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After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives

by Seed Programs International
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives
After Ebola, Gardens Help Rebuild Lives

With your generous support, SPI's Liberian partners positioned their powerful gardening programs as a tool to move beyond Ebola. Now they, and we, look ahead at new ways to use the gains of strong local leadership, vibrant networks, and capable families that were developed in response to the crisis. 

One great example is an upcoming National Agricultural Camp and Agricultural Fair to be held this July by 4H Liberia. 

Our partner Umaru, 4H Director, explains it this way:

"The theme for this year is Grow Liberia- Promote Youth in Agriculture and the objectives are:

  • Help young people see agriculture as a profitable business and viable livelihood by removing the stereotype that agriculture is a poor person’s job.
  • Train young men and women in improved agricultural science and techniques that they will use to impact other youth, parents, and community leaders
  • Allow students to share ideas through communication and leadership training.

The participating schools are from Bong, Lofa, Montserrado, Bomi, Gbarpolu, and Margibi counties. A total of 126 participants will be invited to the camp, including 100 youth ranging in age from 15-22 years, and 26 adults.  75% of the crops that will be showcased at the agriculture fair are seeds from the SPI and seeds for garden practices at the camp will be SPI seeds. Thank you for your support to 4-H Liberia."

What a wonderful example of how your donations not only fed families when no other options were available, but also give ongoing hope for a more resilient future led by a new generation. Thank you!

Going forward, we'll keep working in Liberia to sustain our partner network. Our vision is to have capable trainers in the form of leader farmers embedded in each community, while key organizations continue to provide specialized knowledge and tools for vegetable growing. Our further vision is that Liberia continue to move toward seed self-sufficiency so that SPI seed does not have to be sent across the ocean. This is easier to achieve for staple crops like maize and beans than it is for vegetables. Yet it is possible with a combination of seed saving and continued development of local and regional seed enterprises.

Watch for a new Liberia project here at GlobalGiving in the future. Until then, I hope you'll stay in touch. Contact me any time if you want to know more about what SPI and our partners are up to in Liberia and beyond. 

Faces of Liberia's Future
Faces of Liberia's Future
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4-H Club Members with SPI Seed Packets
4-H Club Members with SPI Seed Packets

Hi folks,

In the last report, we closed with a statement about the partnership program from 4-H Liberia: "This program provides a career path for young people to develop interest in feeding the nation. Access to tool banks via the partnership network is very useful. The children used to complain that their parents would refuse to let them borrow tools. Now, most of them have tools to cultivate their gardens." We recently received some photos from Umaru Sheriff, the National Executive Director for 4-H Liberia, Inc., so we thought you might like to know more about 4-H Liberia and see some of the young people participating in the program.

4-H Liberia has Enterprise School Garden programs in six of Liberia's 15 counties: Gbarpolu, Bong, Bomi, Margibi, Montserrado, and Lofa. The goal of the program is to develop the leadership, agricultural, and life skills of 4-H Club members and improve the socioeconomic conditions of members and their families. They accomplish this through inspiration, eduction, and agricultural work integration — keeping an eye out for future farmers, providing equipment, and using the school garden as a learning laboratory. The garden also helps connect the school and community: "The garden is a bridge that links the gap between community members and school authorities, promoting interaction between the school and the community." Similar to SPI programs, 4-H has designed their programs around each community's context to ensure adoption and circulation.

With about 3,000 members, just under half are girls and young women ages 8 - 25 years old. 4-H has made gender education and equity a priority in its programs, which is just one of the reasons we love what they're doing! Speaking about gender education in their programs, they share, "One of the objectives of the 4-H Program is to develop leaders. Liberia, like other African countries, is a male dominant society. In the process of developing leaders, females need to be included without being restricted to certain jobs." Their first two objectives are: For boys to see girls as partners in development; and to erase the notion that there are specific jobs for girls and others for boys. By prioritizing gender education, they are teaching both girls and boys to understand leadership and serve side by side in leadership positions.

What's next for 4-H? At the last stakeholder meeting for the Liberia SPI Partnership Netowork, 4-H Project Officer Ted Williams shared, "4-H Liberia has a vision to establish a seed bank in Liberia. This will help farmers to receive local and viable seeds on time. This could be done by empowering farmers with seeds and when the seeds are collected from the farmers, it will go directly to those that are in need." 4-H and the other Partnership Network members are looking toward the future — toward resilience and self-sufficiency. We're proud to support them along the way.

