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 Hunger  Ethiopia Project #27512

Drought-Resilient Gardens for East Africa

by Seed Programs International
Drought-Resilient Gardens for East Africa
Drought-Resilient Gardens for East Africa
Drought-Resilient Gardens for East Africa
Drought-Resilient Gardens for East Africa
Drought-Resilient Gardens for East Africa
Drought-Resilient Gardens for East Africa
Drought-Resilient Gardens for East Africa
Drought-Resilient Gardens for East Africa
Drought-Resilient Gardens for East Africa
Drought-Resilient Gardens for East Africa
Fate during an interview about the project.
Fate during an interview about the project.

Hi folks,

In our last update, we shared that we’re closing this project so we can continue to broaden and deepen our partnerships. We’ve been privileged to work with Yohannes (Grow East Africa) and Daniel (Seed Savers Network Kenya) as they’ve coordinated agile strategies for strengthening the resilience of their communities. And we know it won’t stop with their communities because they are sharing these strategies with new communities even as we write.

We’ll keep our closing short, and instead share a letter we received from one Grow East Africa farmer whose life has changed because of your support and the support of GlobalGiving:


“Thank you so much for all you have done for our community. Just a few years ago we were a community that was worried about what we would eat tomorrow and what the future looks like. Our young people were leaving for the city. Like many of us, they too dreamed of finding a better place to live.

Today, we're still here. Things are looking better thanks to our son Yohannes, who returned to create a path to self-sufficiency for us. Today, not only are we growing our own food, but we're making plans for the future of our people and our community. We are creating markets for ourselves, we're inspiring and empowering each other, and we're saving money and contributing to our own development. Because of the support from Seed Programs International and Yohannes, we now have access to water where there was none.

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. We have reached this place because of the support of many people that we will never meet. It is all thanks you to you.

It is said that wise men plant trees whose shade they will never be able to rest under. You have planted that tree for us, and you have allowed us to plant that tree for future generations. 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.

With Gratitude from Fate and the Soyama Women’s Group.”


Fate doesn’t talk about the tremendous work that goes into reestablishing a livelihood after being displaced. She offers only gratitude for access to water, good supplies, and knowledge. Your support has made this access possible. Your support has changed lives.

You are invited to continue your support of our partners and these farmers through two new projects, linked below. Each project is a reflection of the developing aims and goals of several partners, including Grow East Africa and Seed Savers Network Kenya. The scope of these projects is intentionally broader so our partners can continue to grow, and so new partners can be invited to participate.

Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa →
Seeds and Support for School Gardens Worldwide →

We are grateful for your ongoing trust in our partners and our work, and for your generous gift to make this project possible. Thank you!

The SPI Team

P.S. We’ve prepared a special overview of this project, which is included as a report attachment. Enjoy!

SSNK school distribution & extension visit team
SSNK school distribution & extension visit team

Attachments:
SSNK extension officers at a farm training
SSNK extension officers at a farm training

Hi everyone,

This report comes from Seed Savers Network Kenya (SSNK), a grassroots NGO headquartered southeast of Nakuru in Gilgil who works with resource-poor farmers to promote sustainable rural livelihoods. We introduced them as a project partner about one year ago — you might remember reading about the challenges Esther & Ms. Mary faced as a result of drought in the region. In the last report on SSNK, we focused on their women’s group program, though they work with many different communities to provide access to agricultural training, good vegetable seed, tools, and other resources. We recently connected with Daniel Wanjama, SSNK’s Founder and Director, who told us about some of the work he’s been doing with the Gilgil Disabled School and other gardeners in the area.

The Gilgil Disabled School cares for children who require a closely-monitored diet to help manage the effects of brain disorders. Nutrition from vegetables and fruits plays an important part in that diet. However, vegetables from the market are expensive. Miss Otieno, the school’s Diet Manager, could only afford to include a few of the necessary vegetables from the school’s menu. That’s where SSNK came in.

