LWR’s Blog http://blog.lwr.org Sustainable development. Lasting promise. Mon, 18 May 2015 15:29:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Why is “Resilient” Coffee Relevant? http://blog.lwr.org/2015/05/resilient-coffee/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/05/resilient-coffee/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 11:00:25 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5927

LWR has a long history of development programming aimed at building the resilience of vulnerable communities affected by multiple shocks and stressors, such as natural disasters, conflict, and climate change and variability. This blog series, Reflections on Resilience, will examine emerging issues, innovative approaches and new resources in resilience work. It seeks to stimulate learning, reflection and dialogue among development practitioners, researchers and decision-makers interested in the linkages between resilience and development practice. Read part one here.

Coffee is a product that draws people together. It is deeply embedded in the socio-economic and cultural fabric of more than 60 tropical coffee-producing countries1, and is equally significant to coffee drinkers around the world.

From the remote mountain slopes of Nicaragua, Indonesia or Uganda, among many others, coffee farmers constitute the core of a complex value chain that consumers are often unaware of.

That unawareness is slowly starting to change. Increasing climate-related events are shedding new light on the pressures faced by coffee farmers — particularly small-scale farmers — and on their ability to sustain their livelihoods. Rising temperatures, reduced growth, decreased flowering and fruiting due to erratic rainfall patterns, coffee pests and diseases, are among the challenges faced by producers globally2.

In the face of these challenges, the coffee sector must rethink its ability to withstand short-term shocks, and also transform and prepare itself for long-term change. The notion of ‘resilience’ is more relevant than ever before.

Recent discussions held by a panel of experts3 convened by LWR at the SCAA event held in Seattle this past April provided valuable insights in this regard.

  • Focus not only on surviving, but thriving. That is, the ability of coffee farmers not only to survive the effects of climatic shocks, but to thrive amid long-term change. Examples include strengthening the capacity of producers to identify new market opportunities, and make informed decisions about projected climatic impacts, such as the effects of temperature increase in lower altitudes.
  • Design projects from an all-encompassing supply-chain perspective. Examples include project designs that consider the needs and priorities of farmers, laborers and farmer cooperatives, as well as the role of suppliers, brokers, trade associations, companies/retailers, investors and government stakeholders.
  • Foster knowledge and information sharing by stakeholders at multiple levels. This should include stakeholders at the local, regional and national levels. Examples include the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to facilitate the access and use of technical information at the local level, fostering the linkages between farmers, agricultural extension workers and researchers.
  • Improve equality and inclusion in the coffee supply chain. Examples include activities aimed at ensuring the empowerment of women in coffee production by strengthening their technical skills, their access to credit and information, as well as the creation of opportunities for young people to get engaged in farm activities, slowing down the migration to urban centers.
  • Adopt a socio-ecological perspective to address climate-related challenges, emphasizing the linkages that exist between natural resource management and the sustainability of coffee livelihoods. Examples include initiatives that strengthen the capacity of communities to protect and maintain local resources that are vital for coffee production, such as water sources.

Strengthening individual and institutional capacities, fostering multi-stakeholder knowledge sharing, adopting a system-wide perspective, and ensuring inclusion, are all integral to the achievement of agricultural livelihoods’ resilience.

For the coffee sector, the achievement of more resilient livelihoods is closely linked to the adoption of long-term development goals. As Rick Peyser, LWR’s Senior Relationship Manager, Coffee & Cocoa, stated:

Public- and Private-sector investments in supply chain resilience need to move beyond short-term enhancements in productivity to strengthening supply chains at their foundations (i.e. access to clean water, nutritious food, education, medical care, and much more).

As the impacts of climate change and variability continue to exacerbate, it is vital for the coffee sector to propose and prepare instead of simply react, to innovate and experiment instead of duplicate, to measure and learn instead of repeating past mistakes.

It is vital to translate the increasing risks (climate and non-climate related) into actionable investment opportunities that contribute to strengthening the resilience of those that need it most: the small farmers of the world; the heart of each coffee cup.

Notes:

  1. Ovalle-Rivera O., Läderach, P., Bunn, C., Obersteiner M., Schroth, G. (2015) ‘Projected Shifts in Coffee Arabica Sustainability Among Major Global Producing Regions Due to Climate Change’ PLoS ONE 10(4): e0124155. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0124155.
  2. Ramirez et. al. (2012) ‘A Way Forward on Adaptation to Climate Change in Colombian Agriculture: Perspectives Towards 2050′, Climatic Change, 115:611-628.
  3. The event on Resilience Coffee Livelihoods was convened by LWR on April 9th, 2015 in Seattle, U.S. The panel of experts was composed by representatives of Root Capital, CIAT, Green Mountain, COSA and LWR.
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Nepal Earthquake: “The Lutherans are there!” http://blog.lwr.org/2015/05/nepal-earthquake-the-lutherans-are-there/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/05/nepal-earthquake-the-lutherans-are-there/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 14:56:57 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5934

One of the best  parts of my job as staff writer at Lutheran World Relief is to sharing our work on Facebook, because I get to share with you the great work you make happen around the world.

I noticed that when we posted information about our response to the April 25 earthquake in Nepal,  many of you shared those messages with your family and friends and said, “the Lutherans are there!”

LWR and partners work to coordinate a food distribution to people in the remote village of Jaubari – Dhansar.

LWR and partners work to coordinate a food distribution to people in the remote village of Jaubari – Dhansar.

In the aftermath of the initial quake, as well as the second powerful earthquake on May 12, the Lutherans are there, indeed. With the support of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, our staff on the ground are reaching out to people in some of the most remote areas of Nepal, distributing food rations, shelter supplies and other essential items.

Staff from LWR and local partner, COPPADES, distribute relief supplies in Ghorka District, after the 2015 Nepal Earthquake. (Photo Credit: COPPADES for LWR)

Staff from LWR and local partner, COPPADES, distribute relief supplies in Ghorka District, after the 2015 Nepal Earthquake. (Photo Credit: COPPADES for LWR)

We give thanks for the enduring partnership of both church bodies. Your suppport expands our efforts to reach more people affected by this disaster. Thank you for once again helping to ensure that, “the Lutherans are there!”

Please support our response to this disaster, and please join our continuing prayer:

God of mercy and justice, in the presence of sustained devastation your promises are lasting. We continue to lift up our voices for our sisters and brothers in Nepal as the ground beneath them shifts. Remain with those who work to bring relief. Sustain those who have lost much and those who mourn. Abide with those whose days are uncertain. Fill us with your Holy Spirit as we endeavor to support the work being done in Nepal. All of this we do because of the grace first shown us by your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

 

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Meet Krishna, Nepal Earthquake Survivor http://blog.lwr.org/2015/05/meet-krishna-nepal-earthquake-survivor/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/05/meet-krishna-nepal-earthquake-survivor/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 14:17:00 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5909

This post was written by Umer Khan, LWR’s Senior Director for Emergency Operations, just days before a second 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck parts of Nepal. LWR staff on the ground report they are safe and continue to work to reach out to people affected by the April 25 earthquake. If you’d like to learn more about our response or make a gift, please visit lwr.org/nepalearthquake

Overlooking breathtaking scenery from 4,700 feet, it’s as if a green carpet of rice and maize fields has been laid out for a picture-perfect movie scene. Breathing in the mild cold breeze of the Himalayas, I can see the cloud-touching peak of Mount Everest, standing tall with its pride and refusing to show any signs of what its natives have just gone through.

Yet there I found myself, turning back to the line of men and women waiting for the food and shelter items to be distributed by LWR. That’s where I met Krishna Kumari Dhakal.

A Remote Area

Krishna has lived in the village of Jaubari Dhansar her entire life. Located in the remote Gorkha District of Nepal, it is among the hardest hit by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal April 25.

LWR staff and staff from local partner organization, COPPADES, distribute relief supplies in Ghorka District, after the 2015 Nepal Earthquake. (Photo credit: COPPADES for LWR)

LWR staff and staff from local partner organization, COPPADES, distribute relief supplies in Ghorka District, after the 2015 Nepal Earthquake. (Photo credit: COPPADES for LWR)

In fact, the village is so remote that LWR team had to switch from our regular four-wheel drive SUV to a customized Jeep designed to navigate the rough terrain. It took us more than two hours to drive less than 20 miles, with no sight of paved road for most of the trip.  It takes the villagers more than four hours and costs $2 in bus rides to get to the nearest town.

“It feels like the earth is shaking all the time.”

Krishna says she feels lucky that her family – including her husband, two sons and pregnant daughter-in-law – weren’t harmed in the quake. It struck during a time when many people in the village are usually outside sitting or working.

While Krishna is thankful to have survived the earthquake, she says she’s lost all her belongings. Her family’s food supply is buried under the rubble and she says it will take them years to rebuild their house on the roughly $8-10 per day income her husband and sons bring home from working in the nearby town. As for herself, Krishna says she’s traumatized. “It feels like the earth is shaking all the time,” she says.

Relief and Recovery

Krishna said she’s had to borrow food from those who had some left. The food packages LWR distributed that day are designed to last 15 days for a family of five, but she hopes it will last longer. The family also received a 12- by 15-foot tarp to cover the roof of their house.  This will help protect Krishna and her family from the rains, which will intensify during the upcoming monsoon season, which runs from June through September.

A building in the Ghorka District of Nepal that was damaged during the April 25 earthquake.

