Updates

Seed Programs International

As the pandemic continues to disrupt the ways we’re accustomed to bringing food into our homes, we’ve seen a big increase of interest in home gardening. For those new to growing vegetables, it can be tempting to overdo it by spending $500 on ‘stuff’ to grow $200 worth of food. Gardening can be simpler!

Ladies in cabbage plant lot large

Hi folks,

Yohannes and GrowEastAfrica have been laying out the next steps to meet their communities’ greatest needs. Water access understandably continues to be a top priority. Water is scarce in Ethiopia, and water access is critical for everyone — not just farmers. Community leaders are working with GrowEastAfrica toward an exit strategy, toward a time when each community will be self-sustaining and able to weather new challenges.

“What is our long term? To stay with a given community for 3-5 years, then move to another community. We’ve been in Burji working with these IDP families for three years. Southern Ethiopia is a drought-sensitive area. Water is always a challenge, even now. On the land we have, we are lucky because there is a well. As we try to expand, that is the main limiting factor.” — Yohannes Chonde, GEA Co-founder

In addition to your support, we’ve received a generous grant from GlobalGiving to help address drought and famine in East Africa. As part of that grant, we’re taking Yohannes’ lead in how to best use those funds for water access. He’s outlined several possibilities, including digging new wells and piping water to different areas within each community. Currently, rainwater is being caught from roofs and stored, which works when there is rain to catch. However, relying on the weather can hinder crop expansion when the rainy season ends. While wells are a longer-term solution, they are cash-intensive. GrowEastAfrica is trying to balance access for multiple communities with affordability in an area where digging a well can be quite expensive.

We’re also consulting with GrowEastAfrica as advisors to select the most appropriate drought-resistant vegetables. Their programs provide access to resources and skills that alleviate hunger and build livelihoods, and education around nutrition is woven throughout their trainings. Nutrition from vegetables is important for a region whose primary sustenance often comes from grains. While grains can provide a daily meal, Yohannes continues to encourage the communities’ cooperative leaders to make space in their gardens for vegetables.

“In regards to what they are growing right now — whenever I call them and talk to their cooperative leaders — they need to have something to eat at the end of the day. Teff is important in Ethiopia, one of the widely-grown crops. I look at vegetables as an important complement. They need something to eat for survival, and they need to balance their nutrition.” — Yohannes

Applied knowledge is another resource necessary for proper growth and sustainable agriculture. Recently, Fate and the Soyama Women’s Association visited a commercial tomato farm to expand their own farming methods. The farmers toured the greenhouse and saw a demonstration about seedlings grown in trays that will be transplanted into an open garden. They discussed various growing components like soil health, protection against disease, and nutrient demands. Finally, they discussed the differences between conventional and hydroponic tomato growing methods.

Rather than growing all of their vegetables from seed, the cooperatives have begun collaborating with the Meki commercial farm to adopt planting seedlings grown in trays. This provides a more controlled environment and increases the likelihood that seeds will grow into healthy plants. Seeds are provided to the Meki farm, and seedlings are returned to the cooperatives in Burji. Attached to this report, you can see some of the seedlings being packaged for transport.

Farming is hard work that requires both manual labor and expertise — these resources are not a handout. GrowEastAfrica’s programs strive not only to provide access to resources, but also to educate and train farmers who can pass on their knowledge and training to other farmers. As a result, these IDP communities have produced healthy food for themselves and have also sold some of their harvests to provide meaningful income. Money can be saved for the lean season and also reinvested in the next planting. They’ve created a cycle of self-sufficiency that will provide a strong foundation for generations to come.

We appreciate your support of Seed Programs International and Garden’s Give Hope, Health, and Income in East Africa. Thank you from us, our partners, and the farmers whose lives have changed because of your generosity!

The SPI Team

 

Fate harvesting carrots.
Fate harvesting carrots.

 

Birhan Ladies Group member fixing a dripline.

Birhan Ladies Group member fixing a dripline.

 

Fate (right) and group members with peppers.

Fate (right) and group members with peppers.

