Category Archives: Food security

Projects for Fiscal Year 2017–18—Part 4

By BGR Staff

16. India: Nutritional Support for Garden of Peace School
NEW PARTNER

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White Lotus Trust, an affiliate of Lotus Outreach, is a grass roots level organization in India working toward the development of a common school system, seeking to ensure the Right To Quality Education, especially in government schools. The Trust runs a holistic educational program called Garden of Peace, which provides students with the traditional primary school curriculum, English and Tamil courses, training in meditation and in philosophies of non-violence. The program supplies the students with school uniforms, books and other materials, transportation, and nutritional support twice a day. All of these services are critical to the holistic enrichment of the students’ lives and the long-term sustainability of their educational commitment. The nutritional component is at the program’s core, especially considering that the facilities are situated on an organic farm. The students and their parents are involved in farm activities, helping to grow a portion of the food served to the students. The school serves morning and midday meals to all students, which creates a further incentive for the support of the children’s continued education.

The grant from BGR will cover nutritional support for 174 students and assorted staff members for an entire academic year. This funding will facilitate Garden of Peace’s holistic educational and wellness objectives.  The grant will go toward the purchase of food items for direct nutritional support for the students. This includes rice, ragi (finger millet), gur (a sugarcane product), vegetables, cereals, oil and spices, and other items for the provision of two meals daily for the students and assorted staff members.

17. Jamaica & Haiti: Nutritious Morning Meals for Young Children

The Trees That Feed Foundation was founded in 2008 and is currently run by two Jamaican natives, Mike and Mary McLaughlin. TTFF has worked in the Caribbean for over eight years and maintains an intimate working knowledge of the people, economies, and agricultural sectors of both Jamaica and Haiti. In Latin America and the Caribbean more than seven million children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, which has a far-reaching negative impact on health and cognitive development. To address these challenges, TTFF has partnered with BGR on a school-feeding project in Haiti and Jamaica that provides children in both countries with nutritious, locally-sourced morning meals at their local schools. These meals will be produced by local small businesses. In addition to alleviating hunger, this model encourages a gradual increase in availability and accessibility of nutritious food within communities and a gradual decrease in reliance on continuous charitable food donations.

The key objectives of this project are: (1) to alleviate hunger, (2) to provide nutritious food for children in need, and (3) to build economic opportunity so communities can become self -sufficient. This project will provide approximately 36,000 meals to young schoolchildren at ten schools within Haiti and Jamaica. Each of the ten schools will be able to provide a breakfast meal to three classrooms of 30 children, about three times per week, for a full semester. This project will dovetail with other separately funded TTFF programs that help to build local markets for nutrient-rich food. Annually renewable project

18. Kenya: Improving Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition

Over half of Kenya’s population lives in poverty. Undernourishment is prevalent among children, affecting roughly 41% of children. It is a leading contributor to an infant mortality rate of close to 5%.  Kenya’s poor nutrition outcomes are the result of a complex interaction of factors. Poor health-seeking behaviors among pregnant women and caregivers of children exacerbate the problem. As a result, undernourished children and mothers are not identified and proven preventative treatments, such as vitamin A and iron folate supplementation and deworming medication, do not reach those who need them most.

BGR’s partner, Helen Keller International (HKI), is currently working in five counties in Western Kenya (Busia, Bungoma, Kakamega, Trans-Nzoya and West Pokot) to improve access, delivery, and utilization of essential nutrition-related services within a framework of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) programs. Kakamega County, which is densely populated with more than 1.6 million people and a poverty rate of over 50%, requires additional support if it is to succeed in improving health and nutrition outcomes for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable women and children. The grant from BGR, the second in a three-year project, extends the current HKI health and nutrition interventions in Kakamega County to address the crisis of infant and childhood mortality. The grant from BGR sustains the program in its entirety.

With this grant, HKI is working with the Ministry of Health and Action Against Hunger to design and deliver proven programs to reach mothers, infants, and children in need of assistance.  The project  will improve delivery of nutrition health services, as well as offer access and training at the community level.  HKI also works with the Kakamega County Health Management Team to assess and act on the results of a baseline survey they are designing and implementing. The program will have a direct beneficiary impact on 255,000 children and adults and an indirect benefit on an additional 380,000 community members. Second year of a three-year project

19. Kenya & Malawi: Grow Biointensive Sustainable Mini Farming for Improved Food Security and Nutrition

Our partner, Ecology Action of the Midpeninsulafounded in 1971 and based in California, disseminates the GROW BIOINTENSIVE system of agriculture worldwide through publications, classes, workshops, internships, apprenticeships, and outreach programs. GROW BIOINTENSIVE improves agricultural productivity and soil building methods, using less land area and water in degraded areas. Using this methodology, Ecology Action has helped start sustainable agriculture projects in Mexico, Russia, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, and elsewhere in Africa, providing solutions to the challenges confronting small farmers.

