A Practical Implementation of The Small-Scale Agriculture Model in Developing Countries - Part Two (Draft)


Part Two reviews the heart and soul of our poverty elimination strategy: a series of hands-on training courses based on our five-part model adapted from the Small-Scale Agriculture Model (SSAM). The five modules that we have identified as having significant impact on eliminating extreme poverty are: (1) Nutrition and Hygiene, (2) Sequential Gardens, (3) Field Crops, (4) Small Animals, and (5) Economic Independence.
In this section of the chapter, we will explain in detail the knowledge and skills that are taught to our participants as we mentor and guide them to become nutritionally self-sufficient.  This information is meant to serve as a pragmatic framework for both educators and NGOs as they seek to eliminate extreme poverty using the principles of the small-scale agriculture model.

Getting Started in a New Area

When beginning work in a new area, it is important to realize that there is no “one solution” for relieving poverty. In fact, the exact application of the SSAM will vary depending on the location, the available land and resources, the cultural practices and education level of the local villagers, and the political climate. It is therefore important that students and project leaders learn sound principles of implementation, and be adept at varying their application according to the needs of the target population. Here are five steps that SRA uses as we begin a SSAM-based program in a new area.

Step One: Assess Resources and Build Relationships

The first step in getting started with SSAM training is to take stock of all the potential resources available, including land, water, seeds, and animals. In order to start a successful agricultural program, it’s also important to have supportive leadership and enthusiastic families. Local leaders may include traditional, or tribal leaders, as well as government officials and religious figures.
Meeting with the local leadership to assess community compatibility with the training will help the organization develop a positive relationship of trust that will greatly impact the success of the program. A series of informal visits with local leadership, followed by formal meetings with potential participants are important for explaining how the training can help their village.
Keep in mind that in order to keep the trust of the people, those representing the organization must be prepared to actually do what they say they are going to do when they first approach the village leaders. It’s important at these early meetings not to offer unrealistic hopes that the organization may not be able to deliver. If the program fails to meet local expectations, the people will lose faith in that organization.

Tsuma - Entrepreneurial Leadership in Gona

Tsuma is a sub-chief in the village of Gona, Kenya, where most of the people live in small homes with walls made from sticks and mud, and roofs made of dried grass bundles. These people have no bathroom facilities, no running water, and very little in the way of material possessions. Despite the difficult circumstances, the villagers in the Gona area have been blessed by the self-reliance lessons, and have learned to maximize the resources available to them.

Community Garden and Beekeeping:

As part of the program, SRA staff members have helped the villagers of Gona to create a community demo garden that is providing for the dietary needs of those who work in it. The garden serves as a training ground to help teach better techniques for growing and harvesting food. Besides gardening, the staff has also taught the people how to raise animals properly by creating safe housing structures and growing nutritious animal feed to increase animal productivity.
From the moment Tsuma began learning, he has embraced the principles he was taught, and began making them an important part of his life. With education, mentoring, and a lot of hard work, Tsuma has created a beekeeping business with homemade beehives made from hollow logs. With the success he has found selling the honey, he was able to purchase some higher quality beehives, and grown his operation to 32 hives to become the best entrepreneur in the area.
 But he doesn’t just keep this prosperity to himself. Tsuma is a remarkable example of a community leader who has used the knowledge he received to make a difference for his entire community. He regularly mentors others in his village, helping them to grow and harvest bountiful crops of kale, spinach, tomatoes, okra, corn, and other vegetables. By learning to grow such a wide variety of nutritious food, the families in Tsuma’s village have been able to eat well, many of them for the first time in their lives, and they have had extra produce to sell in the local marketplace.
The villagers have gone the extra mile by applying food storage techniques such as drying kale for later use. This has given them the ability to make double the profit by selling kale during the dry season when it is usually not available. The proceeds from the sale of produce have helped many of them to afford school fees for their children, and set up a group bank account.


[Caption:] With the proceeds from his homemade beehives Tsuma was able to buy better manufactured beehives. He now has over 30.

A Precious Gift of Gratitude:

When Lonny Ward was serving as Feed The World SRA’s Director of Operations, he visited Kenya and met with Tsuma to see the incredible work he was doing. In an effort to show gratitude for the prosperity brought to their village through the training program, Tsuma offered Lonny the gift of a chicken. Though this may appear to be a small token, Lonny recognized that giving up a chicken is a huge sacrifice for anyone living in this rural village. He remarked, “To give one of their chickens is a fortune, and I felt very honored that he appreciated our teaching so much.”
Knowing that he could not take a chicken back to the United States on the plane, Lonny suggested that Tsuma give the chicken to someone else in his place, and train that person on the proper care and breeding of the chicken. He requested that when he visited Kenya again in a few months, he would like to meet the person who had received the chicken to see how his or her life had changed as a result of this priceless gift. Tsuma eagerly accepted this suggestion to “pay it forward,” and was able to introduce Lonny to the lucky recipient on his next visit to the country.
With his hardworking mindset, his generous spirit, and his entrepreneurial talent, Tsuma is an example of a person who is willing to take chances, improve his life, and make a difference in his entire community.  Because of his enthusiasm to learn and share with others, countless lives will be touched by sub-chief Tsuma of Gona, Kenya. This is just one example of how empowering individuals with knowledge and confidence can make a lasting change for an entire community.

Step Two: Decide on Program Level

Once resources have been identified in the new area, and relationships have been nurtured, the next step is to decide what level of training should be started. All program levels teach five modules based on the SSAM: (1) Nutrition and Hygiene, (2) Sequential Gardens, (3) Field Crops, (4) Small Animals, and (5) Economic Independence.
However, there are three basic program levels that define how much direct involvement SRA staff members will have with the participating families. Deciding which program level is appropriate will be based on the local needs, community resources, partnering organizations, and the level of enthusiasm from the leadership and influential families in the area. Following is a brief description of each level to explain the differences between the different types of training and involvement.

Level One Program

A level one program is an intense and in-depth implementation of the SSAM, taught by SRA staff directly to participants. Traditionally based on full implementation of the original Benson model, the goal of a level one program is total nutritional self-sufficiency for the family, without need for outside resources. Those involved in the original level one program were required to have access to at least one hectare (2.5 ac.) of land, which would provide them with enough room for planting gardens and housing animals, plus adequate crop space to produce food for animal and human consumption.
In recent years, due to our work in areas where people are unable to access large amounts of land, individuals with less than 2.5 acres have been able to participate in a modified version of the level one program. Even with land restrictions, these participants are able to significantly increase their self-reliance and economic independence. The main feature of all level one programs is a one-on-one, in-depth, long term approach, taking a family from two to five years to complete.
SRA currently operates a level one training program in northern Ecuador in which our staff technicians directly teach our participants improved agricultural techniques. This program, based primarily in the Imbabura Province, is operated by staff members who live and work there, in their native country of Ecuador, with the assistance of the U.S. executive team. Our Ecuador training is the beneficiary of a unique cooperative arrangement between several organizations, including the Ecuadorian federal government and the regional government.
The federal government provides specific funding for community development, but with a stipulation that the local leadership must spend 10% of the grant money on agriculture training. In the local areas, the officials elected to run these development programs must report back to the federal government about the use of funds. The partnership with SRA provides officials with an accurate measurement of results to use in their reports. Our staff administers the baseline surveys and runs the technical training, making it easy for the government officials to show progress among the people and continue to receive their federal funding.
The drawback of a level one program is that the organization will spend a tremendous amount of resources, money, staff time, and effort on a relatively small number of people. That said, the biggest advantage of a level one program is that those who finish the training are fully able to take care of themselves for the rest of their lives - an achievement of astonishing and lasting impact. Many of these graduates go on to teach and mentor others in their communities, extending the impact further. Any organization implementing a level one program will be able to fully and accurately measure a dramatic change in the abilities, education, and nutrition level of each individual who completes the instruction.
Using the level one model, hundreds of families have graduated from SRA’s training, based on the principles of the SSAM. Participants are qualified to graduate when they have grown and stored one year’s supply of food, and two year’s supply of seeds for planting. They have demonstrated comprehension and utilization of important nutrition and hygiene principles. They have shown proficiency in maintaining a sequential garden, and know how to supplement their diets by raising small animals for protein. They have been taught how to manage their household income and prepare for the future. These parents are truly prepared to care for their families for years to come, and their children are prepared to carry on the legacy for generations.