Daniel and SSNK helped the Gilgil Disabled School start their own school garden and provided them with seeds, training, and extension services to start them off. Now, the school grows their own tomatoes, carrots, hot peppers, kale, and cabbage. Not only have they reduced their costs, but they are able to sell some vegetables at market. Daniel reports that their vegetable sales earn three times what they used to spend on the student’s lunches. The extra money is used to add fruit to the lunches, another important source of nutrition. Ms. Otieno happily shares that participating in gardening activities and having access to these fresh fruits and vegetables has improved the students’ health.

“This garden has been a great resource for the students, supplying vegetables [that we didn’t have before]. We even involve them in farming. They enjoy working in the garden, and we have seen their mental health improve as they increase their socialization. They are passionate about planting more and more vegetable varieties in future.”

School gardens are especially important during crisis recovery. We hear from parents who tell us that the school lunch is the only meal their child will receive during the day. These gardens enrich the learning environment, motivate parents to keep kids in school, and teach kids the value of engaging with the land. And it’s not only the school and students that benefit. School gardens often serve as a community hub, bringing everyone together around a central resource for learning and seed and vegetable distribution.

One Year Out — Now What?

Throughout the last year, we’ve continued to develop our partnerships in the region. We’ve met new partners and have grown deeper relationships with some of our longer-term partners. Drought will always be a factor for these communities, but the context of our partnership has become broader than the purpose of this project.

As such, we’ll be bringing this project to a close as we work with these partners to identify a broader project that will address their evolving needs. We’ll let you know when the new project opens so you can continue to follow the communities in this region. If you are interested in our work with school gardens, be sure to check out our Seeds and Support for School Gardens Worldwide project.

For now, thank you from our partners, who have improved access to water, seed, and tools because 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

Gilgil Disabled School students water the garden
Gilgil Disabled School students water the garden
Crops grown from seeds donated by SSNK
Crops grown from seeds donated by SSNK
Community women at grain distribution
Community women at grain distribution

Hi folks!

In our last report, we shared some context for the communities that our lead partner, GrowEastAfrica, is working with on the ground in Ethiopia. Positioned at something of a crossroads for Kenyan - Ethiopian IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons), GrowEastAfrica is constantly adapting their program to accommodate the shifting political climate and resulting change in their communities. We recently had the privilege of catching up with co-founder Yohannes Chonde about what’s happened since the spring, and his vision for the future.

We’re sad to report that not everything has worked in their favor. First, hostilities in the area continue to prevent farmers from planting, tending, and harvesting their crops. (You can read more about this here and here.) Farmers’ lives and property are in real danger, and they avoid the conflict as a matter of survival. However, in avoiding conflict, farmers lose time that they need to spend plowing and sowing, and what they do sow is often looted or burned. The next few months will be very challenging for the farmers and those who depend on those crops for food. In response, GrowEastAfrica is leading an effort to provide two months of grain rations for their IDP communities, and a small amount of cash for essential needs like medicine and housing. These communities don’t receive much assistance from the Ethiopian Federal Government or other humanitarian organizations like the Ethiopian Red Cross, so most of the support is coming directly from Burji District residents, who are very poor themselves.

"Rain burned everything that we had planted." — Yohannes Chonde

Weather has been another major challenge. This project began last year as a response to severe drought in the region, but this year’s rains have proven to be too much. All of the spring seedlings, some of which you can see in the photos attached to this report, were destroyed. Farmers tried to plant a second round of crops in several locations, but all of those seedlings were also destroyed. The wet ground prevented GrowEastAfrica farmers from preparing the new field, and they were only recently able to start plowing. Between the conflict and the weather, most farmers have lost their livelihoods.

Moving Forward

Because of your donation, GrowEastAfrica is already preparing for the next growing season. They will be purchasing seeds, installing a water tank, renting a tractor to expedite plowing, and preparing the new land they’ve leased for their farmers — all forward movement.