Drought conditions in Kenya and Malawi are worsening and were  recently declared a national disaster by Kenya’s President.  With support from BGR, Ecology Action will provide training in the GROW BIOINTENSIVE system to farmers in Malawi and Kenya, partnering with the Grow Biointensive Agricultural Centre of Kenya (G-BIACK). In Malawi, women  who are the primary victims of the HIV/AIDS crisis—and more specifically widows—are among the worst affected and most marginalized sectors in the country. Ephraim and Charity Chirwa train primarily widows and woman farmers at the Mbowe farm and in villages near Mzuzu city. The team also trains men, although in smaller numbers. Children of all ages assist their families in the production of food and are a critical part of the farming community.

Kenya’s Red Cross says 2.7 million people face starvation if more help is not provided. GROW BIOINTENSIVE is one of the few solutions available to the smallholder farmer in Kenya. It is reported that the G-BIACK mini-farm is one of the few properties in the area that is green and producing food successfully. In Kenya the G-BIACK team has started working in three new communities, Ngorongo, Maragua and Mangu B. They are aiming to train 200 farmers in each of these communities in 2017–18.

20. Nicaragua: Educational Sponsorship of Girls

BGR’s partner, the North Country Mission of Hope, is a spiritually-based humanitarian organization committed to fostering hope and empowering relationships with the people of Nicaragua. The organization is registered in the U.S. as a 501(c)3 and in Nicaragua as an NGO. Working with local community leaders, the Mission’s primary objective is to empower the people to help themselves.

The education of poor girls is a major aim of the Mission. In Nicaragua families with limited financial resources choose to send their sons rather than their daughters to school. This leaves another generation of young females uneducated and at increased risk of rape and childhood pregnancy. Mission of Hope aims to break the cycle of poverty by sponsoring the education of as many girls as financially possible. In partnership with Mission of Hope, BGR is sponsoring the education of 112 girls, including six who are attending university.

With BGR sponsorship, each student receives coverage of tuition and/or registration fees; the schoolbooks appropriate for their grade level; an insignia, which every student must have sewn on their school shirt; and the government-mandated school uniform, along with black shoes and white socks. Additionally, each student will receive bi-annual parasite medicine treatment and a free physical at the medical clinic located on the Mission of Hope compound in Chiquilistagua. Tutoring is available for girls who need additional assistance.  The goal is to encourage and empower the girls to complete their high school education and aspire to either vocational or university level.  Annually renewable project

21. Sri Lanka: Computer Skills Education for Girls from Low-Income Families

Vocational training of low income girls

Founded in 1984 the vision of CENWOR—the Centre for Women’s Research—is gender equality and the empowerment of women in Sri Lanka. Its mission is to promote research, training, lobbying, advocacy, and monitoring gender-related issues facing women and girls in Sri Lanka. This current project with CENWOR provides access to skills development for approximately 60 girls selected from low-income families to equip them with employable vocational skills in computer technology and to facilitate their upward occupational mobility and socio-economic development.

The project financially supports:  (1)  approximately 20 women students in low-income families with the appropriate qualifications who are enrolled in the Diploma in Technical Education (level 5) and Advanced Diploma in Technical Education (level 6) programs of the state Colleges of Technology (COTs), located in each province; (2) approximately 20 women in low-income families enrolled in the second (Advanced Diploma level) year and the final year of the Bachelor of Information Technology (BIT) program conducted by the University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC)—a fee-levying external degree program;  (3) approximately 10 women in low-income families enrolled in the fields of multi media and web technology, mechatronics technology, software technology, building services technology of the University of Vocational Studies (UNIVOTEC); (4) approximately 10 women in low-income families enrolled in the fields of Higher National Diploma in Quantity Surveying and Higher National Diploma in Engineering (Civil) at the Advanced Technical Institute (AIT), Galle. Additionally, gender sensitization programmes will be conducted to motivate the women to challenge negative gendered norms that limit their opportunities for upward career mobility. Annually renewable project

22. Sudan: Helping Farmers in South Darfur Affected by Conflict & Drought

This project with long-time BGR partner Oxfam America will be launched in the Belail locality of South Darfur, in Sudan. Sudan is affected by multiple crises: poverty, inequality, conflict, poor governance, drought, marginalization, and gender disparities. The main humanitarian needs in Sudan result from sporadic conflict coupled with natural drought. New and protracted conflict-related displacement has hindered access to basic services and disrupted livelihoods and food security, especially for rural people. Acute malnutrition in children under the age of 5 is above emergency thresholds in different areas across the country, and some 4.6 million food insecure people are in need of assistance.