Level Two Program

Due to the impressive measurable success achieved with participants in the level one program, SRA leadership desired to find a way to expand the reach of the SSAM training principles. Recognizing that thousands of people need to be taught these fundamental agriculture skills which can provide lasting freedom from poverty and hunger, a level two program, otherwise known as “Train the Trainers” was developed. This makes it possible to have a positive influence on many more villages, using trained government extension workers and an abbreviated version of the SSAM-based training.
For example, in the Piura Peru area, we piloted a level two program in which our staff teaches the SSAM to native individuals who already have college level education in agriculture-related field. These non-staff trainers are paid by the regional government, expanding our reach to new villages, so we can help more families. By implementing this “Train the Trainers” program, we have been able to impact many more people, which is one of the biggest benefits of a level two program. In fact, last February there were an impressive 148 families that completed the training, and a joyful celebration was held in the capital city to recognize what they had accomplished.
Our training in Peru is run through a cooperative arrangement with local government and educational institutions. The University provides garden seeds as well as animals for those participating in our courses. The regional government of Piura helps our staff select technicians to be trained, and pays their salaries. The local government pays for the fuel, transportation, meals, and housing of SRA staff who are training the new technicians in the villages. With this kind of local support, our level two program is expanding, making it possible to teach 10 to 20 times more people for a greatly reduced cost per participant.
In a level two program, attendees receive a thorough but shorter training on each module: (1) Nutrition and Hygiene, (2) Sequential Gardens, (3) Field Crops, (4) Small Animals, and (5) Economic Independence. The hired technicians are given incentives when their apprenticed families succeed, helping them feel ownership over the results.  It is important to provide recognition to those who have completed the course, and continue to provide follow-up support until they are able to succeed on their own. For this reason, the technicians should spend approximately one to two years visiting, mentoring, and guiding each participating village, helping participants to fully implement the new agriculture skills into their lives.
After completing the program, graduates have learned how to grow and store much of the food they need to feed their families, and will have a supply of two plantings-worth of seeds to protect against crop failure. These villagers will have been taught how to form co-ops and make trades with their neighbors for additional resources that they need. They will also have been introduced to methods for marketing their surplus products to generate income for school fees, clothing, and other needed resources.

Level Three Program

The level three program was developed to fill the needs of organizations who are interested in implementing SSAM training in an area where we do not currently operate. In a level three program, the five modules of the SRA model are taught to the organization requesting assistance, but will be implemented primarily on their own, with some guidance and support from us.
There are numerous reasons why a level three program is the best fit for some situations. One of the most common problems that NGOs may have with implementing a full program in a new area is a lack of funds and resources to support expansion. Expenses incurred would include hiring an in-country staff, procuring training facilities, paying for U.S. staff to visit and supervise the new staff, plus accounting and administration costs.
Other challenges may include an inhospitable political climate, saturation of other NGOs in the area causing the government to limit access to new organizations, or cultural situations that are unfriendly to foreign involvement. Sometimes the group requesting the training already has a successful charity program in place, and they just need SSAM training to take it to the next level.
Whatever the reason, level three programs generally begin when an organization requests training after seeing or hearing about the lasting impact of the SSAM-based model. Upon request, an SRA staff member will consult with the organization to determine what level of participation is desired and feasible. Representatives of the requesting organization will be trained in an overview of the program, preferably on-site at a level one or level two project location. The outside organization pays all costs for travel, training and educational materials.
Once the training is completed, the requesting organization has the responsibility to implement the program primarily on their own. A SRA staff member is available to consult with them remotely using internet and phone. This type of cooperation between two organizations with similar goals results in a desirable situation where the successful principles of the SSAM can be taught and spread widely to regions of the world that might not otherwise be reached.


[Caption:] Lonny meets with a women’s garden group in Mali to teach them some of the basic principles of the SRA model. This area has begun a level three program with the support of the Ouelessebougou Alliance.

Step Three: Hire and Train Program Staff

Once a decision has been made about which program level will be implemented, it is important to send in a team to oversee the hiring and training of the local staff. This hiring team may include organization leadership, paid consultants, and knowledgeable volunteers who can travel to the country to assess the local situation and help the new staff learn everything they need to know about running the program.
The hiring team should be chosen carefully from among those who understand work in developing countries, and include experts in all five modules of the SRA model, namely: (1) Nutrition and Hygiene, (2) Sequential Gardens, (3) Field Crops, (4) Small Animals, and (5) Economic Independence. It is helpful to include people on this team who understand best practices in education methods, as well as individuals who are already familiar with the target country and its cultural uniqueness.  
As the training team interviews potential staff members, they should be looking for individuals who are already well-trained technicians with a good work history. Preferably these staff members will be natives of the country in which the program is being developed. Where such individuals cannot be found, experts from developed countries can be brought in, but they will have the additional challenge of learning how to thoroughly understand the community and become fully accepted by the people.
The competence of an organization’s in-country staff is extremely important because they are the “boots on the ground” who will be running the program daily. Those native individuals who have already succeeded in a difficult environment can become role models to show participants that it is possible to rise above their circumstances and find success. By minimizing needless regulations on the staff, they will be enabled to respond to individual needs and have the power to respond quickly to emergency situations when needed.
Though the new staff will already be educated in their field of expertise, they will need to be taught the specifics of the SRA model by the hiring team. Once in-country staff is properly trained, the real magic begins as participants are identified and instructed, and lives start changing. As each outstanding individual achieves success, neighbors will see what is happening, and long to participate. This creates a chain reaction as villagers they begin teaching one another, changing their community, one individual, and one family at a time.

[INSERT PHOTO #10: SRA Staff Peru]

[Caption:] Our Feed The World team with the local trainers in Frias, Peru.

Step Four: Recruit Participant Families

The next step is to start meeting with local villagers to find those who are most likely to implement and benefit from participation in our program. These new participants are selected based on their nutritional and financial needs, their physical and mental ability to follow the training, their available space, and their enthusiasm for learning. Since our team will have already established a good relationship with the local leaders, they can be a good resource for recommendations, since they know their own people better than we do.
In every community, there are people whose behaviors make them more likely to find solutions than their peers, even in a situation with similar challenges and without extra resources. As a presentation about the SRA program is given to the local families in a new area, it quickly becomes clear which individuals stand out in the community. By working primarily with these individuals first, we are able to get a fast start in the community by teaching those who are the most enthusiastic about our ideas and will be more likely to pass on the skills to others, with or without outside encouragement.
We have found that helping those individuals who can succeed faster creates a model of leadership and enthusiasm, lifting the community faster than if we were to target primarily those in greatest need who might not have the ability to learn and apply the principles as quickly or thoroughly. This approach is different than those which focus on the people with the greatest need first. We have found that over time, working with the most enthusiastic families first will make a faster and longer lasting impact on the community for years to come.

Fabiola: A Shining Example of Community Leadership

In the northern part of Ecuador, there is a village called Cochas-La Merced where an exceptional woman named Maria Fabiola Churuchumbi Sandoval lives and works. She is one of the leaders and mentors in our Ecuador program, having taken the training to heart and expanded her own learning beyond what was taught to her by our staff. Fabiola cares for her aging parents and helps support her extended family with what she can produce on a small plot of inherited land that has been passed down for generations. Many of the villagers in her community live in small adobe houses, which they share in multiple-family arrangements.
When Fabiola first found out about the training in her hometown of Cochas through local community leaders, she was skeptical. Her village had never had such an opportunity, and the principles being introduced were unfamiliar to her. Fabiola described her situation this way:
“Before I was introduced to the program, I cultivated my plot in a rudimentary way. I lived with my animals inside the house. I used to get sick more frequently. I was not aware I should have the house clean, and wash hands before eating. I did not have any idea of how to eat varied food, and I did not know about vitamins, protein, or fiber. I did not know how to store food for my family.”

Family Impact:

 Fabiola’s condition changed dramatically after her participation in SRA’s program. She eagerly absorbed everything she was taught about the importance of nutrition and found fulfillment in discovering how to provide nutritious food to her loved ones on a daily basis. Rather than growing only corn, wheat and barley, and selling most of it to try and make a living, Fabiola’s garden now has additional vegetables such as carrots, onions, chard, cabbages, spinach, and much more. This thriving sequential garden provides essential nutrients for her family’s diet throughout the year.
As she learned about proper hygiene practices, Fabiola worked hard to make her home as clean and functional as possible. In fact, after visiting her home for the first time, Lonny noted that her personal external bathroom and shower area was cleaner, neater and more functional than all the other restrooms he had experienced anywhere else in the country, including restaurants, tourist attractions, and service stations.
Fabiola has also developed a successful guinea pig breeding program to provide important protein in her family’s diet. Through her resourcefulness, she was able to figure out a solution to a problem she had with the male guinea pigs fighting each other. She discovered that castration was a practice that would help the males get along better. But rather than waiting for a technician to come do this for her, she learned how to do it herself and took the initiative to fix all of her male guinea pigs, so she now has much less fighting among the males. This is just one example of how a motivated person, with just a little bit of focused education, can move beyond the basics that she has been taught.
Fabiola described the change in her own words: “I was blessed with this program. Now we are very happy; I have knowledge of a different reality. I now know how to cultivate a variety of crops of different nutritional values for use in feeding my family. I have learned how to raise small animals in a better way. I know how to save food for future consumption, and I store the food I harvest from my plot, to mix with vegetables that I grow in my own garden. I never ate so many vegetables as I do now.”

[INSERT PHOTO #11: Fabiola and Lonny]

[Caption:] Fabiola Churuchumbi showing her abundant crops to Lonny on his visit to Cocahs Peru.

