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Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables

by Seed Programs International
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables
Thinning the Radishes - Tecpan Women's Group
Thinning the Radishes - Tecpan Women's Group

Hi folks, 

This month’s update comes from Tecpán Women’s Group in Tecpán, Guatemala, where a group of Mayan women are continuing to grow their farming program. You may remember our previous report, where we first introduced this partner through GlobalGiving. They have been working continuously to expand their program, which preserves and passes on traditional farming knowledge to families in local communities.

At the beginning of 2020, this group implemented their Family Gardens Project, which is dedicated to growing vegetables for family consumption throughout the year. In addition to teaching gardeners advanced cultivation methods, the curriculum introduces new ways of preparing vegetables grown in family gardens. Modeling new preparation methods and providing simple recipes helps ensure that families take full advantage of the nutrition available in their garden. Paula López, the group’s leader, asserts that families  are more likely to grow diverse vegetable types if they can integrate them into traditional, delicious meals. 

“You can’t just set a bowl of spinach down in front of children and expect them to be excited. You have to cut it up, cook it with other vegetables, add it to beans, and put it all in a warm tortilla. Then they will love it, because the unfamiliar becomes familiar.” — Paula López, Women's Group Project Leader

These trainings are hosted at the most fundamental level — at each gardener’s home. This isn’t a small job. There is sometimes miles of roads between each home. This is where your donation made a difference: Paula was able to purchase a bicycle with SPI support so field technicians could more easily travel between remote areas of the village. Gardening tools were also purchased to establish a communal tool bank that community gardeners can access.

Their efforts are not without difficulties. COVID-19 curfews have caused significant delays in garden preparation and training. Fewer hours means shorter work days, and group gatherings are discouraged.

“Malnutrition has increased considerably due to a lack of food throughout the country because of the current situation of COVID 19. The Family Gardens Project is more important now than in the past.”  — Paula López, Women's Group & Gardening Project Leader

Despite these setbacks, the Women’s Group has found a way to work with the curfews and continue teaching while maintaining social distance. So far, twenty-five families have been able to prepare their garden beds by incorporating compost and organic matter, and some have already planted seeds. Like many partners, they are doing the best they can to adapt their programs in a rapidly-changing environment.

We are proud to partner with Paula and the Tecpán Women’s Group and look forward to providing you with further updates as these family gardens begin to flourish.

Thank you, sincerely, for your support. Your gift provides important resources for partners like the Tecpán Women’s Group. We hope you’re encouraged to know that families have access to more nutrition because of you.

— The SPI Team

Planting in the garden.
Planting in the garden.
A gardening consultation.
A gardening consultation.
A community visit.
A community visit.
Planting red onion.
Planting red onion.
Paula, picking up supplies.
Paula, picking up supplies.
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Mangloris shows off a beet from the garden.
Mangloris shows off a beet from the garden.

Hi folks,

This month’s update comes from our partnership with Habitat for Humanity in western Guatemala and features our Rotarians Against Hunger seed grant program. Habitat Guatemala founded the Family Gardens Project in 2013 to help establish and improve family and community gardens as a way to address malnutrition and poverty. In 2014, Habitat Guatemala worked closely with the community to expand their Family Gardens Project to El Canaque, San Marcos.

We know that only starting a garden is not enough. Disadvantages like malnutrition and poverty often stem from restricted access to resources and a lack of knowledge about how to use those resources. After the gardens were established, Habitat Guatemala offered families and communities training on the organic production of vegetables and seeds — that is, a way to expand the use of the original resources and the resources provided by these gardens.

During the initial phase, malnutrition in the community was reduced by 52%. Several community members were also inspired to found a bio-factory that prepares and sells different organic inputs and products, the Bio-fabrica. The challenges faced by these communities are not gone, but this project has provided resources and education to develop new tools that can help provide for fundamental human needs like nutritious food and income. 

Mangloris: Strengthening Families & Communities
Mangloris joined Habitat Guatemala’s Family Gardens Project when it opened in 2014. A mother living with her husband and five children in the El Canaque community, she tended a small family garden prior to participating in the community project. Mangloris has since become deeply involved in the communal garden and currently serves on the local Health Committee. Describing some of what she’s accomplished through the project, she shares:

“Through the support of the organizations and our own means, we have learned and improved as a family and team. We have harvested big crops of carrots, onions and trees to sell abroad. ... We started working on our own, and bought new seeds and other items to keep on growing and growing. The main goal of the project was to teach us how to work on our own, and now we are ready.”

Mangloris describes two important aspects of garden projects — they’re collaborative, and they’re hard work. Seeds are a resource that only bear fruit (or vegetables) when people can readily access everything needed to nurture that seed from sowing through harvest. When nurtured, seeds and education can provide a livelihood that provides family nutrition and income. Income is critical because it’s versatile. It can provide access to supplemental foods, improve gardening methods, and it supports the local economy that other community members rely on for their own livelihood. In short, programs like Habitat Guatemala’s Family Gardens Project improve people’s quality of life and help people gain more power over their own lives.

Six years into the project, Mangloris describes how she and her family have applied the principles learned through the project.