A home in the Ghorka District of Nepal that was damaged during the April 25 earthquake.

While these items provide temporary relief to Krishna and 3,600 families like hers, LWR’s programs will work to help these families with longer-term recovery. Our project will provide longer-term food assistance, as well as help families rebuild their homes and livelihoods in order to fight poverty, one of the underlying causes of people’s vulnerability to disaster.

The work we are doing and the challenges we’ve faced remind me of what my elders would say “There is a path to the top of even the highest mountain.”

You Can Help

LWR is working on the ground to reach people affected by this on-going disaster. Here are a few ways you can help.

  • Pray for the people of Nepal and those who work to reach them.
  • Give a gift to support our response. We are working to reach remote areas with food rations, shelter supplies and more.
  • Make LWR Quilts and Kits. LWR Quilts and Kits are needed and highly valued in emergency situations. Your donations help us continue providing them.
  • Share our response with others, especially on Facebook and Twitter. To share, you can simply copy the web address for this post and paste it into a status update.
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Second Earthquake Hits Nepal: Notes from LWR Staff http://blog.lwr.org/2015/05/second-earthquake-hits-nepal/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/05/second-earthquake-hits-nepal/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 14:17:54 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5911

A second, 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal this morning, less than three weeks after the first, 7.8 magnitude quake. Reuters reports that at least 37 people have been killed and panic is spreading. Lutheran World Relief staff are all safe and are continuing to assess the situation.

Nicole Hark, LWR’s Deputy Regional Director for Asia & the Middle East, emailed us this morning from Kathmandu, saying:

It’s been a little over an hour since we felt the second earthquake, now graded a 7.3 by USGS.  I was already walking down the stairs from the hotel meeting room where LWR Nepal staff have been working from since our office was damaged in the first quake.  At first I just thought my own balance was off, but the shout of my name from my colleague upstairs spurred me into a quicker pace down the stairs and out the door, into the hotel courtyard.  Hotel staff and other guests were also scrambling to the courtyard, with a few people calling out to others in other parts of the building.

In the interior of the courtyard is a copper basin filled with water, palm fronds and some flowers.  The whole basin shook and water splashed out onto the tile below, while the birds above cawed out their displeasure at being disrupted by the shaking branches.  We were fortunate that in this area, everything remained stable and everyone is safe.  But looking out over the terrace we could see plumes of dust rising from other parts of the city – the visual evidence of what is presumed to be more buildings collapsing.

It took what felt like forever to get a hold of our colleagues in the rural areas, who had similar reactions to our own and are also, thankfully, safe.  We’ve had two additional aftershocks since then, each time with a rush of folks into the open air, waiting for it to pass, and then slowly getting back to our work.  We’ve set up shop in the hotel courtyard with our laptops and phones, and I’ll continue to keep you posted.

How Can I Help?

Give to the Nepal Earthquake Fund. Your gift will be used to respond to the devastation in Nepal.

Donate Now

Please pray for those affected by the earthquake in Nepal and for all who are working to respond to the disaster.

Make Quilts and Kits. Donating Quilts and Kits helps ensure we have an adequate supply to send around the world to partners who request them, as well as in response to emergencies. The 9,000 Mission Quilts and 1,000 Kits we already sent to Nepal are getting depleted incredibly fast. We need more!

Spread the Word. Other people are more likely to give to an organization that’s been recommended to them by a friend. If you believe in LWR’s work in Nepal, please share this message with others on Facebook, Twitter, or other social networks.

 
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5 Things You May Not Know About Coffee (INFOGRAPHIC) http://blog.lwr.org/2015/05/5-things-you-may-not-know-about-coffee/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/05/5-things-you-may-not-know-about-coffee/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 11:00:38 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5889

(Reading this via email? View the entire graphic here.)

An estimated 54 percent of Americans over the age of 18 consume coffee on a daily basis. We are so passionate about it we’ve even fashioned a whole dialect around ordering it from coffeehouses.

1. The United States is not the largest importer of coffee

While coffee is the largest food import in the U.S.—and second most valuable commodity behind oil—we aren’t the largest coffee importer. The European Union imports almost twice as much coffee as the U.S.

Both are projected to see an increase in coffee imports in 2015, with estimates that the EU will import 46 million bags and the U.S. 25 million.

2. Coffee is highly profitable… just not for most coffee farmers

Coffee is an $18 billion industry in the U.S. along. However, most smallholder coffee farmers only see an estimated 10 percent of the final retail cost of their coffee.

That’s why LWR works with coffee farmers and their cooperatives to get involved in more steps of the “agriculture value chain” — all the steps of making coffee from crop to cup. The more steps in the agriculture value chain that coffee producers are involved in, the more they can make from their crops.

3. Coffee begins as a cherry, NOT A BEAN!

Actually, to be fair, it begins as a flower, which eventually leaves behind dark green coffee cherries. As the cherries ripen they turn from green to yellow and, eventually — at full ripeness — a rich red. After picking and drying the coffee cherries, the outer layers are removed (a process called pulping), freeing the coffee beans inside.

Good quality coffee starts with good quality coffee trees. A coffee tree can take several years to yield cherries. LWR helps smallholder coffee farmers plant new trees, grow other crops for alternative income and to provide necessary coffee tree shade, and to process their coffee to yield good quality, valuable coffee beans.

4. Many coffee farmers drink a lesser quality of coffee than they grow.

In many coffee growing regions, coffee farmers sell their high quality beans and make do on lesser quality — often instant, freeze-dried — coffee for their own consumption.

5. Healthy farming communities = MORE and BETTER coffee

Healthy farming communities are productive farming communities. With the right tools and knowledge, smallholder farmers can produce good yields of quality coffee, keeping their families healthy and your cup filled. Win-win!

You can support healthy coffee farming communities!

Buy Fair Trade
LWR Fair Trade offers delicious coffee that supports coffee growing communities and sustainable development work to help them. Learn more.

Fund a coffee farmer
Through KindSight, you can directly fund the APOKO coffee project in Uganda. Learn more.

Support solutions from the “Ground Up.”
LWR’s initiative works across three regions (Africa, Asia & the Middle East, and Latin America) to strengthen coffee and cocoa livelihoods to fight poverty. Learn more.

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Why “42” is Good News in the Fight Against Ebola http://blog.lwr.org/2015/05/why-is-good-news-in-the-fight-against-ebola/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/05/why-is-good-news-in-the-fight-against-ebola/#comments Sat, 09 May 2015 11:00:39 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5879

Liberia was one of the countries hard-hit by the most recent outbreak of the Ebola virus, which the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Africa regional office first reported in March 2014. [Source]

Since then, more than 10,000 cases of Ebola have been investigated in the country and there have been more than 4,600 deaths [Source]. With your support, Lutheran World Relief worked with partners at IMA World Health to respond to this crisis by providing critical education and awareness, as well as personal protective equipment to healthcare workers in Liberia.

A healthworker helps clean off another worker in a hazardous materials suit in West Africa

Photo credit: ©EC/ECHO/Jean-Louis Mosser, on Flickr.com, CC-BY-ND

May 9 marks an important milestone in the fight against the outbreak in Liberia. On this day, the country will have gone 42 days without a known Ebola transmission. Why is that significant?

21-Day Incubation Period

Any infectious disease has what is called an “incubation period” – or the period of time between exposure to an infections disease or virus and when symptoms first appear. The WHO notes the incubation period for Ebola as 21 days [Source]. When two incubation periods have passed without known infection, the WHO will declare Liberia “free of Ebola transmission.”

This map, provided buy the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the number of days since the last reported case of Ebola in the countries in West Africa affected by the most recent outbreak.

This map, provided buy the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the number of days since the last reported case of Ebola in the countries in West Africa affected by the most recent outbreak.

Thank you for support of Lutheran World Relief that allowed us to respond quickly to support our partners on the ground fighting the Ebola virus. Supporting our partners on the ground in educating communities and providing protective equipment are two very real ways you are helping to stop Ebola.

Please join us in continuing to pray for people in all the countries affected by this outbreak.

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Gayle Smith: A Great Choice for USAID Administrator http://blog.lwr.org/2015/05/gayle-smith/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/05/gayle-smith/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 14:30:40 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5872

I could not be more happy with President Obama’s nomination of Gayle Smith to be the next Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Not only is she a consummate leader in the international development world, well-respected by both Democrats and Republicans, she also has ties to Lutheran World Relief!

Gayle worked with LWR during the Ethiopian famine in 1984-85, as part of a consortium called the Emergency Relief Desk, which provided relief, including food aid cross-border, to people in rebel-held areas.  For this work, LWR won The Presidential End Hunger Award, signed by President Reagan in 1986.

“This was during the time when LWR was headed by Norman Barth,” Gayle recalled recently,
“who stepped up at a time when there was dire need but responding to the famine meant dealing also with two wars.”

Gayle went on to achieve great heights in her career, both as a journalist and as a leader in the humanitarian sector, all the way to her current post as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director at the National Security Council. LWR has joined a coalition of humanitarian agencies calling for her swift confirmation as USAID Administrator.

From the letter to members of Congress:

“Given the ongoing humanitarian crises in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, and South Sudan, as well as the recent crises in Nepal and Yemen, it is critically important that the U.S. Senate take quick action to confirm Ms. Smith as USAID Administrator. Moreover, a full-time leader with the ability to represent the agency before Congress and OMB, as well as representing the U.S. in international fora, will only strengthen U.S. leadership on global initiatives focused on helping people in the world’s poorest places become independent and reach their full potential.”

