Saturday, July 26, 2014

Children's Brighter Future Initiative in Malawi AMAZING!

I am amazed at what is happening with Children's Brighter Future Initiative (CBFI) in Malawi. Even though I have seen it unfolding, I still have a hard time comprehending the incredible results that they are achieving. This post will hit a few of the highlights of the program and may be one of several posts detailing this program.

A little over a year ago, the CBFI staff met with a small group of Agriculture Extension Development Officers (AEDOs) to explain their program and teach them the basic principles that they would teach the farmers in the rural villages. This group met at the School of Agriculture for Family Independence (SAFI) near Madisi, Malawi. For a week the SAFI staff and the CBFI staff trained the AEDOs on basic nutrition and sequential gardens. The training went very well and the AEDOs left with enthusiasm for this new program for teaching and inspiring the farm families in their districts.
Alan Silva doing additional training with CBFI and SAFI staff
The plan was very simple, each AEDO would select four lead farmers in their district to train. These lead farmers would then select ten follower farmers that they would teach and mentor. The incentive to this program was that CBFI would provide vegetable seeds to these farmers. The key to the program was that the seeds would only be provided after the farmer families had constructed raised beds with a mixture of mulch, manure, and soil. In addition, these families were expected to pay back with seeds or produce from their harvest and to teach their neighbors what they were learning. In other words, work first and the reward will come later. Most of the farm families approached were excited about the program, but a few of them declined to join the program, citing that other NGOs (non government organizations or charitable organizations) gave to them without requiring work on their part. Requiring work first was a core principle of this program.

A few months after the training took place, I had the extreme pleasure of visiting several of these families. I was amazed at their gardens. The farmers were so excited to show off what THEY had accomplished. Their families were now eating vegetables on a regular basis, they had surplus to sell, school fees were able to be paid for their children and they were anxious to learn module two.
This family enjoys a bouteous harvest from thier garden

What affect does this have on these farm families? Before the program their families consumed very few vegetables. They didn't understand the importance of eating them and they didn't have money to buy them. The AEDOs estimated that the few vegetables that they did buy would cost the families at least 100 kwacha /per week. A daily laborer can earn about 300 kwacha/day when work is available. Malnutrition and sickness were ubiquitous in these families.
Husbands and wives are taught the basic CBFI program

The AEDOs reported that the value of vegetables consumed and sold by these families is 200 kwacha/day. This changes the families financial position on vegetables from paying 100 kwacha/week to receiving 200 kwacha/day. This is a difference of 1500 kwacha/week or 78,000 kwacha/year! The health of their children has improved dramatically having a ripple effect on the community, local clinics, and government medical programs. The community has benefited by having more vegetables available for purchase and consumption. Neighbors are learning how to raise vegetables and receive seeds from the target families. The far reaching effects of this program are impossible to measure, but are extremely significant.

Maybe the most important harvest of this program has been the boost in self confidence that these families have developed. They now see themselves as agents to lift themselves out of poverty. They have also developed a trust in the AEDOs and CBFI that has allowed further miracles to happen with modules two and three. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tsuma Continues to Amaze Me

You may remember Tsuma, my friend from Gona that gave me a chicken in appreciation of me working with him. He has been extra busy the last couple of months and is the best entrepreneur in the area.
Tsuma with three of his now 32 beehives
The honey business has done so well that he has increased his number of hives to 32. Some of them are the yellow boxes that you see and some of them are hollow logs with caps put in the end. He lost one of his hives to a colony of ants that built a cancerous looking nest on the bottom. I guess in the world of insects, ants win over bees.
Ants came in and built their nest on the bottom of this beehive.
Tsuma has led his group to amazing success. They have been very busy in their vegetable gardens and fields and have a great crop of kale, tomatoes, spinach, okra, and several other vegetables. Their corn is looking much better than any around the area.
Eddison, Rabecca and I are helping Tsuma harvet his kale
They have also learned from Rabecca that they can dry their kale and store it for later. They have plenty of vegetables for their own families. They have been able to sell large quantities and use the money for improving their community garden, paying school fees for their children, and setting up a group bank account. They also discovered that if they dry their kale and save it for a couple of months when the dry season comes, they can sell it for twice the price.