The photos in this update are from 4-H in Bomi County, Liberia. You can read more about their program at the 4-H website, and you can see a seed germination testing video that was produced as part of their work with SPI on SPI's YouTube channel.

Thank you, again, for your support of this project.

Younger 4-H Club Members with SPI Seed Packets
Younger 4-H Club Members with SPI Seed Packets
The season is underway!
The season is underway!
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October 2017 Stakeholder Meeting Participants
October 2017 Stakeholder Meeting Participants

Hi folks,

So much has happened since the last report! As we shared earlier, our focus, as directed by our partners, has shifted toward facilitating an exit strategy that relies upon the collective strengths of our partners and their network. As their strategies have become more sophisticated and their capacity has expanded, we've asked them to help us understand where the network is headed next.

Third Stakeholder Meeting

Late in October, the partnership network organized a stakeholder meeting in Breweville City, Montserrado County, Liberia. During the meeting, they developed an action plan based on their pool of peer resources — the skills, tools, and supplies available to them. We’re working closely with our ground coordinator, Francis Bendoe, and our partners to ensure that everyone is represented in the plan and that there is support as the network becomes more self-sufficient.

24 participants attended the meeting to represent their organizations, including:

  • Church Aid Liberia
  • Green Cost Agriculture Program (GCAP)
  • Jacob F. Tomei Enterprise Center (JFTEC)
  • Liberia Animal Welfare & Conservation Society
  • 4-H Liberia
  • Restoration of Education Advancement Programs (REAP)
  • Network Innovation for Children’s Endeavor (NICE)
  • Food Bank Liberia
  • Restoring Our Children’s Hope
  • Other local and community-based organizations
  • Journalists, local farmers, and religious leaders

Related themes that partners reported emerging from the meeting included:

  • Seed is life.
  • Seed is wealth.
  • Invest seed into the soil for development. (This is a focus on seed as a resource for long-term nutrition and economic development in addition to food production for immediate consumption.)
  • Sow seed today for a better tomorrow.

We're also excited to report that 75,000 packets of SPI seed arrived in Liberia in time for this gathering. For this, our gratitude goes out to you for your support of this project, and to GlobalGiving for their generous support of this Ebola recovery project. This seed was highly anticipated, and was distributed among the partners according to the partnership plan that was created at an earlier meeting. Here's what some of our partners had to say:

Let our goal be to reach to the unreachable with SPI seeds that are helping us to fight diseases, hunger, and poverty in Liberia, which are our greatest enemies.  — Bishop Kortu K. Brown of Church Aid Liberia

Because of the support from SPI seeds, more vegetables were available in Bentol City market. This encouraged growers to eat more vegetables, which improved their nutrition, and livelihoods improved from income they earned. I’m very glad to receive SPI seeds and I pledge my commitment to ensure that these seeds will reach the people who will benefit most. I encourage close collaboration among us SPI Liberia Network Partners to support each other in our areas of expertise.  — Mayor Christine Tolbert Norman of Restoring of REAP

From Recovery to Resilience

Besides seed distribution and discussion about different aspects of self-sufficiency, Church Aid Liberia conducted a training on entrepreneurial skills for farmers. Farmers learned how to plant a commercial garden, including methods for estimating what income they can expect from the harvest.

Asked to assess the benefit of the partnership program, 4-H Liberia shared: this program provides a career path for young people to develop interest in feeding the nation. Access to tool banks via the partnership network is very useful. The children used to complain that their parents would refuse to let them borrow tools. Now, most of them have tools to cultivate their gardens.

These trainings, themes, and participant statements are all indications that our partners have grown from recovery toward self-sufficiency and resilience. Our SPI team could not provide support for our partners without your support. We’re humbled and grateful for your support and the work of our partners.

Thank you.

Miatta giving remarks (Church Aid Liberia)
Miatta giving remarks (Church Aid Liberia)
Mayor Christine giving remarks (REAP)
Mayor Christine giving remarks (REAP)
Jacob collects his SPI seed packets (JFTEC)
Jacob collects his SPI seed packets (JFTEC)
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Francis Transplanting Cabbage
Francis Transplanting Cabbage

Hello, project supporters!

