Gardens Grow Food for Families During COVID-19

by Seed Programs International
Gardens Grow Food for Families During COVID-19
Gardens Grow Food for Families During COVID-19
Gardens Grow Food for Families During COVID-19
Gardens Grow Food for Families During COVID-19
Gardens Grow Food for Families During COVID-19
Gardens Grow Food for Families During COVID-19
Gardens Grow Food for Families During COVID-19
Gardens Grow Food for Families During COVID-19
Gardens Grow Food for Families During COVID-19
Gardens Grow Food for Families During COVID-19
Junel with cabbage
Junel with cabbage

Hi Folks, 

This update comes from our partners Feed the Children, who are working with private and public schools in Haiti and Guatemala to implement school gardens. These gardens will be cultivated areas around the school premises and will be cared for by students, parents, and school personnel. School gardens in Haiti are particularly important for supplementing healthy student meals that are rich in vitamins and nutrients. Healthy meals enable students to grow, develop, and focus on their learning during the school day. This program will focus on four schools in Guatemala and three in Haiti.

As you can imagine, the project was widely affected by COVID-19 when schools shut down the entire school year in both countries.During the school shutdown,, Feed the Children prepared different aspects of the project so everything was in place for the students’ return. 

For example, in Haiti the primary source of water for the school gardens will be the potable water systems on site at each school. During the rainy season, very little irrigation is typically necessary. However, due to significant changes in weather patterns, including long droughts, it is necessary to have irrigation year-round. Since water is scarce for many of the schools, having the capacity to capture and store rainwater is important for day to day school activities. To ensure water access, Feed the Children implemented a conduit and capture system to collect rainwater off the school roof during the rainy season to be stored throughout the dry months.

Junel, Director of the Père Coatalem de Dufresney school in Haiti had this to say about the projects and their impact on the community:

I would like to thank Feed the Children and Seed Programs International for all the support provided in our community, particularly the school support. I want to especially highlight the school garden project, which has become more important than the initial objectives, namely, to diversify and strengthen the food that is given to children in the canteen.

The whole community benefits from this project, in the sense that people discover other economic opportunities because of what we produce in the school gardens. The vegetables that the schools grow were not typical for the community. Initially, they did not think that the area could produce these vegetables or that there was a market for these vegetables. So, I'm talking about real economic opportunities that are opening to us in the community because its products are indeed in great demand.

- Junel, Director of the Père Coatalem de Dufresney

 

It is important to emphasize that the school garden project goes beyond technical learning for the  students. Children who receive the training and knowledge become student advocates for garden activities and are able to teach other students, as well as their family members, to encourage additional  school, community, and household gardens. As part of project implementation, community leaders and volunteers were also trained to monitor the garden and provide on-going support.

This is especially important, going into the second year of the COVID-19. Widespread global food shortages are predicted, so being able to take these skills from the classroom to a home garden are necessary to combat pandemic food insecurity in communities worldwide.

We look forward to updating you as this project progresses. Projects like this are possible in part because of donors like you, so from Feed the Children and Seed Programs International, thank you for your support!

-the SPI Team

Creating garden beds
Creating garden beds
Learning about the garden
Learning about the garden
Planting seeds
Planting seeds
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Betty distributing new farm tools to the Group
Betty distributing new farm tools to the 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 aims 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 as we continue into the ninth month of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Thus far, Preserve International has been pivotal in addressing some of the community’s immediate needs resulting from the pandemic, namely food shortages.

Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement houses over 280,000 refugees, primarily from South Sudan. Many of these refugees are receiving the majority of their food from the World Food Program and UNHCR affiliated organizations. Last month a 30% reduction in rations was announced with rumors of a further reduction to 50% in the next several weeks. This has put many families and communities in crisis. 

Preserve International supplies the quarantine center with food for people in mandated quarantine in addition to several locally run and managed orphanages, and individuals in the community living with mental and physical disabilities. Many are homeless, and the community donates extra food when they can. However, folks find it difficult to spare food in an already strained environment, which amplifies the risk for those who have additional challenges to accessing food and nutrition.

It is absolutely vital that farmers are able to plant now so that they have a strong harvest in a few months. Further, efficient preservation and distribution can help ensure that nothing goes to waste in the event that the food shortages continue. Unfortunately, because of the total lockdown, many farmers have been unable to access the necessary tools and seeds they need due to the closure of agro-shops.  

Preserve International has engaged with Swinga Women’s Group, 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 is particularly eager to begin work on increased vegetable production and food preservation processes. The group quickly became the primary caretakers of the demonstration farm. Seeds and farm tools were distributed. With supporting funds, two large Sparky Dryers — food dehydrators which run on solar power and organic waste to dry fruits and vegetables quickly — were purchased for the farm so the harvest can be preserved for months instead of days. 

 

“...the women were feeling hopeless and helpless to improve the situation for themselves and their families. Since we have begun working with them they now go with dignity because they have value in their homes and communities. Hiring the women to work the demonstration farm has had a double impact. Not only is it providing hands-on training, but it is also a means of income for women in an extraordinarily difficult time. 

This is especially impactful for some of the younger, school-aged women who have not been able to attend classes since spring. We are seeing a huge trend of very young women and girls marrying early or getting pregnant because they do not feel they have any other options. The young women that are working on the demonstration farm are learning about agriculture, food preservation, and food-based businesses as well as earning an income. They feel more hopeful about their futures and their ability to survive and thrive without marriage or pregnancy so young. 

