Updates

Seed Programs International

Smiling with Pop Atz

Smiling with Pop Atz'iaq

Hi folks,

Naima Dido, our Program Director, is currently on the road with Nancee Neel in the mountains of Guatemala where they’re working to grow a deeper partnership with a relatively new partner, Pop Atz’iaq.

An SPI neighbor, Nancee Neel, had served as an advisor and friend of the organization before she introduced us to their work. Established in the 1990s, Pop Atz’iaq has focused on craft-based livelihood development with women and men in the region around San Cristobal, and they have a strong track record of success. Catarina, the organization’s Director, reports that establishing a garden-based livelihood program has been a longstanding goal of the organization and its members.

For context, craft-based livelihoods depend on international market outlets, and those can be fickle. Garden-based livelihoods are more reliable, and this program will help diversify their members’ options for income. Catarina reports that social and economic conditions are deteriorating this decade, due in large part to the lack of rural development support from the government. Child malnutrition rates have risen to 80% in most of the communities served.

LFBS farmers with SPI seed (Estelle is left)

LFBS farmers with SPI seed (Estelle is left)

The road to reviving gardens after Hurricane Matthew has been a long road, and we’re working with partners who are in it for the long haul. Little Footprints, Big Steps (LFBS) is one of those partners. They’ve recently shared an update about how they’re working to support communities affected by Hurricane Matthew, providing a snapshot of where gardens fit into the larger picture of recovery and rebuilding. We’re sharing this with you because we’re proud of their work, and we think it’s a great example of how many different pieces need to come together for folks to rebuild their livelihoods.

“Since Hurricane Matthew we have been able to build Maxima prefabricated homes for over 21 families! Homes built or repaired, crops planted, medical outreach clinics regularly underway, children attending schools, parents starting businesses, and the addition of livestock – the recovery and rebuilding of the families in rural communities, whose lives were shattered by the October 2016 Category 5 hurricane, continues in great strides through the dedicated LFBS staff, collaborative partnerships… and your support.

Sharing lessons learned, separating seed and stake

Sharing lessons learned, separating seed and stake

Hi folks,

Projects do not succeed in a bubble. Projects are accomplished by people working in a specific social and environmental context, and sometimes we can forget about that context when we’re sharing stories about the amazing work being done by our partners and their communities. Because we rely on our partners to lead projects in collaboration with their farming communities, we also strive to understand the contexts in which they work.

Our current lead partner in East Africa, GrowEastAfrica, works with about 1,000 families, most of whom are IDPs. These families are from tribes and regions that have been targeted for displacement for hundreds of years. One tribe, the Burji, are known for their agricultural expertise, and they are working with GrowEastAfirca to pilot garden programs that can help re-establish livelihoods for other IDP groups. (You can read more about the Burji in our recent report from a related project.) As an Ethiopian-American led organization, GrowEastAfrica understands where these families have come from, the experience of displacement, and what they need to be successful in their new home. Specifically, co-founder Yohannes Chonde’s ancestral home is in the area now known as the Burji District.

“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

Burji land was seized and Burji families were heavily displaced between 1890 and the 1990s. More recently, the Ethiopian government has recommenced commandeering land that has traditionally belonged to farmers. Understandably, people have responded by participating in anti-government protests throughout the Oromia region. These protests led to a ten-month state of emergency that was eventually lifted in August 2017. However, the state of emergency was reinstated when Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned in February 2018.

Last month, the Ethiopian army opened fire on civilians in Moyale, reportedly as a result of faulty information, killing 9 and injuring 12 others. Nearly 10,000 Ethiopians subsequently fled from the Ethiopian side of Moyale toward Kenya in search of safety. Moyale residents have lived through and survived their own share of ethnic conflicts, and now the population of under 150,000 suddenly has 10,000 more lives to support.

Our goal is neither to sensationalize nor to normalize what these families face, but to offer a deeper understanding of the daily context that our partners and their farmers experience in their communities.

GrowEastAfrica: Looking Ahead

In response to the influx of IDPs, GrowEastAFrica reports that many of their program recipients, who are also IDPs from past conflicts in the region, helped new refugees settle in by sharing what little they have. The region still suffers from the ongoing effects of drought, leaving locals with the burden of helping their displaced neighbors where rains and humanitarian assistance fall short.

As the month of March was coming to an end, the refugees in Moyale eagerly awaited news of their new leader, hoping that whomever is elected will bring calm and chance return home. As the PM resumes his role of mending his broken country, efforts to repatriate the refugees are now underway.

For now, GrowEastAfrica is working on acquiring new arable land, facilitating access to water, offering training to augment refugees’ traditional knowledge, and ensuring that folks have high-quality agricultural inputs that will help ensure a successful harvest. They have also encouraged the community to help incoming refugees, and they’ve worked out a cash assistance program for current famers who are willing to do so. 90% of the refugees in Moyale were relocated to a temporary camp in Somare on land that was being prepared for a community garden in anticipation of the seasonal rains. Plans for the community garden have been temporarily suspended to make space for the refugees.

Always moving forward, GrowEastAFrica recently leased two acres of land from the government, enough for 30 women to farm. A 10,000-liter tank was installed near the garden site while the land was being prepared, and planting has already begun. Because good quality seed was available in the area, SPI worked with GrowEastAfrica to source carrot, onion, tomato, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, hot pepper, bell pepper, beets from a local provider.

As new refugees settle in, this project is being adapted to address both existing and emerging needs. Additional water tanks, seed, tool banks, and agricultural training are all on the horizon.

Your gift has been instrumental in supporting Yohannes and GrowEastAfrica, and in making this program possible. Thank you.

 
 

Burji IDPs arrive to work with GrowEastAfrica

Burji IDPs arrive to work with GrowEastAfrica

Mega area IDP women selling teff at market

Mega area IDP women selling teff at market
 
 

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

Contact Us

Seed Programs International

PO Box 9163
Asheville, NC 28815
828-707-1640

 

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.