Community Impact:

More villagers from Cochas are becoming involved in the program after seeing the positive results in Fabiola’s household. They are becoming aware of their ability and responsibility to feed their families nutritious foods, and the benefits they will receive from improving their diets. The villagers have seen difference in the homes, gardens, and health of those participating, and they are very excited with the results.   
Through participation in SRA’s instruction, Fabiola has gained incredible confidence in her own abilities, and was able to discover her natural talent for leadership. She is looked up to by her peers, and has become a community leader in her village. Because of Fabiola’s help, our staff was able to move quickly as she helped organize her people so SRA technicians could teach more efficiently. One of Fabiola’s most impactful projects was to develop a cooperative agreement with her neighbors to take their produce to the larger community markets so they can get a higher price for them.
When asked about the impact on her village, Fabiola said, “The program has influenced the community in a very good way, and I recommend it to the families that are not involved. The families that are not part of the program have seen the change in our participants’ crops, animals, and the knowledge of nutrition for our families. More people are now involved in the program and are aware of the responsibility they have to feed their families well. We are very excited.”

[INSERT PHOTO #12: Cochas Women]

[Caption:] Cochas women prepare their surplus harvest for the market.

International Impact:

One of our donating partners, Thriving Nations, was so impressed with Fabiola’s success, that they flew her to the United States to participate in their 2013 convention. She had never left Ecuador, had never been on an airplane, and had never seen snow, turned on a shower, or ridden an escalator. It was quite the experience for her, and she stole the show during her speech.
Fabiola stood courageously in front of a large auditorium of people and shared her story, then concluded by saying, “I really want to thank all the people that work with us, from the technicians we see every week, to the people in other countries that we have not yet met. Thanks to each one of you for all the efforts you make to help us. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and may God bless you always.”
The audience erupted into applause, and as Fabiola received a standing ovation, many tears were shed. It was obvious to those who had contributed in a small way to her success, that the program they were participating in was making a real difference in people’s lives because it had the potential to create lasting change for generations.

Step Five: Administer Baseline Questionnaire

Before starting the training, it is important to administer questionnaires and gather baseline statistics about the current nutritional and economic status of each family participating in the program. This includes physical measurements such as height and weight of each person to assess wasting and stunting. The survey should also gather information about current crops being grown in the area, how much land is available for cultivation, possible water sources nearby, and organic matter availability. The format for the baseline survey we use was developed using the “Basic Human Needs Assessment Tool” created by the Benson Institute. Information on this tool can be found in the “Appropriate Technologies” chapter by Richard Brimhall.
In the past, SRA staff members directly administered these extensive questionnaires. Since most participants are not able to read or write, all questions had to be asked verbally, so gathering all of the needed information took several hours per family. As the level two program of “Train the Trainers” was implemented, many more people became involved, and it was soon evident that the survey process needed to be streamlined. To meet this need, the questionnaires were simplified to decrease the number of questions, without compromising the quality of the information received. In addition, educated individuals from local universities and the community were trained on how to administer the baseline questionnaires and evaluations. A copy of the questionnaires used by SRA can be found in the Appendix.
Likewise, when there are extremely large numbers in a village or community who are participating in the training, it may be advisable to take a statistically significant sampling of those chosen for the program, rather than administering questionnaires to every single family. This gives a good baseline overview of the entire population and provides a recorded measure of the starting point of the target community, which is critical for showing results as the training progresses.  
The baseline survey and follow-up questionnaires produce data that is critical to helping organization donors see how their financial contributions are making a difference in the lives of the people. This data assists administrators in determining the areas where the most help is needed. As further questionnaires are administered over the course of the program, the staff and management are able to see where adjustments should be made to improve results. By having an accurate measure of the starting point and progress of each family, the entire program is more effective and change is easier to measure.
Once these four steps have been completed, SRA begins our hands-on courses in the five parts of our model: (1) Nutrition and Hygiene, (2) Sequential Gardens, (3) Field Crops, (4) Small Animals, and (5) Economic Independence. We will now describe each of these modules in detail, with a goal to provide students, academicians, and NGO leadership with a practical example to assist them in the development of their own programs.

Module One: Nutrition and Hygiene

In many developing countries, malnutrition and poor hygiene are two of the main causes of sickness and death among rural families, particularly affecting the growth and development of children. By teaching the importance of proper nutrition and good hygiene practices, many illnesses can be decreased, enabling children to enjoy better growth and educational performance. Once parents understand how critical proper hygiene and good nutrition are for their children, many of them will concentrate their efforts on following the program outlined for them. A high rate of compliance improves not only the life of each family member, but makes a large impact on a community.

Teaching Nutritional Self-Sufficiency

By focusing on nutrition first, program teachers emphasize how critical it is that participants go to the extra effort of raising a variety of vegetables for their daily food consumption. Each individual is taught the importance of eating a complete and balanced diet rather than planting and consuming only one crop. Farmers who monocrop generally eat a meager diet and sell their extra harvest to purchase expensive produce in the marketplace with their limited cash funds. As they learn how to use their own gardens to feed themselves a variety of food from the different food groups, it is possible, often for the first time in their lives, for the entire family to eat a variety of nutritious foods every day.

Designing a Nutrition Plan

With the data from the baseline questionnaire, a healthy diet is designed for each family to teach them what foods they need in their daily meals. They will be taught about the importance of eating a variety of foods each day, and how to prepare a weekly menu that addresses complete nutrition needs, adding greater variety and quantity of foods than they have been used to eating previously. The family members will strive for complete nourishment as they begin to understand how a proper diet impacts their growth, learning, and health.
The process of helping each participant improve their nutrition involves detailed planning to help them identify and gather the resources to plant and grow the right foods.  Providing adequate sustenance for each member of the family includes increasing their awareness of the varying nutritional needs of fathers, mothers, youth, children, and babies.
By partnering with university professors and students, such as BYU’s “International Nutrition” class, we have been able to properly design menus based on the foods that grow well in each area. Once each household diet is planned, staff members help the participants learn how to grow, prepare, and consume the foods based on their individualized plan. For more information on principles of nutrition in developing countries, see the “Nutrition” chapter by Paul Johnston.

Food Preparation

It is important to employ a full time in-country nutritionist who can teach the class members how to prepare and consume the proper amounts of vegetables to meet their dietary requirements. They should also be taught how to prepare the food safely, avoiding unsanitary cultural practices that could put family members at risk.
One challenge is helping everyone to enjoy the foods that are unfamiliar to them in the beginning. To assist them with this transition, the nutritionist helps those responsible for cooking to learn appealing ways to combine the new foods into culturally common dishes using delicious recipes and familiar spices.They are encouraged to add a few new foods at a time, helping them become accustomed to the new food until they develop a taste for it.
As the class members are taught how to make simple recipes, a hands-on demonstration helps them learn how to prepare the food properly so they can duplicate the recipes at home. One assignment given to the participants is to make one new dish every day at home, and report on how well their family liked it. The nutritionist can use this information to help them find other recipes and foods that they will like.  
Using the information from the customized nutrition plan, the staff designs a sequential garden plan for each home, teaching them to grow the vegetables most needed to improve their diet. (For more information on gardening techniques, see the “Sequential Gardening” chapter by Alan Silva.) In most areas there are some wild plants that the families consume. The technicians analyze the nutrient content of these native plants and incorporate them into the meal plans. The key is to identify and use all available resources to increase the level of nutrition.

Kitchen Cleanliness

In conjunction with learning about food preparation, program participants are taught the basic fact that a healthy kitchen equals healthy food. No matter how nutritious the food, it needs to be properly prepared in an orderly and clean kitchen in order to assure its healthfulness. Family members are taught about the importance of washing hands before and after handling food, and are helped to provide a place for washing in their home kitchens.
They are assisted with creating a better cooking arrangement, and making sure that smoke from a cooking area is diverted to the outside instead of smoking up the inside of the home. Clearing the kitchen of smoke creates a dramatic change for these families. In fact, in a presentation to donors in 2014, James Mayfield referenced a study which reported a longer life expectancy for women simply from helping them to install brick ovens that vented to the outside of their homes. Without such an intervention, many rural women in developing countries will spend much of their day working inside a smoke-filled kitchen, dramatically reducing their health and life expectancy.
After being taught about cleanliness and order in their kitchens, individuals are taught best practices in food preparation, including the habits of protecting, covering and saving food properly. They are also taught the correct way to wash dishes and immediately after every meal to eliminate bacterial growth.  

