Seed Programs International

Women with GrowEastAfrica sell teff at marketWomen with GrowEastAfrica sell teff at market

Dear supporters,

Thank you. Thank you for funding this project. Thanks to you from our partner, GrowEastAfrica, who we’re working alongside on this project. Over the last two years, our partners in East Africa have lived through a prolonged drought that has interrupted their livelihoods and exhausted their already strained resources. As farmers’ agricultural production decreases, incomes drop, food becomes scarce and expensive, and wars begin over water access. Southern Ethiopia is in a region inhabited by many tribes, including the Konso, Burji, Guji, and the Boranas. People in Southern Ethiopia know the places where different ethnic groups share the same source of water, and drought escalates the risk of conflict.

The UN says“Water is at the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic development, energy and food production, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself. Water is also at the heart of adaptation to climate change, serving as the crucial link between the society and the environment.”

Before we provide an update from our partner, we would like to share a little about the Burji people and the Burji District in which they work.

Who are the Burji?
There are over 150,000 Burji speakers scattered between Southern Ethiopia and Northern and Northeastern Kenya. The Burji have lived in their current highland territory for over 400 years, where they perfected their love of agriculture and became expert farmers. Burji are highly regarded as agricultural experts in this region of the world, famous for their skills and ability to farm the arid lands. This expertise forms the basis of their livelihoods, and they became stewards of the breadbasket for a region where most tribes were nomads and pastoralists.

Burji land was seized between 1890 and 1913 and the entire population was ruled as a serfdom until the 1970s, when emperor Haile Selassie I was overthrown in a coup that began the Ethiopian Civil War. As their land was seized, large numbers of Burji fled from their highland homes into the surrounding regions and into Northeastern Kenya. Their displacement continued through the famine of the mid-1980s and into the 1990s, when the current government divided the country into semi-autonomous regions according to ethnic groups. As economic disaster, famine, and political repression intensified throughout the decade leading up to this division, people fled into more neighboring countries and overseas, creating the first Ethiopian diaspora.

This regional division left the Burjis with a small district in the SNNPR(Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region) nestled between several other SNNPR districts and a much larger region, Borena. As a result, the Burji District and population have been involved in a number of conflicts over shared resources with larger neighboring tribes who want to expand their district or region. These conflicts do not respect country borders — sometimes conflicts spill over into southern Ethiopia from Kenya or from Ethiopia into Kenya where the same tribes live.

Ethnic conflicts, like those that target the Burji, are often sporadic and the number of casualties are small. Despite the increasing occurrence of killings, these conflicts are often ignored by international media or eclipsed by larger conflicts in that global region. This lack of coverage often means that groups like the Burji do not receive support to ensure their safety and rebuild their livelihoods.

This is why GrowEastAfrica, an Ethiopian-American led organization, is so important. Co-founder Yohannes Chonde is familiar with the Burji and the region because his family’s ancestral home is in the area now known as the Burji District. He joined the diaspora when he left his home village to pursue a formal education, an opportunity not available to him at home.

“GrowEastAfrica’s agricultural projects work with vulnerable farmers, many of whom are women, by training them in improved practical agricultural methods, helping them access quality agricultural inputs and technology, and linking them to viable markets. Such efforts help farmers grow more food for themselves or to sell. In doing so, farmers are able to prevent hunger, preserve land for future use, and obtain long lasting food security.” — Yohannes Chonde

GrowEastAfrica: March 2018 Update
Last month, Yohannes described some of the continued challenges to the Burji’s agricultural livelihoods, and outlined some ideas to address those challenges.

“Over the last year, a very strong and dangerous political cloud has been gathering over East Africa, in particular, Ethiopia.

“The Burji tribe we are working with has been under severe economic and security challenges. A year-old border conflict between Burji and a much larger Guji tribe has resulted in hardship for many poor Burji farmers. The conflict was at its peak during my last September visit. This conflict has driven out many Burji families (700 to 800) that used to live in the Guji-controlled areas, who are currently taking refuge in Soyama town of Burji District. GrowEastAfrica is coordinating a humanitarian drive to assist these families. We hope and pray for a peace settlement so these families will return back to their homes and livelihood. Meanwhile, we will try to do all we can to make their daily life manageable.

“GrowEastAfrica currently works with about 1,000 families in two main groups: the 300 families of the Biher group, and the Soyama Ladies Association, which is an umbrella group with members from all 25 villages. The Biher group is made up of Internally Displaced People (IDP) from the Mega area in southern Ethiopia, and they are our model group for expanding the Vegetable Garden concept and self-help initiatives throughout the district. Depending on the peace process, we will include internally displaced people from Guji conflict if they do not return to their homes.

“The GrowEastAfrica Vegetable Garden project is gathering steam. The Biher group is showing great progress with their market activities as well as their continued vegetable garden initiative. Unfortunately, the 2017 September to November growing season harvest was very poor due to lack of rain. Of course, the conflict with Guji did not help either.

“We have finally secured two hectares (out of four we requested) of a prime plot on the old Soyama highschool ground. The new plot comes with a functioning hand-pumped water well that was 47 meters deep with water at 35 meters. Our plan is to upgrade the water well with a solar pump and build a drip irrigation system. We also plan to continue using the current plots at the District management compounds. We are very excited and energized to expand our activities so more people will be added to our growing client pool.

“We are feverishly identifying and planning a list of capabilities to serve our clients. Unfortunately, we were not able to find a drip irrigation kit and submersible solar pump system at a reasonable price in Ethiopia. So we are buying the drip irrigation kit and the solar pump system from Kenya. We have already purchased and delivered a 10,000-liter water storage tank.”

