Tag Archives: sustainable agriculture

Enhanced Homestead Food Production in Côte d’Ivoire

BGR Staff

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Mother and child with recently harvested eggplant

In May 2013, Buddhist Global Relief (BGR) awarded Helen Keller International a three-year grant to support their Enhanced Homestead Food Production (EHFP) and Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potatoes (OFSP) production in Côte d’Ivoire. The project extended from September 2013 to August 2016. The goal of this project was to improve the nutritional status of children and families in the Gebke Region of Bouake District. In this region, as elsewhere across Côte d’Ivoire, people face a constant struggle with food security, availability of micronutrient-rich foods, and accessibility to markets.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Group members in the garden

With BGR’s support, HKI piloted a three-year adaptation and expansion of its proven Food Production program model. They integrated EHFP into an existing community group and promoted the production and consumption of vitamin A and micronutrient-rich crops, including orange sweet potatoes. In an effort to improve the local group’s capacity to adapt to ever-increasing water shortages that threaten production, the HKI team helped pilot a drip irrigation system on the group’s model farm, which was used to train group members on improved agriculture techniques.

HKI also collaborated with local organizations to implement various other project activities and to provide direct support to the women’s group benefiting from BGR’s support. The women’s group is called “Kolotiolo Hokan”, which means “God Gave Us Grace” in the Senoufo language. Group members learned to apply improved agricultural techniques that have brought them recognition by their village leaders, community, and family members who help them as they have now seen their activities and incomes increase considerably over the life of this project.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Kolotiolo Hokan members

Members of the group and their neighbors have learned about the fundamentals and importance of improved nutrition and hygiene. The group has formalized their legal status, opened a bank account, and improved their ability to manage and market the surpluses they grow. This has empowered the women and led to increased autonomy. The health status of the group’s families and neighbors has also improved as they increasingly consume micro-nutrient rich food products they grow themselves. They have also learned about Essential Nutrition Actions (ENA) and Essential Hygiene Actions (EHA). The group members have also seen their social status improve as their income has increased as a result of this project.

Home visits to reinforce ENA and EHA intensified over the last months of the project. After the mass awareness campaigns concluded, district health workers and NGO workers conducted 1,140 home visits to reinforce behavior change messaging. Most of these visits took place during this final reporting period. In total, over 700 families benefitted from the behavior change campaign.

Home visits focused on a monthly theme in order to reinforce behavior change messaging provided in months prior. In March 2016, home visits focused on exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. In April 2016, the focus was on the nutrition and feeding of expectant and breastfeeding mothers, as well as complementary feeding of children from six months to two years of age. May’s focus was on feeding sick and malnourished children. In June, the focus was on vitamin A deficiency, in July on iodine deficiency and handwashing, and in August, the home visit focus was iron deficiency.

Group members as well as other community members expressed a great deal of satisfaction with the home visit component of the project. HKI undertook an informal focus group discussion with home-visit recipients, and everyone in the group stated that they enjoyed the visits, learned a lot from them, and would now change their behavior based on the new information they obtained.

For example, one woman said that she did not know that she should not give water to her newborn child in addition to breastmilk and has now stopped doing so. Another mother was not aware that she was not supposed to give her newborn infant porridge until he was six months old and has now stopped force-feeding her baby. Many mothers in the community who are not currently members of the women’s group have also expressed interest in obtaining orange-flesh sweet potato vines from the group members so that they can start growing them at home to provide their families increased vitamin A as well.

Staff at the local clinic that previously benefited from HKI’s ENA and EHA training has promised that they would continue promoting essential nutrition and hygiene actions in the community after the conclusion of the BGR project.

HKI linked members of “Kolotiolo Hokan” to the local “Producers Sales Office” (BVP) in Bouake. BVP is now assisting “Kolotiolo Hokan” members to make decisions about marketing their produce and choosing the best income crops to plant. Group members know the importance of maintaining a healthy, nutritionally-balanced diet and they also see great opportunity in being able to increase their incomes from growing produce. The support of BVP will help to improve the household income of the group members for years to come.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Seed distribution group

In July 2016, members of HKI staff held a series of meetings with the members of “Kolotiolo Hokan” to help them plan for the end of the project. The meetings were very productive. The “Kolotiolo Hokan” members expressed their gratitude to BGR for the tremendous help that has been provided over the past three years.

This article is based upon Helen Keller International’s Final Progress Report to Buddhist Global Relief.