In addition to farming activities, GrowEastAfrica is training the Soyama Ladies’ Association and facilitating exposure to local markets. Agricultural training is being offered in partnership with the Burji District Agricultural Department staff. Complementary training around proper hygiene and sanitation will help farmers maintain the quality of their produce and extend its shelf life with proper handling, packaging, and storage. Finally, they’re working with these women to develop an understanding of the local markets so that they will be prepared to sell their crops when the time comes. Yohannes is also in negotiation with a local NGO who could potentially package and sell their produce throughout Ethiopia and neighboring countries.

Bridging the People Gap

This is not simple work. Yohannes deeply and ongoingly assesses his program, and he continues to build strong relationships within both the IDP and local communities. GrowEastAfrica is tasked with not only providing a short-term solution for folks who are fleeing their homes and establishing new lives, but they must also provide a long-term solution that enrolls and integrates local communities in ways that benefit both groups.

For instance, they’re currently sharing a water well with surrounding villagers that’s located on GrowEastAfrica’s newly-leased land. This will work for now, but they already have a plan to install a separate water system that will allow villagers access to water without competing with GrowEastAfrica’s farmers. (They’ll eventually add a drip-irrigation system, but that’s a story for another report!)

“Change comes from more than one spark, if we have enough firewood or grass, it will start taking off. If the results are clear to our friends, they'll see it and offer more help. This is community-based self-help to improve lives.” — Yohannes Chonde

What Yohannes and GrowEastAfrica have already accomplished is inspiring. Despite the setbacks described in this report, he remains not only hopeful, but determined to succeed. Thank you for your support of Yohannes, GrowEastAfrcia, and this project!

Sowing in the spring before the rains
Sowing in the spring before the rains
Seedlings in the field before the rains.
Seedlings in the field before the rains.
Preparing fields while waiting for floods to drain
Preparing fields while waiting for floods to drain
Sharing lessons learned, separating seed and stake
Sharing lessons learned, separating seed and stake

Hi folks,

Projects do not succeed in a bubble. Projects are accomplished by people working in a specific social and environmental context, and sometimes we can forget about that context when we’re sharing stories about the amazing work being done by our partners and their communities. Because we rely on our partners to lead projects in collaboration with their farming communities, we also strive to understand the contexts in which they work.

Our current lead partner in East Africa, GrowEastAfrica, works with about 1,000 families, most of whom are IDPs. These families are from tribes and regions that have been targeted for displacement for hundreds of years. One tribe, the Burji, are known for their agricultural expertise, and they are working with GrowEastAfirca to pilot garden programs that can help re-establish livelihoods for other IDP groups. (You can read more about the Burji in our recent report from a related project.) As an Ethiopian-American led organization, GrowEastAfrica understands where these families have come from, the experience of displacement, and what they need to be successful in their new home. Specifically, co-founder Yohannes Chonde’s ancestral home is in the area now known as the Burji District.

“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

Burji land was seized and Burji families were heavily displaced between 1890 and the 1990s. More recently, the Ethiopian government has recommenced commandeering land that has traditionally belonged to farmers. Understandably, people have responded by participating in anti-government protests throughout the Oromia region. These protests led to a ten-month state of emergency that was eventually lifted in August 2017. However, the state of emergency was reinstated when Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned in February 2018.

Last month, the Ethiopian army opened fire on civilians in Moyale, reportedly as a result of faulty information, killing 9 and injuring 12 others. Nearly 10,000 Ethiopians subsequently fled from the Ethiopian side of Moyale toward Kenya in search of safety. Moyale residents have lived through and survived their own share of ethnic conflicts, and now the population of under 150,000 suddenly has 10,000 more lives to support.

Our goal is neither to sensationalize nor to normalize what these families face, but to offer a deeper understanding of the daily context that our partners and their farmers experience in their communities.

GrowEastAfrica: Looking Ahead

In response to the influx of IDPs, GrowEastAFrica reports that many of their program recipients, who are also IDPs from past conflicts in the region, helped new refugees settle in by sharing what little they have. The region still suffers from the ongoing effects of drought, leaving locals with the burden of helping their displaced neighbors where rains and humanitarian assistance fall short.