Food Preservation and Storage

Learning to preserve and store food is a critical skill because it provides villagers with a way to achieve nutritional security year-round. With sufficient stored provisions, program graduates will be better prepared for emergencies, crop failures, and other life challenges.
Staff teachers explain which types of foodstuff are appropriate to store, and the proper storage methods for each. Class attendees are taught the conditions needed for proper food preservation, including storage basics such as maintaining ideal temperature, improving security against rodents, using the right types of containers, dealing with humidity issues, and observing cleanliness habits.
In rural areas, most households do not have access to refrigeration, so this is not an option for food preservation. Even with this limitation, families can learn to store  by drying, or dehydrating, their harvest. Simple solar dryers are one way to achieve this, and can usually be constructed using locally available materials. The key with drying food is to expose the vegetables to the heat from the sun without allowing insects to contaminate it.
Salt is another product that can be used for food preservation. When applied to vegetables, salt causes the water to evaporate out of the cells, leaving a cured product that will store for long periods of time. The downside of this technique, of course, is that the food is very salty. Therefore, the use of salt for preservation varies based on the local tastes of the target population.
Once food is preserved, it is important to find a good place for storage to protect it from contamination, pests, and theft. Food storage mentoring should include teaching methods for building appropriate facilities, whether in the home or in a separate building. Appropriate assignments for each household include gathering construction materials, assembling containers, and building home pantries.
Water is critically important to prepare and store in preparation against drought and other emergencies. Participants are taught what steps they need to take to obtain clean water and how to store it in containers, either inside the home, or in the soil. They are mentored in learning proper procedures for storing water, how much water they need over time, and how to select a good storage location. For more information on international water needs, see the “Water” chapter by Jack and Andrew A. Keller.  

Yohan and Agnes - Living a Happy Life

Yohan and Agness Gideon, along with their 5 young children, graduated from SAFI school in 2011, and have seen dramatic changes in their lives since completing SSAM training. They share their gratitude for their improved way of life, saying that the model should be taught to many others in Malawi, because “people should live happy lives.”
Yohan shares his story this way: “The education I received from SAFI has helped me improve my family’s hygiene and standard of living. I learned how to improve our diet that we eat as a family. I also learned how to manage my land and add value to my produce so that, like a business, I can sell my produce to earn income for my family. There is a great improvement in my crops since I went to SAFI. Before, I would get about 18-20 bags (50kg or 110 lbs) of food from a quarter hector (.62 acre) of land. Now, after attending SAFI, I get about 80 bags from the same plot of land! That is a big change. We will save enough food to last a year, and then I will sell the extra to buy clothes for my family.”
Agness shares what she was taught and says, “I am thankful for the knowledge I gained from SAFI. It has helped a lot because now our children are eating well, they go to school, and have a brighter future.”

Teaching Proper Hygiene Habits

In developing countries, many rural villagers do not have adequate toilet facilities, and in some cases they have none at all. They are often not aware of the importance of good personal hygiene habits such as washing their hands, nor are they aware of the dangers of uncleanliness and how it affects life and health. Consequently, many contagious illnesses such as diarrhea and parasite infestation, which are quickly addressed in developed parts of the world, can quickly become fatal in an impoverished area.
Sickness and disease may be greatly reduced in rural villages by teaching a series of basic lessons on hygiene, helping individuals understand the importance of it, and training the entire community on the proper disposal of waste. Hygiene classes should include the following topics that will help individuals take better physical care of themselves and their environment.

Personal Hygiene

The first part of hygiene training is to help the villagers understand that personal cleanliness leads to better health. Teaching basic principles such as the definition of cleanliness, and the diseases associated with filth, helps them see the benefits of keeping themselves and their surroundings cleaner. These basic practices are quite different than how many of them have traditionally lived, with common behaviors such as drinking from the same water hole where clothing is washed, and where animals and people bathe and defecate.
During the hygiene module, participants are taught to keep drinking water sources separate from those used for bathing and washing their clothing. They also learn about the benefits of oral health and how to keep their teeth and gums clean daily. As class members are taught about the habit of washing their hands throughout the day, they are encouraged to keep a record of how often these various activities occur for at least a week. A written record helps the people and the teachers to see where improvements can be made and what to teach next.  

Human and Animal Waste

A proper hygiene program will include teaching about the components of human and animal waste and the health complications of accidental consumption, including illness, disease, and parasites. People should be taught the importance of limiting their exposure to waste, and keeping living areas clean.
In one situation, village children in Malawi were eating a more nutritious diet, but the technicians were not seeing improvements in their health as they had expected. When they investigated, they realized that the small children were in the habit of picking up and eating the chicken feces. This toxic material was ingested, which damaged their intestinal papillae and counterbalanced the improved nutrition, so the children’s growth was hindered. When the problem was discovered, animals were given proper housing and the villagers were taught to keep their children away from the feces.
As communities are taught the critical importance of disposing properly of human waste, they are also given instruction on building a latrine and a washing station for the villagers to use. They are also taught how to handle waste when there is no latrine available, such as when they are away from home, or when there are not yet materials available for building one. All of these lessons help them make their living surroundings much cleaner and habitable, benefiting the entire community.

Maintaining Health and Safety

After teaching them about the importance of cleanliness, it is important that participants learn other habits to help them stay healthy. This includes teaching about proper child growth and development, keeping records, having a balanced lifestyle, getting proper amounts of sleep, and keeping up on appropriate immunizations. Individuals are encouraged to begin applying a new healthy habit and to report back to the teacher on their progress. They are mentored in persevering at their new habit until it becomes part of their lifestyle.
Another important aspect of teaching about health is safety training. Villagers are taught how to recognize and avoid dangerous places and risky attitudes. They are also taught basic first aid skills, and how to treat common injuries in the field and the home. They are given basic lessons on diagnosing common injuries and how to treat them when they occur, as well as how to create a basic first aid kit to keep in their homes.

Keeping the House Clean

Along with the rest of the teaching about hygiene, participants are taught about the benefits of keeping their dwellings clean for better health and safety. Before this training, it is not uncommon for villagers to allow farm animals to wander freely inside their homes, making it nearly impossible to keep their surroundings germ-free.
As they learn about the diseases associated with unclean living conditions, and the benefits of better hygiene, these people become enthusiastic about cleaning their surroundings. This excitement is fueled with hands-on lessons about keeping their house clean, clearing away waste and garbage from the yard, keeping food items off kitchen floors, and creating separate living quarters for their animals.
For an assignment, each family is asked to keep a record of their home cleaning, and how well they are able to keep it clean with the lessons they have been taught. One of the favorite jobs of staff is to take before and after pictures of participant homes and kitchens to show their remarkable progress in these areas.  

[INSERT PHOTO #13: Clean Kitchen]

Caption: A program graduate enjoys cooking nutritious food in her clean and orderly kitchen.

Theo and Juana: Improving Health with Nutrition and Hygiene

Theophilus and Juana Santos Briceno live with their family in a small community in the Piura Region of northern Peru. They work hard to financially support their grandmother and their 3 children: Gonzalo, Jordi, and Mileidy, ages 17, 11, and 6, respectively. Before starting the program, their two youngest children had been diagnosed with chronic malnutrition. Thanks to their participation and application of sustainable agricultural practices, their children now eat a nutritious diet and are enjoying good health.
One thing that helped the Santos Briceno family the most was learning how to keep animals out of their home. They explain this change in their own words: “We did not know that there must be a division between the kitchen and the animal corral. Now we have built a bamboo wall to create more order in the house, have also made tables to lift the pots that used to sit on the ground.” Simple changes like having a private space for their animals has contributed to keeping the kitchen clean and sanitary, and helped the family members to stay healthy.
Theo and Juana have been taught how to take care of their animals better, creating separate pens for chickens, ducks, and pigs. They also learned how to give deworming treatments to help the animals stay healthier and provide better food for the household. Thanks to these simple changes, the entire family is enjoying a much better quality of life.
Theo has worked hard in his field to implement multi-cropping instead of just planting one or two cash crops. This has given him better financial stability against drought and market price swings, because he is not placing all of his hopes on selling only one crop. With this knowledge, Theo has begun growing a variety of food such as legumes, grains, root crops, and forages for his animals, as well as fresh vegetables for his household’s diet.
Theophilus is extremely enthusiastic, and eager to participate in all of the training classes that are provided. He is currently learning how to make his own compost to help his crops and garden become more productive and successful. This family is well on its way to a self-sufficient and more fulfilling life.

Module Two: Sequential Gardens

A sequential garden refers to a garden that uses the technique of planting different vegetables in a rotational sequence, spacing the plantings to provide a continual harvest. This technique helps maximize the productivity of a small garden space, and prevent soil depletion and plant disease. By teaching participants to plant and care for sequential gardens, most of the vitamins and minerals that they need for their diets are provided.
The ability of a family to build a sequential garden will vary depending on the space available, the climate of the region, and other cultural factors. These variables should be evaluated by agronomy experts to make sure that the type of garden and vegetables suggested are a good fit for the area. Ideally, a demo garden will be started nearby, to provide a place where villagers can be trained and various crops can be experimented with until the team feels confident with the plan.   

