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Many Hands Make Light Work

Newsletter: 

“Many hands make light work.” In Haiti’s Northwest Department, this is more than just a common saying. This is the principle behind the work that Foods Resource Bank supports through CWS and other partners.

I recently traveled to Haiti and met with some of the cooperatives that the program supports. Through the work of local partner SKDE – translated to the Center for Christian Integrated Development – the program supports 12 cooperatives that reach nearly 5,000 families. 

06/08/2016 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Farming as a Family, the Impact of Gender on Agriculture

Through its partnership with Lutheran World Relief, FRB supported a pilot project called Learning for Gender Integration. Read about the results in the article below. 

Farmers in the Flor de Pancasán area of Nicaragua’s Matiguás municipality were struggling. They were seeing low crop yields for a variety of reasons, including soil depletion, a lack of resources to make key investments and weather fluctuations, and this was affecting their ability to feed their families. Through its Learning for Gender Integration project, Lutheran World Relief wanted to see whether an initiative to increase agricultural production and improve food security might be bolstered with efforts to reduce gender gaps.

06/08/2016 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Community Pools Resources to Overcome Drought

Once community members in FRB’s Kenya Magarini program realized they had the resources at hand to overcome food insecurity despite their challenges, including a regional drought, they poured themselves into making positive change happen. The inspiration came from a hands-on Participatory Rural Assessment (PRA) process that helped them analyze their challenges, identify solutions and create a community action plan to guide their development.  

“If it hadn’t been for this program and the PRA, we would not be farming as a group and we could not know the benefits of coming together as a community,” says Saidi, a trained community resource person.

He tells how they started with two Farmer Field Schools with demo farms. The first planting season was challenging because of the drought. They only planted a few crops -- just enough to establish a kitchen garden for the farmers to learn about crop diversification as a way to reduce their risks of crop failure. But when they also tried planting on their individual farms, the farmers harvested little or nothing due to the drought.

That’s when the field school members decided to join forces to plant a community garden. A member loaned them two acres of land that had adequate water for irrigation so they could produce vegetables for income and family consumption. They received a loan from their community-based savings and loan association to purchase insecticides and, with additional capital from members, they bought seeds.

"Member families had access to nutritious vegetables that they could either buy or receive on credit,” says Chrispine, a farmer in the program. At times members even received free produce to motivate them to work in the garden.

Saidi reports that they made a total of $773 from the sale of the second harvest, and $360 from the third. That harvest was smaller because of some challenges the group faced with the farm owner, but they are now clearing and preparing a different plot for their fourth planting season.

The community is buying PVC pipe and a water pump for irrigation, and bricks to construct a shallow well for easier access to water. They also have money in their account for fuel for the water pump, land preparation and farm inputs.

“The challenges didn’t stop us from doing what we love,” says Saidi. “We are really grateful.”

Kenya Magarini encompasses 10 communities, 1,842 households and 4,836 individuals

Led by World Renew and local partner ADS Pwani

06/01/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Devaputra Leads Neighbors in Adopting Organic Farming

Devaputra, his wife, and their six children are experiencing increased food and nutrition security from eating the traditional crops they now grow organically on their farm. They say they feel safer because they know there are no chemical residues in their food, and they appreciate the economic benefits of not having to buy seeds, fertilizer and insecticides.

Farmers like Devaputra are conserving and using native seeds and adopting organic farming practices to help them flourish in spite of this year’s drought and other weather-related effects in Southern India.

Devaputra has been a member of a farmers’ cooperative since 2013 which later joined FRB’s India South program. He has participated in a number of capacity-building programs and workshops that focus on organic agriculture and emphasize the need for genetically diverse food crops, especially native millet, in adapting to climate change. As a result, he and the other participants have been able to adjust their farming practices, maintain optimal soil pH and fertility, protect beneficial insects, and achieve greater yields.

As a member of his co-op’s governing body, Devaputra wants everyone to experience his family’s success. He has emerged as a role model for the other farmers of his village and surrounding villages, actively promoting native seed saving and conservation agriculture. He recently hosted a field day on his farm to show the benefits of organic farming.


India South encompasses 30 communities, 500 households, and 2,500 individuals

 

05/30/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Warming Trend: Winter Crops Increase Family Food Security

Tam and Oanh are neighbors and close friends whose small fields are side by side. Every day, when one of the women is ready to work on her field, she calls to her friend and they walk to their plots together. Mixed into their conversations about work, family, weather and more are the sustainable farming techniques they’ve learned through FRB’s Vietnam Tan Son program.

They participated in a training course on planting crops that would perform well in the climate and soil conditions of the winter season when, after two harvests, farmers traditionally let their fields lay fallow. Tam and Oanh agreed that the practice wasted precious resources that could allow them to feed their families without having to work on someone else’s land for cash.

