Our Members In Action
We are proud of our member agencies and the work they do around the world. Here are some inspiring success stories.
The Agrobiodiversity Project – Humla Nepal (USC Canada)
One of the most remote districts of Nepal, Humla faces many challenges including chronic food insecurity, mass illiteracy, poor health & sanitation conditions, soil erosion, environmental degradation, lack of access to capital, and few options for formal employment. Humla is divided into three distinct geographical zones: 1) Mountain and upper hill, 2) Lower hill area and 3) River belt. The altitude ranges from 1524 to 7337 m above sea level and has average high temperatures of between 10 to 21 degree Celsius and lows of between -10 from -18 degree Celsius.
USC Canada’s Seeds of Survival work in Humla is carried out in partnership with the Manitoba Government Matching Grant Program (MGMGP). Together USC and MCIC (through the MGMGP) are supporting SHIP, the Self-Help Initiatives Program, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the capacity of poor farming communities in the region. Recently, a USC supporter, visited Humla, and shared with us, many remarkable, first hand stories. Here is a short one about one of the staff of SHIP.
“Santosh Kumar Jirel, SHIP’s Agricultural Officer, is a very committed person and passionate about his work with farmers. He has established a small demonstration vegetable garden next to the SHIP office and is growing a wide variety of greens and vegetables – broad leafed mustard, cress, coriander, onions, sunflower, buckwheat, tomatoes, cabbages, cauliflowers, etc. – on a small patch of raised beds. He was telling me of the experiments that he was doing in broadcasting a mixture of all the seeds and thinning out the greens as they were required in the kitchen. The dense planting does not allow weeds to grow and the daily thinning encourages plants to expand into the created space. As the season progresses he will also plant pumpkins, carrots, radishes and brinjal! So much diversity for such a small area! Inspired by the success of Santosh’s small kitchen garden, the landlady has also made raised beds which she planted with greens, cabbages and cauliflower. The raised beds have been made in the apple and peach orchard, and the dappled shade that they cast seems to make the cole crops (cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts) grow well. The landlady sells her surplus produce in the market.
I also got to see some organic mixtures for plant growth promotion and pest control they have developed that use locally available herbs. They are now sharing this technology with the rural communities in the new areas into which SHIP is expanding.”
MEDA Software Goes Bananas
If you buy a bunch of Fair Trade or organic bananas you may get a product with a hidden stamp from Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA).
MEDA has been helping cooperatives in Peru to streamline their certification procedures to maintain the rigorous requirements of Fair Trade and organic distributors and thus gain a premium price. One of the cooperatives, called APPBOSA, comprises 300 banana farmers, each with about an acre of land. It used to sell its bananas to a multinational fruit corporation, but decided to try a different route when the company couldn’t use all of its Fair Trade production. Now it sells directly to Fair Trade buyers in Europe and the United States, and receives an additional premium of $1 per box. This year’s dividend brought APPBOSA more than $600,000. Members of the cooperative decided to use the money to upgrade equipment, such as a conveyor system of cords and hooks that travels through the trees and reaches into all the small farms to bring the bananas back to the central packing shed. Some of the dividend also went for road improvements and a health insurance system for the farmers and their families.
MEDA’s role was to install its Agromonitor software, a tracking system to manage production and organic certification, and to train staff of the coop. The system greatly simplifies the complex process of documenting the various logistical steps required to maintain certification standards required by the Fair Trade and organic industry.
In the past, says Jerry Quigley, director of MEDA’s Production-Marketing Linkages department, an auditor would visit the coop on a regular basis and spend a week analyzing mounds of paper documents. “This program tries to get them into an easy-to-approve database,” he says.
Literacy in Ghana
The Osu Children’s Library Fund has helped to create more than 200 libraries throughout Ghana. These facilities provide children and adults (who have never been to school) an opportunity to improve their literacy skills and to experience the joy of reading.
Thanks to a grant from MCIC, OCLF published three photo-illustrated children’s books highlighting Ghana’s natural resources: Otu Goes to Sea, Amoako and the Forest, and David’s Day at the Mine. Ghanaians from each community took active roles in the production of these books. Two of the three were printed in Ghana, therefore supporting the local book industry. So far the reviews from library members have been most positive. Evans, a student from a school that OCLF supports in Ho, wrote, “I’m very happy about the books you have been writing for us…. the books you are writing are very nice, simple and give us a lot of advice.”
Photo: Noreen Mian, a volunteer with OCLF from Winnipeg, wrote Otu Goes to Sea in 2007 following her placement at the Goi Library, Ghana.
In the East-African country of Tanzania, malaria-carrying mosquitoes pose a serious health risk – especially to pregnant women and young children. The best defense is the use of insecticide-treated bed nets. Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) have developed an integrated program for the manufacturing and widespread distribution and sale of these nets. Pregnant women receive subsidized vouchers from hospitals and clinics to purchase bed nets at a low cost.
The impact has been immense. It is estimated that six lives are saved for every 1,000 nets sold – that’s over 27,000 lives saved since 2004! In addition, bed nets prevent serious illness that would normally mean lost wages and costly treatments for family members.
Pride in Community Health
Haiti is one of the most impoverished countries in the world. In the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, MCIC funds have helped support International Child Care’s work with Grace Children’s Hospital. Founded in 1967 to treat children with tuberculosis (TB), the hospital has become a modern centre for healthcare in the country. Today, thousands of children are treated for various illnesses in the hospital. Children and adults are cared for and counseled at the outpatients clinics and receive treatment at the state-of-the-art eye clinic.
Grace Children’s Hospital is now staffed entirely by Haitians and reaches beyond its walls through offering vaccinations, prenatal care, and other basic health services to the community, delivered by specially-trained community health workers and volunteers. A school gives the long-term patients a chance to continue their education or, in many cases, receive their first exposure to formal education.