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
Planting in Liberia
Planting in Liberia

Seed is not a hand-out, and vegetables don’t appear by magic. The journey from seed to harvest — soil preparation, sowing, weeding, picking, and transportation — requires a significant investment from farmers. That’s a lot of time, sweat, and energy.

Just as seed is not a hand-out, the support SPI provides to our partners is not a hand-out; it’s an investment. With your help, we invest in leaders on the ground who put their communities first, cultivate mutually beneficial relationships, and put resources in the hands of those who need them most (often the same people that can do the most with them). In other words, they do the hard work of building resiliency.

The SPI Liberia Partnership Network exemplifies this type of investment. The network began with a stakeholder meeting in May 2016. During the lead-up to that meeting, we consulted with a partner on the ground who identified local connections that could contribute to, and benefit from, the network. She took the lead, inviting partners and organizing the entire event, including transportation arrangements. During the meeting itself, partners coordinated how they would educate and support each other, share resources, and build a framework that would ensure that the work of rebuilding their communities would last well beyond SPI’s involvement.

Now that the network is established, we are seeing clear progress. So far, network partners have conducted over 2,000 extension visits, 360 instructional school days, and 75 group trainings. Many of the partners in the network did not know about each other before the stakeholder meeting. Now, they’re sharing a pool of agricultural expertise from within the network. Because of their hard work and conscious collaboration, SPI’s investment of seeds and training has reached more people, families, and communities than we would have been able to reach on our own. We’re confident that this work will last beyond our involvement because the programs were made for the network, by the network.

The support that our network partners provide for Ebola survivors is crucial for their recovery and livelihoods. Many survivors are ostracized without the skills or resources they need to feed themselves or make a living. The agricultural training provided by SPI partners not only offers survivors a pathway to recovery, but creates a space for psychosocial support that assists their healing. For instance, similar to the knowledge sharing of network partners, survivors began teaching each other basic life skills they had learned before they were affected by Ebola. While the SPI Liberia Partnership Network is rebuilding the agricultural infrastructure, farmers are finding strength in one another to rebuild their social structures.

Our partners and their farmers are working together to share resources and disburse support in ways that ensure the resiliency of their communities. We are excited to be part of their work and we could not have supported them without you!

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Social Support
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Bentol City Farmers
Bentol City Farmers

Education for farmers and their communities is a critical component for reestablishing self-sufficiency after Ebola, and the farmers of the SPI Liberia Partnership Network have made education a priority. Continuing the collaborative action plan from May's stakeholder meeting, these self-organized working groups designed and conducted trainings and skill-sharing events that are accessible by all participants of the partnership. Seven trainings were planned for June through August, and they didn't stop there.

"[D]ue to the numerous calls by these women to be trained in the uses of fertilizer and postharvest hygiene practices related to the use of fertilizer, REAP decided to hold a three-day training in the Types and Uses of fertilizer and how to clean harvested vegetables." — Venny, REAP Executive Director

In December, the Restoration of Educational Advancement Program (REAP) conducted a three-day training for 30 women from Bentol City, Liberia and its surrounding villages. Farmers learned how to take a soil sample; differentiate between inorganic and organic fertilizers; apply fertilizers in several ways; and clean their vegetables after the harvest. For additional support, REAP also contacted the University of Liberia's Agricultural Department to provide three trainers to train the farmers—truly, the community coming together to power its own success!

With your help, SPI has been providing seeds through REAP since the start of this year. These women have been growing vegetables in various capacities—everything from back yard gardens to communal agricultural initiatives. By refining their agricultural skills and effectively using fertilizers, they increase their chances of growing robust, nutritious vegetables they can rely upon to provide ample food for their families.

Another critical component for rebuilding toward self-sufficiency is passing it on. Not only did 30 women from different communities learn how to use fertilizer, but five women were also educated as trainers for future gatherings. These women have the power to train others in their communities and ensure that future generations will benefit from their own investment. By educating themselves, these exceptional farmers have expanded their repertoire of agricultural skills, bolstering their communities' resilience against future disaster.