USAID is an important partner for Lutheran World Relief, funding critical work in disaster relief and agricultural development. Gayle Smith will do a great job as its next leader.

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Nepal Earthquake: Why We Must Pay Attention to the Rural Poor http://blog.lwr.org/2015/04/nepal-earthquake-why-we-must-pay-attention-to-the-rural-poor/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/04/nepal-earthquake-why-we-must-pay-attention-to-the-rural-poor/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 16:40:10 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5864

It’s easy to focus on urban Kathmandu and prestigious Mt. Everest in the wake of the earthquake that hit Nepal last week. But what about those who live in less visible places? Two researchers at the University of British Columbia wrote a powerful piece in The Globe and Mail about the importance of reaching the rural poor.

Far away from Mt. Everest’s glamorous peak, early reports suggested high casualty figures and tens of thousands left homeless in the central-western districts of Gorkha, Dhading and Lamjung, where the first quake’s epicenter lay…

They continue:

Calls to our research partners in hill and mountain districts across the country revealed that villagers are reeling from injuries, death and the destruction of already precarious livelihoods on a massive scale. One villager told us that although his family and many others were unharmed, his home of mud and stone, like the entire village, was a pile of rubble. For many of the rural poor, a two-story home is a most prized asset. While their plight may not make the international headlines, rural Nepalis across the country will need long-term support to rebuild their lives.

LWR has been working in Lamjung — a rural district northwest of Kathmandu — for years. And with our local partner, COPPADES, we have committed to continue working in Lamjung and are assessing the needs in nearby Gorkha.

These rural areas are harder to reach, but we cannot only focus on the easiest solutions. We need lasting solutions that incorporate local voices.

While LWR’s relief efforts ramp up over the coming weeks and months, we will continue to invest in long-term, sustainable development. We will continue our work in Lamjung to help farmers become more resilient through climate-smart agriculture and natural resource management.

And we’ll continue helping citrus farmers and other small-scale farmers in southcentral Nepal improve their incomes, as well as building resilience to seasonal flooding along the Nepal–India border.

Recovery in Nepal is about more than short-term needs. It’s about more than the highest-profile areas. At LWR, we agree with the authors when they say:

Between the creativity of Nepalis at home, and the resources and global networks that their compatriots abroad can marshal, there is an opportunity to make this a model relief effort. Nonetheless, donors will need to work carefully to ensure that aid is distributed equitably and that the process is owned by Nepalis from all backgrounds who know their own grassroots needs the best.

How can I help?

REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar, courtesy trust.org

Rescue workers search for bodies as a stretcher is kept ready after an earthquake hit, in Kathmandu, Nepal April 25, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar, courtesy trust.org

Give to the Nepal Earthquake Fund. 100% of your gift will be used to support efforts to respond to the devastation from the earthquake in Nepal.

Please pray for those affected by the earthquake in Nepal and for all who are working to respond to the disaster.

Make Quilts and Kits. Donating Quilts and Kits helps ensure we have an adequate supply to send around the world to partners who request them, as well as in response to emergencies.

Spread the word at your congregation. Download resources about the earthquake in Nepal to use in worship, like bulletin inserts, litanies and sermons.

Learn more»

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Malaria Is On Its Way Out – But The Fight Isn’t Finished http://blog.lwr.org/2015/04/malaria-is-on-its-way-out-but-the-fight-isnt-finished/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/04/malaria-is-on-its-way-out-but-the-fight-isnt-finished/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 12:31:12 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5859

When Sochele Banou’s three-year-old son, Aly, got sick, she didn’t know what to do. In her remote village in Mali, there was little access to medical services and she couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t getting better.

“My child cried so loudly,” she said, “We got to the hospital to see the doctor, but it was too late. There was nothing the doctor could do to help him.”

Unfortunately, Sochele’s story is not unique. Throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, too many parents have suffered the devastation of losing a child to a preventable disease. But the picture is changing. As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the President’s Malaria Initiative, and World Malaria Day this Saturday, we’re seeing more access to treatment and smart malaria prevention and education measures making a difference in malaria-affected countries around the world.

What’s unique about the President’s Malaria Initiative is that it began with the notion that while malaria was beatable, it would be an uphill battle. To defeat it, government groups, multilateral agencies, the private sector and NGOs would have to work together.

The Initiative has seen dramatic results. Every one of the President’s Malaria Initiative focus countries experienced a drop in mortality rates for children under five. In some countries, mortality rates have dropped by as much as 55 percent. Malaria is losing ground. Twenty-six countries are close to eliminating malaria. Fifty-five countries have reduced incidence of malaria by 75 percent. The broad coalition working on this effort has taken every opportunity to attack malaria. They’ve coordinated with local leaders, government officials in priority nations, and scientists to determine the best course of action to defeat malaria. The organization for which I work, Lutheran World Relief, has seen great success in our ability to connect with communities of faith. We’ve seen time and time again that when an aid worker tells a mother that her child should sleep under a bed net, that mother might listen. When that same information comes from her pastor or another trusted community leader, the chances of action go up exponentially.

Still with all of this success, the fight isn’t over. We need to continue to address malaria not just as a health issue – but also as an economic one. In endemic countries, malaria accounts for 40 percent of all public health spending and economic growth in those countries is five times lower than in non-endemic countries. By fighting malaria, we are fighting global poverty. It’s a brutal parasite that weighs heavily on communities and finally, we have all the technology we need to end it. We just need .

That is why I am very grateful for the leadership of Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Congressman Greg Meeks (D-NY), Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), who co-chair the House and Senate Malaria and Neglected Tropical Disease Caucuses. Their efforts to highlight the progress we have made against malaria ensure the President’s Malaria Initiative has the support it needs to combat this treatable and preventable disease.

NGOs will continue to do their part to stop malaria, but we have to look broader than simply providing health services. By teaching agriculture skills and supporting sustainable economic development in areas at risk of malaria, we’re supporting lasting change that will lead to more medical access, educational opportunities, and more local actions to address malaria.

We’ve taken massive leaps towards ending malaria. In fact, 26 countries are on track to eliminate the virus entirely. But there’s still more to do. It’ll take all of us – NGOs, local leaders in at-risk countries, and continued funding from Congress – to finally see the last malaria death.

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LWR Travel Diary: Four Places I Found Hope in South Sudan http://blog.lwr.org/2015/04/lwr-travel-diary-four-places-i-found-hope-in-south-sudan/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/04/lwr-travel-diary-four-places-i-found-hope-in-south-sudan/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 18:47:06 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5840

When I arrived to Maban County in Northeastern South Sudan, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Just days before, a fresh round of fighting had broken out. This country, just four years old, has been embroiled in civil war since its inception.

And if that weren’t hard enough, the young country is also home to refugees from neighboring Sudan, which is also engulfed in war. Maban County alone is home to four refugee camps: Yusuf Batil, Kaya, Gendrassa and Doro. Currently more than 130,000 people call these camps home.

My recent visit was to monitor a project funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM). LWR is working with long-time partner Lutheran World Federation (LWF), which manages the camps. The project has three main objectives:

  1. Make sure South Sudanese and Sudanese kids are protected.
  2. Provide quality education to these children and others, along with life and vocational skills.
  3. Reach out to host communities to make sure their needs are met, in order to promote peace.

There are a lot of reasons to be concerned about the situation in South Sudan. But as I saw on my trip, there are also reasons to be hopeful. Here’s are a few inspiring highlights from my trip.

Women learning sewing skills

MabanCollage1

One component of the South Sudan project is vocational training to both refugee and host community members. On the right is a tailoring class where students learn basic sewing skills which they will hopefully turn into a business once they receive their certificate. The patterns you see on the right are what the women use to learn to make dresses but they will also serve another purpose. LWF plans to partner with the women and employ them to sew uniforms for schools that don’t have them yet.

Ashi Gibril

Ashi Gibril

This is Ashi Gibril, a widow with 5 children who is a refugee in Yusuf Batil. She’s actually from the Northern part of Sudan but came to South Sudan when she married her husband, who is native to South Sudan.  Since she has no family in the area to help her, she decided to join the LWF tailoring class. She told me that she would like to set up a sewing shop in the local market using the skills she has learned.

Early Childhood Development Centers

EDCCollage

On the left is the Early Childhood Development Center,  which serves preschool aged children. As you can see, it’s in severe disrepair and LWF is awaiting more funding from UNICEF before they can make any upgrades. On the right is what a primary (elementary) school classroom looks like when it is first built. The LWR project is adding walls, fencing and doors to make these spaces more inviting and safer for the children.

The Children of Gendrassa Camp

Bendrassa camp 1

These are primary school students in Gendrassa camp. They’re part of a newly established Child Rights Club within the school that monitors and reports violations. This group of young people blew me away. They took their job very seriously and would not let us leave until we heard all of their issues. They recently even reported a teacher who was stealing their play equipment. While we were there they sang a song to us about the right to food, the right to clean water, the right to education and the importance of not getting married too young. In this community, it is a common practice for men to marry girls as young as 11 years old. LWF is also working with community members and leaders to hopefully reduce the occurrences of early and forced marriages.

Thank you!

Your faithful support of LWR makes it possible to continue our work with LWF to protect refugees in South Sudan. To learn more about this work, visit the LWR In-Depth website.

