Foods Resource Bank Blog

Growing Success: Land Donation to Benefit Women Farmers


More women will benefit from training through our Burkina Faso Namentenga program, thanks to a generous land donation. Community leaders agreed to donate 17 acres of communal land to develop into a training site. The site is upstream from a dam to facilitate irrigation, and will be divided into smaller parcels for the women to work and practice on. At least 120 women farmers will learn how to earn an income from market gardening.

To be more inclusive and ensure that each participant feels she is receiving the same benefits, all hands-on training must be done on a communal plot of land. It was critical to find a place everyone could agree on. After a lengthy process of meetings with the authorities of three communities, community-wide discussions, negotiations, and legal work, the original goal of 15 acres was met and exceeded. Community leaders also expressed willingness to participate in work planning. Such community buy-in promotes ownership of the entire process and creates a firm foundation for the women’s long-term success as market farmers.

The program follows Catholic Relief Services’ proven SMART Skills (Skills for Marketing and Rural Transformation) approach. SMART teaches basic skills all farmers need so that they can grow more food, market excess, and earn a sustainable income. By growing their own crops, the women will learn sound farming techniques to improve their soil, increase the quality of their produce, and manage their farms and money with good record keeping.

Photo caption: Women discuss seasonal planting schedules

Burkina Faso Namentenga Program
Led by Catholic Relief Services
73 communities, 2,620 households, 15,720 individuals

12/13/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Training Encouraged and Inspired Me

Like other farmers in the Bangladesh Kendua program area, Monowar says he used to grow only rice.  “We thought that rice was the only crop that we could grow, and that it would save us. But when I joined the farmer group, I learned about the importance of nutrition and decided to commit to nutrition-focused agriculture. After a workshop on kitchen gardening, I started growing vegetables along with my rice.”

Monowar has dedicated almost half of his land to the kitchen garden and has seen his family’s health improve with the variety of vegetables they now enjoy with their rice.  

But he didn’t stop there, as he was eager to learn as much as he could. “The SATHI training program also encouraged and inspired me to do environmentally-friendly agriculture,” he says.

Intrigued when he heard about how composting could improve the quality and quantity of his vegetables, Monowar collected all the necessary raw materials and invited FRB’s and World Renew’s local partner SATHI to conduct the practical training session at his house. He wanted other farmers to understand the importance of using compost and growing vegetables for a diversified diet.

In addition to vegetables commonly used in local dishes – spinach, amaranth, beans, eggplants, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and pumpkins – he’s started growing more unfamiliar ones to sell to a larger market. He received a loan from his farmer group’s savings and loan program to begin producing winter crops, and now grows vegetables year-round.
 
Caption: Monowar working in his kitchen garden.

Bangladesh Kendua program
Led by World Renew and Local Partner SATHI
6 communities, 1,080 households, 5,400 individuals

12/12/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

"Pass on the Gift" Provide Families with Nutrition and Income


In remote Armenian mountain villages, employment opportunities are hard to come by and life is a challenge.  Gifts of chickens, lambs and beehives passed from one neighbor to the next mean nutrition and income for hungry and poor families.

Uncle Jahan, who cares for his disabled wife and carries out all house and garden chores, has worked hard all his life.  He saw low yields due to the harsh climate, depleted soil and lack of seeds. He was delighted to receive four beehives from a neighbor, and expects a good honey harvest this year. The lime blossom honey cheers and nourishes his wife, and the income from honey sales allows them to move beyond subsistence to hoping and dreaming again. Jahan also joined a training event on healthy meals intended for community women. “Why not?” he smiled. “I do all the cooking.”

A younger villager, Shoger, supports her family of three as well as her disabled brother and his three children. Thanks to the 15 chickens and a rooster she received, she now has 10-12 eggs a day.  Shoger says, “For a mother, the most desirable thing is to have healthy children and provide proper meals. These chickens are one of the best things that ever happened in my life. My thanks to all the wonderful and kind people living in the U.S. who have thought about us so far away.”

Photo caption: Children help deliver chicks

Armenia FHSLD Program
Led by United Methodist Committee on Relief
3 communities, 156, households, 352 individuals

12/11/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

I've Never Had Such A Harvest in My Life!

My name is Christopher. I’m married with seven children and depend on farming to support my family.  Before I received training, I did not know there was a way to farm that makes your soil fertile instead of depleting it. We learned how to make our own compost, and also how to prepare natural insecticide and fungicide for our vegetables. They also taught us a lot of farm management methods, and how to store our crops after harvesting so we wouldn’t lose them to pests or mold.