Thank you for your continued support!

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Lofa County Group Training
Lofa County Group Training

Capacity building, community outreach, support from agricultural experts, and the establishment of information and skill sharing systems are all key components for SPI’s Ebola recovery project. At May’s stakeholder meeting, hosted by Mayor Christine Norman and REAP Liberia, self-formed and self-run groups forged a partnership to build out their own farming programs by sharing resources and skills.

“There is a need that we establish a strong network with one common goal and objective.” — Mr. Tamba - Program Director

Over the past few months, the SPI Liberia Partnership Network has been forming support systems that will be used to develop the key components of their programs. Self-organized working groups within the partnership are using the collaborative action plan drafted at May’s meeting to design trainings and skill-sharing events that are accessible by all participants of the partnership. SPI’s programs rely upon skills, strengths, and community input from our in-country partners — they know the people, and they know what is needed to be successful!

This collaboration is a great example of SPI seed recipients maximizing the resources already available to them while integrating the resources provided by SPI as they move toward becoming self-sufficient communities.

“I recommend that there should be additional training for partners to continue building their capacity.” — Ms. Dukuly

June - August: Trainings

  • Planting in heavy rain season
  • Greenhouse gardening
  • Vegetable gardening 101
  • Soil health
  • Pest control
  • Harvest planning
  • Storage planning

September: Lofa County Agricultural Fair

Our partner, Jacob F. Tomei Enterprise Center (JFTEC), will host an agricultural fair for Lofa County at Monrovia city hall this September 13 - 14. This is the first event of its kind in Liberia.

“Farmers should meet frequently to share experience and review past activities.” Mr. Tomei

A one stop-shop for all agricultural support services, the fair aims to transform Liberian farmers from subsistence farmers to business farmers. The products, services, and trainings offered include access to better technology and supplies, finding market outlets for their harvests, and learning leadership and planning skills. JFTEC itself is moving toward a self-sustaining model by charging a small fee that will allow them to sustainably offer these, and other, services and events on a regular basis — they’re leading by doing.

Closing Out the Year

Between now and the end of the year, the SPI Liberia Partnership Network is planning to publish a newsletter for their network featuring resources available to the network, progress from the working groups, and what has been learned by the farmers. Partners are also planning a farmers market and festival that will be held in December. What a great way to close out the year!

Support from GlobalGiving and our generous donors has helped provide access to good seeds and training for women, the elderly, and children — portions of the population that don’t traditionally have access to agricultural resources. Thank you! It goes without saying that we couldn’t support as many people as we do without you!

Lead Trainer
Lead Trainer
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Women During Harvest
Women During Harvest

Surviving Ebola means more than only surviving the disease. An estimated 8,000 children have lost one or both parents to Ebola in Liberia alone. Ebola widows and orphans face isolation and stigmatization, all while struggling with the psychological trauma of losing countless family members, friends, and neighbors in a short period. Women and girls are left vulnerable after losing their parents or partners to Ebola, and are especially susceptible to exploitation and violence. Psychosocial support and intervention are integral for the recovery and continued survival of Ebola widows and orphans.

Single mothers like seed program participant Maima receive access to good seeds, training, support and resources provided by SPI and our partner programs in Liberia.

"Most of us are single parents left with children to support. The Ebola virus out-breaks have increased our problems. Most of the women here are supporting Orphans who parents died from the Ebola virus, we don’t have any skill and are not letter [able to read and write]." — Maima

In addition to providing seed, SPI works with partner organizations to identify training needs within a community and to fund that training. SPI's in-country partner, Church Aid, has been providing this kind of support to women for almost two decades. Ms. Miatta, Church Aid’s Women’s Empowerment Program Director writes, "One of the many problems that surfaces during trauma counseling is the question of basic sustenance or inadequate food for mothers and children. When a person is traumatized, one of the ways to avoid a relapse when under psychosocial treatment is to ensure that their basic needs are met." 