“We learned to use every part of the vegetables that we grow by cooking them in different recipes for our children. We also use the seeds from the vegetables for future harvests. ... It has been a great experience, because we have learned, grown and worked together! It has not been an easy road. But we continue moving forward. My dream is that one day, we will be selling all of our products in different towns.”

In 2019, Habitat Guatemala partnered with Seed Programs International in support of the Family Gardens Project as part of our Rotarians Against Hunger seed grant program. Rotarians Against Hunger is led by US Western North Carolina-based Rotary Clubs in Rotary District 7670. This program grants vegetable seeds to partners worldwide who are involved with nutrition, education, and income development projects.

Asked about the seeds supplied by Seed Programs International through the Rotarians Against Hunger program, she says, “The radishes grew really big! I prepared them in different dishes for my children and they loved it! We learned how to take full advantage of everything here, and now, all of the products are growing properly.”

Dreaming Big
So, what does the future look like for Mangloris?

“My dream is to keep working as a team. We need to work together as a community to continue improving. And I am hoping to keep working with Habitat Guatemala and America Solidaria too. I want to keep on dreaming and dreaming big! I have always enjoyed working with communities, motivating my team and showing them how to keep on dreaming to expand and grow.”

Your support of this project makes these partnerships possible. We cannot do our part without the support of folks like you who have contributed your resources in support of our own. You have the sincere gratitude of our team, and from Mangloris:

“We are very grateful for the seeds! They have been of great use to all of us. We have harvested and eaten them already. Thank you and may God bless you.”

— Team SPI

  

Mangloris in the Habitat Guatemala garden.
Mangloris in the Habitat Guatemala garden.
Carrots! Kids! The garden has everything!
Carrots! Kids! The garden has everything!
Touring the Habitat Guatemala community garden.
Touring the Habitat Guatemala community garden.
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Harvesting Greens with Hope Opens Doors
Harvesting Greens with Hope Opens Doors

Hi folks,

Today’s update comes from Kathy Barrera, the Program Director with Hope Opens Doors in Nigeria. Hope Opens Doors works with Mothers Welfare Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing care for some of the most vulnerable women and children in rural Northern Nigeria. Many of the people they serve have been displaced by violence, which has forced them to leave behind livelihoods and the means for providing for themselves and their families. This same violence also destroys crops, which disrupts the supply chain and makes it harder for everyone to access food. In a situation like this, vegetable seeds are a valuable resource.

Kathy Barrera wrote us recently to share their plans for the SPI vegetable seed they received earlier this year. She says:

“We have planted some seeds to get started. At the five sites, we planted green beans in Kuta and one farm at the school and also some family plots. In Sanban they planted Laraba spinach, amaranth, and local greens as well. We grow Chaya [a kind of leafy green] and mornings for soups. At our house, we planted a lot of mustard and turnip greens, plus beans, and amaranth beside the beans. If the rains start letting up, we will plant the tomatoes, okra, and pumpkins…”

About those rains — she writes that vegetables are usually planted in September at the end of the Northern Nigerian rainy season to avoid water rot. There are usually only three rains in October, which are called Sweet Potato Rains since that’s usually enough to grow tuber vegetables. However, the rainy season has extended into November this year, making farming difficult. She’s happy to report that the seeds are germinating well despite the rains!

Gardens are only one part of the services offered by Mothers Welfare Group and Hope Opens Doors. They also serve children and adults with special needs, providing housing, education, and healthcare in addition to their rural development projects. Looking ahead, their agricultural program will be trying new ways of growing vegetables. Like some of our other partners, they’ll be using old grain bags to grow vertical bag gardens.

The attached photos show some of the harvest from the garden. Kathy included a beautiful photo of Annie, smiling with a fistful of greens:

“Annie has cerebral palsy, but that does not stop her from harvesting mustard greens, turnip greens, amaranth, and okra for the Sunday chicken stir fry.”

Your generous support of this project put seeds in the hands of Kathy and Annie. From them, from Hope Opens Doors, and from us here at SPI, thank you.

— Team SPI

Harvesting Greens in the Garden
Harvesting Greens in the Garden
Annie harvesting Greens with Hope Opens Doors
Annie harvesting Greens with Hope Opens Doors
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Jaha speaking with a gathering of women.
Jaha speaking with a gathering of women.

Hi folks,

We recently heard from Safe Hands for Girls, our partner working in The Gambia. Safe Hands for Girls accomplishes important work in The Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Atlanta USA, fighting female genital mutilation / cutting (FGM/C) and child marriage. Founded in 2013 by Jaha Dukureh, a Gambian woman, Safe Hands for Girls advocates for women and girls through a combination of education, community discussion, and local and national legislative advocacy.

Jaha and Safe Hands for Girls often visit communities with a high percentage of women and girls affected by FGM/C to hold community discussions that include everyone affected by FGM/C: girls and women who have been cut, women who cut, village leaders, and community clerics. Jaha and Safe Hands for Girls are effective precisely because they foster these relationships. Changing cultural traditions is difficult, and they are slowly facilitating healthy change through their work.