Your Support Makes a Difference
Here is where your support of this project comes in. Taking the lead from our partner, SPI is working with Yohannes and GrowEastAfrica to purchase equipment that will provide their farming groups with better access to water. Support from this project will be combined with funds from the parent project (Drought-Resilient Gardens for East Africa) and other independent funding to provide additional water tanks, seed, tool banks, and agricultural training.

Access to water, input supplies, and tools is only one component for success. Working groups still need to clear and plough the fields, prepare the soil, place fences around the plot to prevent animals from grazing their crops, and tend the gardens through to harvest. It’s hard work, and your support makes their work easier.

Thank you!

2018.03 gea field LargeGardeners with a women's group working with quinoa

Burji District in EthiopiaBurji District in Ethiopia

GrowEastAfrica's new garden plotGrowEastAfrica's new garden plot

4-H Club Members with SPI Seed Packets

4-H Club Members with SPI Seed Packets

Hi folks,

In the last report, we closed with a statement about the partnership program from 4-H Liberia: "This program provides a career path for young people to develop interest in feeding the nation. Access to tool banks via the partnership network is very useful. The children used to complain that their parents would refuse to let them borrow tools. Now, most of them have tools to cultivate their gardens." We recently received some photos from Umaru Sheriff, the National Executive Director for 4-H Liberia, Inc., so we thought you might like to know more about 4-H Liberia and see some of the young people participating in the program.

4-H Liberia has Enterprise School Garden programs in six of Liberia's 15 counties: Gbarpolu, Bong, Bomi, Margibi, Montserrado, and Lofa. The goal of the program is to develop the leadership, agricultural, and life skills of 4-H Club members and improve the socioeconomic conditions of members and their families. They accomplish this through inspiration, eduction, and agricultural work integration — keeping an eye out for future farmers, providing equipment, and using the school garden as a learning laboratory. The garden also helps connect the school and community: "The garden is a bridge that links the gap between community members and school authorities, promoting interaction between the school and the community." Similar to SPI programs, 4-H has designed their programs around each community's context to ensure adoption and circulation.

With about 3,000 members, just under half are girls and young women ages 8 - 25 years old. 4-H has made gender education and equity a priority in its programs, which is just one of the reasons we love what they're doing! Speaking about gender education in their programs, they share, "One of the objectives of the 4-H Program is to develop leaders. Liberia, like other African countries, is a male dominant society. In the process of developing leaders, females need to be included without being restricted to certain jobs." Their first two objectives are: For boys to see girls as partners in development; and to erase the notion that there are specific jobs for girls and others for boys. By prioritizing gender education, they are teaching both girls and boys to understand leadership and serve side by side in leadership positions.

What's next for 4-H? At the last stakeholder meeting for the Liberia SPI Partnership Netowork, 4-H Project Officer Ted Williams shared, "4-H Liberia has a vision to establish a seed bank in Liberia. This will help farmers to receive local and viable seeds on time. This could be done by empowering farmers with seeds and when the seeds are collected from the farmers, it will go directly to those that are in need." 4-H and the other Partnership Network members are looking toward the future — toward resilience and self-sufficiency. We're proud to support them along the way.

The photos in this update are from 4-H in Bomi County, Liberia. You can read more about their program at the 4-H website, and you can see a seed germination testing video that was produced as part of their work with SPI on SPI's YouTube channel.

Thank you, again, for your support of this project.

Younger 4-H Club Members with SPI Seed Packets

Younger 4-H Club Members with SPI Seed Packets

The season is underway!

The season is underway!

A gardener talks about issues with her harvest

A gardener talks about issues with her harvest

Hi folks,

Late in 2016, 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. (You can read the full story here.) GrowEastAfrica works to support folks who belong to marginalized communities and has embraced groups that include large numbers of internally displaced people (IDP), many of whom fled their hometown of Mega to escape conflict.

“The issues that IDPs face in this region is well known to the locals, but little assistance has been offered...and there’s very little international focus on this area.” — Wato Seif, GrowEastAfrica Officer

Despite challenges in the region including scarce access to water and land resources, the pilot groups have been successful and GrowEastAfrica (GEA) has been, well, growing over the past year and a half. GEA now supports 25 women’s groups who come together to share the wealth of knowledge from their Burji traditions and support one another in establishing new livelihoods. By adapting and applying their knowledge to their new environment, these gardeners hope to grow enough food to both feed their families and sell at market. The regional drought has made their work difficult, but they are planning innovative ways to succeed and thrive.

Funny Faces with Consider Haiti

Funny Faces with Consider Haiti

For many families in Montrouis, Haiti, access to clean water, health care, and adequate food supply are challenges that were worsened by the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Through locally organized efforts, our Asheville-based partner and neighbor, Consider Haiti has assisted families in restoring some of the gardens destroyed by the hurricane. The result: farmers are slowly reestablishing themselves and their crop production.

In 2017, Consider Haiti helped over over 2,000 children and their families gain access to medicine, dental care, and fresh produce. Consider Haiti programs involve the distribution of medicine, livestock like goats and rabbits, SPI seeds and other agricultural products to the communities they serve. One of the key elements shared by both SPI and Consider Haiti programs is that they actively support and work with local Haitian teams for project development and implementation. Consider Haiti’s agriculture team in Montrouis is led by Eddy P., a lifelong farmer who has been working with families in this region for over 15 years. Shortly after the storm, Eddy heard reports of hungry children in the local farming community and decided to step up and help. Being an illiterate self-taught farmer, he soon realized he was not equipped to provide the level of help that was needed.

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Asheville, NC 28815


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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.