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Fund coffee farmers in Kenya through KindSight! http://blog.lwr.org/2015/04/fund-coffee-farmers-in-kenya-through-kindsight/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/04/fund-coffee-farmers-in-kenya-through-kindsight/#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2015 20:00:22 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5817

Last fall, LWR launched KindSight, a new way to use your time, money and voice to fight poverty around the world. Our first project – the Rural Women Led Vegetable Farming project in India – is going strong. We’re excited to introduce a second project – the APOKO coffee project in Kenya.

Here’s what you need to know to start funding coffee farmers today – and getting your donations matched dollar-for-dollar — with KindSight!

 (Already raring to go? That’s the spirit! Visit KindSight today to sign-up!)

Who are we helping?

Your support will help coffee producers in the South Rachuonyo district in Kenya, through three coffee cooperatives called Orinde, Kabondo and Ogera.

Why Kenya? Why coffee?

Kenya is the East African powerhouse of the coffee world.

In the 1970s, coffee was Kenya’s leading export and today it remains one of Kenya’s most valuable global commodities.  If more farmers had the tools and information they need to grow high quality coffee, they could lift themselves, their families and their entire communities out of poverty.

What help do coffee farmers need?

Global demand for specialty coffee is exploding and the market price for this luxury commodity is high; however, the Kenyan farmers don’t produce nearly as much coffee as they could and their incomes remain very low, mainly because the quality of their coffee isn’t high enough to export to international buyers.

 How exactly will my support help?

By supporting the APOKO project, you’ll help individual coffee producers, along with their cooperatives, to grow high-quality coffee that can be exported for competitive prices and help coffee farming communities rise out of poverty.

Through KindSight, you’ll be able to fund this project piece-by-piece, each completed project phase unlocking the next until together we’ve built a strong program that will help coffee farmers long into the future.

Here are a few of the first activities in need of funding:

  1.  Motorcycle purchase (to allow project staff to visit farmers in their fields and travel to training sites)
  2. Training on coffee marketing systems (to help farmers understand what factors influence coffee pricing and how to negotiate for better pricing)
  3. Hiring of agriculture extension officer (to lead farmer trainings and share his expertise in the best coffee farming techniques)

How can I help through KindSight?

Use your TIME by pledging an occasion, like your birthday or running a 5k, and ask your friends and family to support you and the APOKO coffee farmers by donating to KindSight. (Want some good ideas? Check out what others have done.)

Use your MONEY by making a direct donation or issuing a matching challenge.

Use your VOICE by acting as a social ambassador, sharing this project and its poverty fighting potential with your social networks.

WHAT do I do next?

 Step 1:                  Visit mykindsight.org to sign-up.

Step 2:                  Select the APOKO project.

Step 3:                  Decide how you’ll use your time, money and voice to fund coffee farmers.

It’s that easy! And thanks to Equal Exchange, our Fair Trade Coffee partner, every dollar you raise for the APOKO project will be matched – up to $ 57,135.60!

APOKO3

APOKO2

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Lutheran World Relief Receives $350,000 from Starbucks Foundation http://blog.lwr.org/2015/04/starbucks-foundation/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/04/starbucks-foundation/#comments Thu, 02 Apr 2015 14:40:13 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5809

We are proud to announce that we have received a Starbucks Foundation grant of $350,000 toward a two-year project that contributes to the protection of the local ecosystem, provides sustainable livelihoods, and fosters community in Colombia: Pro-Café: Protecting Ecosystem Services for Sustainable Coffee Livelihoods.

Coffee growers’ livelihoods and quality of life in central Colombia are at risk due to deteriorating environmental conditions caused by both a changing climate and poor community hygiene and sanitation practices. As profitability of traditional coffee production and agricultural activities decreases, farmers often adopt unsustainable practices that further deteriorate the natural environment. As the negative spiral continues, migration away from the coffee-producing communities increases, and conflict erupts over use and control of natural resources — in particular over water and land — threatening to reignite forced displacement in the region.

Over the past 40 years, Starbucks has been dedicated to helping improve the lives of farmers and their families around the world who grow their coffee. Through a comprehensive approach to ethical sourcing Starbucks is paying equitable prices, providing access to farmer loans and technical assistance to help farmers to navigate the complexities of agriculture – a long term process.  In total, Starbucks has invested more than $70 million in collaborative farmer programs and activities over the past 40 years. In 2015, Starbucks will achieve the goal of 99 percent of its coffee being verified as ethically sourced. Additional details about Starbucks initiatives in coffee and tea communities are available at Starbucks.com/Responsibility/sourcing.

»Read the entire announcement

Ground Up: The LWR Coffee and Cocoa Initiative
The global coffee and cocoa markets are worth more than $175 billion per year combined. But small-scale producers capture just a fraction of that value. With expertise developed over decades, LWR brings a unique perspective and skill set to improve producers’ lives, from the ground up.

Read more about Ground Up: The LWR coffee and cocoa initiative.

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What I Learned Visiting LWR Projects in Honduras http://blog.lwr.org/2015/03/what-i-learned-visiting-lwr-projects-in-honduras/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/03/what-i-learned-visiting-lwr-projects-in-honduras/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 16:04:18 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5791

Dr. William J. Craft is a member of the Lutheran World Relief board of directors and is the president of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. Recently Dr. Craft, along with the entire LWR board, traveled to Honduras to see LWR’s work there, especially with coffee farmers. The following is an excerpt from Dr. Craft’s reflection on the trip. You can read his full reflection by visiting the Concordia website

Two years ago, I was very glad to be asked to serve on the governing board for LWR.  Founded at the end of World War II to help the homeless, starving, and destitute in war-ravaged Europe, LWR is best known now for the way it responds to the suffering induced by natural disasters—like Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in November of 2013. But day in and out, LWR works far beyond emergency operations.  In particular, LWR staff partner with local farmers around the world to help them grow crops more effectively—both to sell and to feed their own families. This is the work I saw in the steep, wooded hills of coffee and cocoa country at the western end of the country.

Honduras is a place of great beauty, widespread poverty, and all too often, violence, most of it gang and drug cartel ignited. You can read on the LWR website that nearly two-thirds of Hondurans live at or below the national poverty line. The average annual income is $2,180.[i]  For an account of how the violence there threatens the young, see this story.

The Pew Research Center tells us that “the number of unaccompanied minors from Honduras apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border shot up from less than 7,000 in fiscal year 2013 to more than 17,500 through July of this year, making Honduras the country of origin for the highest number of those minors.” It was that flood of young people from Honduras that heightened the already intense debate about immigration into the U.S.

We spent the first two full days of our trip on LWR board business: setting the direction for a non-profit whose work benefits millions of people around the globe. Once board business concluded, we headed in pickup trucks up, and up, into the hills, on narrow dirt roads around sharp bends—no guardrails, but breathtaking green vistas. What we found atop the hill was a village: homes, individually owned family gardens, and larger hillside plantings of coffee.

Adam Canan

Adam Canan talks with us about three years of training to improve soil quality, farm planning, organic fertilizer making. His wife, Francisca Perez, tells us about improving family nutrition and hygiene—worked in between coffee picking labors that the community shares.

Jorge Martinez

Jorge David Martinez Reyes and his family show us their small but strikingly varied set of crops—cabbages, pineapples, and more.

Cecilio Sosa

Cecilio Sosa, a father and grandfather, talks us through the growing of cocoa, and then breaks open one of the pods to reveal a milky, gelatinous tower encasing the cocoa beans. We’re all prompted to reach into that tower and try the sweet taste of the pulp. We find out that when the beans are fermented in the pulp, they absorb its sweetness—otherwise they’d be very bitter.

Maria Sosa

Cecilio’s daughter Maria, a trained and gifted cocoa farming agent, shows us how a poorly producing tree can be given new life by grafting onto it the branch of a more fruitful tree. While I am at the farm with some LWR folk, others are learning how the cocoa beans are fermented, dried, and sold through the village cooperative.

What did I learn on my journey? Too much to tell. But I will settle on two things in closing. I saw very clearly what I had heard about so often at LWR board meetings: this is an organization at once idealistic and tough-minded. Only what works to sustain farmers and families is funded; what doesn’t, isn’t.

I expect that when Concordia students traveled in May of 2014 to coffee and cocoa farms in Nicaragua, they saw the same thing: that the world becomes a better place not merely by wishing it so, but when idealism meets the discipline to solve unscripted human problems with imagination and courage.

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Why Growing More Isn’t Enough for Cacao Farmers Living in Poverty http://blog.lwr.org/2015/03/why-growing-more-isnt-enough-for-cacao-farmers-living-in-poverty/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/03/why-growing-more-isnt-enough-for-cacao-farmers-living-in-poverty/#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 20:17:55 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5776

I recently visited Western Uganda, as part of the process of designing a project to help farmers improve their production of cacao, as well as family food security. (Wondering the difference between “cacao” and “cocoa”? This article explains it well.)

We often get to hear about how our work – and your support – makes a phenomenal impact on those living in poverty around the world. I thought this brief glimpse into my visit will paint a picture of what we see as we begin to work with communities.

The Thin Months

From my experience working with coffee farmers, particularly in Central America, there is a phenomenon in farming communities which I’ve heard called the “thin months.” This is a period of about two to three months after the harvest has ended and cash from the previous harvest has run out. In this time, families don’t have enough to feed themselves adequately. My LWR colleagues in Africa tell me this is also sometimes called “the lean season.” Both names give you an idea of how challenging access to food can be during this time.