Planning and Building the Gardens

Program participants are taught how to create raised beds for their gardens, which keeps the soil and plants protected from foot traffic and pests. They are taught how to plant a variety of healthy foods with staggered planting times, providing a continual supply of fresh vegetables throughout the year. As each food is harvested, class members are taught to replenish the soil with nutrients and immediately re-plant that section of the garden with a different vegetable, helping the soil to remain healthy for growing.
SRA staff helps the families to plan their gardens in such a way that they can enjoy fresh vegetables all year round, based on what grows best in each particular season, foods common to their culture, and what foods they need to fill their dietary requirements.
One important thing to teach the farmers is the value of organic material in providing rich nutrients for their gardens. Before understanding the value of these waste products, many farmers simply discarded or burned them. We teach them to dig a hole in which to put all plant material, including leftover crop stalks, weeds, kitchen scraps, and unusable parts of vegetables from the garden. In this natural process, the organic material is piled and processed over a period of several months to turn it into a very powerful natural fertilizer. The compost is tilled into the garden bed, providing a rich soil in which to grow vegetables successfully.
Finished compost can also be processed by soaking it in water, then leaving it to “steep” for several minutes or hours, depending on the concentration desired. The run-off liquid is a powerful liquid fertilizer called “compost tea” that contains a concentrated mixture of compost nutrients. It can be applied to the soil or sprinkled on plants to help them grow and prosper. For more information on the entire process of making and using compost, read the “Composting” chapter by Allen C. Christensen.
Challenges to sequential gardening may include obtaining sufficient water for successful growth, finding adequate available space for planting, keeping gardens protected from stray animals and theft, and political conditions that may limit the amount and type of vegetables that can be grown. Each of these challenges should be met with the full input of the villagers, letting them lead the way to effective solutions, and mentoring them on problem solving so they will be able to succeed on their own when outside support is no longer present.

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[Caption:] A lead farmer in Malawi works with his children in the thriving sequential garden they have planted together.

Fostering Self-Reliance

When we teach participants about sequential gardening, we focus on sustainable principles of self-reliance. Our overall goal is to encourage the people to work for everything they are given, creating a net gain for the community and our organization. Additionally, we ask our graduates to “pay it forward” to others in the community by teaching and mentoring their neighbors and extended families.
For example, as program participants prepare to plant their sequential gardens, we provide seeds to them in exchange for certain required participation tasks. They must first fence off a garden area, and build raised garden beds for easier weeding and walking between plants. They are taught how to fill the beds with a good combination of organic matter, compost, and soil to produce the best yield possible, and are expected to have this all completed before they are given the seeds.
Helping a family achieve optimum nutrition with the food they grow themselves is the basis for the entire SRA program of self-reliance. By learning basic gardening techniques, participants can significantly improve the nutrition of their entire household. As their health and cognitive thinking improves, they will increase their chances of obtaining a good education, and be prepared for new opportunities in the future. For a thorough explanation of how to design and implement a gardening course, please see the “Sequential Gardening” chapter by Alan Silva.

Module Three: Field Crops

The field crops module includes learning how to successfully plant, cultivate and harvest grains, legumes, and forages. Grains include maize (corn), quinoa, wheat, barley, oats, and rice. Legumes include many varieties of beans and peas. Forages for animal feed include native grasses, alfalfa, and crop residue (stems and leaves).
Field crops are critically important to the rural villager because grains provide life-sustaining nutrients for people and animals. The main practice of most farmers before completing our program is to monocrop, depending on a successful harvest of only one or two plants to create income. Unfortunately, monocropping does not provide farmers with protection against crop failure or market saturation, both of which are all too common in the developing world.
It is important to teach farmers to diversify their crops, just as one would diversify any other investment. This way, if one crop fares poorly, other crops are there to make up the difference. When crops grow well, the household is provided with a variety of foods, increasing the sustentative content of their diets. Following are some topics that are taught to participating farmers to help improve their crop variety and yield.

Land Preparation and Crop Cultivation:

For the most part, the tilling of the soil in is still done by hand or with a wooden plow pulled by draft oxen. Our farmers are encouraged to till the soil to at least 30 cm deep (12 in.), depending on the type of soil. This kills weeds and loosens the soil so that roots can travel easily to find nutrients. Every couple of weeks during the growing season, the farmers are encouraged to go through the fields and lightly till the spaces between the rows about 3-5 cm deep (1-2 in.).
We are careful to teach participants the principle of minimum tillage, in which the land is disturbed only enough for the plants to grow well, without any extreme disruption. By keeping the ground intact, soil erosion is decreased and a healthy biosphere of microorganisms is maintained.

Conservation Agriculture:

Conservation agriculture involves teaching families how to grow their field crops efficiently, while utilizing all the resources on the land in the best way possible, and keeping a long term view in mind. In many areas, the land has been farmed for years without consideration for land conservation. For example, the traditional practice is to burn the crop residue after harvesting is over, which depletes the land of valuable nutrients provided by organic matter sources. Teaching rural landholders how to recycle crop residue and other organic materials is an important part of agriculture training.
Proper water management is another important part of land cultivation and conservation. For example, rows of soil mounds and ditches are used to direct water away from the plants during the rainy season, and preserve water during the drier times. Also, combinations of plants and trees can be used in a symbiotic relationship either to increase soil fertility or to protect from pests. For example, marigolds planted around the edge of the garden or field deters insects from attacking the plants. Some species of trees shed leaves that enrich the soil. There are many simple techniques to improve crop yield that also help conserve the land and its natural resources.

Planting and Spacing Issues:

The improper planting of seeds is one of the major problems in many parts of the developing world. A typical way of planting crops in some regions is for the farmer to dump five to ten seeds in one hole, and to space these holes one meter (3.2 ft.) apart throughout the whole field. One possible reason for this unusual cultural practice may have developed when farmers only had access to poor quality seeds that did not have a high rate of germination. Overplanting like this may have evolved to compensate for low germination, ensuring that at least one plant would grow in each hole.
Today things have changed considerably, and most farmers, even in underdeveloped areas, can access high quality seeds with germination rates of 80-100%. The result of combining old practices with new seeds is that instead of having one or two plants grow in each hole, they end up with four to eight plants growing there. This creates unhealthy competition between the crops, leading to stunted plant growth and poor yield, as well as an inefficient use of land and water.
Farmers in participating in the SRA program are taught by staff to plant only one to two seeds per hole and to space these groups of seeds about 15-25 cm (6-10 in.) apart, arranged in mounded rows that are spaced 60-75 cm (24-27 in.) apart. The closer plant spacing keeps the seeds far enough apart that they won’t compete for nutrients and water, but close enough that the land is efficiently utilized.
The wider row spacing allows plenty of room for easy hand weeding, and helps with plant growth by allowing excess water during the rainy season to be collected in the depressions between the rows. This helps keep moisture in the fields for a longer period of time into the growing season. These simple changes to the crop growing techniques increase crop yield, save water, and protect seeds as they germinate and grow.
When teaching new techniques, it is important to show respect for the farmers and seek to understand the reasons behind their cultural practices. Most of these people are not risk takers, because they depend entirely on their current practices for taking care of their families. Keeping things the way they have always known them feels safe, and it is a scary thing to try something new when everyone they know is doing it the old way. Be sensitive to your participants as you ask them to try new methods, help them understand why the change is being recommended, and encourage them to make small changes over time, patiently supporting them until they succeed.

Fertilizer requirements:

One of the key elements of our program is teaching the farmers to incorporate the crop residue back into the soil, either by encouraging grazing of animals that process the stalks and leave manure, or by tilling the stalks back into the ground so they can decompose. The organic matter made from stalks and manure acts as a sponge for water, retaining moisture when it rains instead of letting the water wash away the soil as it overflows.
Organic matter also becomes a nutritive environment for a host of micro-organisms and insects which naturally break down non-useable components and aerate the soil, creating pathways for the young roots to stretch out and find more nutrients. As the roots reach further out, the fertilizer provides stability and resources to the plant, greatly increasing the plant’s ability to reach its genetic potential and produce large amounts of seeds.
When the villagers are taught how to plant and harvest sequential gardens, they learn about the value of compost, and the steps in creating rich organic material from readily available scraps and waste products. The compost they have developed during the gardening lessons can also be used on their field crops as a fully-functional natural fertilizer to supplement other organic matter that has been tilled back into the soil. By including both types of organic matter (raw and composted) the plants will be given readily available nutrients, beneficial micro-bacteria, and sponge-like stability. For more information on compost fertilizer, refer to the “Composting” chapter by Allen C. Christensen.
In addition to natural fertilizer, commercial fertilizer may be needed to achieve high production. The most common fertilizer needed is nitrogen, especially if raw organic matter is being reincorporated back into the soil. The most common form of nitrogen fertilizer is urea, which is often readily available to rural farmers through agricultural supply stores in nearby cities. This is an opportunity to help the villagers form a co-op to purchase and transport the commercial fertilizer as a group. By combining efforts and travel, the farmers in the entire area can benefit for a lower cost.
Depending on the soil nutrients in the area, phosphorus and sulfur may also be recommended. In this case, ammonium phosphate (NH4)3PO4 and ammonium sulfate (NH4)2SO4 are fertilizers that provide both the nitrogen and minerals needed. It is critical to have a competent crop technician on staff who can assist the participants in evaluating their fertilizer needs and finding a source to purchase commercial fertilizer if needed.  For more information on fertilizer requirements, see “Plant Production” by James H. Thomas.

