Women’s Empowerment Initiative: One Step Back, Two Steps Forward
Back in February, we shared an update from GrowEastAfrica, one of Seed Program International’s lead partners in Ethiopia whose programs serve several women’s agricultural groups. Positioned at something of a crossroads for Kenyan – Ethiopian IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons), GrowEastAfrica is constantly adapting their program to accommodate the shifting political climate and resulting change in their communities. SPI recently had the privilege of catching up with co-founder Yohannes Chonde about what’s happened since the spring.
We’re sad to report that not everything has worked in their favor. First, hostilities in the area continue to prevent farmers from planting, tending, and harvesting their crops. They avoid the conflict as a matter of survival. However, in avoiding conflict, their women’s groups lose time that they need to spend plowing and sowing, and what they do sow is often looted or burned. The next few months will be very challenging for the farmers and those who depend on those crops for food. As a stopgap measure, GrowEastAfrica is leading an effort to provide two months of grain rations for their IDP communities, and a small amount of cash for essential needs like medicine and housing.
“Rain burned everything that we had planted.” — Yohannes Chonde
Weather has been another major challenge. SPI’s partnership with GrowEastAfrica began as a response to severe drought in the region, but this year’s rains have proven to be too much. All of their spring seedlings were destroyed. Farmers tried to plant a second round of crops in several locations, but all of those seedlings were also destroyed by the rains. The wet ground prevented GrowEastAfrica farmers from preparing the new field, and they were only recently able to start plowing.
GrowEastAfrica is already preparing for the next growing season, with support from folks like Sweet Blossom Gifts. GrowEastAfrica will be purchasing seeds, installing a water tank, renting a tractor to expedite plowing, and preparing the new land they’ve leased for their farmers — all forward movement.
In addition to farming activities, GrowEastAfrica is training the Soyama Ladies’ Association and facilitating exposure to local markets. Agricultural training is being offered in partnership with the Burji District Agricultural Department staff. Complementary training around proper hygiene and sanitation will help farmers maintain the quality of their produce and extend its shelf life with proper handling, packaging, and storage. Finally, they’re working with these women to develop an understanding of the local markets so that they will be prepared to sell their crops when the time comes. Yohannes is also in negotiation with a local NGO who could potentially package and sell their produce throughout Ethiopia and neighboring countries.
Bridging the People Gap
This is not simple work. Yohannes deeply and ongoingly assesses his program, and he continues to build strong relationships within both the IDP and local communities. GrowEastAfrica is tasked with not only providing a short-term solution for folks who are fleeing their homes and establishing new lives, but they must also provide a long-term solution that enrolls and integrates local communities in ways that benefit both groups.
“Change comes from more than one spark, if we have enough firewood or grass, it will start taking off. If the results are clear to our friends, they’ll see it and offer more help. This is community-based self-help to improve lives.” — Yohannes Chonde
What Yohannes and GrowEastAfrica have already accomplished is inspiring. Despite the setbacks described in this report, he remains not only hopeful, but determined to succeed. Thank you for your support of Yohannes and GrowEastAfrcia through the Sweet Blossom Gifts Women’s Empowerment Initiative!
The Liberia Agricultural Academy: Teaming Up with Women and Children
Last May and June, we shared a few stories from REAP, a member of SPI’s Liberia Partnership Network. REAP offers agricultural skills training, education, and other support services to women and children who seek to establish sustainable and resilient livelihoods.
Women’s Empowerment Initiative- On the Road in Guatemala with Pop Atz’iaqNaima Dido, SPI’s Program Director is on the road this month with Nancee Neel in the mountains of Guatemala, where they’re working to grow a deeper partnership with a local group, Pop Atz’iaq. Established in the 1990s, Pop Atz’iaq has focused on craft-based livelihood development with women and men in the region around San Cristobal in Guatemala.
About one year ago, we told you about a pilot program with SPI partner GrowEastAfrica (then DBCO) to establish community vegetable gardens in Billa village and Soyama town in Ethiopia’s Burji region.
East Africa Update. Last month, we told you about Mary and Esther — how access to good vegetable seed and agricultural support from SPI’s partner, Seed Savers Network Kenya (SSNK), changed how they sustain their livelihoods.
Empowerment Partners: Seed Savers Network Kenya & Seed Programs International
Partners are critical to Seed Programs International’s work. We could not do what we do without them. We’ve shared stories about one of our East African partners, Seed Savers Network Kenya (SSNK), in earlier posts and we’d like to tell you another story from our partnership.
Honduras: Women Taking the Lead in Community Development
Part 2 of 2, August 2017
In last month’s Women’s Empowerment Initiative story, we introduced Seed Programs International partner, FIPAH (Foundation for Participatory Research with Honduran Farmers), who is working with local farmer groups in field schools and community-led farmer research teams (CIALs) over five regions in Honduras.
Honduras: Women Taking the Lead in Community Development
This month’s Women’s Empowerment Initiative story comes from Honduras, where Seed Programs International partner, FIPAH (Foundation for Participatory Research with Honduran Farmers), is working with local farmer groups to lay a foundation for self-sustainability through community-led education and local seed production. Farmers are organized into field schools (ECAs) that train community-led farmer research teams (CIALs) over five regions in Honduras.
A typical woman in Liberia has a lot of work on her plate in addition to the work of managing her household. And to be clear, this is work, often unpaid and unacknowledged — gathering firewood, fetching water, cooking, hand washing clothes, and taking care of family members. Household work can be a huge burden that limits a woman’s ability to take on paid employment or broaden her skills through training and education.
Women Passing It On
This month’s program highlight brings us back to Liberia, where SPI partner REAP (the Restoration of Educational Advancement Program) is providing women with access to resources and education.
One way REAP facilitates empowerment for young girls and other students is by integrating school gardens and agriculture training into primary school curriculums. More than 30% of students in the schools return to rural areas to farm for a living after graduation.