Long view of a cacoa growing village I visited in Western Uganda.

Long view of Bundibugyo, a cacoa growing village I visited in Western Uganda.

Like small-scale coffee farmers, cacao farmers in this region of Uganda have devoted virtually all of their land to the production of cacao, with the intention of using their earnings from this cash crop to purchase food and other necessities.  As we walked through parts of the community I did not see one vegetable garden of any size, planted to provide families with food at least during these months.

The theory has been that if cacao farmers can increase their yields enough, they will have enough income to comfortably purchase their food, pay school fees, etc., and will have a better quality of life.  There is no doubt that growing more cash crops  will help farmers earn a better income , however coffee and cacao are commodities, with global market prices set thousands of miles away from the farmers and their parcels.  The farmers are “on the tip of the dog’s tail.”  They have no control over pricing, and in years of moderate and low market prices, they are very vulnerable to periods of extreme food insecurity.

Why Growing More Isn’t Enough

In many ways, food security tracks market prices, at least in theory if not in practice.  The higher the market price of cacao, the more farmers stand to earn from their crops and the more food secure families may be.  The lower market price, the less they earn and the more vulnerable they may find themselves.  This is all too common in coffee, and it was distressing, though not surprising, to find this true with cacao farmers as well.

A group of  farmers bag dried cacao to be sold in local markets.

A group of farmers bag dried cacao to be sold in local markets.

Many projects in Uganda, implemented by a range of development organizations or the government, focus on increased productivity and link those increases to reduced poverty. And that approach works for a short period of time – about a year or two. However, after the funding stops, and the program comes to an end and – God forbid – the market price drops, farmers may find themselves struggling once again, holding their children home from school to save on school fees so that they can buy food, among other coping tactics.

A sole focus on increasing productivity is a short-term solution. No doubt it may seem appealing, but to make a sustainable impact, we have to do more.

Diversify Crops, Increase Food Security

In my work in coffee, the only real success stories that I have seen over years, have been those that combine maximizing coffee production with income diversification on the farm – growing food that can be both consumed by the family (lowering food costs by growing it vs. buying it), and sold in the local market as another source of income.

This provides families with a good safety net should the global market price of their primary commodity be low, and nutritious food all year, regardless of the market.  In coffee, even in the best of market conditions, small-scale farmers rarely earn enough to advance out of poverty when projects are geared solely toward increasing production. During market downturns, they often cannot afford needed inputs, such as fertilizer and quality seeds, and their productivity regresses as they choose to feed their families before “feeding” their coffee.

cacao kids

These are a few curious children I met when visiting a cacao growing village in Western Uganda. If we support cacao farmers in improving and diversifying their crops, we can create a lasting impact that will benefit people for generations to come.

While I was concerned with what I saw in Uganda, I am also hopeful. LWR is designing a balanced project that takes a “whole farm” approach to increasing productivity not only of cash crops, but also alternative crops that can be consumed by families and sold locally. This approach has the potential to make a real and lasting difference for farming families, improving their lives and futures and building resilience to face the future.

Lutheran World Relief is working with coffee and cocoa farmers around the world to increase production and income and reduce poverty. Learn more about our Ground Up Coffee & Cocoa Initiative.

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Reflections on Resilience http://blog.lwr.org/2015/03/reflections-on-resilience/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/03/reflections-on-resilience/#comments Thu, 12 Mar 2015 20:52:32 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5763

LWR has a long history of development programming aimed at building the resilience of vulnerable communities affected by multiple shocks and stressors, such as natural disasters, conflict, and climate change and variability. This blog series, Reflections on Resilience, will examine emerging issues, innovative approaches and new resources in resilience work. It seeks to stimulate learning, reflection and dialogue among development practitioners, researchers and decision-makers interested in the linkages between resilience and development practice.

Learning, Un-Learning and Re-learning Resilience

Learning is generally associated with the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. However, in practice, learning takes much more than that. It is a dynamic process that often involves un-learning and re-learning before we can move forward. It can be unexpected and unstructured, as we learn through direct experience and experimentation, but also through others’ stories of success and failure. We learn by discovering value in the unforeseen, and by making connections that we didn’t see before.

Understanding the role of resilience in development practice is all about learning, un-learning, and re-learning.

The Asia Regional Knowledge Sharing Meeting, led by the Technical and Operational Performance Support (TOPS) Program and the Food Security and Nutrition (FSN) Network, shed important lessons in this regard.

Under the umbrella theme “Learning from the Past, Shaping the Future”, a total of 39 organizations working on projects related to food security, gender and resilience, met during three days in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to learn, unlearn and relearn from their experiences.

The notion of resilience emerged strongly throughout the discussions, not only as a growing “buzz” word in the international development field, but as a useful enabler for the achievement of development goals.

But what should we learn, un-learn and re-learn about resilience?

Here are some of the key issues that emerged during the group’s discussions:

 What Should We Learn?

  • To approach resilience not as an end in itself, but as a means to achieve development goals (e.g. food security, wellbeing, inclusive growth).
  • To understand resilience as a set of capacities (i.e. absorptive, adaptive, and transformative) that allow vulnerable communities to better withstand, recover, adapt, and potentially transform in the face of shocks and stressors.
  • To consider equality and gender-related aspects of resilience at the community, the household, and the individual levels.

 What Should We Un-Learn?

  •  The adoption of siloed and/or uncoordinated approaches to resilience building: further efforts should be placed on building multi-sectoral partnerships.
  • Rigid management strategies that prevent projects to respond and adapt to change and uncertainty: organizations should strive for flexible approaches.
  • Project designs that omit the multiple levels (i.e. macro, meso and micro), timescales (i.e. short, medium and long term), and interactions through which resilience building takes place: project designs should reflect a systemic/multi-scale perspective.

 What Should We Re-Learn?

  •  Measuring approaches that consider the different resilience capacities, and that integrate well-focused, context-specific, and measurable indicators.
  • Mechanisms to nurture and strengthen social capital (i.e. bonding, bridging and linking) as part of approaches to resilience building.
  • The design and implementation of holistic knowledge management strategies, including the integration of information and communication technologies (ICTs) (e.g. mobile phones, tablets) to improve information access, monitoring and evaluation.

The TOPS/FSN Network event evidenced that while knowledge sharing is crucial for resilience building in vulnerable communities, it is equally valuable among INGOs, development practitioners and donor organizations working in this field.

Learning, un-learning and re-learning contribute to ‘de-mystifying’ complex concepts such as ‘resilience’, bringing it closer to, and making it more relevant for development practice.

LWR’s Climate Adapted Farming on Elgon (CAFÉ) project is being implemented through coffee cooperatives on Mount Elgon, in Uganda and Kenya. With a goal to increase the resilience of smallholder coffee farmers to the impacts of climate change and variability, the project integrates the use of mobile technology to make extension services more efficient and effective for coffee producers. Here, a Community Knowledge Worker displays his smartphone, where he can access agronomy information, look up weather forecasts and collect data about farmers.

LWR’s Climate Adapted Farming on Elgon (CAFÉ) project is being implemented through coffee cooperatives on Mount Elgon, in Uganda and Kenya. With a goal to increase the resilience of smallholder coffee farmers to the impacts of climate change and variability, the project integrates the use of mobile technology to make extension services more efficient and effective for coffee producers. Here, a Community Knowledge Worker displays his smartphone, where he can access agronomy information, look up weather forecasts and collect data about farmers.

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Inspiring Women Leaders in Honduras http://blog.lwr.org/2015/03/inspiring-women-to-thrive-in-honduras/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/03/inspiring-women-to-thrive-in-honduras/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 16:47:47 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5750

This project, which was originally featured in the February 2015 issue of the Feed the Future monthly newsletter, highlights the challenges faced by women farmers in Honduras and how your support helps to promote gender inclusiveness in agriculture. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, Lutheran World Relief gives thanks for your support, which allows us to work around the world to ensure both men and women benefit from our long-term, sustainable development work. 

According to the World Food Program, Honduras is the third poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean, with 1.5 million of its 8.5 million people facing food insecurity. Although women make up a major part of agricultural labor force, they receive lower incomes and experience greater food insecurity than men because they have less access to productive assets (like land, seeds and tools), technology, and extension and financial services.

Honduras recently passed a law allocating five percent of municipal (local) budgets for building women’s enterprises, but implementation and enforcement of the law is inconsistent.

Building confidence, inspiring leadership

To address these barriers, Feed the Future and Lutheran World Relief are working together with ten municipalities in Western Honduras on a project to help women and men to advocate for policy changes that enhance women’s access to credit and respond to their needs in agriculture. The project builds participation, leadership and public administration skills to empower 10 women’s municipal networks  to solicit public funding for their members’ agricultural enterprises. These networks serve as a collective voice for women in their respective communities.

woman in training

A participant in the project speaks during a training provided by a local women’s municipal network. These networks bring women together to advocate for themselves.

The networks’ growing leadership and negotiating skills have been important factors in the project’s success. By serving as a liaison between local government and civil society, Honduras’s Municipal Office on Women has given strong support to the women’s networks and further developed their capacity to achieve their objectives.

Ana Amaya, president of the Municipal Women’s Network of Candelaria municipality, says women have advocated for more resources since the project started. “Since last year, we have taken the initiative as women to work on small-scale farming projects,” she says. So far, four of the 10 municipal women’s groups have had projects funded through the five percent allocation for women’s enterprises.