Using Less To Get More: Crop Intensification in Ethiopia

Ethiopia 1

The Central Rift Valley is Ethiopia’s predominant vegetable production belt. In this region, there are over 20,000 smallholder farmers engaged in producing over 200,000 tons of vegetables per year on about 10,000 hectares of irrigated land. Despite access to irrigation, agricultural practices have remained traditional, irregular, and unsustainable in terms of their economic, social, environmental, and ecological impacts. The agronomic practice and input application patterns are not only haphazard but also cause significant damage to the soil, water, ecology, and human health.

During our fiscal years 2015 and 2016, BGR partnered with Oxfam America in a two-year project to increase the productivity of vegetable crops (tomato and onion) by teaching farmers the System of Crop Intensification (SCI). This is a report about two Ethiopian farmers who learned this system and became qualified to teach it to other farmers in their region. The report was provided to us by our partner, Oxfam America.

Ethiopia 3-CroppedEsmile Johar is a farmer who lives on the outskirts of a fast-growing town called Ziway, 165km south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A major contributor to the recent agricultural growth is the increasing number of farmers engaged in small-scale irrigation using nearby Lake Ziway. In the last few years, farmers like Esmile Johar, a 42-yearold father of four, have seen how adopting efficient, climate-smart water-use technologies and good agronomic practices can improve agricultural production, food security, and resilience to climate shocks.

About ten years ago, Esmile and most of the surrounding farmers worked as laborers on their own land. Remembering the hard times, Esmile explained: “We had to rent our land to rich investors who had money to buy irrigation pumps, and inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. We didn’t have the necessary tools or know how. So our only choice was to rent our land and work for them as daily laborers.”

Things started changing when development agencies and the government introduced measures to enable smallholder farmers to use their land to overcome poverty and improve their livelihoods. Among them was Oxfam and a local organization, SEDA (Sustainable Environment and Development Action). Oxfam and SEDA began their partnership in 2000 with a focus on small-scale irrigation for vegetable production in the Central Rift Valley. More recently, Oxfam and SEDA have collaborated on introducing an innovative agricultural methodology called the System of Crop Intensification (SCI), which promotes efficient, climate-smart techniques to increase productivity and reduce costs for two major vegetables—onions and tomatoes.

SCI focuses on the careful application of inputs and adopting good agronomic practices. Said Esmile: “Even though we have a general knowledge about the necessary inputs, we didn’t know exactly what combination of things will give us the optimum yield. So considering the increasing cost of inputs, learning how to use things efficiently and avoid wastage was very important to us.”

Peer learning and agricultural experiments

To reach more farmers and encourage peer-to-peer learning, a “five to one ratio” structure was established whereby one demonstrator would attempt to reach five followers. In this intiative, 50 demonstrators and 250 followers were selected by the Water Users Association members to learn and practice SCI. “I was selected to be a demonstrator,” said Esmile with pride. “Everyone knows how hard I work and I have many years of experience growing vegetables.” Looking at his 1/8 hectare backyard covered with onion seedlings, tomato, carrot, cabbage, lettuce, turnip green, collard green, papaya, avocado, coffee, and banana, it is not hard to imagine why Esmile was selected to be a demonstrator.

Ethiopia 2Rukia was another person selected by the Association to be a demonstrator. Rukia served as a cashier for Abine Germama WUA, and her dedication and strength had earned her the respect of her community. Surrounded by onion seedling in her backyard, she said with a smile: “I was confident I could do it, and proud to be selected. For a long time I learned new ways of doing things by following others. So I was very happy to teach others. It is a proof how far I have come.”

One other exceptional element of the project was the high level of attention given to its participatory approach, where various experiments were used to demonstrate and increase SCI adoption rates. The project looked at farmer-designed farmer-managed efforts versus researcher-designed farmer-managed efforts on 10ft x 10ft plots in a comparative context. Esmile participated in both experiments—one in his own backyard and another on a small parcel he owned across the street from his home. He said: “I was glad to try both the traditional and the new methods and to see the difference for myself.”

Following the selection process, the 50 demonstrators were trained on the principles and practices of SCI. They were also provided with the necessary inputs, such as improved seed, fertilizer, and pesticide. Most of the farmers opted to try the experiment on onions rather than tomatoes. “Tomatoes are more profitable but need more care than onions. The risk is high so for now I chose to work on onion,” said Esmile.

“Experts came to my house and showed me in my own backyard,” said Rukia. “They taught me how to prepare the land, how much seed, fertilizers, and pesticides to use, and how many times I should water for best results. I was so excited that even when my pump broke in the middle of the experiment, I didn’t mind pulling water out of a 12 meter deep well to water the vegetables and finish the trial successfully.”

