Our best hope for any project is that we will work ourselves out of a job. When farmers acquire the skills they need to grow food, save seeds, and foster mutually beneficial relationships with neighboring communities, they lay a foundation for self-sufficiency that will last for generations to come.
So, we are happy to say that this is our final report for Seeds to Grow 100 Tons of Needed Food in Honduras. Together with our primary partner, FIPAH, we have supported five Honduran communities in coming together to develop and adopt adaptable solutions. Thanks to the farmer schools and research teams (CIALs), farmers are empowered to respond to a changing environment and local economy. By including all members of the community, including women and youth, they have ensured that a broad pool of farmers have the knowledge needed for long-term resilience. continue the best practices developed by FIPAH’s research teams (CIALs).
"Before, women didn't have any say in agriculture. Now they're active in many projects," said Hilda, CIAL's Women in Action coordinator and treasurer. "Now we have a say in what goes on in our farming communities. The men received us well. Women are good farmers because we are motivated and hard-working and organized. We are leaders."
While we initially shipped seeds to Honduras, it later made more sense to purchase seeds locally to better adapt seed-saving techniques for each region. Sally from FIPAH writes, “The project flows from a successful seed field school piloted in Jesus de Otoro in 2015 supported by SPI. As per the original planning, each of the five regions where FIPAH operates is focused on producing specific seed varieties through field school training.” Below, you can see the seeds that each region chose to refine along with the breakdown of farmers who are now trained in seed production.
Intibucá Sur: Tomato, Chile, Green Bean, Cucumber, Pepino
12 Farmers: 5 Women and 7 Men
Lempira Sur: Broccoli, Cauliflower Onion
11 Farmers: 5 Women and 6 Men
Otoro: Soybean, Coriander, Radish
10 Farmers: 9 Women and 1 Man
Yorito: Chile, Tomato
10 Farmers: 9 Women and 1 Man
Vallecillo: Onion, Cabbage
13 Farmers: 2 Women and 11 Men
The CIALs currently have 56 participants engaged in seed production enterprises — 30 women and 26 men from 21 communities over five regions. Our most recent field report focuses on the Jesus de Otoro region.
Dona Bertulia is from the community of Las Pilas in the municipality of Sulaco. Her small huerto (orchard) is right beside her house on the road that runs through the centre of Las Pilas. Neighbors can peer over her fence to see what she is growing. She has a wide range of vegetables and herbs, which she waters with simple drip irrigation.
As a long time seed saver, she was selected by FIPAH for seed saving training in tomato and chile. Given the difficulties that farmers face working with these two species, she was eager to learn new information about plant diseases, how to select plants that could be used to save seed, and some farming “best practices” for these particular plants.
During the training, Dona Bertulia learned how to save seed that could be sold, an idea that was new to her. There are a lot of women in Las Pilas interested in growing vegetables, but they don’t have access to good seed. She is now planning on selling tomato and chile seed to neighbours in addition to the vegetable harvest she usually offers. The seed will be sold in small paper packets that have been produced at FIPAH’s Yorito office. Producing seed not only opens the door for women to earn an income, but importantly, it can be done from home. Women, most with children and older relatives to care for, can engage in saving seed without leaving their homes. And the neighbors will benefit from having access to seed which they can use in their own huertos to produce healthy food to nourish their families.
With your help, we recently supported the acquisition of over 62,000 packets of seed. FIPAH reports that our partnership has benefited 100 communities in five regions where 829 families and 270 schoolchildren from grades 4 - 6. Six school gardens have been established where students share the responsibility of managing the garden with their parents. These gardens contribute healthy vegetables to the school’s lunch menu and will also provide plants that will be saved for seed. This is just one fantastic example of how the community has come together to create spaces for multi-generational collaboration.
Seed production is the final stage of our involvement with this program. Having an exit strategy and supporting work toward that end is a core component of our model. Now that a strong, community-led network is in place for these Honduran farmers, our role in supporting this project has concluded.
We are so grateful for your generous support of this project! We hope you will consider supporting one of our other projects and reading more about our work at www.seedprograms.org.