The farmers were encouraged to experiment with rotational cultivation and increase the variety and number of crops in order to get more food and prevent soil diseases. After training, some pilot households received seed. Tam and Oanh were not on the pilot list, but their interest was high enough that they each bought seeds and committed to following what they learned at the training.

Oanh chose to grow sweet potatoes. Tam chose corn. Last year, Tam and Oanh were able to harvest their fields three times. By adding winter crops, their families did not suffer a food shortage. Tam notes, “We’ll plant winter crops next year. Having corn in winter makes us feel warm in our stomachs.”

The Tan Son program will continue to use agricultural models to evaluate and promote the effectiveness of different crops and farming techniques. Training activities not only help people in difficult areas achieve sustainable food security, they promote good relationships within the community.

Vietnam Tan Son encompasses 6 communities, 512 households, and 2,212 individuals

05/08/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Farmer Field Schools Lead to Lasting Changes for Douglas

My name is Douglas. I’m 43 years old, married with 3 children, and I’m a member of a Farmer Field School. I’ve worked the land all my adult life, growing corn and beans on my 5-hectare (12-acre) plot. We used to have set planting times, and prepared the land by burning and raking. Our yields weren’t so good, so we had to go to pick coffee on other farms for a few months a year to earn money for food and home expenses.

Thanks to the training workshops, I’ve made a lot of changes over the past year. They include waiting for the best time to plant by consulting with others and listening for crop and weather information on the radio. And instead of burning and raking, leaving the ground naked, I use careful placement of organic refuse to protect the soil from erosion. I’m also trying out different drought-tolerant seed varieties.

Now, I don’t just grow corn and beans, but have filled our land with other food plants. Corn and beans are expensive to cultivate, and have not yielded well in past years. Instead, we are planting more crops for our families to eat, and we are also learning to grow coffee, cocoa and other cash crops. In fact, I’m even intercropping my bananas, chocolate, coffee, and cassava to use my land more efficiently.

These changes have helped my family’s wellbeing. We’re improving our house, have bought a cow, and have replaced a part of our land that we had sold. Now we only go to the coffee harvest for a couple of weeks a year. I am working at convincing more of my neighbors try these new techniques so they can know the same success I have had.

FRB’s local partner, AMC, says that an initial needs assessment on each farm allows them to invest resources wisely. AMC staff has learned that adapting new practices is a long-term process with the farmers, so individualized technical visits to farms are a priority. Attendance at workshops is not necessarily an indicator of success, so follow-up with participants after workshops is a must to promote lasting change in attitudes in the farming families.

Nicaragua-Farmer encompasses 7 communities, 361 households, and 1, 625 individuals

04/10/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Surrounded by Problems, Jogindra Finds Help and Hope

My name is Jogindra. I am 55 years old. My father died when I was young, so I lived with my elder brother and helped him in his work. He arranged my marriage when I was only 14. It was hard for me to provide for my wife, but I was always thinking about how I could improve. I decided to lease land to start farming, and was eventually able to purchase 3 kattha [about ¼ of an acre] and began growing vegetables and rice. However, I often found it difficult to run my house as smoothly as I wanted. I was tense and found it hard to deal with my daily problems.

Then, one day, I had an idea: why not look into one of the farmers’ groups organized by BICWS Nepal? Since I joined this past year, my knowledge has been built up so much. We now eat fresh vegetables, and I grow enough food to keep us well fed. We also have enough to sell some of it in the local market. I’ve made 24,000 rupees ($228) in a season, with a profit of 16,000 rupees ($152), a significant improvement over the past. I plan to lease an additional 5 kattha of land [approximately ½ acre] to increase my production of vegetables.

I am thankful and happy that this program was there to help me when I was surrounded by so many problems. I have learned a lot by attending classes and training events on how to grow my vegetables, make compost fertilizer, and protect my plants from pests through Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Men and women farmers in FRB’s Nepal-Bhatigachh program receive training in vegetable farming, seed saving and making worm compost to fertilize their fields. In addition to rice, they have mainly been growing eggplant, cabbage, cauliflower, chili peppers, potatoes, leafy greens, tomatoes, and radish. Most of the farmers had better yields due to sufficient rains in the last six months, and sold their excess produce at their local market. They used the money for family health and education needs and to cover a variety of household expenses.

Nepal-Bhatigachh encompasses 9 communities, 2,603 households and 13,748 individuals

04/10/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

No Stopping Now: Conservation Ag Reaps Returns

Robert, Mariam, and Pastor Silver are just three of the farmers in FRB’s Uganda-Kabale program who are reaping the benefits of their Conservation Agriculture (CA) training. Their increased yields are astonishing to themselves and their neighbors alike.