Because the short- and long-term effects of FGM/C are severe — shock, hemorrhaging, infection, and anemia are a few of the effects — nutrition is a critical for both girls recovering from recently being cut and women whose immune systems have been compromised from being cut. SPI partnered with Safe Hands for Girls in 2018 as a way to complement the work they were already doing by establishing community vegetable gardens for women. Not only do gardens provide important nutrition, but they can provide a livelihood alternative for cutters who depend on income from the practice. Economic freedom also helps women throughout the community claim more power over their own lives.

Safe Hands for Girls writes:

“It is with extreme gratitude that [these communities] acknowledge and thank you for your services and support to the women groups. The Seed Programs Initiative partnership with safe Hands For Girls has supported and empowered women by giving them financial independence.

After handing over of the donated seeds, Safe Hands for Girls CEO (Jaha Dukureh) through the organisation funded the digging of 6 wells/ boreholes for easier access to water. This request was made by the women during a follow up visit by the team after the seed donation, the women cited the need for water and how it has affected the garden, the garden is about 275m by 175m square approximately. 

[...]

Thank you again for your service, your thoughtfulness means so much to our organisation and the women we serve. We care deeply about the communities we serve and we appreciate your commitment to helping us serve to an even greater capacity.

I have attached some photos of the garden and the amazing women who work on them.”

Safe Hands for Girls is changing lives and traditions, and safeguarding the lives of generations of women to come. You can see the garden and the amazing women who work on them attached to this report. Your gift supports gardens like this and our work with partners like Safe Hands for Girls.

From us, and from Safe Hands for Girls, thank you.

— The SPI Team

A garden started with Safe Hands for Girls.
A garden started with Safe Hands for Girls.
The well referenced in our recent letter fro SHFG.
The well referenced in our recent letter fro SHFG.
Onions from the garden.
Onions from the garden.
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Arriving for the commercial farm demonstration
Arriving for the commercial farm demonstration

Hi folks,

Today’s project update comes from GrowEastAfrica, an SPI partner who works with IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) families in Soyama, Ethiopia. If their name sounds familiar, that’s because we’ve been working with them since 2016 back when they were DBCO, and we’ve shared some of their story before.

“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

GrowEastAfrica’s co-founder, Yohannes Chonde, has adapted their programs over the years to meet the most urgent needs of the families they serve. They not only provide a short-term solution for folks who are fleeing their homes and establishing new lives, but they are moving toward long-term solutions that enroll and integrate local communities in ways that benefit both groups.

For instance, water is scarce in Ethiopia, and water access is critical for everyone — not just farmers. Rather than competing with the community, they’ve worked to establish reliable water sources for their farmers in collaboration with the local community.

Yohannes knows that access to farming resources — like good seed, tools, and training — can change life for someone who has been displaced. To be clear, these resources are not a handout. Farming is hard work that requires both manual labor and expertise. GrowEastAfrica’s programs strive not only to provide access to resources, but also to educate and train farmers who can pass on their knowledge and training to other farmers.

Fate is one farmer who has forged a new livelihood from the resources and education she accessed through GrowEastAfrica. Fleeing dangerous conditions, she left everything behind to start her life over in Soyama. Soon after arriving, Fate participated in farming and postharvest training with the Soyama Women’s Association offered by GrowEastAfrica in collaboration with the Burji District Agricultural Department. As one of the first participants, she’s witnessed how her community has changed because of GrowEastAfrica and her community’s determination to reestablish themselves:

“Just a few years ago, we were a community that was worried about what we would eat tomorrow and what the future looks like. … Today, not only are we growing our own food, but we're making plans for the future of our people and our community.”

Fate’s journey is one of survival and resilience. Building upon her training, she’s stepped into leadership with her Association to increase her community’s self-reliance:

“We are creating markets for ourselves, we're inspiring and empowering each other, and we're saving money and contributing to our own development. … 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.”

Fate and her Association are continually seeking new ways to learn and grow. Working with GrowEastAfrica, they are refining the Association’s supply chain to reach larger markets. They recently visited a commercial farm to see different techniques demonstrated that they can incorporate into their own practices. Photos from that visit are attached to this report.

Your support makes these programs possible. Thank you. Earlier this year, Fate shared a letter of gratitude for your support and the partnership between SPI and GrowEastAfrica. We’ll leave you with her words.

“Because of the support from Seed Programs International and Yohannes, we now have access to water where there was none. ... 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.”

The SPI Team


P.S. If you’d like to read more frequent updates about GrowEastAfrica, they will be featured in our new Gardens Give Hope, Health, and Income in E. Africa project here on GlobalGiving.

Visiting Meki Hydroponic Tomato Farm
Visiting Meki Hydroponic Tomato Farm
Learning about growing saplings in a tray
Learning about growing saplings in a tray
Using compressed wood fibers instead of soil
Using compressed wood fibers instead of soil
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Organization Information

Seed Programs International

Location: Asheville, NC - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Greg Bonin
Asheville, NC United States
$72,637 raised of $94,700 goal
 
1,497 donations
$22,063 to go
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