As the month of March was coming to an end, the refugees in Moyale eagerly awaited news of their new leader, hoping that whomever is elected will bring calm and chance return home. As the PM resumes his role of mending his broken country, efforts to repatriate the refugees are now underway.

For now, GrowEastAfrica is working on acquiring new arable land, facilitating access to water, offering training to augment refugees’ traditional knowledge, and ensuring that folks have high-quality agricultural inputs that will help ensure a successful harvest. They have also encouraged the community to help incoming refugees, and they’ve worked out a cash assistance program for current famers who are willing to do so. 90% of the refugees in Moyale were relocated to a temporary camp in Somare on land that was being prepared for a community garden in anticipation of the seasonal rains. Plans for the community garden have been temporarily suspended to make space for the refugees.

Always moving forward, GrowEastAFrica recently leased two acres of land from the government, enough for 30 women to farm. A 10,000-liter tank was installed near the garden site while the land was being prepared, and planting has already begun. Because good quality seed was available in the area, SPI worked with GrowEastAfrica to source carrot, onion, tomato, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, hot pepper, bell pepper, beets from a local provider.

As new refugees settle in, this project is being adapted to address both existing and emerging needs. Additional water tanks, seed, tool banks, and agricultural training are all on the horizon.

Your gift has been instrumental in supporting Yohannes and GrowEastAfrica, and in making this program possible. Thank you.

 
 

Burji IDPs arrive to work with GrowEastAfrica
Burji IDPs arrive to work with GrowEastAfrica
Mega area IDP women selling teff at market
Mega area IDP women selling teff at market
Women with quinoa plants, GrowEastAfrica
Women with quinoa plants, GrowEastAfrica

Hi folks,

We opened this project by telling you about GrowEastAfrica, our partner in Ethiopia. You'll recall that they are an Ethiopian diaspora-led group based in the US. We recently had the honor of speaking with co-founder Yohannes by phone to learn about what's happening on the ground.

GrowEastAfrica Partnership Development
GrowEastAfrica is doing fantastic work toward facilitating economic empowerment for the communities they serve. Of note, they've recently helped organize two new women's groups and they're currently negotiating to secure 4 hectares of land for a community garden. In addition to growing vegetables and quinoa, the women are planning activities that can be completed between planting and harvesting seasons to generate more income. Seed saving for market sales and raising poultry are currently at the top of the list.

Assessing their immediate needs, the women have determined that water storage is their first priority. They're outlining a plan for installing 10,000 liter tanks that can be used for irrigation and other farming activities. And that's where this project comes in! We're now working with Yohannes and the women's groups on the best way to acquire, deliver, and install tanks for each group

New Women's Groups Highlights

  • Two women's groups were started, most of whose members are IDPs (internally displaced persons).
  • Two business trainings were conducted in December, featuring Marketing and Market Study and Bookkeeping.
  • All women received bookkeeping logs, pens, and basic calculators.
  • Women are participating in a group savings plan to contribute to seed money for their future businesses. This is known as a chama.

Challenges on the Ground
While GrowEastAfrica's communities have accomplished some great work recently, these women are working against both traditional and new challenges. Women in this region face many cultural and societal barriers, and competition for resources can make these barriers even more difficult to overcome. Yohannes also reports recent ethnic clashes in the region between several tribes. Many people have been killed and displaced, though there have been no reports in the mainstream media.

Despite these challenges, group members are fully committed to making this project succeed and grow. They believe that developing their economic empowerment can help overcome these barriers, and they are investing the time and effort to make it happen.

Yohannes' passion and compassion come through clearly if you have the chance to hear him talk about the people he works with. And with good reason — these are powerful, resilient women.

On his behalf, the behalf of the women's groups, and on behalf of SPI, thank you for your continued support!


 

Pepper plant from women
Pepper plant from women's garden
Soyama women with beans at market
Soyama women with beans at market
 

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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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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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