By Nicole Duciaume, Americas Region Sponsorship Manager
A small public school in the Sierra Norte region of Puebla, Mexico, recently won a prestigious state award for its organic garden, which has produced much more than fruits and vegetables: It has also brought new outlooks on nutrition, agricultural practices and even entrepreneurship in the community.
Supported by ChildFund, the school’s garden helps students learn about not only nutrition and agriculture, but also their indigenous heritage. Here in Mexico’s northern highlands, much of the population is indigenous, and the program encourages students to talk about gardening, recipes and nutrition with their grandparents and parents in their native language, Nahuatl.
Maria Isabel, 15, took us on a tour of the garden this spring. She’s been heavily involved in the project since day one and was chosen to represent her school at the state ceremony in the capital, where the principal, teachers and students were recognized for their innovative garden.
“With programs like this school garden, a new hope is growing in this community, because we want to learn,” she said.
She pointed out each plant, telling us its nutritional value, recipes it can be used in and how much shade, water and care it needs. Maria Isabel also gave us the scientific names, as well as the plants’ names in Spanish and in Nahuatl. The garden has medicinal plants, fruits, vegetables, trees and herbs.
Students’ families come to the garden to learn advanced agricultural techniques, composting methods and plants’ nutritional value and levels of resistance to extreme weather. They also learn about how to use old soccer balls, plastic soda bottles and truck tires for planting, to save space.
The garden yields vegetables and fruit that also can become healthy dishes like pancakes made with bananas or carrots, complementing families’ usual diets and improving nutrition for children. Maria Isabel says she likes nopal cactus leaves steamed with onions, a dish that’s rich in vitamin A. She’d never eaten it before the school garden. Family members can take home some of the produce, and they’re also diversifying their own gardens, where they typically grew only rice and oranges. They’re beginning to sell surplus produce in roadside stands, supplementing their incomes, as well as sharing with relatives and neighbors.
The school has also started selling baked goods made with ingredients from the garden, even taking bakery orders for products like their increasingly popular carrot bread. In the future, students hope to create soaps and shampoo to sell at markets — next steps to look forward to.
Nkazimulo, 25, is a Zambian farmer who was orphaned as a child and had to quit school to support her younger siblings. With help from ChildFund Zambia, she was able to train for a career in agriculture. In Zambia and other African countries, young people have increasingly abandoned the traditional job of farming, which presents a problem because these nations’ economies depend on agriculture. But men and women like Nkazimulo are helping turn this trend around. Read more of her story.
In October, ChildFund’s blog is celebrating the harvest and traditional foods of the countries where we work, as well as the importance of nutrition and agriculture.
By Himangi Jayasundera, ChildFund Sri Lanka
Vijayakumaratharun, who is 10, says that what makes him most sad is seeing his mother cry. It hasn’t been an easy life for Ithayakala, 34, who was abandoned by her husband when her son was very small.
Living in a rural village in the Batticaloa district of Sri Lanka and with little education, her livelihood came from selling the vegetables she grew in her small home garden, plus doing odd jobs and working in rice paddies, seasonal work. But when Vijayakumaratharun was sponsored three years ago through ChildFund New Zealand, one of ChildFund International’s Alliance partners, his mother saw a ray of hope.
“Things have changed for us now,” Ithayakala says. Although she still struggles to make enough money, the strain has decreased. “Almost all of his educational expenses are covered thanks to sponsorship,” she adds.
In addition to his sponsorship, Vijayakumaratharun and his mother have three goats and three cows. Ithayakala sells surplus milk, which supplements their income.
Ithyakala has had the opportunity to participate in ChildFund’s nutrition program, where she learned about growing and cooking nutritious foods for her son. Now, she is a leader and teaches other mothers the same skills. She has also benefited from child protection programs organized by ChildFund Sri Lanka for the community.
Vijayakumaratharun shares with us a photograph and letters he has received from his sponsor in New Zealand. The kea, he points out from a card with several animals from New Zealand, is his favorite. “I want to thank her for all the greeting cards and letters she has sent me. I have learnt new things about her family in New Zealand and about the animals there.”