We are sad to share that John Batcha, SPI’s Founder, passed away on Sunday, June 23, 2019.

John founded SPI in 1998 to meet a need he saw in the world. Combining his agricultural expertise with a passion for changing the world, John created a program at SPI that has provided families and communities with life-sustaining vegetable seed for the past 20 years. In this time, more than 1 million gardens have been planted over 200 sites throughout 75 countries worldwide. John’s legacy is one of heart, hope, and connection — an inspiring example of how we can do good work in the world that changes lives. He will be missed, and we are proud to continue his work.

 


“I learned from John that there are two ways to change the world: boldly and thoughtfully sharing resources and expertise globally is one way; quietly making life better for everyone around you through human kindness and connection is another way. 

When I spoke with John, both of these paths were evident. His expertise, caring, and creativity as a leader were always present. But even more so, he made me feel like his time with me was his most important moment that day. And I think John's secret is that he made everybody feel that way. Whatever he was dealing with, he would take the extra moment to extend positivity to all around him. This was an amazing achievement. 

I have felt so privileged and honored to carry forward the work John established at Seed Programs International. I'll miss him a lot.” — Peter Marks, SPI CEO / President

Give a gift in memory of John Batcha

 

Learning at Duke Lemur Center in Madagascar
Learning at Duke Lemur Center in Madagascar

Our work is about local and long-term investment. Our Board Chair, Brian Love, recently said it this way:  “SPI’s vision is that farmers will access vegetable seed sustainably through local networks so that they can determine their future. These local networks include seed saving as well as local supply chains that access seed at a broader scale. Once communities have broken the cycle where no seed is available, SPI refocuses its attention on communities where this remains an issue.”

An investment takes root when people gain knowledge alongside materials. In 2019, with your support, 14,000 people attended a training session provided by an SPI partner about their gardens and harvests. In Ethiopia, women co-op leaders visited a commercial vegetable farm to learn new techniques as part of our partner program with GrowEastAfrica. In Guatemala, families learned how to incorporate their abundant vegetable harvests into familiar dishes to realize the nutritional benefits of their garden — all part of our partnership with Habitat for Humanity. People all over the world are planting seeds for long-term change.

To solve the next generation’s existential challenges, humans everywhere need strength and stability, especially those most impacted by hunger, poverty, and crisis. Now more than ever, it’s time to share what we have, to grow resilience and prosperity in the next generation around the globe.  In 2020, you can provide kids with the knowledge and materials they need to become leaders for generational change through SPI’s seed programs for school gardens.

“This garden has been a great resource for the students, supplying vegetables [that we didn’t have before]. We even involve them in farming. They enjoy working in the garden, and we have seen their mental health improve as they increase their socialization. They are passionate about planting more and more vegetable varieties in the future.” Ms. Otieno, School Diet Manager, Kenya

Will you consider a generous end of year gift of any amount? By donating to SPI, you are making an investment that works. Ms. Otieno is only one of many partners whose students are excited to grow their own food and build a more nutritious and prosperous future.

Please donate today.

Peter Marks
SPI President / CEO

Contact Us

Seed Programs International

PO Box 9163
Asheville, NC 28815
+1-828-337-8632

 

Seed Programs Canada (Affiliate)

Registered Charity No. 839858107RR0001
Lombardy, ON
613-406-6100

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Seed Programs International (SPI)

Seed Programs InternationalSeed Programs International (SPI) is a non-profit, tax exempt, non-governmental humanitarian organization.

We work thorough other humanitarian organizations, church groups, service clubs and individual donors, to provide quality seed to impoverished communities in developing countries enabling them to grow some of their own food. In addition to seed, SPI provides critical seed expertise and experience operating seed based self help programs.”

SPI is operated by individuals with over 50 years seed industry experience plus over 20 years experience in vegetable research and production. We also have 15 years experience operating programs that have successfully shipped seed to over 70 countries on five continents. SPI has shipped enough seed to plant over 1,000,000 vegetable gardens, providing more than 20 kinds of vegetables that are rich in vitamins and minerals often missing in people’s diets.