Consuelo Gámez, president of the Gualcinse municipality, says the training courses have boosted her confidence. “I am aware of my rights as a woman and I fight to defend the rights of all women. Before, when I didn’t know anything about it, I was too shy to speak in public because I didn’t feel sure of what I wanted to say. Now I can talk to anyone – a mayor, the president.”

An Active Role for Men

To promote equitable political and economic participation by women, the project fosters changes in male attitudes toward gender equality. Rodrigo Ramos, a grain farmer, is the president of a rural credit institution in Tomalá municipality. Along with men from other rural credit institutions, he participated in intensive gender awareness training.

Men also participated in training to become aware of their beliefs around gender. Men are important and essential partners in working toward gender equity.

Men also participated in training to become aware of their beliefs around gender. Men are important and essential partners in working toward gender equity. The text above them translates, “Women in Development.”

During the trainings, Rodrigo shared life experiences that have shaped his notion of gender roles, and recognized that in order to promote gender equality, he and other men need to play an active role. “My big challenge is to involve more women in the rural credit institutions and their boards,” he says. “I am hopeful that at least two women will soon be part of the board of directors. We’ve been actively lobbying on behalf of these women.”

Today, members of the women’s municipal networks are working with local governments to effectively use the allocated public funds, while men who participated in gender awareness training are becoming more aware of the challenges women face and are working to ensure they receive equitable resources.

Feed the Future is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Learn more about this project on our LWR In-Depth website

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Celebrating International Women’s Day – Meet the Women Farmers of PRADAN http://blog.lwr.org/2015/03/celebrating-international-womens-day-meet-the-women-farmers-of-pradan/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/03/celebrating-international-womens-day-meet-the-women-farmers-of-pradan/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 15:00:54 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5728

March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD). Throughout the month of March, celebrate IWD with Lutheran World Relief. Visit lwr.org/women for free resources to share with your family and friends how your support uplifts women around the world. 

You may already know about the amazing women of the PRADAN project in Bihar, India – especially if you’ve signed up for KindSight, a new way to support the work of Lutheran World Relief (more on that in a moment).

In rural India, women depend on farming to feed and support their families. Many can’t grow enough, which means their families live in poverty. Lutheran World Relief has been working to help women farmers in Bihar to help themselves and each other out of poverty.

In the process, we’ve met some pretty amazing women. We’d like to introduce you to a few:

LWR beneficiary Mina Devi harvests eggplant in her garden Lutheran World Relief - India.Sept. 2013 - Agricultural Programs in Banka District, India. Photograph by Jake Lyell

Photo by Jake Lyell for LWR.

Mina remembers a time when a simple doctor visit nearly devastated her family financially. Through this project she and her husband have learned the skills they need to grow vegetables and sell them for income. Watch Mina tell her story in her own words.

Sumitra Devi

Photo by Jake Lyell for LWR.

Sumitra sells her chili peppers at the market. She also grows rice, eggplant, cucumbers and other vegetables. Through the project she’s received seeds, tools, irrigation and training on how to increase her crop yield and quality.

Urmila Devi and child

Photo by Jake Lyell for LWR.

Urmila is from the village of Dokri. Through the PRADAN project she’s learned Systematic Rice Intesification (SRI), a method of growing rice that increases yields. Through training, Urmila and others have learned the importance of planting seedlings with proper spacing as well as other important growing techniques. She’s pictured here with her grandson.

VRP and women

Photo by Jake Lyell for LWR.

The PRADAN project has not only helped women farmers improve their crops and incomes. The women have come together to help one another. Here, they listen to Rajendra Mahto (man, right) who is their Village Resource Person. Rajendra is leading the women in a training on how to prepare seeds for planting.

You Can Help Fund This Project

KindSight Logo

KindSight is a new way to help end poverty around the world. Choose specific parts of LWR projects to support and then get updates, photos and stories about how you are helping people help themselves. Money isn’t the only way to help – you can also use your time and voice to make a difference!

Right now you can fund the PRADAN project through KindSight. If you sign up by April 8, you’ll even receive a free $20 sign-up bonus to start supporting the project right away. Learn more by visiting the KindSight website – and start changing lives today!

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Celebrating International Women’s Day – Meet Noali and Lankwande http://blog.lwr.org/2015/03/celebrating-international-womens-day-meet-noali-and-lankwande/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/03/celebrating-international-womens-day-meet-noali-and-lankwande/#comments Tue, 03 Mar 2015 15:44:45 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5616

March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD). Throughout the month of March, celebrate IWD with Lutheran World Relief. Visit lwr.org/women for free resources to share with your family and friends how your support uplifts women around the world. 

Lankwande and Noali live in the village of Piaga in Burkina Faso. Over the past several years, a combination of unstable rain patterns, drought and rising food costs have put more than 20 million people at risk of hunger in the Sahel region of West Africa.

During times of crisis, women farmers around the world are particularly vulnerable. They typically own less land, livestock and other assets, and often have to sell what little they have to make ends meet during hard times. The conditions in West Africa have meant that women like Lankwande and Noali have had to make hard choices to get by.

Lutheran World Relief is helping through an effort called Resilience Plus which reaches out to communities in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to help families cope with these difficult circumstances. With partners, we are helping farmers learn sustainable strategies for growing food, earning income and coping with changing weather patterns.

These are the areas where LWR is working through a project called Resilience Plus. The goal of the project is to help vulnerable farmers and their families cope with drought, changing weather patterns and rising food costs.

These are the areas where LWR is working through a project called Resilience Plus. The goal of the project is to help vulnerable farmers and their families cope with drought, changing weather patterns and rising food costs.

Lankwande and Noali are both leaders in their village’s women’s group. LWR is working with this group, along with two others, to find more sustainable sources of income and help one another. One way women are helping each other is through a traditional livestock sharing process called habbanaye.

Ouoba Hamo received goats as part of the Habbanaye project. When the goats are pregnant, she will give one female and one mail goat back to the women's group.  Ouoba was very proud because her goats have already given birth and are pregnant again.

Ouoba Hamo received goats as part of the Habbanaye project. When the goats are pregnant, she will give one female and one male goat back to the women’s group. Ouoba was very proud because her goats have already given birth and are pregnant again.

Together, the women identified the most vulnerable women in their community who would receive both male and female goats, along with training on their care. When the goats produce kids, the woman passes along the adults to another family in need. Slowly, the women of Piaga are building herds.

Your support allows LWR to build a long-term response to drought and hunger across West Africa, while focusing on the needs of vulnerable women.

Learn more about LWR’s Resilience Plus project and how it is helping farmers in West Africa.

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Celebrating International Women’s Day – Meet Maria http://blog.lwr.org/2015/03/celebrating-international-womens-day-meet-maria/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/03/celebrating-international-womens-day-meet-maria/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 15:00:30 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5622

March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD). Throughout the month of March, celebrate IWD with Lutheran World Relief. Visit lwr.org/women for free resources to share with your family and friends how your support uplifts women around the world. 

Maria del Cid Aguilar is a coffee farmer who lives in the community of Las Marias, in El Salvador. In fact, she’s a leader in one of the communities where Lutheran World Relief has been working with farmers to improve their coffee crops. The worldwide demand for coffee makes it a lucrative cash crop with the potential to help many farmers rise out of poverty.

Recently, the livelihoods of Central American coffee farmers like Maria have been threatened by a devastating crop disease called la roya, or leaf rust. This aggressive disease attacks coffee trees and kills them. Once a coffee tree dies, a new one must be planted to replace its production – and coffee trees can take 3-5 years to produce coffee beans. Maria’s coffee crop was destroyed by leaf rust.

This is what a coffee leaf affected by la roya, or leaf rust, looks like. This photo is from an LWR coffee project in El Salvador.

This is a leaf from a coffee tree that has been affected by lea rust. Photo by Sean Hawkey for LWR.

To help farmers like her, LWR is working with local partners to help in a number of ways. One important way Maria is combating the effects of leaf rust is by diversifying her crops. With LWR’s support, she received cocoa seedlings to plant. Cocoa plants are better adapted to higher temperatures and humidity. Maria has been planting cocoa seedlings along with other types of crops to diversify her farm.

She and other farmers will continue working to recover their coffee crops, but diversifying means they’ll have an alternate source of income to provide for their families. Your support means LWR can walk with farmers in Central America, like Maria, as they cope with leaf rust and changing weather patterns.

Ground Up: The LWR Coffee and Cocoa Initiative

Learn more about how your support is reaching out to coffee and cocoa farmers around the world through LWR’s Ground Up Coffee & Cocoa Initiative.

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Why Fighting Poverty Means Investing in Women http://blog.lwr.org/2015/02/why-fighting-poverty-means-investing-in-women/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/02/why-fighting-poverty-means-investing-in-women/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 15:33:24 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5692

March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD). Throughout the month of March, celebrate IWD with Lutheran World Relief. Visit lwr.org/women for free resources to share with your family and friends how your support uplifts women around the world. 

Why does it matter if LWR and other organizations work to uplift women living in poverty around the world? How does it help? Here are just a few of the reasons.

Most of the People Living in Poverty Around the World Are Women

We're working with farmers like Maria, from El Salvador, who are seeing their coffee trees destroyed by a crop disease called la roya, or leaf rust. We're helping farmers diversify their crops, so they have other means of supporting their families.