In October, ChildFund’s blog is celebrating the harvest and traditional foods of the countries where we work, as well as the importance of nutrition and agriculture.
By Luza Marinho, ChildFund Brasil
Helping children grow up healthy and strong is a full-time job, and in Brazil, it means sowing the seeds for community gardens. ChildFund Brasil and its partner organizations are working with families in several communities to plant gardens and grow vegetables for everyone’s nourishment, especially children.
PROCAJ, one of ChildFund Brasil’s local partner organizations in the Jequitinhonha Valley, has 57 families participating in the project Planting, Harvesting, Eating. They grow vegetables for their households at the children’s community center, and the rest of the crops are sold, generating income for the families.
“Today we ate freshly baked vegetables and helped in feeding the kids at school. They have vegetables on the table every day,” says Maria, 68.
For many mothers involved, the project goes beyond physical nourishment; Uca says she has seen her self-esteem grow stronger as well. “Before the garden, I took anti-depression medication,” she says. “Today I don’t need it.”
Maria adds that the community gardens have also changed to how the community sees the families: “We were discredited; they used to say that we didn’t like working, that we just liked to plead. PROCAJ gave us confidence, believed in our efforts and our willingness to grow and succeed in life.”
By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist
When I grew up near Lake Erie in Ohio, I lived on the north coast; or, taking a Canadian perspective, the south shore. As an adult, I moved to England’s south coast, then the west coast of Africa, and finally, the east and west coasts of North America.
Water attracts people. It’s no coincidence that oceans, blood and amniotic fluid all share the same concentration of salt.
Worldwide, three out of five people live in coastal areas, and 50 million call tiny islands home. Although Small Island Developing States (known as SIDS) produce less than 1 percent of global greenhouse gas, their inhabitants suffer most from climate change. Of the 51 countries classified as SIDS, 12 are also among the least developed — including Timor-Leste, where ChildFund works. It gained its independence from Indonesia in 2002.
More than half of Timor-Leste’s population lives in poverty. The United Nations predicts its population will triple to 3 million by 2050, and the country faces a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius (3.4 degrees Fahrenheit) over that time, according to a 2012 report from the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
We must account for climate change as we address poverty, simply because of its impact on the availability of water and food.
About two in three Timorese people already suffer from food insecurity; half of Timor-Leste’s population is under age 15, and malnutrition affects half of the children under age 5. In Timor-Leste, the hungry season lasts from October through February — until maize, the primary crop, is ready for harvest.
Although 85 percent of Timorese practice subsistence agriculture, the country cannot meet its nutritional needs, partly because insects, fungi and rodents ruin a third of the harvest during storage. Crops suited to the Timorese climate — such as rice, maize, wheat, barley, arrowroot, cassava, sweet potato, potato, cowpeas, red beans, peanuts and coconuts — provide acceptable caloric intake but insufficient protein. For its population to survive, Timor-Leste imports food and exports coffee.
So, what happens if Timor-Leste gets hotter and more crowded? Interactions between carbon dioxide (CO2), temperature and water are complex. The so-called “CO2 fertilization effect” benefits certain crops, such as rice, sweet potatoes and peanuts. Others, however, experience harm, especially maize and cassava. Too much carbon dioxide causes cassava leaves, an excellent source of protein, to become toxic.
Warmer temperatures cause crops to mature faster but at reduced yields. Peanut harvests, for example, could shrink by one-fifth. Warmth also favors pests, so incidence of insect damage and fungal diseases will increase. And farming requires rainfall at crucial stages. If Timor-Leste doesn’t receive enough — or gets too much — rain, the crops currently cultivated there may no longer thrive.
Coffee beans are especially vulnerable to heat, and if they don’t adjust to higher temperatures, farmers will move their plants up the central mountain, increasing deforestation and soil erosion.