Robert, 40, is married with three children and farms on one acre of land. He says, “Before CA, I used to experience challenges like poor yields, insects, and many diseases. I almost gave up planting fruit. After two years of minimum tillage, I’m seeing a great reduction in these problems. Now I can harvest at least 50 kilos (110 pounds) of fruit and 50 of tomatoes each week. And my labor costs have gone down since I no longer till. My land is never idle. I’ve planted gooseberries so that, when the tomatoes begin to die out, I can begin harvesting the berries. I cannot stop this type of farming now.”

Mariam is single and farms on her parents’ land. “I’ve tried mulching and minimum tillage on my garden plot. I’ve planted beans and, even though I have not harvested yet, they look better than my neighbor’s beans which were planted at the same time. People believe in me. I have taught CA to my mother and she, too, has started mulching her garden where she has planted cabbages.”

Pastor Silver, a longtime farmer, is 45 and married with five children. “I had left my land idle and contemplated moving because the soil was depleted. But after CA, I’m harvesting 800 kilos (1,764 pounds) of Irish potatoes where I could barely get 70 (155 pounds) before.” His family members now help him by cutting and carrying grass for mulching. His results have been so good, he says, that he can hire additional labor. “Even if the program withdraws its assistance I will not stop mulching.”

Uganda Kabale encompasses 25 communities, 1,021 households and 6,126 individuals

04/07/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Workshops, Family and Friendships Improve Self Sufficiency

Alva was born and raised in the southwestern Guatemalan department of Jutiapa, but soon felt that the land there was not as suitable for growing crops as in other areas. She eventually moved her family to the department of Petén in the north where she purchased a small plot of fertile land.

There, one of her neighbors invited her to attend agricultural training led by FRB’s local partner APIDEC in its Guatemala Four Departments program. Although Alva was afraid at first that others wouldn’t let her join the program, they quickly accepted her. She eventually began to form new relationships, regularly attending workshops and learning alongside the other participants.

After a few years of living in Petén, her son married a woman named Sheyla who was from his mother’s hometown in Jutiapa. Sheyla was heartily welcomed by Alva and their new community. The two women now work their gardens side-by-side.

Both Alva and Sheyla say they’ve been encouraged by their friendship and how it has strengthened the bond between their families. The women have learned many new cultivation techniques, such as how to diversify their crops, make organic insecticides, construct their own seedbeds, and graft plants. The families are growing many varieties of crops on their plots and are now able to sell their produce. Their economic well-being has improved as a result of training and practice, and they saved enough money to start a fish hatchery, further diversifying their families’ diets. Alva and Sheyla have begun to teach their children how to grow food, and many people from their community come to see how they plant and grow produce on such a small plot of land.

Alva feels blessed to have been a part of APIDEC’s training and now teaches others in her community what she has learned.

Guatemala-Four Departments encompasses 25 communities, 750 households, and 4,500 individuals

04/07/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Farmers Share Knowledge in Self-Help Groups

Participants in FRB’s Kenya-Ngong Intashat program who join Self-Help Groups (SHG) learn a variety of skills that help them improve their families’ lives.

For example, Esther’s SHG received training on growing vegetables in sacks as a first step in starting their kitchen gardens. She became interested in the workshop during her community’s Participatory Rural Appraisal exercise on how to cut household costs through producing her own food. She started out with one sack garden set up near her kitchen and now has two. Once she began harvesting vegetables she realized how much they improved her family’s nutrition, and hopes one day to have 10 sack gardens. As she put it, “My children no longer eat only ugali [a starchy porridge] with tea. We have a balanced diet.” She uses the money she saves at the market to cover other household expenses. Esther encourages group members whose sack gardens are at the early stages of development by sharing her experience and suggesting possible solutions to challenges that may arise.

Members of six SHGs attended a two-day training on conservation agriculture and establishing demo plots on their fields so they could share their learning with others in their communities. Attendees learned how to select seeds, apply both organic and inorganic fertilizers, plant, and maintain the demo plots. Three demo plots were immediately established, and the farmers have begun interacting and training other people from other communities and sharing their new ideas.

Some groups are receiving training in "table banking" (community savings and loan practices) to learn to be more self-sufficient and reduce their dependency on donors. When groups save money together at regular meetings, they amass enough capital to provide low-interest loans to members who are then able to start or maintain income-generating activities. One such endeavor was to make and sell liquid soap. Since people have to use soap daily, soap making is an excellent way for SHG members to earn money. One SHG held a workshop on making liquid soap, and was able to sell 80 liters of surplus soap at market.

Kenya-Ngong Intashat encompasses 10 communities, 4,500 households and 31,500 individuals

04/07/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More
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