Mennonite Central Committee

Community Inspired by Demo Plots

The 94 farmers trained so far in this new program said that what convinced them to sign up for conservation agriculture (CA) training was seeing the healthy green sorghum and beans in the program’s demonstration plots. The program conducted an awareness campaign prior to training by setting up demo plots in the villages.

When farmers were invited to compare the CA plots with neighboring fields, the sorghum was tall and about ready to tassel, and the lablab beans used as a cover crop to retain moisture and fix nitrogen in the soil were green and healthy-looking.  It was easy to see at a glance that the CA crops were in much better shape, so the farmers wanted to learn how to replicate those results.

The program area was chosen because of widespread food insecurity due to low crop yields from poor soils, low rainfall, and insect damage after harvest. The first group of 94 farmers has been trained in such CA practices as minimum tillage, intercropping, crop rotation, cover crops and mulching, all of which improve the soil and retain moisture. They are planning to use CA on their home plots at the start of the coming rainy season, and will receive further training on airtight grain storage and growing vegetables in their yards. The vegetables will supply much-needed food and increase nutritional diversity during the dry season when food is scarce.

Future training sessions will focus on establishing clean sources of drinking water and small- scale irrigation options for watering the kitchen gardens.

Caption: Farmers Daniel and Grace pose by a demo plot of very healthy sorghum

Tanzania Chamwino Program         
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner Diocese of Central Tanganyika (DCT)
Story based on a report by Musa Chilemu. Photo by Lister Nyang’anyi.

 

09/28/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Out of Debt After Two Years of Environmentally-Friendly Farming

Mukesh, a young farmer who was saddled with an inherited debt and heavy family responsibilities, has paid off all his financial obligations with profits from his successful farm. He was able to celebrate this amazing achievement after two years, thanks to ag training and support he received from the program.

Mukesh and his wife, Jeetni, live with his grandfather, a brother, and their small son. Mukesh was six months old when his mother died and his father abandoned him, leaving him to live with his grandfather along with an unpaid debt for the purchase of a tractor. The grandfather continued to pay off the loan while teaching Mukesh about farming, and was able to send him to school until the seventh grade. When his grandfather grew too old to farm entirely by himself, Mukesh quit school to help him.

At 19, Mukesh married Jeetni and assumed responsibility for the farm and loan in addition to his family obligations, but by then the interest was so large that he struggled to keep up.

Around that time, the Bhatigachh program started helping farmers in his village, training them on growing vegetables, making their own organic fertilizer, insecticide, and pesticide, and how to irrigate their crops. Mukesh was glad to learn sustainable ways to improve his farming, grow a wider variety of vegetables, and market them locally. He’s leased 1.25 acres of land, and grows everything from leafy vegetables and gourds to tomatoes, chilies, okra, radish, cauliflower and beans. His monthly profits quickly allowed him to pay down the old loan, and within two years he was out of debt.

He is happy and thankful for the program, which came just at the right time when he was overwhelmed with problems.  Says Mukesh, “I am so grateful for your help.”

Caption: A smiling Mukesh harvests gourds destined for market

Nepal Bhatigachh program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee with Local Partner BICWS

09/26/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

My family now knows happiness

"My name is Hélène. Thanks to this program, my family knows happiness.  I’ve received training on farming practices and leadership that has helped me in my home life, in groups, and in my field work. I now help my husband with some of the expenses for our 15-member household, so there are no more fights.

"This season, in spite of the failing rainfall, I have hope for a good harvest. I got training on a conservation agriculture technique called intercropping, and then received some improved sorghum and bean seeds. I’ve planted them together in a half-acre field. I’m happy in the field because both crops have survived periods of drought and are developing well.

"In the dry 'off' season I keep a vegetable garden. It invigorates me to have work to do during this otherwise difficult time. Having cabbage, tomato, eggplant and onions available right here has helped me feed my family during times when we used to have less food. I put all these vegetables in my sauces, which taste great and are loaded with nutrients. I also sell what we don’t need to eat, and that’s allowed me to buy clothes for the children, dishes, soap and more. I was even able to send some money to my mother.

"With all these advantages we’ve received from those who support and encourage us, all I can say is, '“Thank you.'"