We’re working with farmers like Maria, from El Salvador, who are seeing their coffee trees destroyed by a crop disease called la roya, or leaf rust. We’re helping farmers diversify their crops, so they have other means of supporting their families. (Photograph by Sean Hawkey for LWR)

Seventy percent of the world’s poor are women. There are many reasons for this. Women spend twice as much time as men taking part in unpaid labor (such as household tasks). (Source) In developing nations, they don’t have the same access to land and productive assets, such as credit to purchase quality seeds, tools, fertilizer and other necessary items to build strong agricultural livelihoods.

When Women Farmers Produce More, Everyone Eats More

Madialia Illa, 60 (left) and Rakia Habibou, 50 (right) proudly display their goats. LWR is working with their women's group, called Union Nazari, to grow herds, improve crops and become more resilient.

Madialia Illa, 60 (left) and Rakia Habibou, 50 (right) proudly display their goats. LWR is working with their women’s group in Niger, called Union Nazari, to grow herds, improve crops and become more resilient.

Women farmers make up 40 percent of the agricultural workforce in developing nations, yet they own less than one percent of the land. When women have the same amount of land as men, crop yields can increase as much as ten percent. Further, the United States Agency for International Development has predicted that investing in women farmers could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100 to 150 million. (Source)

Investing in Women Has a Ripple Effect that Strengthens Whole Countries

Daisy and her family

LWR works with families in Peru to grow native potato varieties and earn income so that children like Daisy (in pink) can have a better future.

When families earn a sustainable income, they can meet their families basic needs. Once families meet their basic needs, they can focus on things like education for their children. Educating girls has a powerful effect on the national economies of developing nations. When 10 percent more girls go to school, a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) rises by three percent. (Source)

Empowered Women Help Sustain Development Gains

Rice farmer Mariam Abdallah stands in the midst of her thriving rice field near Dodoma, Tanzania. LWR is working with rice farmers to improve their production, income and livelihoods.

Rice farmer Mariam Abdallah stands in the midst of her thriving rice field near Dodoma, Tanzania. LWR is working with rice farmers to improve their production, income and livelihoods.

When women living in poverty earn income, they reinvest most of it into their families (Source). As a result, access to education, health care and other essential needs are met. But that’s not all. Infant mortality rates go down, agricultural productivity rises, population growth slows and local economies expand. (Source) These kinds of improvement work together with the kind of long-term sustainable development work LWR does to create lasting impact.

When Women Use Their Voices, They Speak Out to End Poverty

India-Nepal pic

Malarai Devi, and other women in her community in India, participate in a training as a part of an Early Warning system project whose goal is to help families protect themselves from seasonal floods that destroy homes and devastate livelihoods.

When women are educated and empowered, they participate in the decision making processes that affect their lives and their families’ well-being. When women are included, they are a driving force against poverty, not only improving their own household incomes but also helping other women and families gain access to land, jobs and financial resources. (Source)

Join us in celebrating International Women’s Day. Be sure to check back as we add stories about women and communities around the world you are reaching with your support.

More International Women’s Day Stories:

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Why Eco-Palms are a Better Choice for Palm Sunday http://blog.lwr.org/2015/02/why-eco-palms-are-a-better-choice-for-palm-sunday/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/02/why-eco-palms-are-a-better-choice-for-palm-sunday/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 16:51:47 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5682

The Gospel of Mark tells us that when Christ entered Jerusalem on a colt, the crowds welcomed him shouting “Hosanna!” and “spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields”. Jesus is greeted as a triumphant king entering the city. Today churches all around the world – just like yours – join in this celebration by waving palms, shouting “Hosanna!” and beginning the journey into Holy Week.

But do you know the origin of palm branches used by your church? Have you ever wondered who grows and then harvests them? Here are a few quick facts:

  1. Many harvesters are paid by the volume, no matter the quality they deliver, which incentivizes them to cut off more branches than needed thus damaging trees and contributing to deforestation.
  2. For communities of harvesters, palms are an important source of income but more often than not, gatherers aren’t paid fairly and receive a very low price from the buyer.
  3. Most harvesters are not a part of the post-harvest production and do not know what kind of quality to look for when gathering fronds. That means a portion of fronds they collect is then discarded due to being too small or blemished, which is obviously harming the environment.

For the past 10 years, LWR’s Eco-Palms program has been working to ensure that for your congregation, the joyful celebration which begins on Palm Sunday is paired with the joy received by farmers and families that harvest the palms. Here’s how we do it:

  • Eco-Palm harvesters receive a higher price for their palms, which improves their income and gives their families financial stability.
  • Eco-Palm harvesters are trained on what to look forwhen harvesting and therefore only gather the fronds of the highest quality.
  • Eco-Palm harvesters have permits from the government tomaintain the bio-reserve where they harvest their palms. As a result, the rainforests are well-maintained and continue to support the harvesters’ livelihood.
  • The harvested Eco-Palms are sorted and bundled by the women in the communities, instead of a distant warehouse, creating new jobs where previously there were none.

Check out our Eco-Palms page to learn more!

Remember that by choosing to wave Eco-Palms at the celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry, you’re also celebrating the importance of social justice, fair trade and environmental consciousness.

PLACE YOUR ORDER NOWThe deadline for the 2015 season is March 6, 2015.

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From Scarcity to Abundance: A Lenten Reflection http://blog.lwr.org/2015/02/from-scarcity-to-abundance-a-lenten-reflection/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/02/from-scarcity-to-abundance-a-lenten-reflection/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 14:30:38 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5673

Lent is sometimes thought of as a journey—a spiritual journey. During this Lenten season, we focus on the journey that Jesus took for us that led him to the cross. The goal of our journey is to lead us to a deeper level of faith in Christ and of love to our neighbors.

For many of our global neighbors, their daily journey is in search of clean water and nutritious food. Regina Mwendwa lives in Kenya in one of the driest areas. Lutheran World Relief’s Watershed Approach to Enhanced Resilience (WATER) project is helping smallholder Farmers like Regina to transform their lives through increased water resources. WATER focuses on building sand dams, planting trees in the catchment areas, drilling of boreholes and using solar energy powered pumps to provide water for drinking and irrigation. Regina and her neighbors now grow enough food for a balanced diet for their families. Their lives are transformed from one of scarcity to abundance.

Take a moment to see that abundance for yourself in this short video, featuring Regina.

Video by Jake Lyell for LWR
http://jakelyell.com/

Regina’s story reminds us of God’s abundant generosity. Whether it comes to us through our daily bread of water and nutritious food, or through the gift of faith, we are blessed to have a God who transforms scarcity into abundance. God transforms our gifts into an abundance so that people like Regina and her family can live with justice, dignity and peace.

Lent is an opportunity to reflect upon God’s goodness and unconditional love to us and all people. It’s also a time to ask for forgiveness when we’ve focused on our own scarcity rather than abundance, and to renew our commitment to living lives of generosity, so that people like Regina and her family may simply live.

What will you do this year to mark your Lenten journey? What change is God calling you to make? You can make a difference in the lives of people like Regina to make their daily journey for water and food one of abundance rather than scarcity through your financial support of LWR. Thank you for what you have done and thank you for what you will do.  Have a blessed Lenten journey.

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LWR Early Warning Forecast Report: 8 Places We’re Watching in 2015 http://blog.lwr.org/2015/02/lwr-early-forecast-warning-report-8-places-were-watching-in-2015/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/02/lwr-early-forecast-warning-report-8-places-were-watching-in-2015/#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 21:04:23 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5657

LWR recently released a 2015 “Early Warning Forecast” of regions to watch and why. The regions highlighted in the report are ones LWR is actively monitoring.

Many of these regions are also places where, with your support, LWR is already in-country, working to help communities mitigate the worst effects of potential crises by developing disaster response plans and strengthening resilience, especially in the most vulnerable rural areas.

Here’s where we’re watching

  • Indonesia, where more than a third of the population (76+ million people) depends on agriculture for income, which could be destroyed by coastal flooding due to rising sea-waters, land-damaging earthquakes or another tsunami.
  • Nepal, where are melting glacial ice in the Himalayas, causing increased downstream flooding and deforestation is also raising the risk and potential effects of flash floods and landslides.
  • Philippines, whose people are coping with the effects of three major storms in as many years.
  • Iraq*, where armed conflict has escalated significantly with the rise of ISIS, displacing more than 2 million people and putting more than 5 million in need of humanitarian assistance to access such basic services as water and sanitation.
  • Central America (Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua), where there have been two consecutive years of poor harvests due to rain irregularity, drought and leaf rust.
  • Colombia where the issue of land rights for displaced farmers remains a key trigger point for human rights and economic justice.
  • Sahel region (Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger) where the cumulative effect of repeated food and humanitarian crises, coupled with changing weather patterns has left more than 18 million people at risk of hunger.
  • South Sudan where tens of thousands of people have died and 1.9 million have been displaced since conflict broke out in December 2013.
* LWR distributes material resources, including Quilts and Kits, in Iraq. LWR has active projects in all other regions.

Here’s how we’re already helping

We're working with farmers like Maria, from El Salvador, who are seeing their coffee trees destroyed by a crop disease called la roya, or leaf rust. We're helping farmers diversify their crops, so they have other means of supporting their families.