We’d like to share some news about the future of this project, but first we’d like to introduce you to Francis, our on-the-ground coordinator for the SPI Liberia Partnership Network. We initially contracted with Francis earlier this year to help with data collection. Since then, he’s established himself as an essential coordinator for SPI and our partners in Liberia. Not only has Francis taken the lead in coordinating with SPI, he’s started his own CBO whose mission focuses on agriculture and education. Francis writes:

“I am a student of agriculture with a strong passion to engage youth and women in agribusiness that improves nutrition and strengthens livelihoods through garden activity in my community. I also have keen interest in the development and well-being of children. From this background, I thought it wise to formulate a Community Based Organization (CBO) named Network Innovation for Children's Endeavor (NICE) Liberia, which will subsequently be transformed into a Non Governmental Organization that provides humanitarian services across Liberia. Mainly, it will focus on agriculture to empower women and youth, and education for children that promotes their holistic development.

Through my network with Naima from SPI, I received some agriculture donations to enable my garden work with fellow community dwellers. With this support from SPI, I mobilized a group of ten youth — three women and seven men who are college, junior and senior high school students — to cultivate vegetables. Vegetable sales will provide a means of financial empowerment to enable each person to purchase school supplies for the next academic year.”

We’re currently in discussion with Francis about the future of NICE and what role SPI might have in supporting the organization. We’ll tell you more as this partnership develops!

Rounding the Corner

After working alongside our partners for more than a year, it’s time to round a corner. Working with Francis had made it clear that our partners’ focus has shifted from rebuilding to thriving. Like Francis, many of our partners have expanded their original capacity to include providing support to surrounding communities in addition to their own.

We’ve been asking partners to assess how SPI might best support their communities’ development, or if the support is even needed at all. We’re working with Francis and our partners to answer that question, and once that direction is determined, we’ll update this project to reflect the new direction that our partners have asked us to follow.

Thank you for your continued support throughout this project. We’re really happy with the direction that this project has taken and hope you’ll continue to support these communities in their new endeavors!

Francis with an SPI Partner
Francis with an SPI Partner
Women with NICE Liberia
Women with NICE Liberia
Francis and Men with NICE Liberia
Francis and Men with NICE Liberia
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Improving nutrition in a sustainable way requires having good seeds, access to training and information, and appropriate tools. Many people have the energy, ambition and are ready for the work but they do not have the resources to get started. Having access to right garden tools and supplies makes a community’s goal of nutrition improvement easily achievable, especially for SPI’s seed recipients.

Appropriate tools and equipment contribute to the broad objective of increasing the viability of the small farms and gardens supported by our partner organizations. Most smaller groups and individual seed recipients in Liberia use traditional technologies that are inefficient. Although power tools and more modern tools can be found in Liberia, most recipients and our partner organizations do not have the resources to cover the cost of these types of equipment. It is, therefore, our goal to help fill this gap with good quality tools and equipment that are affordable and suited to the scale of operations of the small farmers and gardeners.

in May 2017 11 tools banks with little or no tools at all were fully stocked with tools for SPI seed recipients across five counties in Liberia. With their new tool banks, our Liberia partners are preparing themselves to train seed recipients how to operate their new tool banks in an inclusive and efficient manner, and create a self-supporting system of sharing tools and other resources.

SPI provided the tools with support from you and from GlobalGiving and paid the cost of transport to our distribution point, which was the office of one of our partners in Liberia.

The tools funded by SPI are selected specifically with the environment and local culture in mind. These tools are:

a) adapted to allow efficient and speedy work with the minimum of fatigue

b) of simple design, so that they can be made locally;

c) light in weight, for easy transportation

d) ready for immediate use without loss of time for preparatory adjustments;

f) made of easily available materials.

Across Liberia, it’s mostly small kitchen gardens and small-scale farmers who put food on a villager’s table. It is because of the hard work of these gardeners and farmers that we have accomplished our goals. We support sustainable options for our partners, instead of pushing them into the endless cycle of buying bad seeds and chemical fertilizers and pesticides that only damage their most precious resource, their land.

When working with our in-country partners, we look at a variety of resource areas, including access to seeds,  tools, and training to determine the gaps and how to invest SPI resources to sustainably contribute to the rebuilding of communities who have survived disease and war many times over.

We are proud of our Liberia partners who are working tirelessly to make a difference in the communities they serve. Despite a variety of difficulties, they have been able to obtain and share valuable horticultural and life skills that have become life-saving for many who rely on them.

Thank you for supporting our work, and thank you to GlobalGiving for your partnership!

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Organization Information

Seed Programs International

Location: Asheville, NC - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Peter Marks
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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