For us, this is a huge win! Perhaps not the goal we originally set out for, but a wonderful result from the programs that we hadn’t thought about.

- Betty, Operations Manager with Preserve International

 

This year has been challenging, but in many ways it has still been a great success for Preserve International and SPI. The initial goals of helping that community to become completely self-sufficient through sustainable agriculture and food preservation in 2020 have been pushed back due to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, our partnership has had a positive impact in the community — not only through the provision of high-quality seeds, farm tools, and food preservation training, but also through additional economic and educational opportunities provided by the demonstration farm.

From Seed Programs International and Persevere International, thank you. As you can see, our work together is more important than ever going into 2021.

— The SPI Team

The Swinga Women's Group with their new farm tools
The Swinga Women's Group with their new farm tools
Betty performing a demonstration with Sparky Dryer
Betty performing a demonstration with Sparky Dryer
Preparing the produce to be preserved
Preparing the produce to be preserved
Loading the Sparky Dryer
Loading the Sparky Dryer
Dried and packaged produce
Dried and packaged produce
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Debbie and Mike with their Seed Library
Debbie and Mike with their Seed Library

Hi folks,

First, thank you to all of our early supporters! With COVID-19 challenging global food security, this project (and others like it) is more important than ever. We have already seen that families want to be able to grow their own healthy food in the safety of their home. Food security panic peaked In the beginning months of the pandemic. Seed companies were experiencing unprecedented seed shortages, and families who relied on growing their own food found it difficult to access seed. These shortages not only affected gardeners in developing countries, but in the US as well. 

While seed companies have started to recover their inventory , the need for seed remains. Unemployment rates continue to rise in the US, and stay-at-home orders dramatically limit families’ ability to access fresh, nutritious food. For those most at risk of hunger and malnutrition, seed for home-based "resilience gardens" provides safe, essential nutrition.

It’s rare for us to partner so close to home, and we’re proud to be partnering locally as an addition to our international work — we believe local leaders are essential everywhere. This report introduces several new partners: Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, Ashe County Library, and Watauga Seed Library in North Carolina.

Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture helps build an equitable, sustainable High Country local food system by supporting producers and cultivating community connections that educate, inspire, and increase the demand for local food.

Part of the Blue Ridge Seed Library Network, the Ashe County Library and Watauga Seed Library make free seed available to promote food security, build community resilience, and create a culture of sharing. They aspire to encourage and educate their community to grow healthy food by gardening, preserving seed adapted to the area, and gathering historical seed stories of Appalachia.

Together, they are meeting the needs of their communities at the grassroots level. 

Little Free Seed Library 

Watauga County is located in an exceptionally mountainous region of Western North Carolina and is home to roughly 51,000 residents. Watauga Seed Library, created by Debbie and Mike Bauer, provides residents with a contactless way to pick up seeds for home gardens by erecting Little Free Seed Libraries throughout the county. These libraries contain bundled, garden-sized SPI seed packets that include a variety of vegetable types. Operating on a self-serve basis, people are welcome to pick as many seeds as they need and are encouraged to leave any excess they might have from their own supply. This exchange keeps a variety of nutritious seeds for participants to choose from. 

Ashe Seed Library 

Ashe County is located in the very Northwest tip of North Carolina bordering the Tennessee state line. It is home to roughly 28,000 residents and the Ashe Seed Library. The Ashe Seed Library was founded in the fall of 2016, and is a collaborative partnership between the Ashe County Public Library, the Watauga County Public Library, and Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture. The idea for the seed library was born out of the region's long history of seed saving. 

“For many years, growers have gathered at the High Country Seed Swap and Growers Exchange to share varieties and stories. Community members approached Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture and the Appalachian Regional Public Library about forming a Seed Library in Boone and West Jefferson in 2016. This effort easily fit within the area's Cooperative Extension office's programming to encourage gardeners of all skill levels to grow their own food and save seeds.”

- Ashe Seed Library Committee 

Participants can “check out” seeds from the library for their gardens. Information on seed saving is provided so that people can “return seed” after their harvest so that the library remains self-sustaining. When COVID-19 hit the area, seed library organizers noticed that less and less gardeners were bringing in seed from their gardens, but more new gardeners were reaching out for assistance. It was at this point that coordinators reached out to SPI, and we were happy to add our seed types to their library. 

Moving Forward

We at SPI are excited to do our part to ensure food security in these uncertain times, and we are looking forward to new partnerships, both in the US and overseas. With access to quality seed resources, community engagement, and support for training and tools, gardeners are being positioned to build a strong network of self-reliant food production. Whether gardens are planted for supplementary nutrition and income or as a part of a new livelihood, they can form a foundation for greater health, economic growth, and resilience to crisis.

This project helps provide this kind of direct support — your donation has made this possible! From the Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, The Ashe and Watauga Seed Libraries, and the team here at SPI, thank you!

 

Watauga Little Free Seed Library
Watauga Little Free Seed Library
Ashe Seed Library
Ashe Seed Library
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Organization Information

Seed Programs International

Location: Asheville, NC - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Greg Bonin
Asheville, NC United States
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