Due to the protracted nature of the crisis in Darfur, it is essential to address food security needs as well as to build longer-term resilience through food security and livelihoods capacity building. This project aims to address the critical problem of food security by providing agricultural inputs and training on improved farming techniques to a total of 500 households (appx. 2,500 people).  Activities will include: meetings with community leaders to agree on beneficiary selection criteria and suitable types of crops and tools, provision of drought tolerant and early maturing cereal seeds (sorghum and millet), and suitable cash crop seeds (groundnut and watermelon) for self-reliant food production, provision of hand tools.

The project will train 200 farmers (100 male and 100 female) on water harvesting techniques suitable to their land type, to enable them better utilize rainwater to increase crop yield per unit area. This training will also be associated with general agricultural extension skills such as seed selection, planting time, planting density, tillage, mulching, integrated pest control, and proper weeding.

 

 

Projects for Fiscal Year 2017–18—Part 3

By BGR Staff

10. Haiti: A School Feeding Program for Students in Jacmel

BGR’s partner in this project, the Art Creation Foundation for Children (ACFFC), is a US-based organization (founded 1999) whose mission is “to build a passionate community of future leaders, visionaries and dynamic thinkers who are empowered to better their lives and their world through the arts and education in Jacmel, Haiti.” The partnership with BGR will provide the students at ACFFC with at least one nutritious, filling meal per day on each of the six days of the week they attend school. Many children in Haiti will not attend daily education programs if meals are not a component of the program. For many of the students enrolled at ACFFC, the meals they receive there are their only opportunity to eat. Without the feeding program many of the children would spend their days either looking for food or working rather than attending school or being part of an art program. The feeding program is implemented by the staff of three kitchen personnel who prepare a minimum of 360 meals per week. BGR’s grant covers about a third of the total budget for the program. Annually renewable program

11. Haiti: Improved Production and Diversification of Crops in the Artibonite Valley

This project, with our partner Oxfam America, supports improved rice production and backyard vegetable gardening in the Artibonite Valley in Haiti. Agricultural activity is one of the main sources of income for this population, focused on rice produced in the Artibonite Valley. Attempts to increase the production of rice face structural constraints. In spite of this, Oxfam has worked for approximately five years to help smallholder producers to develop the potential for rice cultivation and maintain the livelihoods of poor families. Previous projects have encouraged the adoption of innovative farming practices such as the Sustainable Rice Intensification (SRI) techniques, irrigation, post-harvest improvements, and improving production practices in vegetable gardening.

The proposed project will leverage the grant from Buddhist Global Relief to expand upon existing activities in the small rural community of Délogner, in the third communal section of Petite-Rivière. This vulnerable population (pop. 5,139, 90% poverty rate, 50% food insecure) experienced a flood in January 2017, which nearly annihilated agricultural production, their primary means of subsistence. By reinforcing ongoing efforts in response to this recent shock, the project will directly reach 224 beneficiaries through a suite of activities including SRI training, establishment of an agricultural credit fund, rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructures (5 km of canals), agricultural diversification with backyard vegetable gardening, provision of specialized SRI equipment and plastic sheeting for drying of harvested rice, establishment of collective local nurseries, and local partner capacity building.

12. Haiti: Meals for Hungry Kids in Port-au-Prince

This project continues our long-time partnership with the U.S.-based What If? Foundation, which works in Haiti through its partner on the ground, Na Rive, to provide life-sustaining nutrition to children in the Ti Plas Kazo Community of Port-au-Prince. For many children Na Rive’s Lamanjay food program continues to provide their only substantial meal of the day, and many children will walk miles just to receive this meal. Between 500 and 750 meals are distributed each weekday. Each hot meal includes a portion of rice, beans, vegetables and a piece of protein. Preparations for the day’s meal begin at 7:00 am in the kitchen at the Father Jeri School, which began operation in September 2016. The school now houses a fully equipped kitchen where all the food is prepared. The program is helping to support the children’s physical and cognitive development and to nutritionally support their parents as well.  Annually renewable project