Climate change also puts Timor-Leste at greater risk of floods, landslides, cyclones and drought — disasters that already affect the country. Grain yields decreased by 30 percent in 2007, due to a drought caused by El Niño, a disruption in the Pacific Ocean related to unusually warm temperatures. Climate models indicate a high likelihood of another El Niño event in 2014.
Climate change is a serious concern around the world, and it often seems like too great a problem for one person. But if each one of us does our part, we can make a difference; you can help improve the diets and incomes of families in Timor-Leste by making a gift of goats, cows or chickens.
Reporting by Arthur Tokpah, ChildFund Guinea
ChildFund Guinea’s staff met with Mamadou Aly Diallo, coordinator of the Denkadi Federation of Dabola, a local partner organization that has provided support with distribution of goats, sheep and other items to 135 families living in need in Guinea. The goats were purchased by ChildFund supporters in the Real Gifts catalog. Here is an interview with Diallo (pictured at left):
Please tell us about this project.
Diallo: We participated in a project that allowed us to support 700 children with school supplies and 135 families with goats and sheep for breeding; fertilizers, seeds and insecticides for gardening, and we also provide household latrines.
What benefit will the goats and sheep give these families?
Diallo: Families that receive goats have the potential to improve their lives. We thought it was beneficial to focus on this potential by providing them with the necessary skills, knowledge and animals that will permit them to take charge of their future.
In our communities, the populations are basically local farmers. Those who have the means purchase cattle that they use to cultivate land on a large scale, yield more products and generate more income. But poorer families cannot afford to rent or buy cattle.
However, there is a barter system that exists in these communities, giving people the opportunity to exchange goats or sheep for cattle; at least four sheep or goats equal one cow. Nevertheless, the idea behind providing goats and sheep to families is not limited to obtaining cattle. In a short time period, they can cultivate a herd of goats or sheep, which are easier to sell in local markets for quick income, allowing them to gain confidence and recognition in their villages. That’s why we thought that goats and sheep could be a solution for the short or long term.
How did the project work?
In 2013, we identified 135 extremely poor families who use traditional tools and bare hands to do their farming work, have only two small meals a day and whose children are not enrolled in school but rather work on their farms. Initially we provided a total of 200 animals (140 sheep and 60 goats) to 100 families (one pair per family). Later in September, the remaining 35 families received 140 sheep for breeding (two pairs per family).
Before delivering the animals to the families, the Federation signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Animal Husbandry. They immunized these animals and administered de-wormers.
What is the current state of the first 200 animals given to families?
Diallo: According to the Department of Animal Husbandry, 75 percent of the animals have reproduced. We are told that the children of these families play happily with the young animals, cherish them and also learn to care for them. We are hopeful that in a few years’ time, these families will be financially independent enough to plow their land, pay school tuition for their children and meet their basic needs.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund International writer
On Earth Day and every day, ChildFund approaches its work with one overall mission in mind: helping communities become self-sufficient. That’s why we work with local partner organizations and provide training to community members wherever we go — so they’ll be able to succeed over the long term, allowing ChildFund to assist others in need.
In northern Ecuador’s Pichincha province, 200 families need a helping hand. ChildFund’s goal is to help them start and improve fruit and vegetable gardens, a program that will not only feed children but also set their families on the path to self-sufficiency. This Fund a Project, started in February, will provide vegetable and fruit seedlings, agricultural supplies and educational workshops. Our goal is to have 200 gardens in the region by August, which will directly help 750 children and 500 youth.
This is where your help comes in; our goal is to raise $42,600 by August. Children in this region of Ecuador sometimes suffer from undernutrition, and families often don’t make enough income to cover basic needs. A thriving home garden will provide families with a diverse supply of vegetables and fruit — instead of just corn, the most common regional crop — and give them the chance to sell the excess crops, increasing the family’s income by an estimated 30 percent.
With greater income, children will have more educational opportunities, and parents will be able to provide the basics: health care, clothing and bedding. In northern Ecuador, a garden represents hope and independence.