I received better maize and soybean seed and cassava cuttings for my 2.5-acre plot. I did a little comparison between the improved maize and some local maize I grew.  I harvested 18 110-lb. bags of improved maize and only nine of the local maize, and five bags of soybeans.  I have never had such a harvest in my life, even though I used to cultivate more land.

I am ready to sell some of my grain to pay for home, farm and school expenses, and will save some of the money to buy the seed for next season. I’ll pay back a tenth of what I’ve produced so other farmers can receive the same blessing I have.  I’m planning on working hard to double the size of my fields. Conservation farming is very good for us small-scale farmers.

On behalf of my family, I thank the organization and all partners for looking into our plight. May God bless you and give back 100 times into your life and resources what you’ve done for us.

Photo caption: Raised-bed vegetable garden

Zambia Northwest Program
Led by Nazarene Compassionate Ministries and local partner NCM Africa
47 communities, 450 households, 4,500 individuals

12/08/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Families Now Producing Most of Their Own Food

As FRB’s Guatemala Sibinal program concludes, local families are now producing 75% of their own food, meaning they can spend more on education, health care, and housing. Magdalena tells her family’s story.

Before the program, my family only produced corn and a few vegetables. We didn’t have a source of income, though, so my husband traveled to Mexico for months at a time to work on the coffee farms. I was left to take care of the children, the house and the farming all by myself. We had no hope things would ever change.

But when we began our education in agro-ecology our situation started to change. I like farming the earth naturally, making our own organic fertilizers and insecticides and planting a greater variety of vegetables. At first, it was hard to stop using chemicals because that’s what we were used to. But gradually we found that what we grew organically tasted better, and we had less and less need to buy pesticides and fertilizer.

My husband is home more. He and I and our children farm the earth together and are more united as a family. We’re healthier because our food is better, more varied. We even earn an income. People come to our house to buy vegetables, and we also sell them at the Mexican border. Our whole community has improved because several families are farming and caring for our Mother Earth or eating more nutritious food from our farm plots.

We want to say thank you to everyone who supported us through the years. We gained knowledge, we put it into practice, and we continue improving every day.

Caption: Simple techniques like transplanting seedlings promote more frequent harvests and profitability

Guatemala Sibinal
Led by Mennonite Central Committee
4 Communities, 125 Households, 549 Individuals

12/01/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Saralin’s 10-Year Struggle Takes a Dramatic Turn

Before Saralin joined a Self-Help Group (SHG) through FRB’s India Umsning program, she’d struggled for 10 years as the head of her household to make ends meet and keep her two children in school. Besides farming, she also tried raising poultry. However, due to her lack of expertise, she didn’t earn as much as she expected from either activity.  

The training she and her SHG received in kitchen gardening and livestock rearing has transformed her life. Saralin now produces a variety of nutritious vegetables in different seasons to meet her family’s needs. And, after comprehensive livestock management training at a vocational center, her poultry business is thriving.

What Saralin learned gave her the confidence to take a loan from her SHG to purchase 500 chickens. It took her only two months to start earning a profit from selling eggs and chickens. She quickly paid back her loan, bought more chicks, and is even applying for a bank loan to further expand her business.

Through hard work and the steps she has taken to improve her life, Saralin has set a great example for other community members. She is now seen as one of the progressive poultry entrepreneurs in the village.

Says Saralin, “Since my Self Help Group formed, we’ve learned the importance of working together as a group, and have reaped the benefits of helping one another in the community.”

Story courtesy of Shamborlang Lakhiat
Caption: Saralin’s thriving poultry farm


India Umsning Program
Led by World Renew and local partner NEICORD
12 communities, 500 households, 2,500 individuals

11/30/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Benjamin Breaks the Cycle of Poverty

Benjamin, married with three children, has managed to break the cycle of poverty with the support and encouragement of FRB’s Kathonzweni program.

Like other small-scale farmers in his region, he used poor farming methods that produced small yields, and sold his harvest to middlemen who paid low prices. His fortunes changed when he joined the program. He began learning a variety of Conservation Agriculture techniques to improve soil fertility and yields, crop care, and post-harvest management practices. His enthusiasm and success led to his being certified as a Trainer of Trainers (TOT). As a TOT, he’s able to reach out to other farmers in the community to bolster peer-to-peer learning.

Benjamin also enrolled in Kitise Farmers’ Cooperative, which guarantees purchase of his produce, and at a better price than the brokers give. As a co-op member, he received further training in leadership and management, collective marketing, grain quality control and store management.

Last season he harvested nearly 600 lbs. of green grams (the legumes we know as mung beans) where before he’d reaped only 155. He sold 430 lbs. to pay off his son’s school fees, at double the price he’d formerly received from the middlemen. This season Benjamin has expanded his use of Conservation Agriculture based on his impressive results. He is hopeful that, with support, more farmers can increase their production and marketing of green grams.