13. Haiti: A School for the Children of Ti Plaz Kaso, Port-au-Prince

The Father Jeri School opened its doors in September 2016 and is offering children in the Ti Plas Kazo community in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a wonderful opportunity—to receive a quality, affordable education. The building is clean, filled with natural light, structurally sound and designed to be an environment for learning. The school provides a challenging academic curriculum along with real world learning outside of the classroom and opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. The physical space and curriculum, in combination with the commitment from teachers, students, and families, is providing a unique educational opportunity for poor Haitian children. The grant from BGR, administered through the What If? Foundation, is the second in a three-year project. The purposes of the grant are as follows: (1) Ensuring that salaries are competitive to help retain a quality teaching and administrative staff. (2) Installing a water pump to get water from the underground tank that collects groundwater to the tank on the roof, which supplies every room in the school with water, including the bathrooms and kitchen. (3) Purchasing four laptop computers for administrative staff and teachers. (4) Providing school supplies to ensure that teachers have the materials they need to create a strong learning environment. This includes paper, pens, chalk, and books. Year two of a three-year project

14. India: A Girls’ Home and Women’s Social Service Center

This grant to BGR’s partner, the Bodhicitta Foundation, will help to sponsor the education and training of 30 teenage girls in danger of child marriage or unable to finish high school and university due to poverty. This will be the second such three-year program implemented by Bodhicitta with financial support from BGR. The girls have been brought from some of the poorest regions in India. They are being instructed in nursing, social work, and law as well as in job training so they can become agents of change and help others when they return to their villages. Through the grant, the girls will receive school fees, clothes, shelter, books and all their other expenses.

The women’s social services center will offer legal help to women facing divorce, domestic violence, and land disputes as well as job training to poor women in sewing, computers, English, beauty therapies, and so on. The legal service is offered for free by the previous batch of girls trained as lawyers and social workers. Bodhicitta’s food program makes 6,000 meals per year for undernourished slum children. On top of this Bodhicitta offers youth groups, counseling, health and human rights workshops, and interventions.

15. India: Prosperity through Resilient Agriculture in Uttar Pradesh

This is the second year of this project, “Prosperity through Resilient Agriculture,” with BGR partner Oxfam India. The project aims to improve the food and livelihood security of women farmers. The project is supported entirely by BGR. Through the program, women farmers will obtain increased access to government schemes and inputs and adopt climate resilient agriculture practices for improved agricultural output. The goal of the project is to contribute to increased resilience and improved income of smallholder farmers, especially women.

In five core villages in Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh, intensive work will be done with women farmers, with focus on self-financed agriculture development initiatives of women farmers.  The project area is populated primarily by marginalized Dalit and poorly educated and landless people. Five farmers’ field schools (FFS) will be established in strategic locations for accelerating spread of improved agricultural practices. A women farmer’s collective will be formed and strengthened in core villages to carry forward self-managed agriculture initiatives and advocacy for policy and practice changes. An intensive mobilization will be done in the core and peripheral villages of the project area to advocate for increased minimum support price (MSP) of crops. Women farmers’ support centers will be established for timely and efficient agricultural works and farmers groups will be trained in climate resilient agriculture (CRA) practices to minimize crop failures and improve production. Year two of a three-year project

Improving Crop Resilience and Income for Rice Farmers in Thai Nguyen Province, Vietnam

by Tricia Brick

When a series of tropical storms struck Duong Thi Thanh’s village in northern Vietnam last summer, she feared that her rice harvest would be lost. “I thought we would have nothing to eat and sell for this crop,” she said, noting that a neighbor’s rice fields, grown using conventional methods, were severely damaged by the storms. But Thanh’s crops, cultivated using practices of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), survived the rains and brought a good price at market.

Hoang Van Phu, director of the International Cooperation Center (ICC) of Thai Nguyen University, has been working for more than a decade to bring SRI practices to smallholder farmers in the region, with the goal of increasing farmers’ efficiency, productivity, food security, and income through the use of environmentally sustainable methods. Buddhist Global Relief grants have supported the center’s efforts since 2011.

The BGR grant for fiscal year 2016-17  was used to support training for farmers in SRI methods via the creation of three large-scale collective fields in the Phu Binh district of northern Vietnam’s Thai Nguyen province.

SRI cultivation practices involve the planting of fewer seeds, with seedlings transplanted according to precise recommendations to encourage stronger root growth; fertilization with compost and other organic materials; frequent weeding; and reduced water use. These methods have resulted in more resilient plants and crop yields 20 to 50 percent higher than in traditional methods. Other benefits of SRI include a need for fewer seeds per hectare, a reduction in the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and improved water conservation.