Will you help fund this project?
By Patricia Toquica, Americas Region Communications Manager
Much significance is attached to the Easter egg tradition: springtime, fertility, rebirth and life. But for the women of the community of Sao Joao de Chapada, near the city of Diamantina in Brazil, an egg hunt has become a daily activity that not only means nutritious food for their children but also a much-needed source of income.
But which came first: the chicken or the egg? In this case, the chicken, thanks to ChildFund Brasil’s Chicken Plus project, which allows many women in extremely arid regions of Brazil to produce food and generate income at home instead of having to migrate to cities for work. This helps ease the problem of families leaving home and residing in urban slums.
In Sao Joao de Chapada, the community farm project started with a donation of 300 chicks a few years ago, and now the chicken population has grown to 1,200. The eggs provide high-protein nutrition for more than 30 pre-school children attending an early childhood development center, plus healthy meals and snacks for older children and families participating in the project. Each family receives 12 eggs a week and one chicken per month for consumption or for selling at the local market, along with other farm products like vegetables and homemade goods.
Geralda, a mother of four, volunteers at the community farm about two hours a day. “While we work with the other mothers picking up the eggs, cleaning the farm or in the community garden, our children play and learn at the community center,” she says. “With the money we get from the eggs, we feed our families and keep the project going, so we’ll always have food.” A community savings fund, set up when the farm was established, ensures that chicken production keeps going strong.
With a sustainable approach, the project is leading community members toward the development of innovative businesses based on chicken farming. The project also enhances women’s business skills by emphasizing quality control, microcredit options and entrepreneurship.
Reporting by ChildFund Zambia
As any small-scale farmer will tell you, it takes a lot of hard work and a fair measure of good luck to raise sufficient food to feed a family.
And if you start out with little experience, inferior soil and inadequate equipment like David did, the odds are stacked even higher against you.
“Life was really difficult for me,” David, 22, recalls. “I depended on peasant farming for a living, but due to lack of proper farming implements, my yields were usually very poor.”
David and his family usually ran out of food and had to depend on doing odd jobs within the Chitemalesa community to make ends meet.
His story took a turn for the better two years ago when a friend introduced him to the Chongwe Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) being implemented by ChildFund Zambia.
“After joining this program, my life has changed,” David says. “I have been equipped with knowledge about farming that I could never have had a chance to acquire on my own.”
As the program got under way, David was instrumental in clearing the field for the community banana plantation, planting and watering the new plants. Along the way, he learned a lot about agricultural management techniques and how he could improve his own small farm.
In addition, David became a beneficiary of ChildFund’s goat pass-along program. Several families receive a pair of goats, and as new kids are born, they pass on a young goat to another family. David received four goats, which have multiplied to 14.
After receiving the goats, David also received training in animal husbandry. ChildFund then connected David with the local Kasisi Agriculture Training Centre, where he learned how to convert goat manure into a natural fertilizer.
“The knowledge in organic farming has considerably reduced my farming expenses because I don’t entirely depend on inorganic fertilizers that are very expensive and contribute to soil degradation. I now make my own fertilizer using a simple methodology known as – tea manure,” David says.
He explains that the process involves filling a 50 kg polythene bag with goat manure, securing the bag with a strong rope and immersing it in a large drum of water for two weeks. Every day, David shakes the bag to ensure thorough mixing. After two weeks, David removes the bag from the drum, which now contains a strong natural fertilizer. The tea is diluted with water on a 1:1 ratio to reduce the concentration level. David then applies one cup of tea to each plant.
“Using this tea manure, I managed to produce 50 bags of maize this growing season,” David says. “I’m planning to sell the maize to the co-operative here in Chongwe.” Pleased by this year’s success, David is eager to pass along his newfound knowledge to his neighbors. “I have started training other members of the community in making the manure so that household food security can increase in Chitemalesa,” he says with a smile
Now, David has his eyes set on starting his own banana plantation. No one doubts he will succeed.