LWR’s Blog http://blog.lwr.org Sustainable development. Lasting promise. Fri, 24 Apr 2015 12:31:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2 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 monthly 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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Five Years Later: The Haiti Earthquake in Pictures http://blog.lwr.org/2015/01/five-years-later-the-haiti-earthquake-in-pictures/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/01/five-years-later-the-haiti-earthquake-in-pictures/#comments Mon, 12 Jan 2015 12:00:50 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5592

Monday, January 12 marks the five-year anniversary of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti. It’s painful to recall. The poorest country in this hemisphere, Haiti was the country least able to handle such a shocking event.

Even before the earthquake, the majority of Haitians faced decades of problems, most of which begin and end in extreme poverty. Poor health and malnutrition, a lack of work opportunities, government corruption and the devastation of Haiti’s natural resources have left few options.

Through partner organizations, LWR has been working in Haiti since 1997 to attack the vicious cycle of poverty there. Scroll down to see just a bit of what LWR has done (not an exhaustive list), and what we continue to do to provide lasting solutions to poverty, injustice and human suffering.

The earthquake caused massive devastation

A man walks past destroyed buildings in the historic Grand Rue section of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, six weeks after the earthquake.
A man walks past destroyed buildings in the historic Grand Rue section of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, six weeks after the earthquake. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst, for LWR)

Nearly 2.3 million people were displaced

A woman and her family live in a tent community on a soccer field in Jacmel, Haiti.

A woman and her family live in a tent community on a soccer field in Jacmel, Haiti. LWR supported cash-for-work programs, latrine-building for sanitation, and basic medical monitoring and treatment training in communities of displaced people. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst for LWR)

 

You increased Health & Hygiene

Cholera prevention training near Leogane, Haiti

Right after the quake, an outbreak of cholera — a potentially fatal intestinal infection — swept across Haiti. The students at Christo Roi de Corail school, just outside Leogane, had not yet been affected by the outbreak. Still, LWR and partners aimed to make sure families knew how to stay safe. Good hygiene is key to staying healthy. That’s why, along with a Personal Care Kit distribution, LWR offered students and their families cholera prevention training. (Photo by Allison Shelley, for LWR)

LWR and our partners built latrines for over 10,000 families, provided health & hygiene training for 10,253 family members, and distributed chlorine, aquatabs and water storage solutions to 2,156 families.

People stand in line to fill containers with potable water at the Sainte Therese tent encampment in the Petionville section of Port-au-Prince
(Photo by Jonathon Ernst, for LWR)
 

You provided Cash for Work

workers in Leongane, Haiti, pass a bucket down a line

People affected by the earthquake were given cash for doing jobs like soil conservation, road repair, and building water filters and community latrines. (Photo by Allison Shelley, for LWR)

People who participated in the cash-for-work programs said it was a great savior for them. With the money they received, they bought basic food items and some of them purchased seeds to build up their garden.

 

You helped distribute tools and seeds to farmers

woman holding bucket of freshly picked tomatoes

Soamen Jose is a star tomato farmer. In the aftermath of the earthquake, LWR provided farmers like Soamen tools, seeds and cuttings of plants for agriculture, such as sweet potatoes, beans, cassava, and plantains (among others).

LWR also distributed goats and poultry to farmers who could breed them and pass on the gift to others in their community.

You Helped Provide Quilts and Kits

Youth campers show the Personal Care Kits they made to send to Haiti

Lutherans around the United States made Quilts and Kits to send to Haiti. The campers at Nebraska Lutheran Outdoor Ministries made 32,000 Personal Care Kits to send to Haiti throughout the summer of 2010.

Claudette Gaston shows the Mission Quilt she received from Lutheran World Relief

Claudette Gaston shows the Mission Quilt she received from Lutheran World Relief. (Leogane, Haiti)

Lasting Solutions: Coffee and Cocoa

coffee farmers in northern Haiti

Until the early 1980s, Haiti was among the largest exporters of coffee in the world.
In the five years since the earthquake, LWR is investing in coffee farmers, strengthening their ability to earn a sustainable living.