Tsuma's next big project is to learn how to do drip irrigation so that they can be even more efficient with their water. They have also started growing fruit trees to add to their food supply.

With the teaching, coaching and encouragement of Feed The World and Tsuma's leadership, this village is hurling itself out of poverty and dependence. They are setting a great example for their neighboring villages and making a new life for their children.

Congratulations to Tsuma and the Gona Village Group!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Julius, A life changed by Feed The World

Julius heard about the Feed The World program and wanted to be part of it. He organized over twenty of his neighboring families into a group that we could teach. He was ready for us and has done an incredible job.
Julius had realized the importance of water and dug a large pit about 12 feet deep and 14 feet in diameter to capture water for his farm. Several years after this, another NGO, AgraKan, was impressed with his ambition and helped him dig a much larger surface dam. This preparation made it much easier for him to take advantage of our program.
Julius, Eddison, and two of the group members at the surface dam
As the Feed The World staff taught him our basic principles he implemented them with vigor. He has been in the program less than a year and has already enjoyed great success. When we visited his farm we found Okra plants over six feet tall, tomatoes, eggplant, kale, spinach, and many others. An average day laborer in Kenya can earn about 350 Kenyan Shillings ($4.00) per day. Julius is now harvesting and selling about 1,000 Kenyan Shillings ($11.75) worth of tomatoes per day. This is after his family has eaten all that they want to eat.
Julius is proudly showing off his tomatoes
Last month volunteers from Thriving Nations, the charitable arm of Thrive Life, helped Julius plant maize (corn) according to our specifications. Based on what we are seeing right now after only a month he should have three or four times as much maize as he has had before. He was very excited that the Thrive team had come and helped him till the land and plant the maize.
The maize is growing well. Julius's home is in the background
The proceeds from his garden will make it so that he can easily pay the school fees for his children and medical bills that come up. Those two expenses are the ones that I most often hear talked about. Parents hate to have their children kicked out of school because they can't pay the required fees. No parent wants to be in the situation that they have a sick child and don't have the money to pay for the medicine to treat them. With malaria and several other of the illnesses in rural Kenya, the medicine could mean the difference between life and death.
The smile on Julius's face is in part a smile of stress relief because now he has a way of getting the money that he needs for these critical issues. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Church in Africa

How do I worship when I am in Africa? The answer is in some ways the same as I do at home and in some ways it is very different.

Last week I landed in Bamako, Mali late Friday night. Since Mali is almost entirely Muslim and their holy day is Friday, I missed the national day of worship. Sunday is just like any other day in Mali, so I had kind of a half work day and half, worship on my own day. I studied the scriptures and prayed.

A wonderful young family arriving at church in the Changamwe Branch
Today I attended the Changamwe branch in Mombasa, Kenya. Since I have been there before, I was welcomed with open arms and bright smiles. We had a wonderful worship service where many including myself shared our beliefs in, and testimonies of, Jesus Christ.

The congergation was much smaller than the one that I meet with in Genola but they were full of faith and anxious to share their happiness with others. The children sang with gusto from the primary room.

In a couple of weeks I will be in Lilongwe, Malawi and I will have a similar experience. The meetings are held in English but there is a good portion of the native language mixed in and in Malawi a translator is usually used so that all can participate and understand each other. The Lord's spirit is there no matter where you are encouraging you to do better.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What My Parents Taught Me that Every Child in the Developing World Needs to Know