We’re working with farmers like Maria, from El Salvador, who are seeing their coffee trees destroyed by a crop disease called la roya, or leaf rust. We’re helping farmers diversify their crops, so they have other means of supporting their families. (Photo Credit: Sean Hawkey)

We work with partners to help communities address the causes and reduce the impact of their vulnerability, and preserve development gains.

We do this through local staff, in partnership with community organizers, local and state governments and other organizations on the ground.

LWR serves as the Sphere focal point in the Philippines. After Typhoon Haiyan, LWR and local partners held trainings on these international humanitarian aid standards.

LWR serves as the Sphere focal point in the Philippines. After Typhoon Haiyan, LWR and local partners held trainings on these international humanitarian aid standards.

We share best practices with others in the international development community.

To help increase the overall quality of humanitarian assistance, we have shared key learnings on technical support, natural resource management, and sound management of rural communities’ physical assets in order to improve resilience and livelihoods.

We advocate for funding for locally-owned programs 

LWR is advocating to decision-makers in Washington DC for a global food security policy which includes robust funding for locally-owned programs benefitting small-scale producers. While less than one percent of the federal budget goes toward poverty-focused relief and development, fiscal constraints and politics may put at risk this small but critical contribution.

Bosco Agufibo is a Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) in an LWR-supported coffee project in Uganda.  CKWs are members of coffee communities who offer agricultural support and information to fellow farmers as a sustainable way to improve crops and incomes.

Bosco Agufibo is a Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) in an LWR-supported coffee project in Uganda. CKWs are members of coffee communities who offer agricultural support and information to fellow farmers as a sustainable way to improve crops and incomes.

By strengthening local economies, assessing early warnings of future crises and establishing safety net systems that we so often take for granted in the U.S., we can help people around the world build and maintain their livelihoods while preparing them to weather future disasters. Thank you for your lasting partnership in this work!

To read more about the countries we’re watching, and what we’re doing to help, read our full Early Warning Report.

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3 Reasons Punxsutawney Phil is not one of LWR’s Trusted Partners http://blog.lwr.org/2015/02/3-reasons-punxsutawney-phil-is-not-one-of-lwrs-trusted-partners/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/02/3-reasons-punxsutawney-phil-is-not-one-of-lwrs-trusted-partners/#comments Mon, 02 Feb 2015 15:15:16 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5646

Ok, I’ll admit it. I’ve always been a bit confused by Groundhog’s Day. Do we hope Phil sees his shadow? Do we hope he does not? What does this all mean? I decided to do a little research to find out.

The first recorded reference of Groundhog Day was made in 1841. Back then it occurred around the same time as Candlemas (which is observed on February 2). Tradition tells us that around this time, the groundhog will emerge from his burrow and look for his shadow. If he sees it, that means six more weeks of winter (and back into the ground!). If he does not see it, spring is on the way and he stays above ground. By now we’ve probably all heard the news: Phil did, in fact, see his shadow.

Nowadays, in the US, we turn mainly to meteorology to predict our weather. But in some places in the world, there is no daily weather report – and the consequences of not knowing how to prepare for oncoming weather can be severe.

Here are three ways your support of LWR helps people around the world prepare for, and cope with, challenging weather conditions.

Early Warning Systems

Nepal EWS

A group of villagers wears the life jackets LWR provided as part of the Early Warning System project, along with training on search and rescue, first aid and emergency communications.

 

The most effective way to protect yourself from severe weather is to know it’s coming.

Communities in India, near the Nepal border, didn’t know when the Koshi River’s waters would rise, bringing floods, loss of life and livelihoods. Meanwhile, communities upstream, on the Nepal side of the River, were experiencing the floods first. They had valuable information they could share.

That’s why LWR is working with communities on both sides of the border, along with local governments, to help communities develop early warning systems, evacuation plans, disaster reduction plans and more. By creating a link between the two communities, they can share critical information that can save lives. Learn more about our work with communities along the India-Nepal border on LWR In-Depth.

Community Mobilization

safe-schools-demonstration

Dana Jystad, of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., volunteers to be the example in a demonstration done by high schoolers teaching first aid to young students.

In the municipalities of Jinotega and San Ramon, in Nicaragua, changing weather patterns were putting families at risk. There was a great need for communities to come together to help each other through. Using schools as agents for change, LWR and its local partner provided training for students to form emergency response brigades, trained to provide first aid and treat cuts, bruises and other injuries.

In 2014, a delegation of students from Concordia College, in Moorhead, Minn. visited this project. Read what they learned from the experience.

Relief and Long-Term Recovery

Haiyan Fisherman

Reynaldo Batohan is the president of the Talisay Fisherfolk Association on Bantayan Island. LWR is working with this and other groups to help fisherfolk recover their livelihoods after Typhoon Haiyan.

Tropical Storm Washi. Typhoon Haiyan. Typhoon Hagupit. Communities in the Philippines have had to cope with several dangerously severe storms over the past few years. These storms have not only claimed lives and destroyed land and property, they’ve also taken their toll on livelihoods.

LWR and partners recently began a long-term livelihoods recovery program in areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan. This effort is focusing on fishing communities where many people saw their boats and supplies destroyed and were left with no means of livelihood.

With your help, we are helping fisherfolk to replace their boats and other assets, as well as introducing alternative sources of income (such as seaweed production) to help families and communities toward long-term recovery. To learn more about LWR’s Typhoon Haiyan recovery effort, read our one-year report.

As for Phil…

While we won’t be approaching Phil for an LWR project anytime soon, we do respect this time honored tradition (even if we do wish is prediction had been different). And, as always, we give thanks to you. Your support equips vulnerable communities around the world to face their own challenges, while working to overcome poverty. Thank you!

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Go Global this Lent! 5 Easy Tips. http://blog.lwr.org/2015/01/go-global-this-lent-5-easy-tips/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/01/go-global-this-lent-5-easy-tips/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 15:39:44 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5627

Lent is a time to focus our hearts and minds on Jesus’ journey to the cross and an opportunity to share that gift of grace through service to others.

2015 marks the fifth year Lutherans will come together to assemble LWR Personal Care Kits as a part of the Baskets of Promise Campaign.

Whether you’ve participated in this campaign in the past or are doing it for the first time, here are a few tips for getting your congregation excited and motivated to join in.

A little competition is ok (Really, it is!)

Personal care kits

At Grace Lutheran Church in Hanlontown, IA, it’s all hands (big and small!) on deck to assemble Personal Care Kits.

While we’re all in this together, setting up a little competition can be a great way to get people motivated.

Challenge Sunday school classes to bring in the most combs, toothbrushes or bars of soap. Or make cross-generational teams to get old and young working together.

However you set up your competition, make sure your collections sites are both visible and accessible so that everyone can see how all the teams are doing. Hearts for service always inspire others! (And having a good prize at the end doesn’t hurt either.)

No servant too big or small

IMG_1931

Trinity Lutheran Church, in Steven’s Point, Wis., uses kit-making as a way to bring servants of many ages together.

Kits are a great way to bring together members of all ages in service – from start to finish.

If your congregation calls together a team to plan your campaign, be sure to invite members of various ages to participate. And don’t forget your littlest disciples. Elementary-aged children are great sorters and packers for your assembly and even very young children can help too! Encourage parents to not only include chocolate (hopefully Fair Trade) in their Easter baskets, but also a few items to finish off Kits for your campaign. If your congregation does your own Easter egg hunt, find creative ways to include Baskets of Promise.

Think outside the pew

Ruth Everson 6

Ruth Everson, of Mooresville, Ind., says her family reunion was the perfect time to come together to assemble Personal Care Kits.

Why keep a good thing to yourself? Reach out into your community and invite folks outside your congregation to join you in service.

Especially during this time of year, many people want a way to make a positive difference in the world. Your congregation can be that opportunity. Use local media, social media and your members’ local connections to invite others to take part in your campaign.

To encourage various ways of helping, be sure to advertise what items are needed for Personal Care Kits and the time(s) and date(s) of item collections and assembly.

TIP: If you or a member of your congregation is a Thrivent member, you may be eligible to form a Thrivent Action Team can help support your campaign!

Don’t forget Wednesday service

Does your congregation gather for Wednesday worship during Lent? This, too, is an opportunity to bring your congregation together in service.

Encourage attendees to contribute Personal Care Kit items and make sure collection spots are visible and accessible during your community meal, before and after worship.

TIP: Many congregations use Wednesdays in Lent to explore what it means to be a disciple in the world. LWR has many resources to help. Check out our Game of Lasting Promise, a great activity to learn how Lutherans are working around the world to fight poverty. This and many other resources are available in our online resource center.

Pray

As with all parts of our life together as God’s people, prayer is an important part of your congregation’s service project. It’s an important reminder that, as with all things we do in the body of Christ, it is God who guides us.

Find our suggested prayers for each item of the kit online, or have members write their own. As you assemble your kits, also keep those in need – in your community and beyond – lifted in prayer. When you learn what country where your Kits will go (more information on that below), please pray for the poor and marginalized in that country as well.

After your campaign…

Where will your Personal Care Kits go? The LWR Quilt & Kit Tracker allows you to know where your kits will go and who will receive them. Using the tracker is a great way to stay in touch with those who took part in your Baskets of Promise Campaign and to teach younger members the importance of good stewardship.

You can find instructions for how to label and track your Personal Care Kits (or any item you send LWR) on our Quilt & Kit Tracker page.

And as you begin this Lenten journey, we at LWR give thanks for YOU! What other ways are you using this season of contemplation to share what you have with those in need?

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