Irrigation Solutions

Water is the most critical element for the proper growth and development of crops. In the United States and other developed countries, elaborate systems have been built for distributing the water at the right time for the optimum growth and production of grains, cereals, and forages.
In the rural villages of developing countries, there is rarely a good system of irrigation, so crop planting is centered around the rainy season. This cultural practice backfires when there is an extra-heavy rainy season that proves to be destructively wet, causing fields to become waterlogged and useless. Seeds that remain wet for an extended period of time may rot in the ground rather than germinating properly, reducing or even destroying an entire crop. Additionally, heavy rainstorms often wash away seeds, destroying crop germination and yield.
To combat this problem, we teach the farmers to create mounds of soil in rows and to plant their seeds in these mounds. Between the rows we teach them to dig shallow ditches to direct water away from the plants. In case of a heavy downpour, excess water is diverted to the edge of the field. These mounded rows trap the water during the rainy days and hold it for the plant’s use later on in the season. This helps ensure that seeds receive adequate moisture for germination without becoming waterlogged.  
In Kenya, partnerships with Koins for Kenya and Thriving Nations have enabled us to help the villagers in the community of Peku to dig large surface dams for the farmers to use for irrigation. The families were also instructed on how to dig smaller water-holding ponds close to their homes, providing water for their sequential gardens and home use.
With the water from these two nearby resources, and valuable training in irrigation techniques with hoses and trenches, the water from the large surface dams has increased their crop yields. For more information on water and irrigation, see the “Water” chapter by Jack and Andrew A. Keller.

[INSERT PHOTO #15: Peku Dam]

[Caption:] These children watch the final construction of the Peku dam and anxiously await the time when it will be full of clean water. This installation will save them hours of walking to collect water.

Harvesting Techniques

Most harvesting in developing countries is done by hand and the farmers generally have adequate experience gathering their harvest without outside assistance. Staff technicians can teach farmers new harvesting methods when unfamiliar crops have been introduced to the community, and also help them improve harvest efficiency and yield. For example, in Ecuador, instead of the farm workers shelling the corn by hand as they have done traditionally, we have helped them learn how to use a simple corn harvesting tool that helps them to more efficiently pull the corn off the cobs.
When introducing new techniques, keep in mind that farmers in rural areas may not have access to fuel and spare parts, so encouraging the use of automated harvesting equipment is not generally practical. Instead, observe local traditions, and recommend appropriate technologies that make sense for the culture of the people you are working with.

Grain Storage

Program technicians help the farmers calculate how much grain, cereal and forages they will need for their household and animals for the entire year. In order to make sure the harvested supply lasts all year long, the villagers will need to be taught proper storage methods for each type of crop. In the rural areas of these countries, finding a good way to store harvested crops can be a challenge.
Since electricity and refrigeration are rare, the primary way to store grain is by drying and storing it in a secure place away from pests. Since the crop harvest generally occurs during the dry season, many farmers will leave the grain in the fields to dry before gathering it, or they may gather the stalks first and lay them out on woven mats to let the sun dry them. However, sometimes rodent damage becomes a problem in both of these situations, since there is no extra protection for the finished grain.
In Ecuador, villagers have learned to avoid this problem by placing harvested maize cobs up inside the rafters of the ceiling inside their homes. The smoke from the cooking fires helps to dry the seed and also discourages pests from getting into the maize. However, the smoke from an unvented indoor fire can cause health problems by contaminating the lungs of the family. An alternate idea would be to help them create a vent to direct the smoke out of the living area and into a separate storage area where the stalks can be dried.
Once grain seeds are dried, they are gathered into large sacks and stored inside a secure building, which is often the home of the farmer. Teachers encourage the course attendees to set aside double the seeds they will need for next year’s planting. These seeds are to be saved instead of being consumed or sold. Having these seeds available for the following season ensures they will be prepared for planting at the beginning of the next rainy season, and that they will have an extra set of seeds to be used in case of crop failure. This helps the villagers to see beyond their immediate needs, and think about self-reliance for long-term success. For more information on Field Crops, refer to the “Plant Production” chapter by James H. Thomas.

[INSERT PHOTO 16: Food Storage]

[Caption:] A recent graduate shows her food storage to the Feed The World staff. Notice the blue plastic on the ceiling protecting carefully stored grain.

Module Four: Small Livestock

To supplement the nutrition provided to each person by sequential vegetable gardens and field crops, an effective self-reliance curriculum will include teaching the families how to start a small livestock program on their property. It is critical to make sure that the organization employs an in-country animal technician who can help each family select appropriate small animals to raise as part of their nutrition project.
The selection of the right animals to recommend as a protein source will be based on the data collected during the baseline survey. This information helps the animal scientist identify how much room is available for raising animals, and which types of livestock will best meet the dietary needs of the family. The technician will also consider important factors such as local customs in regards to meat consumption, as well as availability of livestock in the surrounding areas.

Large Livestock Challenges

For the majority of our rural villagers, large animals such as cattle and swine are not practical for a variety of reasons. First, large animals consume huge amounts of feed that can be costly to a family just learning the basics of improving crop yields. This one fact means that the majority of small-scale farmers are not prepared financially or logistically to feed a large animal for an entire season.
Another problem with recommending large livestock for rural villagers with no access to refrigeration is the sheer volume of meat produced by a large animal such as a cow or pig when it is slaughtered. All at once, as much as 50-200 kg (100-500 lb.) of meat will be suddenly available to consume, which is far too much for one family to eat before it goes bad. All of the extra meat would need to be salted, cured, or sold for extra income. Most of the villagers getting started with animal production are not prepared for dealing with such a large amount of meat at once, so large animals are only recommended when an entire village can purchase and share the animal together as a group.

Small Animals as a Protein Source

Small livestock is ideal for rural farmers because they are comparatively easy to raise, and when they are slaughtered, the amount of meat harvested is perfect for one family to consume within a day. By learning to raise small animals, they will be able to supplement their diet with protein, and can raise offspring to sell or trade with neighbors. Here are some good options for small animals that usually work well for our participants:


The chicken is the most commonly available animal that works well for the majority of small landholders in developing countries. Chickens have the dual benefit of providing both eggs and meat to supplement the diet with readily digestible protein. A more advanced step would be to raise two different breeds of chickens - one for laying eggs and one for meat, which makes them more productive. Keep in mind that it is important to teach one step at a time so the villagers don’t become discouraged with a complicated setup.
Chickens are simple to take care of, needing primarily grain for sustenance. This feed can be easily planned for and raised by the family during the field crops portion of the program. One potential issue with feeding chickens is that if there were suddenly a grain shortage, the people would probably eat it themselves, causing chicken productivity to suffer.  

Guinea Pigs

In South America, the guinea pig is an appropriate cultural choice for a small animal protein source, and is very easy for the farmers to learn how to raise and consume. Guinea pigs are a common food in many South American countries, and their selection as a protein source is ideal because they are easy to slaughter, easy to prepare, and can be consumed by a family in one meal without the need for refrigeration or storage. The advantage that guinea pigs have over chickens is that they thrive on a diet of alfalfa and grasses instead of grain, thus raising guinea pigs eliminates competition for food between the animals and the humans.


Rabbits are a common food in many countries, and are another good choice for raising as a protein source because they are small, which makes them ideal for families to eat in one day without the need of refrigeration. They have the added benefit of consuming alfalfa and grasses like guinea pigs so they do not compete for human food. One potential problem with raising rabbits for a protein source is that the women and children tend to become attached to them and begin to think of them as pets rather than a much-needed protein source.
This is one reason why it is so critical that participants are educated on the importance of protein in their diets, so they will understand the necessity of slaughtering their animals when the time has come. With all small animals, families should be encouraged to think of the animals from the very beginning as a food source, not as a pet. A good practice is to teach them not to name the animals, which will help them to see the animals as nourishment critical to their diet.


The two main nutritional purposes for raising goats are milk and meat, both of which provide important protein to their diet. The main advantage goats have over other animals is that they can survive when eating almost anything, so careful animal management is not as critical. Throughout the developing world, the majority of goats are used for meat, which provides the animal protein necessary for proper human growth and development. Meat goats also have a high tolerance for getting by on very little food, so they survive well in areas where people’s dietary needs are nearly always placed over animal’s dietary needs.
Milk has been called nature’s most perfect food because it provides protein, fat, vitamins, and important minerals such as calcium. However, because milking goats require more careful management than meat goats, they are not as common in areas where the people are less educated. Due to the subpar management style that is so common in these areas, milk goats typically have low milk production or dry up completely. If a goat is giving milk without proper nutrition, she will usually do so at the expense of her own body condition, and end up starving to death.
Despite these challenges, female milk goats can work very well for farmers who are taught proper management practices. Male offspring are useful for breeding, and can also be slaughtered for meat. Goat milk provides a valuable source of protein, as well as nutrient-rich hydration that is especially helpful to pregnant and lactating women.
Depending on the breed of goat, the forages being consumed, and the supplementation they are given, a single milk goat in one of these areas can produce at least one liter (1.06 qt.) of milk per day. It’s helpful to teach the farmers that if they take care to feed their goats a controlled diet, they will have better tasting milk. Grain supplements may not be readily available in rural areas, so maximum milk production may not be able to be reached. However, under good management practices, a household with a milk goat will have enough milk to see a measurable difference in the family’s health, especially in the growth, cognitive abilities, and development of their children.


