Arid rocky terrain, acacia trees, and shrubs cover the majority of the District. The natural landscape makes this area prone to drought and food shortages.
Farmers in this region predominantly grow maize because they can easily access maize seed from a local seed company. After harvest, farmers sell back every seed they produce to the same company. This creates a monoculture farming structure, limiting the development and transmission of farming knowledge for non-maize crops. Since farmers are not growing nutritionally-diverse crops, they need to fill this gap by purchasing nutritious food at the market. Maize farming leaves farmers with some money, but not enough to purchase the nutritionally-diverse food needed throughout the year.
“We only do farming because we are at the farms, not because of the profit we get.” - SSNK Farmer
Last year, more than 200 farmers from over 50 farming groups from the Loboi and Sandai areas of Baringo District received seeds from SSNK for farming and to start seed saving. With your support, our partnership with SSNK was able to provide farmers with kale, spinach, tomato, cucumber, cassava, cowpea, sweet potato, pumpkin, sorghum, amaranth, and vegetable other seeds. In addition to providing seed, SSNK trained farmers on seed production and pest control to enhance future seed multiplication.
The Emkwen Farmers’ Group meets every Thursday to coordinate their collective finances and share farming ideas. As part of a strategy to diversify their crops and improve nutrition and income, they have taken to saving seeds. Tthe group participated in an SSNK seed saving training in April 2019 after meeting with an SSNK extension officer during a project launch in Kiborgoch. (Kiborgoch is a conservancy in their area where seed savers are invited to share knowledge and learn new skills.) By putting this training into practice, farmers are growing and consuming locally-produced vegetables, saving seed, and gaining extra income from selling their harvests and seeds.
Miriam is one of the officers for the Emkwen Farmers’ Group. She is 76, and her homestead sits on one acre of land where she lives with her husband, six children, and three grandchildren. Miriam depends on this farm to feed her family. Through SSNK, she has learned how to raise vegetable seedlings and keep her garden healthy by managing pests and diseases and maintaining soil fertility.
Early on, Miriam volunteered a portion of her farm as a demonstration garden for tomato production. This investment yielded both tomatoes for her family and seeds that she can plant in future seasons or sell to nearby farmers. Miriam testifies that seed access and training have greatly impacted their family’s health and income. The sale of her tomatoes and seeds allows her to pay the school fees for her grandchildren, and she can purchase the food she needs that she does not grow herself.
“I hope to plant more and more vegetables that I have gotten through Seed Savers. I can now plant tomatoes anytime, because I have saved enough of my own seeds. Seeds are expensive, but now farming has been made easy through Seed Savers. Come next time, you will see the diversity in my farm. We are happy now, because we will be seed secure.” - Miriam
Seed Is the Origin of Life
When families have better access to resources like training, food security, and nutrition, they tend to invest more in education, and the health of their family. This causes a ripple effect of benefits that strengthens the entire community.
As another farmer, Grace, shares:
“The program has really changed the lives of many farmers. If they were all allowed to share their stories, there would be too many to tell. Surely seed is the origin of life, and the program has allowed farmers to gain food security and improve their health through nutrition.”
We will continue to report on this community and others, partnering with SSNK as their farming projects continue to evolve.
For now, thank you from our partners, who have improved access to water, seed, and tools as a result of this project. And always, our thanks to everyone who has supported this project — we truly cannot do what we do without your support.
The SPI Team
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:
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
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