SPI’s partnership training package, Women in Gardening: Sowing Seeds to Grow Food, provides women with training and resources to grow their own food to supplement their diet and income — effectively providing crucial nutritional and social support for Ebola survivors and their families. Women in Gardening teaches women to find a good place to establish a garden, learn how to maintain a vegetable-friendly environment, know what crops will grow well, and how to plant, harvest, and store what grows in their gardens.

Training participants like Ms. Famata are quickly becoming role models and change agents in their communities. 

"When I carried the seeds my friends said you are wasting your time because these seeds won’t grow. But I told them, I will try them...I trust the people who give them to me. As God could have it, all the seeds I took grew so well. We ate them and sold some. Many people came to ask for vegetables. I felt so proud and happy." — Famata 

SPI provides tangible benefits to women, mainly through access to seeds and agriculture-based skills training. We've learned that empowering women is the best way to effectively improve family and community health, education, and overall well-being. About 40 women participated in our most recent training, and we've had up to 75 participants in past trainings.

With SPI’s help, Church Aid will host a training workshop in June for 150 women in three counties (Montserrado, Bomi, and Grand Cape Mount). The workshop focuses on entrepreneurial skills that will aid women in marketing their products and investing the proceeds into productive local ventures.

"The program is encouraging women to move from backyard gardening into vegetable growing on a larger [scale] to sustain themselves and their families. Most of these women are self-supported and depend on the soil but on a very small scale. Motivating them to invest portion of their income from vegetable to other sectors will help them as we hope you can help us support the cost." — Miatta, Church Aid Women’s Empowerment Program Director

Sickness, physical limitations, and the disruption of social support limit people's ability to work and traps them in a cycle of poverty and undernourishment. Your support enables us to continue providing access to life-saving resources that, in turn, enable those in the most desperate situations to break their cycle of poverty.

On behalf of SPI, our partner organizations, and the recipients of seed programs in Liberia, we thank you for your generous support.

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Panelists
Panelists

One of our favorite days to celebrate at SPI is International Women’s Day. This day is dedicated to celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is also a time to renew focus on improving the status of women worldwide. This year we had the honor of celebrating International Women’s Day with Mayor Christine Norman of Bentol Liberia, and founder of REAP, one of our Liberia partners. While in the US visiting family, Mayor Norman took time out of her schedule to participate in a panel discussion that also included local Asheville women in leadership. The focus of the discussion was women’s empowerment and food security. The discussion was very informative and educational especially for our local SPI supporters.

SPI staff also had a very a rare face to face opportunity to discuss programing, and receiving program input and advice from Mayor Norman. At SPI we believe the first and most important piece to starting a seed program in any community is to get community input. Mrs. Norman and REAP program have offered to host a stakeholder meeting with leadership teams of 5 other SPI partners in Liberia in May 2016. The goal of the meeting is to engage our partners in a discussion about their communities' agricultural needs, potentials, women’s programs, and together create need list based on their suggestions and available resources.

Our overarching goal is to assess current partner needs, access to resources like training, land, transportation, and internet. This will help to discover gaps, common challenges and barriers, as well as locally available solutions to these challenges and barriers. We hope to achieve this through self-proposed actions that will benefit all SPI partners involved.  

This meeting will help create new or strengthen existing self-formed and self-run groups that provides access to resources, inputs and services and opportunities to participate actively in program activities. The stakeholders will identify setting of project activities, planning and carrying out of activities as well as monitoring and evaluation. By bringing our partners together SPI can avoid becoming just a resource delivery vehicle, but rather a stakeholder at the table.

We hope this meeting will also start a network that will allow our partners to share skills, information and resources they each individually have access to.

We are grateful for our supporters, our work would be imposible without you.

Thank you!

Event organizers and Mayor Christine Norman
Event organizers and Mayor Christine Norman
Mayor Christine Norman
Mayor Christine Norman
Mayor Christine Norman and the Women of Bentol
Mayor Christine Norman and the Women of Bentol
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Organization Information

Seed Programs International

Location: Asheville, NC - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @seedprograms
Project Leader:
Peter Marks
Asheville, NC United States

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