Depending on the local customs and environment, sheep may be a possible choice for rural farmers to raise. They consume grass and plant forages, so they don’t generally compete for human food. Though sheep are larger than some of the other animals we have discussed, they are usually small enough that most of the meat can be consumed within a short period of time by the family and their neighbors, or cured and stored. In some cultures, sheep are milked for a highly nutritious protein source, though sheep do not give large amounts of milk. Additionally, sheep wool is useful for making clothing, blankets, and rugs, or it can be sold in the marketplace for profit.

Animal Housing

As part of the small livestock portion of the SSAM, villagers are given hands-on training in building a solid protective structure to house their animals. Besides keeping the animals close for caretaking, animal housing is also important for safety, cleanliness, and good production. Appropriate housing will keep animals safe from attack by wild animals and prevents theft by others in and around the village. Good animal housing also protects livestock from mingling with stray neighborhood animals that may be carriers of disease or parasites.
One critical reason for teaching families to build appropriate animal housing is to help prevent them from keeping the animals in their own homes. It is not uncommon for villagers who recognize the value of their animals to bring them into their own homes at night to keep them safe from wild animals, cold weather, and theft. Unfortunately, having animals wandering freely in and out of the dwelling leads to unsanitary conditions, causing illness and disease.
Animals thrive when placed in better conditions, which promotes increased production of eggs, milk, and offspring, which in turn means more nutrition available for the family diet. An animal shelter protects animals from the elements, provides some protection from illness, and makes it possible to maintain an ideal temperature inside the housing, which lowers mortality rates among young and weak animals. The shelter also makes it easier to provide clean food and clean water to drink, so animals fed inside the shelter receive better nourishment.
The rural poor in developing countries have very few financial resources, and rarely have the ability to travel far to purchase anything, so it is critical for the sustainability of the program that animal shelters be constructed out of locally available material. For example, if a farmer is taught to build an animal shelter with a tin roof, but he has to walk an hour away and spend from his extremely limited cash to buy it, the shelter may never be built. This type of situation causes participants to become discouraged with the instruction and see it as something they cannot achieve. So even if tin is a better alternative than using another material that is available locally, tin would be an impractical choice for that area.  
Part of the small-scale agriculture program that is important to long term success in a community is encouraging neighbors to duplicate what they see our participants doing. By building with locally available materials, anyone in the village can copy what their neighbors are doing, which helps them improve their own yards and farms. Besides being more convenient and easy to duplicate, using locally available materials provides benefits the local community and offers opportunities for others who have an entrepreneurial spirit to benefit by providing materials others.

[INSERT PHOTO #17: Livestock Housing]

[Caption:] This young man has learned the importance of having proper housing for his chickens, protecting them from potential loss or danger.

Animal Health and Nutrition

A nutritional analysis is conducted by the technical staff to see which local animal feed resources will best meet the nutrient needs of the recommended livestock. The choice of animal feed needs to be based on what is easy to raise on the family’s land, because this tends to be the most economical source of feed for the animal. If feed needs to be purchased, participants will be much less likely to feed the animal appropriately because their money resources are very tight. This means that animals with complicated feeding regimens may end up undernourished.
If there is not adequate wild feed for the animal nearby, the technicians will help each person develop a plan for planting new types of forages that will thrive in the area. Ideas for good feeds can be gathered by observing the types of feed that are being raised in neighboring communities, as well as information obtained during the baseline survey.
In developing countries, animals often get sick or die from diseases that are easily preventable with the right resources. The animal scientist teaches the farmers where to obtain the appropriate vaccines to eliminate harmful diseases, as well as how and when to administer them. The technician teaches the farmers about available animal medicines for treating disease, and helps them learn which medications are appropriate for each type of illness.
Many animals can reproduce and give birth on their own without much human assistance. However, there are times when problems arise, and the young will need human intervention to survive. An animal technician teaches and mentors them in the basics of assisting animals during birth of offspring and how to care for the young animals until they are sufficiently strong to survive alone. Farmers will also be encouraged to create a breeding program designed to improve the quality of the livestock they have. As part of this training, the participants will learn where and how to purchase more productive animals for use in their small livestock herd.

Harvesting Food from Animals

Food from animals comes from one of two sources: the products they create, such as milk and eggs, and the meat from the animal itself. SRA staff teaches participating families improved ways of handling the animals to help them become healthier and more productive. They are also taught how to properly care for the animal products so that the food maintains its high quality when consumed. This instruction includes use of proper hygienic techniques when handling the animal products, as well as teaching them appropriate slaughtering techniques, and methods to prepare and preserve the meat.
As with the other modules, the livestock education portion of the program includes lessons from a nutritionist to help the family members to learn delicious ways to prepare and cook the animal food, with recipes that combine animal products with the vegetables and grains grown by the family in their gardens and fields. For more information on implementing a livestock program, see the “Animal Production” chapter by Allen C. Christensen.

Module Five: Economic Independence

The first step in helping an individual reach economic independence is ensuring their ability to meet their sustentative needs on a daily basis. This concept is taught, mentored, and reinforced throughout the first four modules of the program that we have covered so far. As participants follow the principles they have been taught, their households will begin to thrive, and their improved nutrition and self-reliance becomes a stepping-stone to true economic independence.

Financial Benefits of Program Participation

As discussed in the field crops section, before going through our SSAM training, most rural farmers raise only one or two different cereal grains, so their families have not been regularly provided with good variety of nutrients. This situation is risky, because if their crops fail, not only do the farmers lose potential profits, but their wife and children go hungry. Even when their few crops grow successfully, eating only a few basic foods day in and day out does not provide sufficient nutrition for healthy development. Most are not even aware that this is a problem, and if they are, they must spend meager resources to purchase additional expensive food in the marketplace.
As villagers are taught how to grow a variety of vegetables and crops to meet their nutritional needs, they begin to experience an immediate financial advantage. They no longer need to purchase additional expensive food, because they are growing nearly everything they need. By saving the money that they would have spent in the marketplace, there begins to be a significant economic advantage for the families who participate in the program. Perhaps for the first time, there is money to send children to school, and means to purchase much needed clothing and household items.

Food Security for A Year

In all our projects, we encourage our participants to grow and store enough food and seeds to meet their needs for a year in the event of poor growing conditions and other economic challenges. This kind of preparation mitigates the potential devastating effect of poor weather conditions in their area.
As has been emphasized throughout the chapter, nutrition is the building block of the program and helps the entire family experience more energy, which gives them the ability to become more productive in their daily work. Children benefit by increasing their mental capacity, which gives them more potential to succeed in their educational endeavors. This increased health, energy, and education contributes to a positive momentum that can break the cycle of poverty across generations.  
Nutrition technicians on staff with the organization can help calculate how much food each household will need to eat nutritiously for a full year. These calculations help guide them as they learn how much of each harvest to eat, how much to store away, and how much they have in excess that can be sold in the marketplace for additional income. For more information on how SRA partners with University students, see the “Nutrition” chapter by Paul N. Johnston.

Identify and Market Surplus Products

As the SRA staff works with the families to set aside their year’s supply of food and two years’ supply of seeds, they help them identify areas where they may have more of a particular vegetable, crop, or animal product than they need.  As these surplus products are identified, the staff technicians assist the farmers by helping them find opportunities for profitable sale of their products.
In some cases, the produce from several neighboring farmers can be bundled together and taken to larger markets where a higher price can be achieved. By selling their products in a group, they are able to receive a higher price without each of the farmers incurring the cost, time and expense of traveling to the larger market areas themselves. These farm co-ops may also able to negotiate with purchasers in the market to get a contract for their produce, giving them a constant market for their products at a good price.

Financial Benefits of Selling Off-Season Crops

As a normal part of supply and demand, the market price of a crop is generally lowest at harvest time when everyone is selling. Conversely, the price of each crop increases during the dry season when there is less of it on the market. Preserving crops and vegetables can also be a good strategy for marketing surplus produce.
Once the household’s nutritional needs have been met, surplus production can be sold or traded during the off-season for a better price. For example, if the corn harvest takes place in October, its price may be $5/bushel at that time. But in May, when most of the corn in the area has been eaten, the price may go up to as much as $9/bushel.
Families who have learned how to grow and store corn in preparation for the off-season find themselves in a situation of financial benefit. First, they don’t need to purchase any corn for at the expensive price because they have plenty. And second, they have the opportunity to sell their excess storage for a nice profit in the marketplace. Thus having a crop available in the off-season becomes a very valuable source of income that can add to a family’s financial security.