While the use of SRI methods has been increasing among rice farmers in the region over the past decade, the fragmented nature of the local farmland has proven an obstacle to maximizing productivity and efficiency. Most farming households in the province raise rice on multiple small plots, with up to seven varieties of rice grown in each field. As a result, farmers have difficulty applying standardized methods across their fields, as the varieties often require differing optimal growing conditions and cultivation calendars. Further, these mixed crops are difficult to market, given vendor demand for single varieties.

This year, in alignment with government efforts to encourage farmers to organize as collectives, the ICC established large-scale fields, each 50 to 70 hectares (about 123 to 197 acres) in area, in three communes in Phu Binh district. A single rice variety was cultivated in each field, enabling farmers to tailor growing conditions to the selected variety and thus optimize labor efficiency.

Supported by the BGR grant, the fields became outdoor classrooms for farmers’ field school classes in SRI methods. More than 200 farmers from nine villages in the communes participated in training courses and field workshops to learn about SRI practices on large-scale fields, evaluate the successes and challenges of the model fields, and consider changes that might improve the next generation of crops. The ICC also provided weeding tools and other materials to farmers using SRI.

The grant also supported conferences bringing together representatives from provincial and district government and other agencies with local farmers to develop plans for the fields and, at the end of the grant period, to study the project’s results. The ICC reports that this cooperative engagement has been key to the project’s success.

Tricia Brick is a volunteer writer for BGR.

A Decision Cruel and Callous

by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

Much has been written over the last several days about the political and economic repercussions of Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out from the Paris Climate Agreement. It’s been pointed out that the decision will diminish our standing in the world and cast us in the role of a rogue state, a pariah among nations. Our economy will languish, overtaken by other countries that make the leap to full reliance on clean energy. The mantle of global leadership will pass to Europe and China, and we’ll find ourselves increasingly isolated on the international stage. To be an American abroad will become a mark of shame.

The decision to leave the Paris Accord, however, should be seen not only as an act of foolishness, arrogance, and delusional thinking, but also as an appalling expression of cruelty. The decision is cruel because it reveals a glaring deficit of compassion—a callous lack of concern for the billions of people around the world who are endangered by a more hostile climate. Sadly, it is those nations and peoples with the lightest carbon footprint that are being hit the hardest. Even before freak weather events began to multiply and inflict horrendous harm, smallholder farmers and day laborers in the developing world faced an uphill struggle just to put food on the table and get enough clean water to meet their daily needs. Now, assailed by ever more frequent and destructive climate disruptions, these same people find their very lives suspended over an abyss.

As I write, Sri Lanka, the country where I lived for over twenty years, is reeling from floods that have turned streets into angry rivers, driven half a million people from their homes, and brought hills crashing down on top of the people who lived on their slopes. Parts of Pakistan are experiencing temperatures that have soared past 120° Fahrenheit, heat waves that claim the lives of the poor, elderly, and frail. Large swaths of farmland in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have been transformed into desert, no longer able to sustain their populations. Four countries border on famine—South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and northern Nigeria—partly because of political turmoil, but also because of climate change. In some regions, beset by long droughts, crops shrivel up and livestock drop dead. In others, once lush fields are invaded by hordes of rapacious pests, which find the newly warmer climate a congenial home.

Flooding in Sri Lanka (Photo: Groundviews.org)

When we take in the total picture, the conclusion is clear. Accelerating climate change will condemn millions of people to an early death, either swiftly through sudden disaster, or slowly and painfully through hunger and malnutrition. Fragile countries will be rocked by social instability, giving tyrants the chance to grab power, breeding terrorism, and sending millions in flight across seas and deserts in search of better living conditions. Is this the kind of future we want for the men and women who share this planet with us?

It is the responsibility of the global community, as inherent in our humanity, to protect the poor and vulnerable, to ensure they can live with dignity in their own lands, enjoying an acceptable standard of living. To achieve this goal it’s imperative that we cut carbon emissions as swiftly and sharply as we can in order to prevent global temperatures from rising past 1.5° Celsius above the pre-industrial average, at which point climate calamities will rapidly increase. The Paris Agreement was weak, flawed, and inadequate, and we are already half way toward the 1.5° mark. But for all its shortcomings, the accord has been a step in the right direction. It serves as a starting point that can be built upon and strengthened as the signatories begin to see the benefits of switching to a post-carbon economy and also, hopefully, as their sense of social responsibility extends beyond their own borders to those whose lives are most gravely threatened.