Annelle Papillon sits at her desk

Annelle Papillon is the manager of the local coffee cooperative. She’s been doing this job for 4 years, watching the farmers gain more knowledge and better crops.

A cocoa farmer in northern Haiti fills a bag with dried cocoa beans

As interest in Haiti’s fine flavor cocoa grows, farmers’ ability to capitalize on growing demand for it is hampered by low productivity, inadequate post-harvest processing that lowers bean quality, and limited capacity of farmer cooperatives to leverage finance and stronger market linkages for members.

Cocoa farmers stand among their crops in northern Haiti

LWR is training cocoa farmers in practices that sustainably increase yields and cocoa quality, and strengthen farmers’ connection to markets and each other for coordinated business practices.

Want to learn more?

Want to learn more about LWR’s continuing work to provide lasting solutions to poverty in Haiti? Visit LWR In Depth to read about our ongoing projects there.

Statistics:Haiti Earthquake | ReliefWeb

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The Indian Ocean Tsunami: 10 Years Later http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/the-indian-ocean-tsunami-10-years-later/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/the-indian-ocean-tsunami-10-years-later/#comments Fri, 26 Dec 2014 12:00:04 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5582

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami that swept through Asia, forever changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. In total, 227,898 people were killed or were missing and presumed dead and about 1.7 million people were displaced in 14 countries in South Asia and East Africa. The tsunami caused more casualties than any other in recorded history.

In the days and weeks following the catastrophe, there was an outpouring of support and commitment from Lutherans who put their faith into action by supporting the mission and ministry of Lutheran World Relief.

Individuals and congregations generously contributed more than $19 MILLION IN PRIVATE DONATIONS TO LWR. This overwhelming generosity — unprecedented in LWR’s history — allowed us to provide life-saving aid to communities and commit to the long-term recovery of the region during the past decade. Your commitment enabled us to provide survivors with tools, knowledge, and resources to not only rebuild their lives but become stronger and more resilient communities.

We are pleased to report on the tremendous inroads made over the last 10 years, all thanks to your support. This work required significant engagement with our trusted local partners and local authorities, as well as — and perhaps most important — at the grassroots level, with communities themselves having the most influential voices. On behalf of all of us at LWR and those we serve, thank you for your continued generosity.

Download the 10-Year Report

Tsunami 10-Year Report

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The 5 Best Videos of 2014 http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/the-5-best-videos-of-2014/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/the-5-best-videos-of-2014/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:00:22 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5575

2014 was a busy year! From the first phases of our response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines to increasing work with coffee and cocoa farmers throughout the world, we’ve captured quite a bit of it on video.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Putting cash in the hands of typhoon victims


Watching Leonida’s smile as she helps her community and gets some much needed cash in her hands, it’s hard not to smile myself.

Your coffee will never taste the same


…after you meet Atandi, a farmer in Western Kenya.

These cocoa farmers have been through a lot


On the border of Peru and Colombia, many of these farmers were forced to plant coca, for cocaine. Helping them find alternatives has been more than life-changing.

When water is hard to come by


Sevu knows what hunger feels like. It’s all-consuming. So helping his community capture water that can be used to grow crops is truly transformative.

Enhanced Resilience = Lasting Impact


Finally, go more in-depth on LWR’s Watershed Approach to Enhanced Resilience (WATER) project in one of Kenya’s driest regions. Learn how this project is helping families like Sevu’s.

Which videos did you enjoy the most? What has the greatest impact? Leave your comments below!

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What are We Waiting For? (A Reflection on Advent) http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/what-are-we-waiting-for/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/what-are-we-waiting-for/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 12:00:59 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5557

Advent. Season of waiting. Season of hope. Season of peace.

Maybe. I’m not sure about that last one. Maybe even the last two. It’s hard work these days to align our minds, bodies and spirits with the deeper themes of this brief season of the liturgical year in the midst of so much noise, hustle and bustle, striving for the best deal and staying up late to bake 12 dozen perfect cookies for the cookie swap.