Responsible Financial Management

During the process of helping our participants achieve economic independence, in-country staff members teach them basic principles of good financial management. The families and community leaders are shown how proper reinvestment of surplus funds can increase their productivity by giving them additional revenue for future plantings. Each person is also taught the importance of saving money for emergencies as well as larger expenses such as home and farm improvement projects.
By helping the farmers become more productive, they are able to lift themselves to a higher financial level. As they begin to thrive economically, they should be mentored on how to handle these additional financial resources. It’s imperative to discourage less-responsible individuals from wasting extra money on alcohol, drugs, or other damaging habits. High priority financial needs for a family in a developing country include clothing, school tuition, improvements to the home and farm, and savings for times of financial hardship.
In some areas, community cooperatives have been set up where the farmers are able to pool their money in village savings accounts. This money can be used by co-op members for larger farm investments and purchases. As community leaders get on board with this economic training, they are an important source to lead the people in pooling together surplus money to fund community development projects.

Community Co-Op, Gardens and Tilapia Ponds in Guro, Kenya

One good example of economic development through a community co-op is in a small village near Guro, Kenya, where villagers banded together their own money, along with government grant money, to create a fish farming enterprise. Near their town was a reservoir that SRA staff recognized as the perfect place for a community garden, since it was right next to a water source. Villagers were enthusiastic, and 19 families were chosen to participate in the project. Our staff helped them set up a co-op with official government recognition, with rules and bylaws to help them stay organized. As a group, they meet each week to discuss plans for the co-op, and attendance is taken at these meetings. Individuals who miss the meeting are charged 10 shillings off their account, and those who are late are charged 5 shillings. This encourages prompt and regular attendance.
SRA staff helped them set up a large garden area with separate plots of land for each of the families. The purpose of giving each family their own section of land was to help them develop a feeling of ownership over the portion of the garden that they were responsible to tend. Produce from each section of the community garden is donated to the group, and sold to neighbors, local schools, and the marketplaces in the larger cities. Though sold cooperatively, each family gets credit for the portion of goods they donated and their sale price.  
In addition to the vegetable gardens, a large area for field crops was set up nearby,  and a variety of crops were planted. This area provided an ideal location for teaching improved agricultural and irrigation techniques, and added to the villagers’ production of animal food and cash crops. Additionally, the co-op members were mentored as they built gardens near each of their homes, helping them achieve a balanced diet. These home and community gardens provide a number of benefits to the villagers, including improved nutrition, improved economic status, and the opportunity to pool their money for additional investments.   
With government recognition, the village co-op was able to access government funds through grants. They used this opportunity to request assistance in building fish ponds near their homes to supplement their diets with protein and provide additional income for their families. The government accepted their grant application, and agreed to pay for tilapia and fish food if the organization could build the ponds with their own funds.
All nineteen families worked together and built fish ponds next to each of their homes. They purchased cement with their joint co-op fund, and worked together to extract sand and gravel from a nearby river. To make the gravel, they had to pound the rocks into smaller pieces. They had to haul the materials, pour the cement, and complete all 19 ponds. Their hard work paid off, and the government donated the tilapia as promised, so each family now has a thriving fish pond next to their home.
The fish is a wonderful addition to their diets, and they sell the extra fish for income to neighboring communities and markets. Through their training and education, plus a healthy dose of entrepreneurial spirit and cooperation, these families in Guro, Kenya have changed their lives dramatically. They benefitted by developing leadership skills, learning how to work with the government, and achieving independence as they developed beyond what the SRA team initially taught them.
In effect, this kind of mentorship helps lift the entire community to a higher level of productivity and economic independence.  As a community moves toward economic independence, it is a signal of the true sustainability of the program. For more information on financial independence, see the “Economics” chapter by DeeVon Bailey and Ruby Ward.

[INSERT PHOTO #18: Guro Community]

[Caption:] Members of the Guro Community group proudly show off one of the tilapia ponds that they built to provide them with important dietary protein.


This chapter has explained how the core agriculture principles of the Small-Scale Agriculture Model (SSAM) are currently applied in SRA’s training program for rural farm families in developing countries. We teach and mentor in five areas of self-reliance: (1) Nutrition and Hygiene, (2) Sequential Gardens, (3) Field Crops, (4) Small Animals, and (5) Economic Independence. Our model is adapted from the time-tested principles of the SSAM which was developed at BYU’s Ezra Taft Benson Food and Agriculture Institute.
We are grateful to the many educators, humanitarians, donors, technicians, and farmers who contributed to this body of knowledge for over four decades. The invaluable studies and experiences of these many individuals and organizations have laid a sure foundation, and made it possible for SRA to help individuals, families and communities to create a better future for themselves.
The SSAM can be adapted for use by any philanthropic organization that wants to make a lasting difference at the grassroots level in the communities where they are working. Though the model was developed over decades of experience and study, its foundation is based on basic principles that can be quickly learned by willing leadership, staff, and volunteers who desire to implement the program.
As this model is adopted and implemented by organizations throughout the world, the incidence of philanthropic ignorance and philanthropic abandonment can be minimized, replaced instead by programs based on self-reliance, sustainable agriculture, and lasting impact.
We encourage other philanthropic and educational organizations to use time-tested principles of sustainable agriculture to help the rural poor of impoverished nations to change their futures for good — one individual and one village at a time.

[INSERT PHOTO #19: Five Areas of the SSAM]

[Caption:] The Five Modules of the SRA training program, based on the Small-Scale Agriculture Model (SSAM)

Chapter Addendum:

The Institute for Self-Reliant Agriculture (SRA), also known as Feed The World, was founded by Michael Bumstead in 2009 with a mission to adapt and apply the principles developed by Brigham Young University’s Ezra Taft Benson Food and Agriculture Institute. Over several decades of work, the Benson Institute had established itself as a leader in solving agricultural problems throughout the world by participating in active research, scholarship, and hands-on experience in many countries.
The founders of the Benson Institute developed a unique small-scale agriculture model (SSAM) that has been successfully applied in a number of developing countries. When SRA was founded, several of the individuals who had been involved with the original Benson Institute joined our organization, with a hope to continue spreading SSAM principles throughout the world.
Since its inception, SRA has worked hard to help the rural small landholder to attain nutritional and economic independence. Though the original SSAM has been adapted to accommodate a variety of situations where the full model cannot be implemented, the goal of self-reliance is still the basis of everything we do. Our long-term goal is to spread knowledge of small-scale agriculture principles to many more families throughout the world by sharing our program knowledge and experience with educators and philanthropists who share our passion for finding a lasting solution to hunger and poverty.

Founders, Board, Executive Leadership, and Staff

SRA’s founders, executive team, board of directors, advisory committees, and U.S. staff have included highly respected heads of corporations, top executives from numerous organizations, widely respected agriculture experts, published university professors, and international experts in animal science, meat science, agronomy, microbiology, soil science, nutrition, and animal reproduction. Our team has also benefitted from the participation of experienced professionals in international government, microfranchising, community development, accounting, business, law, linguistics, administration, and technology, all who work hard to help to keep the program running. Many of our team members volunteer their time, with a hope to help make the world a better place.
SRA’s international staff includes educated professionals who are native to the developing countries where they work and live. Our extraordinary in-country leaders have advanced credentials including master’s degrees and bachelor's degrees, and our in-country staff members include highly skilled, professionally trained technicians. We also employ highly motivated indigenous individuals who form an important link to the community, offering insight and understanding between our organization and participating villages. These qualifications provide our organization with respect and credibility with government agencies and universities in the countries where we work.

Partnerships with Experienced Organizations

Throughout our history, SRA has thrived by partnering with like-minded private, educational, and government organizations to help expand the reach of the successful SSAM. By cooperating and collaborating with our partners and volunteers, we have had access to a large breadth of knowledge and experience with poverty problems and solutions all over the world.
This textbook is the evidence of our emphasis on collaboration. The authors and contributors of this volume have a wide variety of education and knowledge, as well as decades of combined experience understanding and solving agricultural programs in many countries all over the world. By working together with the combined expertise of many such people, this textbook provides a knowledgeable overview to educators and philanthropists. Rather than starting from scratch, those who learn to use the tools and techniques taught in this textbook will be able to more quickly and successfully make a lasting impact on world hunger.
In 2015, a merger was initiated between Feed The World SRA and CHOICE Humanitarian, to bring together the success of our SSAM-based program and their community and leadership development model. As the merger is formalized, The Institute for Self-Reliant Agriculture (now known as ISRA) is transitioning to be an independent research arm under the umbrella of CHOICE programs. Through this new symbiotic partnership, the SRA model training will be expanded to a total of seven countries: Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, and Peru.
The Institute for Self-Reliant Agriculture is excited to continue researching and applying the sustainable principles of the Small-Scale Agriculture Model as we partner with educators, researchers, volunteers, and philanthropic organizations throughout the world. For more information on our programs and materials, or to volunteer time or means, please visit us online at www.feedtheworld.org or contact Lonny and Erika Ward through our personal blog dedicated to our humanitarian work at www.ethiopiancowboy.com.