Throughout the trial period the five followers worked closely with the demonstrators. The setup encourages mutual learning where they continually share knowledge, ideas, and experiences. At the end of three months, the farmers were very happy and quite surprised with the outcome of the experiments. “I knew the research will improve my productivity but didn’t expect this much,” Esmile said with a smile. “Even though I used almost half of the seed and fertilizer and only watered the onions two days instead of five, my yield doubled compared to the traditional method.” Rukia was also very happy with the result. From her backyard plot she got almost three quintals of onion.

Visible signs of improved livelihoods

“Now I produce up to four times a year and I can easily meet the needs and wants of my family,” said Esmile, who is more than happy to show all the wonderful things he managed to buy and do. Among them were, healthy children who are eating a balanced diet, a better and bigger house, a comfortable bed to sleep on, a bicycle for his son to go to school, and so on.

Ethiopia 4

Rukia is investing in her children’s education and on inputs to adopt what she learned on her half hectare land nearby. Her backyard is already covered with second round onion seedlings following the new SCI method she learned.

Projects for Fiscal Year 2016–17—Part 6 (of 6)

BGR Staff

21. Peru: Vocational Education Training for Poor Women
NEW PARTNER

Founded in 1989, the Asociación Grupo de Trabajo Redes (AGTR) is devoted to providing vocational education to women and mothers employed in domestic work while teaching them about their human and labor rights. The Association runs an employment agency, La Casa de Panchita, to help women find jobs with adequate pay and respect for their skills.

This BGR partnership–along with the Nicaragua project our first in Latin America–will benefit women who have been employed in domestic work from childhood. The women find themselves struggling to provide proper nutrition, shelter, and other amenities to their families due to a paucity of employment options.These women are trapped in poverty, and as a result their daughters too will be trapped, thus perpetuating the cycle.

To break the poverty trap into which many girls are born, AGTR empowers women and mothers through vocational educational training. Through a grant from BGR, AGTR will provide training to 100 marginalized women who wish to undertake domestic work, while also giving access to employment through their employment agency. Utilizing an adequate salary, these women and their families will escape the misery of hunger, while their daughters escape the need to work and can remain in school. The women will be taught about their human and labor rights and will be given access to AGTR’s in-house employment agency, which upholds the standards of the organization.

Woman and Boys

No more kids under 14 working

The Vocational Educational Training (VET) workshops are divided into three 3- hour sessions. The women will learn about their labor rights as domestic workers, become better prepared to negotiate a just salary, and learn about the social benefits such as healthcare available to all individuals who are employed full time. After students complete the training, they are equipped to begin their search for just and decent employment. Continue reading

Projects for Fiscal Year 2016–17—Part 4 (of 6)

BGR Staff

13. India: A Girl’s Hostel & Women’s Community Center in Nagpur

bcttanov2014 039

The Bodhicitta Foundation is a socially engaged charity established in 2001 by the Australian Buddhist nun, Ayya Yeshe, to help Dalits (scheduled classes) and slum dwellers in the state of Maharashtra. With funding from BGR, Bodhicitta has established a girls’ hostel for thirty girls aged 16–22, who are being trained as social and health workers or to qualify in a vocation. The hostel helps them escape poverty, trafficking, and the sex industry. The girls, chosen because of their dedication to their studies, come from the poorest regions in India: 10 from Bihar, 10 from rural Maharashtra, and 10 from urban Nagpur slums.

The girls are now in their third year of training, after which they will return to their villages with the skills to empower other young girls. In this way, the thirty girls will become agents of change and establish institutions that will benefit hundreds of girls and women in the future. Such a project is especially important in India because investing in girls’ education can alleviate poverty and the ignorance that oppresses poor girls and women.

The other portion of the BGR grant to Bodhicitta supports a women’s job training and community center, where women receive education, loans, and business training to empower them to start their own businesses and gain income that will directly increase the well-being of their children, families, and communities, lifting them out of poverty. The community center creates space for awareness-raising, health workshops, counseling, career guidance, and quality education that is currently lacking in the difficult environment of a large industrial slum. Year three of a three-year project. Continue reading

Projects for Fiscal Year 2016–17—Part 3 (of 6)

BGR Staff

8. Haiti: Feeding Children in Jacmel

Our partner, the Art Creation Foundation for Children, was started in 1999, with the mission “to build a passionate community of future leaders, visionaries and dynamic thinkers,” empowering young people through art and education. A hundred young people are currently enrolled in their programs. Our partnership will help ACFFC maintain its after-school and summer feeding program, which has been affected by the recent increased cost of staple foods in Haiti. Children in this program do not otherwise have access to regular meals. Most would eat less than three meals a week if not for the program.