What I have learned from

Welton and Trudy Ward

Today as I drove to the airport with Anounou, I told him about lessons that I have learned from my parents. He was very excited with several of the concepts and shook my hand a couple of times to show his gratitude for me sharing them with him. At one point he held out his arm and showed me the goose bumps that were on his arm, because he was so excited with the concepts that I was sharing with him.
We were talking about development and I asked him why the United States was so successful while Mali was so poor. He answered human capital. Then he went on to explain that many people in Mali did not work hard to improve their circumstances. I agreed. His comments were similar to the comments my Ethiopian friend had shared with me. He said that they life was too easy so they did not have to work and consequently were mired in poverty.
This lead to a discussion of lessons that I have learned from my parents. By US standards, we were a poor family. (Compared to the developing world we were very well off). We always had plenty of nutritious food to eat but we seldom had fancy food. Often our clothes were purchased at second hand stores or were given to us by friends and family.  Getting a new pair of jeans for school from the Sears catalog was an exciting experience. We had sufficient for or needs and some wants as well.
My parents worked hard to teach us and provide for us. My mother taught piano lessons all the time I remember. Almost all of the money went for family needs. I don’t remember my mom ever buying something extra just for her. Her guilty pleasure was to mix chocolate, butter, sugar, peanut butter and a few other ingredients into a tasty treat. My father worked hard on the farm and sold many different items to add to the family income. He often bought treats to snack on as he worked the fields but was very frugal with his money. He loved to relax by reading a Louis Lamour western or some other novel. Both of my parents read a lot and instilled in us a love of reading. They also shared their philosophies with us and welcomed discussion.
One of the key lessons that my parents taught me was that there was “no free lunch”. Someone had to pay for services and the government did not generate money, it consumed it. At school we could have very easily qualified for the free lunch program but my parents said no that we could pay for it ourselves or we could take a lunch to school. They explained that the lunch had to be paid for by someone. If it was not us then it came from someone else. Some would say “the government pays for it”. They would say the government does not generate money it takes it from our neighbors. If we get the free lunch we are telling our neighbors that they have to pay for it and we are using the government to extort that money from them. That may seem like a harsh statement but it is true. If I am not comfortable asking my neighbor for help I should not feel comfortable taking it from the government when I can provide fpr myself.
Farm subsidies were available to the farmers as I was growing up. I often heard my friends talk about how their fathers used their subsidy check to buy new equipment, a new truck, take the family on vacation, or some other desirable purchase. When I asked my father about the subsidy program he explained that he was farming the land not the government. He said that the money that the government had come from the citizens, us and our neighbors. Taking the subsidies was like taking money from our neighbors. He said that he felt that he should provide for himself and for his family and not expect others to do what he could do himself. He taught us that if we worked hard we could accomplish anything that we wanted to do. If we depended on others for our success then we would always be limited to what we could get from them.
My parents taught us to work for what we got and to appreciate what we had. This work ethic is not unique to our family but I find it lacking in many of the areas that I work and I fear that it is rapidly slipping away in the United States. While the developing world is trying to beg its way out of poverty, The United States citizens are ignorantly racing toward the main cause of poverty. I was taught that I should always give more than I should take. More and more people are grabbing for anything they can get. Consuming while not producing and complaining when they can’t get everything that they want.
My parents worked hard to provide a good stable environment for our family and incubator for learning.  Their focus was to help us to become productive citizens in society. They were both involved with politics, my father more so than my mother. They had us help out in political campaigns and learn political philosophies so that we could add value to the communities where we lived.
My parents were very active in church. They taught us the gospel of Jesus Christ by lesson and by example. We always attended our meetings and my parents always served in various capacities. They were less concerned with where they served and more concerned with how they served. They expected us to do the same.
Even though my parents did not acquire a lot of wealth, the appreciation of their farm made their net worth fairly high. Their desire to have a cohesive family and a place where the family could gather lead them to work out a deal with my brother so that he could get the farm at a very low price on terms that he could live with. So the wealth that they had acquired was in essence given away so that the family farm could stay in the family. They could have had a nice comfortable retirement with the “niceties” of life. Instead they chose to serve as tour guides in Nauvoo and live a Spartan life. If success were measured by how much value you added to society compared to how much you took from society, they would be some of the most successful people in the world.

It is often said that you don’t know what you have until you lose it. In my case I didn’t realize what I had until I worked among people that did not have the same teachings that I received. I can see how critical it was to my success when I compare my life to those that have never been taught such fundamental principles for success.

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