Mennonite Central Committee

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

Home Gardening Helps Women Bloom

These four women show how participating in our Burkina Faso Central program is improving their families’ food security.


Egnomo: The Savings for Change group I belong to allows women to be independent. We pay dues each week, our group covers loans for small business ventures or to take care of problems, and each year we distribute our savings.  The meetings provide an open environment where everyone can feel comfortable. Together, we gain so much: money, joy, entertainment, solidarity, unity, advice and help. We support each other during the happy times and the sad.


Marie: Gardening offers us a lot of benefits, and we have become important in our husbands’ eyes. Because of our gardens, we can take care of the majority of our families’ expenses: food, education, children’s clothing, medical fees, and more. I just had my newborn baptized and covered all the costs of the celebration myself. Our improved good diet helps us avoid certain medical problems. All the members of my family are in perfect health, and we live in harmony. No more fighting, no more sadness, no more sickness. There are only bursts of laughter because everyone is joyful now.


Evourboue: Gardening is a noble activity that helps us to live well. I was always very worried about how I would feed my children and pay for their school fees and clothing. Since I started gardening, my problems have decreased. I grow many types of crops so I can vary my family’s diet. My children are no longer malnourished. I sell a part of my harvest to take care of my family’s needs. I can even keep my head high in front of all the women because I dress well, and I shine like a 30 year old! When I host a stranger, I give him or her some gifts from my garden, and this is such an honor for me. Like the blossoms on the plants in our gardens, we really are blooming.

Photo caption: Egnomo

Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner Office du Développement des Eglises Evangéliques
20 Communities, 250 Households, 2,500 Individuals

11/08/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Women Now Earning 5x More; Planting Trees Saves Watershed

There is much to celebrate as FRB’s Honduras Orocuina and Liure program completes a second three-year phase for farmers and single mothers, including a significant increase in monthly income.

By starting small in-home grocery stores, single mothers are now earning five times more, with an average monthly income of 5,000 Lempiras (about $250). They can now provide for their children and are seen as role models in their community, giving hope to other women.

On the agricultural side of the program, environmentally destructive slash-and-burn agriculture is on the decline. Approximately 80% of farmers have stopped burning their fields, and more join them every year. These farmers have seen first hand how conservation agriculture improves their yields and how the loss of forests impacts the weather and their water supply.

Farmers are also diversifying their crops and diets beyond corn, to include fruits and more vegetables such as squash and yuca (a tuber). Some are growing cashews, sesame and passion fruit as cash crops. Diversification was an important factor in communities’ food security when insects destroyed the sorghum crop. Many community groups are saving a portion of their corn and other grains in seed banks to protect against future losses.

What’s more, a healthy forest now stands around a local watershed thanks to a community’s hard work and dedication in planting 13,000 trees. The river in this watershed is the only one that did not dry up during a recent drought.

Photo caption: Doña Ilce’s store fills a community need and improves her income

Honduras Orocuina and Liure Program is Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner CODESO
8 Communities, 255 Households, 1,740 Individuals

11/07/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Neighbor Solidarity Turns Dreams into Reality

As staff members from FRB's local partner in the Mexico Chiapas Ocosingo program, INESIN. travel among the communities to hold training sessions, they are touched by the generosity of the families. “They always give you the best. Many times, this is something that we forget to do in the cities, to share our food, our house, with anyone who comes.”

Participants often come a long way on foot to attend workshops on conservation agriculture, rainwater harvesting, patio gardening, healthy cooking, using medicinal plants, community organizing, and leadership skills.  Typically, the workshop host families offer a meal so people don’t go home hungry, or participants bring food from their gardens to share. “It is important to them to share the life and abundance of food that Mother Earth has gifted us,” say INESIN staff members. Such sharing represents community ownership of the program – everyone gives something in return for participating.

Improving crop yields and nutrition is the focus of the program, but an even greater benefit comes from the opportunity for far-flung neighbors to be together, learn from each other, establish friendships, and share hope that their dreams of building a good life from farming can become reality.

INESIN staff says, “Whenever we do group visits to gardens, there is always some kind of exchange happening with medicinal plants, ornamental plants, and seeds. Since the project began, we have seen significant changes in relationships within the working groups. There is greater cohesion and confidence, and many groups are showing solidarity by supporting each other in their gardens.”

Caption: Elena makes a medicinal tincture for her husband’s cough

Led by Mennonite Central Committee
6 Communities, 150 Households, 4,003 Individuals


11/02/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Water Security Flows Into Food Security

During a severe 2014 drought, a neighboring community and its 10,000 head of cattle survived because of sand dams, the only source of water.  So, when the 15 members of a self-help group in FRB's Kenya Ngong Intashat program decided it was time to build one, they were able to recruit their entire community to pitch in.

These concrete structures, built across sandy areas along seasonal rivers, capture and hold water and sand from flash floods. As the raging waters slam into the dam, sand carried by the water sinks, and water collects in the sand in the hole dug for the purpose. More water is held in a pond on the other side of the wall, and used throughout the year for household needs, agriculture, and livestock.  When a drought hits and the pond is dry, water that’s been stored in the sand away from dirt and insects can be reached by digging. 

The dam in Kajiado County was inaugurated in April, and the community received instruction on its care and efficient use. Because maintenance is in the hands of the residents, they know it’s up to them to keep it in good order. They’ll be building a fence to keep livestock out, and directing water to collection points below the dam for cattle to drink.

This community has started a small vegetable garden near the dam site, planting kales, spinach and onions. Because most people’s experience and livelihoods are based on cattle, they receive training from MIDI, the local partner, on keeping bees, tending kitchen gardens, and creating small-business activities. Self-help groups are also learning dryland farming techniques to diversify their food sources and protect themselves from total crop failures.

Kenya Ngong Intashat program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and local partner MIDI
10 communities, 4,500 households, 31,500 individuals




09/28/2017 | 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

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

Encouragement and Support see Farmers in Colombia Through Challenges

Despite many challenges in the last year, including aerial fumigation by high-altitude government planes that did not discriminate between coca and other crops, FRB’s Colombia-Chocó program continues to support smallholder farmers in growing cacao (cocoa) and other crops for home consumption and income. The local partner and participant farmers work at establishing socioeconomic stability, productive development, employment generation, and improving the quality of life for economically marginalized and socially vulnerable families through sustainable agriculture development and local governance activities. A recent report from the local partner states:

08/20/2014 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More
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