Caption: Hélène in her field intercropped with sorghum and beans

Burkina Faso Central
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner Office de Développement des Eglises Evangéliques (ODE)

05/22/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Easing the Effects of Drought

Considered a kind of miracle by some, sand dams are easing the effects of a devastating drought in these Maasai communities in Kenya. With your support over the years, participants have built dams over seasonal rivers. People and cattle use the water in the reservoir, and even when that dries up, can continue to draw water trapped in the sand.

While the drought has been extremely hard on cattle, families have turned to raising chickens and growing produce in kitchen gardens. These activities demand less water, enabling folks to get by despite the severe challenges.

Emmanuel, one of 15 members in his self-help group, got the idea of raising chickens during one of the program’s agricultural learning tours. He’d kept a few chickens before but, with training, he learned how to increase his efficiency, reduce losses, build better coops, and manage his business.

A little over a year ago, he started rearing 200 chicks, and they are now producing eggs. He collects about six trays of eggs a day and sells them at the nearby Ngong market. Emmanuel says keeping chickens is more profitable than cows.

He plans to expand his operations now that he has the experience, knowledge and skills. Emmanuel is also trained as a model farmer, and three other farmers have followed his lead so far.

Captions: 1) Women scoop water from a sand dam 2) Emmanuel’s chicken operations

Kenya Ngong Intashat Program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner MIDI
10 communities, 4,500 households, 31,500 individuals

03/05/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Men Get Cooking!

To promote growing and eating legumes, the Zimbabwe Mwenezi program's local partner SCORE recently held an entertaining and informative “Men Can Cook” competition among farmers. Since cooking is traditionally a women’s role, SCORE designed the competition to encourage men to participate in this household task.

Competing in teams, the men came up with their own recipes, prepared delicious meals that were judged by local officials, and then had the opportunity to taste each other’s creations and feed the women as well. One competitor, Mr. Tamuka, said, “Now that we know how to cook, men are becoming the best chefs in our households!  I want to make a meal for my in-laws some day.”

The competition was a milestone in SCORE’s mission to improve family nutrition and gender equity. More farmers are intercropping grains and legumes and feeling empowered by being able to eat better on locally-grown foods.  As another farmer, Mrs. Sibongile, put it, “My wealth is in the soil.”

The men and women farmers had previously received training in improving their soil and conserving moisture by planting legumes like lablab and pigeon pea. At workshops on meal prep and nutrition led by local home economics teachers, they learned that legumes combined with grains like rice or millet form a complete protein. Mr. Tamuka said, “Lablab is my favorite legume, and it is good for my health!”

Caption: “Men Can Cook”competitors show off their aprons and prizes

Zimbabwe Mwenezi Program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner SCORE
2 Communities, 320 Households, 2,240 Individuals

03/01/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Panna’s Kitchen Garden and “Super Flour” Save Her Son’s Life

My name is Panna. My husband and I live with our two daughters, ten and five, and our three-year-old son in a small home at the side of the road.  Only a year ago, we were just surviving, and my children were having health problems. I didn’t know how dangerously sick my son was, though, until one day, the staff of [local partner] BICWS Nepal was monitoring door to door. When they saw my child they said, “This baby is very weak,” and advised me to take him to the health post. The doctor there said he was malnourished and should be admitted to the hospital.

It was a scary time, but my little boy is well now, thanks to a six-month treatment. I was invited to join a mothers’ group, and we learned how to make “super flour” by roasting and grinding together two types of legumes and one type of whole grain to make a complete protein. I feed my children a porridge made of this lito pitho, fruit and vegetables. It’s made a huge difference in their health!

We also received training on planting kitchen gardens right by our houses. I’m growing okra, leafy vegetables, and pumpkins, and my fruit trees – lychee, jackfruit, banana, mango – are coming along. It’s a relief and pleasure to be able to give my children food that I grow myself.  We continue to learn about nutrition, preparing wholesome meals, and sanitation to make sure our children stay healthy.

I am thankful to the program for saving my little boy’s life and for all the help I’ve received in making a better home for my family.

Caption: Panna and her healthy son

Nepal Bhatigachh Program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner BICWS Nepal
9 communities, 2,603 households, 13,748 individuals


12/18/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Families Now Producing Most of Their Own Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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
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