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!

In the coming weeks, we’ll share a few tips we’ve learned from our partners in the developing world, where people don’t have the luxury of buying from the internet or visiting a garden center to purchase what they need. Instead, our partners have learned to use materials close to home. Here is the first thing we've learned.

Tip 1: Keep it small.
Focus your hardest work on the smallest area. Make great soil where roots will grow. Leave the soil alone where roots aren’t.

Preparing deep, rich, loose soil is the tough and important job, while planting seeds is easy! Dig deep and enrich the small area where plants are growing and leave the rest of the ground alone. Give just enough space between young plants to grow a full-sized healthy vegetable, but not more space — later you’ll do less watering and less weeding. This garden supported by our partner Tostan in Senegal perfectly illustrates this type of garden design.

tips 01 IMG 20190301 WA0013

Also from our partner CRMF in Madagascar, here’s a much more sprawling crop, zucchini squash, grown in a contained area — in this case a keyhole garden which is watered through a compost pile in its center. You can see that the soil all around the garden is very poor, like beach sand, so the hard work of adding manure, compost, and good topsoil to make a garden is confined to a small area.

tips 02 peter madagascar keyhole garden

We'll continue to share more tips learned from our partners in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

 

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.

Fate (right) and Birhan Ladies Group members.

Fate (right) and Birhan Ladies Group members.

Hi folks,

One year ago, we started this project with gratitude. Gratitude for your support. Gratitude to GlobalGiving for their tremendous support of this Project. Gratitude to Grow East Africa for the truly amazing work they’re accomplishing in collaboration with local leaders in Ethiopia. And gratitude from Wato and Fate who are on the ground with Grow East Africa.

Over the past year, we’ve shared how Grow East Africa has cultivated a new communal garden, increased the expertise of their farmers, and supported women like Fate who have led the way in strengthening their cooperative. Today, we’re glad to share a recent update from Fate.

First, if you’re not familiar with Grow East Africa, they’re a cooperative near Moyale in Ethiopia that prioritizes women’s access to resources like land, training, and tools. Many of the women have been displaced from regions and tribes that have been historically targeted for displacement.

Fate joined Grow East Africa in 2016 and has become an integral part of the Grow East Africa collective and local community. In a recent interview, Fate described the start of her new life with Grow East Africa.

“My name is Mrs. Fate. I am 45 years old, a mother of seven children, member of Mega IDP [Internally Displaced Persons], the chairlady of Birhan Ladies group, and an active contributor to my community.

Mangloris shows off a beet from the garden.

Mangloris shows off a beet from the garden.

Hi folks,

This month’s update comes from our partnership with Habitat for Humanity in western Guatemala and features our Rotarians Against Hunger seed grant program. Habitat Guatemala founded the Family Gardens Project in 2013 to help establish and improve family and community gardens as a way to address malnutrition and poverty. In 2014, Habitat Guatemala worked closely with the community to expand their Family Gardens Project to El Canaque, San Marcos.

We know that only starting a garden is not enough. Disadvantages like malnutrition and poverty often stem from restricted access to resources and a lack of knowledge about how to use those resources. After the gardens were established, Habitat Guatemala offered families and communities training on the organic production of vegetables and seeds — that is, a way to expand the use of the original resources and the resources provided by these gardens.

During the initial phase, malnutrition in the community was reduced by 52%. Several community members were also inspired to found a bio-factory that prepares and sells different organic inputs and products, the Bio-fabrica. The challenges faced by these communities are not gone, but this project has provided resources and education to develop new tools that can help provide for fundamental human needs like nutritious food and income. 

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.