The decision to withdraw, however, turns a deaf ear to the demands of reason and the call of compassion. It even snubs the principle of enlightened self-interest, which tells us that our economy will thrive and good jobs increase with the full-scale transition to renewable energy. Defying the decrees of moral conscience, it imposes a merciless death sentence on the millions who will die because the U.S. denies them the aid they need to adapt to a harsher climate. When it comes to boosting military spending, we have no trouble finding hundreds of billions of dollars to be wasted in fighting futile wars. But when it comes to helping those desperately in need, suddenly our treasury is empty. Yet which policy will make us truly safer: engaging in military operations all around the world or adopting a policy of global generosity by which we share vital resources with others?

The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord may leave those of us who invested time and energy mobilizing for a sane climate policy confused and dismayed about the future—about our own personal futures and the future direction of the planet. While it may take us time to recover from the shock, we should not lose hope. To become disheartened and passively accept the new wave of climate policies would be to play right into the hands of those who  want to force us into submission. It would simply give them a signal that with enough bluster they can get their way. Rather, we must be prepared to stand up even more defiantly, to resist with greater courage. In this we can draw on the strength of our numbers, the righteousness of our cause, and the recognition that the transition to a post-carbon economy is the only way to preserve a natural environment conducive to human flourishing.

While our chances of changing federal climate policy may be slim as long as the current administration remains in power, there are still several lines of action open to us. One is to become more politically aware and support only candidates who recognize the dangers of climate change, make it a pivot of their campaigns, and pledge to act effectively to reverse course. All candidates for office—from the federal level to the local level—must be closely examined and pressed to reveal their positions. Only those who, without deceit and distortion, acknowledge the hard truths of science and endorse the move toward a clean-energy economy should receive our support and our votes.

A second line of action is to actively oppose new fossil fuel projects clear across the country. Such action can take various forms: signing petitions, writing to our representatives, joining protests and marches, and directly obstructing the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure. This last option poses risks, since the fossil fuel corporations have been mobilizing police and hiring security firms to attack dissenters, even painting them as terrorists; they have also resorted to severe legal action to discourage those who would oppose their projects. But earlier movements on behalf of social justice—particularly the civil rights movement of the 1960s—also had to face harsh penalties and brutal crackdowns. By pressing ahead, they eventually prevailed. If we have the trust in the rightness of our cause and remain undeterred, we too will triumph and in the process make America truly great again.

To make America great does not mean to abdicate our global responsibilities and close in upon ourselves, self-absorbed and suspicious of others. It means to become a nation great in wisdom, great in compassion, and great in moral leadership. Remaining in the Paris Agreement and strengthening its commitments is essential if we are to rise to this challenge.

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This essay was originally published on Common Dreams on June 4, 2017. t is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Reconnecting Homeless Youth to Food, the Earth, and Spirit

Taz Tagore

Grants from BGR have provided not only food to homeless youth, but opportunities for companionship and a sense of belonging.

For the past 10 years, the Reciprocity Foundation has worked tirelessly to support homeless and foster-care youth aged 13–26 in their transformation from impoverished persons living in a shelter to educated, employed youngsters playing a leadership role in society. With BGR support, Reciprocity is expanding its Urban Food Project, taking youth upstate to spend time working on small organic farms where they learn the basics of planting, harvesting, and cooking fresh organic meals. Below is a six-months report from Reciprocity Foundation co-founder Taz Tagore.

The second half of 2016 was one of the most meaningful and challenging periods in our organization’s history! It has been a year of great change—some of the changes involved loss and others involved finding new inspiration, allies, and community.  While I want to summarize where we have been in 2016, I also want to address the enormous energy building at Reciprocity to invent a more courageous, visionary and loving model for transformation in the world. But first, our work in the past year…

In June 2016, we completed our 2-year project entitled SEE ME—a full-sized, full-color photography book detailing the stories and faces of New York City’s LGBTQ homeless and foster youth.  SEE ME was about more than taking photos—we worked with renowned photographer Alex Fradkin and the Reciprocity team to support a powerful transformation in the lives of 45 homeless youth who participated in this project.  Of the 45, 42 are now employed or in a college program of their choosing.  And more importantly, they are engaged in work that is meaningful to them, engaged in contemplative practice and are feeling seen.

In Spring 2016, we also planted our second Urban Garden in Harlem. Youth learned to plant a garden, grow food, cook meals, and develop their “Recipes for Life.”  And, we continued to transform the lifeless spaces in which homeless youth live in New York into more vibrant, energetic, and healing spaces for both youth and staff.

We also helped youth connect with food in a new way—both introducing youth to vegetarian food and helping them to have a direct experience of the power of food on your mind, energy level, aspirations, and overall well-being.  We helped youth make strong connections between eating wholesome vegetarian food and managing their mental health.