Caption: Benjamin sells his green grams at the co-op

Kenya Kathonzweni Program
Led by Dorcas Aid international with local partner Kitise Rural Development
3 communities, 1,094 households, 7,660 individuals

11/29/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

A "Crazy" Idea Reaps Great Improvements

Once Victor started re-purposing cast-off plastic bottles as mini grain-storage bins, as suggested by FRB’s local partner ACJ from our Nicaragua Boaco program, he saw more than just a few benefits. He explains:

“If you want to have enough food for your family, you’ve got to have a good way to store what you grow. I used to pile up my corncobs with the husks still on and just threw a pesticide on them. It was easy and protected them from weevils.

“When I first started collecting pop bottles my wife, Lucrecia, thought I was crazy! She thought I’d never have enough, but my neighbors gave me their old bottles. You can fit six pounds of grain in each bottle. Before long I’d managed to store 400 pounds of corn and beans!

“After six months, Lucrecia and I checked them: sure enough, no weevils. When she saw how the beans cooked up as soft as if they were newly harvested, she was sold on the idea. Now she helps me collect used bottles!

“There are so many good reasons to use old bottles to store my grain. We don’t have to spend money on chemicals. It’s no more work than what I used to do, but it’s safer and healthier. I don’t have to buy seed for planting, and I even have leftover seed to sell. There’s never any shortage of used plastic bottles, and people usually just throw them out.  So using them even cleans up the environment. I’ve taught my friends and neighbors how to keep their grains like this, too. I’m proud to have learned the technique and proud to have shared it. God helps those who help themselves!”

Photo caption: Beans and corn, not pop, in those bottles

Led by World Renew and Local Partner Asociación Cristiana de Jóvenes de Nicaragua (ACJ)
8 communities, 201 households, 860 individuals

11/28/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Better Together: Shared Learning Spreads Success

When introducing new concepts to villagers in our West Africa* program, our local partner always starts out with a “Moussa and Halima” story.  Moussa is a traditional farmer who never changes and never gets ahead, and the dynamic Halima is always learning and improving her practices.  One villager reacted by saying, “Halima didn’t do what was right. She didn’t share her idea of how to improve her field with Moussa! You should always share what you’ve learned with others, even if they don’t ask!”

In that same spirit, some sixty people from different community groups recently gathered for an annual meeting under a large shade tree to learn from each other’s experiences, mistakes, and successes.

One group said their first attempt at organizing failed because they didn’t enforce membership rules. The second time around, they laid out the rules more clearly, as well as how they would be enforced. Several years later, the group reports long-term success.

Another group started a community garden with 30 participants, but had a crop failure from watering too much. The following year, only seven people had the courage to try again. But, when the other villagers saw the turnaround in how much they harvested and how the food had helped their families, more and more people joined. There are now 60 people gardening together.

A third group goes beyond simple gardening and marketing advice, helping each other when someone is sick, or giving marriage advice when couples are having difficulties.

West Africa* Program
Led by World Renew and local partner SEL (Showing Everyone Love)*
*For security reasons, all names are changed.  
64 communities, 2,500 households, 17,500 individuals


11/16/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

These Little Piggies Went to Market…and Changed Fortunes

The simple gift of a piglet from FRB’s Dominican Republic Bateyes program changed the fortunes of two mothers. And they, in turn, are “paying it forward,” enabling 10 neighboring families to make life-changing improvements to their circumstances as well.


Ramona is a widow with three children who feared she would become destitute. But things started to turn around when she received and raised her first piglet. She gave four of that sow’s initial offspring to neighbors and sold eight, using the proceeds to invest in more animals. She’s sold over 50 pigs to date and made more than $4,000.  Ramona’s business has thrived with help from her children and the day laborers she hires from among her neighbors. She now has nearly 100 animals and a brighter future.


Likewise, Juliana, mother of three, saw everything improve thanks to that one small gift. She has made $620 so far from selling piglets after giving six to neighbors. She’s thrilled that the money helped her send her two sons to school and pay for their school supplies, uniforms, backpacks, shoes and transportation.  


Best of all, Juliana’s pig business has brought her back to her community. She used to be a domestic worker in the nation’s capital, Santo Domingo, and made the commute home only on weekends.  Now, she earns enough to stay home, raise and sell pigs, and run a small grocery store she and her husband opened in their home.

Photo courtesy of CWS. Caption: Juliana with one of her pigs

Dominican Republic Bateyes Program
Led by Church World Service and local partner Servicio Social de Iglesias Dominicanas (SSID)
22 communities, 465 households, 3,255 individuals

11/14/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More