One of the first questions we ask when considering a new partnership is, "Can we facilitate this partner's growth toward self-sufficiency and resilience?" Each partner is unique — each community has access to different resources and expertise, and we rely upon local leaders with boots on the ground to help make key decisions in our programs. Our programs aim to first invest in local relationships that will help ensure our partner's resilience long after we are no longer directly supporting a program in the region.
When we begin looking at seed selection together, we first determine whether quality seed is already accessible though the partner's existing relationships. Our partners often already know which vegetables work best and whether good seed is available locally. Access to good seed is one of the primary drivers for long-term agricultural sustainability, and FIPAH's research teams (CIALs) are actively working to establish self-sustaining local seed production. Since quality seed is available locally, our role in this partnership has shifted to support FIPAH and the CIALs by working together to purchase appropriate vegetable seeds and offer seed saving workshops through the field schools (ECAs).
In a recent report, FIPAH reported the purchase and distribution of seed to Yorito, Vallecillo, Otoro, Lempira Sur, and Intibucá Sur — regions where seed production is being taught. The number of SPI-equivalent packets includes:
We're looking forward to hearing what happened with the seeds and we'll tell you about that in the next report. Until then, thank you for your continued support and for helping to strengthen these communities toward resilience!
Last July, we shared how our field partner in Honduras, FIPAH (Foundation for Participatory Research with Honduran Farmers), was working to organize field schools (ECAs) to train community-led farmer research teams (CIALs) over five regions in Honduras. These CIALs are tasked with:
(Read more about FIPAH and the CIALs in this PDF.)
Their goal is to establish one ECA per region that will offer both general and region-specific agricultural training for the CIALs. The ECAs plan to develop a total of eight training modules, and three modules have already been developed:
FIPAH also reports that there are 53 participants, including 37 women and 16 men from 21 communities over 5 municipalities of Honduras. The ECAs currently have seven species of vegetables from which they can produce quality seed, and they are actively expanding this repository. These community leaders are distributing seeds that families can use to start their own gardens, and they will continue working with recipient families through January 2017.
FIPAH, the ECAs, and CIALs are laying the foundation to self-sustainability through community-led education and local seed production. By engaging community leaders to teach agriculture specific to each region, they ensure that this knowledge will remain in the collective memory of the community for generations to come.
We never take your support of these projects for granted. So, thank you, and may 2017 find you well!
Copan Department, Honduras is a mountainous region famous for its pre-Colombian archaeological site and beautiful landscapes. But in late 2015, the government of Copan declared a famine emergency as ongoing drought led to widespread loss of three most important crops for income and nutrition: corn, beans, and coffee. In this context, fresh vegetables grown in gardens at home (where scarce water is carried anyway) provide essential nutrition and income. Back in Spring, we reported that seeds were on the way to the Copan region in the care of Rotarians from Asheville, North Carolina. The results: greater than we could have imagined!
It Takes a Team
Here’s the amazing story of how SPI seeds reach families in Copan:
190 families in 15 villages received seeds for vegetables including mustard greens, spinach, carrots, onions, and squash. Training was provided on topics ranging from terracing the steep land, to planting and transplanting technique, to organic fertilizer sources. In the end, our program partners actually counted and weighed the harvest:
What a tremendous haul—credit is due to the hard-working gardeners and their trainers for achieving this harvest in a time of drought and general famine.
Sometimes we rely on the obvious to know a program is working: bountiful harvests, smiling families, heart-warming quotes. But other times, data helps.
Our field partner in Honduras, FIPAH (Foundation for Participatory Research with Honduran Farmers), has been doing great work to actually measure how lives change. They organize rural farmers into small groups and train them to lead the way in developing, growing, and using crops that are selected specifically for their climate, culture, and environment. FIPAH is aiming to scale to 173 farmer groups, representing 191 communities in 5 departments of Western and Central Honduras, by 2020. They are already more than halfway there!
Project leaders Sally and Marvin state, "In the early days of the project, farmer-led research was new to all members. This encouraged shared learning between men and women. Women took seed selection skills out of the kitchen and into public space." Recently FIPAH has shared some research information, particularly on the question of how women are impacted. Here are some findings:
FIPAH staff conclude: "Learning to do research gave poor women and men self-confidence. Self-confidence allowed women to use their liberty effectively and empowered them to make important household decisions."
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