Since ACFFC provides tuition for their education, the feeding program is tied closely to their education program, and in fact the latter might not exist without the feeding program. Children who are hungry do not perform as well as those who have access to food, for their concentration levels are lower. Without the feeding program some of the children would not even show up for school, but instead choose to find other ways to obtain food each day. The after-school feeding program provides many of the children with the only meal they may have access to, Monday through Friday, and provides breakfast and lunch on Saturdays and during the summer program. Annually renewable program.

9, Haiti: Food Aid Program in Jacmel     NEW PARTNER

Girls with Plates of Food

The Joan Rose Foundation (JRF) is a U.S. registered non-profit based in Bloomfield Village, Michigan. Its mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable Haitian children and their families. In October 2010 they opened in Esperanza, Dominican Republic, serving Haitian refugees in the country. In September 2015, to escape the discrimination against Haitians by the Dominican society and government, they moved operations and 23 core families to the Bois Boeuf neighborhood of Jacmel, Haiti.

The Food Aid and Food Security program sponsored by BGR will be implemented by JRF in Bois Boeuf, Jacmel. The beneficiaries of the project are the 115 people that live in the community. The project duration is twelve months. The objectives of the program are: (1) to provide children with two nutritious meals every day, supplying about 80 percent of their daily recommended calorie intake; (2) to incorporate healthy eating habits and improve the educational level of families; (3) to lessen the financial burden on families while they settle in Jacmel; (4) to help the community increase self-sufficiency and food security by creating a community garden; and (5) to strengthen community participation and organization.

To fulfill these objectives, the project will provide two meals daily, from Monday to Saturday, for the children of the JRF community. JRF will also offer a training workshop to the parents about healthy eating patterns and well balanced diets and create a community garden. Continue reading

Projects for Fiscal Year 2016–17—Part 2 (of 6)

BGR Staff

4. Cambodia: Food Scholarships for Girls to Stay in School

Girls in Classroom

Lotus Outreach, a trusted BGR partner since 2009, is dedicated to ensuring the education, health, and safety of at-risk and exploited women and children in the developing world, especially in Cambodia. The long-standing BGR-Lotus Outreach partnership provides rice support to primary, secondary, and tertiary students receiving scholarships via the GATE and GATEways programs. The GATE programs provides educational scholarships to girls pursuing primary and secondary education. The GATEways program builds on this by supporting girls who graduated from high school through GATE and are pursuing higher education at universities and technical schools across Cambodia.

Rice support is a critical feature of the GATE and GATEways programs. It not only ensures the girls will go to class with nourished minds and bodies, but relieves families of the pressures that often compel them to force their girls to drop out of school and join the work force. In 2015, 76 percent of GATE scholarship recipients successfully passed their examinations and advanced to the next grade level. Students enrolled in the GATE program are more likely to attend and stay in school, lowering their likelihood of turning to exploitative labor.

In the next phase of our partnership, BGR will provide Lotus Outreach with funding to offer 50 kilograms of rice each month during the next school year to the families of 70 girls who rank among the poorest of GATE scholarship recipients in Siem Reap, and an additional 5 families in Phnom Penh. Likewise, all of the 37 scholars enrolled in the GATEways program will receive a monthly provision of 15 kg of rice support to ensure they have enough to eat during their studies and will not be under constant pressure to drop out of college to find work.

 
Continue reading

“Our City is Growing!”: BGR’s Partner, Keep Growing Detroit

The following is the annual report sent to BGR by its partner, Keep Growing Detroit. Thanks to Ashley Atkinson, director of KGD, for providing the report.

KGD_Boc Choi-1

 

The Garden Resource Program

With approximately 40 square miles of vacant land and headlines reporting a city on the brink of collapse, the news of Detroit may seem grim. However, if you walk the streets and talk to the many dedicated and resilient city residents, including the more than 15,600 residents that participate in Keep Growing Detroit’s Garden Resource Program (GRP), you’ll see they are writing a much more inspiring story with a headline that reads, “Our City is Growing”!

Their story tells a tale of our great city’s transformation, which begins with seeds planted in 1,375 gardens in the rich soil surrounding community centers, block clubs, churches, and in backyards of families across the city. Read deeper and you’ll see that these 805 family, 424 community, 56 school, and 90 market gardens are not just growing delicious and healthy food, they are a model for how once industrial urban centers struggling with economic and social challenges can use urban gardens as a tool to build a greener future for their city, with strong families, thriving communities, and robust local food economies. Continue reading