In fall 2016, Reciprocity co-founder Adam Bucko left New York City to pursue priesthood with the Anglican Church.  He will be in seminary for three years.  As a community, we engaged in a deep process of letting go and embracing a new way of being with each other.  I will lead the organization with a team of staff and youth graduates as supporting members of the team.  And we are slowly seeing the possibilities that lay dormant inside this loss—we are taking the time to transform this period into an opportunity for innovation, risk-taking, and building new connections.

Our change also affected our program space.  We left our space on West 36th Street (due to rent increases) and now have a smaller space inside the Good Shepherd Services building on East 17th street.  Our interim space has a large Multi-Purpose room for group workshops, coaching and Career Projects with a beautiful meditation space and meeting room on the third floor.  I believe strongly that we will sign a new lease when we have more fully developed the new vision for Reciprocity.  It may be that we have a retreat center upstate and a small space in the city—or a re-envisioned space in the city.  Either way, we are grateful to be housed in a temporary space for now.

In fall 2016, we launched two new projects—first, to help homeless youth who have been incarcerated or court-involved to heal, find community, and express their gifts in the world.  This program has included food, meditation, and coaching.  Second, we have launched a program to support Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Youth in their gender transition—and, perhaps as important—to transition into a new, fuller, and connected way of being in the world.  I am so encouraged and inspired as I move our organization into a more courageous, visionary, and creative incarnation.

Last but not least, we are expanding our retreat program to include more programming to actively reconnect youth to food, the earth, and spiritual ecology.  The grant from BGR is helping us to take an ever-deepening journey that is about more than feeding youth. Urban youth are finding that food is a powerful salve for their bodies, minds, and spirits.  How wonderful!

Taz Tagore is co-founder, with Adam Bucko, of The Reciprocity Foundation

Improving Nutrition among Children in Korhogo District, Cote d’Ivoire

BGR Staff

Mothers gather to discuss nutrition in Korhogo Health District

Malnutrition is a pressing problem in Cote d’Ivoire, where over 40% of the population lives in poverty. Cote d’Ivoire ranks 172 out of 188 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index, making it among the poorest countries in the world. The country has a population of 22 million, of which 6 million are children under five. Estimated child mortality under five years is 195 per 1,000 live births and life expectancy is just 54 years. Malnutrition, including vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies (vitamin A, iron, iodine and zinc being the most important), is a major contributing factor to the high rate of infant mortality. Chronic malnutrition affects about 33% of children under five years. Micronutrient deficiencies are also widespread.

BGR is currently partnering with Helen Keller International (HKI) to implement a program to improve an understanding of proper feeding practices among young girls and women in Korhogo Health District over the next three years. The primary goal of the project is to decrease the incidence of malnutrition in children during their first 1,000 days of life by training health workers in ENA in the Korhogo Health District. Korhogo Health District, located in the under-served Poro Region in northern Cote d’Ivoire, operates 77 health clinics that serve a target population of around 760,000.

Through this project, entirely funded by BGR, HKI will use the Essential Nutrition Actions (ENA) framework to reach new mothers and expectant women at the right time with the right message to improve their own health and the health of their children. ENA promotes optimal nutrition practices, among them women’s nutrition, breastfeeding, complementary feeding, feeding the sick child, vitamin A, and the integrated control of anemia, vitamin A and iodine deficiency.

Salimata Coulibaly providing ENA training to health workers in Korhogo

The implementation of the project started in September, 2016, when HKI-Cote d’Ivoire contracted Mrs. Salimata Coulibaly to serve as master trainer in nutrition practices in the district. Salimata has a long, impressive history of successful nutrition interventions in the area. She has played a national advocacy role in building awareness of the need to treat childhood under-nutrition in the northern region of Cote d’Ivoire. She was the first person, 25 years ago, to start treating infants with severe acute malnutrition at a center she established in Korhogo in partnership with the Red Cross. She is highly respected, and brings years of experience as she works to reinforce health workers understanding of the Essential Nutrition Actions.

Salimata benefited from special train-the-trainer sessions organized by HKI to build her capacity to reinforce health worker’s understanding of the ENA framework during a regional workshop organized for nutrition experts from French-speaking Africa.

Salimata demonstrating proper breastfeeding position to healthworkers

To date, Salimata has undertaken assessment visits at 29 health clinics in Korhogo district, and has developed plans to reinforce and scale-up ENA practices in the respective communities being served by these health clinics.
As of the writing of this report, Salimata has trained 85 health workers on the following themes: (1) nutrition of expectant and breastfeeding mothers; (2) exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a newborn’s life; (3) appropriate complementary feeding and continuation of breastfeeding for the first two years of a child’s life; (4) feeding the sick and malnourished child; (5) vitamin A, iron, iodine and zinc deficiency; and (6) essential actions in hygiene.

Training of health workers to organize community cooking demonstrations are slated to start soon so that women can better understand how to incorporate healthier foods into their diets and that of their children.

This article is based on a six-months interim report on the first year of the project from Helen Keller International.

Prosperity Through Resilient Livelihood in Lakhimpur Kheri, India 

Patricia Brick

Manju Devi mulching in tomato cultivation

Manju Devi cultivates peas, tomatoes, eggplants, and chili peppers on 1/5 acre of land in her Musadei village in Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh, India. Through Oxfam India’s “Prosperity Through Resilient Livelihood” project, Devi and sixteen other women farmers in the Santoshi Mahila Kisan Samuh collective gather for a monthly “farmers’ field school” to learn sustainable practices for improving soil quality, agricultural productivity, and climate resilience.

Devi and other group members have begun selling organically grown tomatoes at the local market, and they have found that their income has already increased, to an annual income of INR 50,000 on average, exceeding the net per capita income for Uttar Pradesh. Additionally, by learning to use locally available materials to prepare organic insecticide, fungicide, and fertilizer, group members have been able to save money on purchased fertilizers and pesticides.

Jaidevi collecting peas from her fields

Supported by a $20,000 grant from Buddhist Global Relief, the “Prosperity Through Resilient Livelihood” project is working to improve the lives of women farmers in twenty villages in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district. With an emphasis on community-led knowledge-sharing, support, and collective organizing, the project has created 22 new women farmers’ groups offering trainings in organic methods and other climate-resilient agricultural practices to improve productivity and income and lower costs. The project also seeks to improve farmers’ access to government grants by developing connections between village groups and the government agriculture department.

Women comprise more than a third of the agricultural work force in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, and it is estimated that 85 percent of working women in rural areas are farmers or farm workers. But with few land titles in their names, women farmers are far less likely than their male counterparts to benefit from government grants and projects: only 4 percent of women in Uttar Pradesh have access to credit, and less than one percent have participated in government training projects. Farming in general in this area of Uttar Pradesh is subject to drought, flood, poor soil quality, poor seed replacement, and general low productivity. An estimated 33 percent of the state’s population lives in poverty, including many farming families.

In the first six months of the “Prosperity Through Resilient Livelihood,” Oxfam India reports, 75 women from 20 villages began cultivating crops in kitchen gardens, and 20 Dalit (scheduled caste) women farmers began mushroom farming. Six villages, representing 102 small-holder farmers, created agriculture development plans, and 376 farmers, including 32 women, were registered under government agricultural projects. Additionally, 255 farmers received seed and 121 farmers received agricultural equipment from the government.

Rajmati picking chilies

In another women farmers’ group supported by the “Prosperity Through Resilient Livelihood” project, a mother of two named Rajmati joined 20 other women in her village of Pritampur to learn about climate-resilient agriculture practices, including the preparation and use of organic fertilizer and other methods of crop intensification. With her husband, Rajmati grows vegetables and other crops on 4/5 acre of land, but in past years, the harvest has not been enough to support their family. In her women farmer’s group, Rajmati said: “I learned different techniques in our group and explained everything to my husband. We used cow dung as manure in our field and observed that productivity has increased. Now I can say that through this, we are getting high yield with less input cost.”

Shrivani and Rajmati

Among the techniques Rajmati has implemented is the use of a manure or compost mulch covered by a plastic sheet to increase productivity by supporting moisture retention, regulating temperature, suppressing weed growth, and enriching the soil. She explained: “We applied plastic sheets in vegetable cultivation. This has minimized our investment, as our vegetable crop used less water and was protected from weeds, as well. We also did mixed-cropping: Between the beds we had sown cauliflower, which gave us an extra crop at the same time. We earned INR 12,000 extra by selling cauliflowers.” Rajmati continues to attend regular meetings of her women farmers’ group.

Climate-resilient farming practices support food and livelihood security for farmers and their surrounding communities by increasing output and making crop production less vulnerable to the weather extremes of a changing climate. Over the past decade, farmers in Uttar Pradesh have faced dry spells during the monsoon season, increased flooding, and increased winter temperatures. At the same time these practices, focused on long-term sustainability, lessen agriculture’s contributions to global climate change.

Patricia Brick is a writer and editor in the New York metropolitan area. This article has been adapted from Oxfam India’s report on the project.