Not to mention all that’s happening in the world around us, from our families and communities to our country and world. No one needs me to list it all out – we’ve seen the news stories and talked with our neighbors and engaged in (or avoided) the heated discussions on social media.

In this world that seems perpetually to be spinning out of control, I take such solace in the practices of Advent: the lighting of the wreath at mealtimes and worship services, mid-week evening vespers, daily reflections. Most of the time, I do a decent job striking a balance of knowing what’s happening in the world and figuring out my role without becoming (too) overwhelmed or (too) despairing or (too) exhausted.

This Advent is slightly different for me. My husband and I are expecting our first child in February. Waiting has taken on a bit of a new dimension for us! So it won’t come as a surprise that the music that is resonating with me this season relates to several adaptations on Mary’s Song, the Magnificat: that beautiful, haunting, strong piece of prose articulated by a young, unwed, pregnant woman when greeted by her also pregnant cousin, Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56). Her words and heart have clearly moved us through the ages, inspiring countless musical adaptations.

My soon-to-be mother’s heart aligns with the powerful themes of the song as set to a traditional Irish tune by Rory Cooney called Canticle of the Turning. In my hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the hymn is actually placed not in the Advent or Christmas sections, but in the Justice and Peace sections. And no wonder – Mary’s Song is about God turning the world on its head.

When we were first pregnant, I was talking with my mom about some of my hopes and fears. Among them, whether it is the right thing to do to bring an innocent child into a world so broken and seemingly spinning off its axis. Her wise response was, “that is the question raised by every generation.” Brokenness and out-of-controllness are not new. Long before Mary, God’s people cried out from places of danger, despair, hunger, and confusion. And perhaps one way that God answers our pleas over the years is through people who, out of hearts that long for change, bravely raise a new generation in the face of all the brokenness who have energy and spirits and ideas that help shape the world and heal some of that very same brokenness.

In the words of the hymn, “halls of power” and “fortress tower” will crumble. “Every tyrant” will be torn from his or her throne. “Every mouth” will be fed. No exceptions. Our souls “cry out with a joyful shout that” God is truly great. Surrounded by brokenness and despair, God’s promises and presence give us hope while we wait, not with lethargy, but with purpose. For “the world is about to turn!”

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An Update on Hagupit http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/an-update-on-hagupit/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/an-update-on-hagupit/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 18:53:37 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5568

Adapted from LWR’s most recent Hagupit Situation Report. View the full Situation Report on LWR In Depth.

Typhoon Hagupit made its way through the Philippines this week, sparing much of the damage we initially feared. As Hagupit moved westward, it weakened substantially and has since been downgraded to a tropical depression. At this point, the Philippines national weather agency has lifted all public storm warnings.

The most substantial damage was to shelter, infrastructure, and agriculture, especially in Eastern and Western Samar and Masbate. However, there is still a possible storm surge and extensive flooding in northern and western Samar. And many small island communities (barangays) have not yet been reached and the total extent of the damage and casualties is not yet known.

Maryland relief workers assessing Typhoon Hagupit

Maryland relief workers assessing Typhoon Hagupit. Lutheran World Relief crews surveying damage. WBAL TV

Initial Assessments

The good news is that, as of Tuesday evening, most of the 716,600 people in evacuation centers have reportedly returned home.

However, the Ministry of Agriculture has reported substantial damage to fisheries, livestock, corn and rice production, and aquaculture. Initial assessments are in the $22 million range covering 55,000 hectares. An assessment of coconut farms is ongoing and expected by the end of the week. Much of the Visayas Region continues to be without power and mobile communications. Some shops and markets are reportedly closed, especially in Masbate. Many roads in the heavily affected areas are impassable due to landslides and flooding. Some rivers are reported to be as much as five meters above normal.

LWR’s Actions and Next Steps

LWR is assessing the damage in areas where we currently have active projects, and is leading the ACT Alliance assessment in Northern Cebu. We expect to complete the assessments by the end of the week.

LWR’s Anticipated Response

LWR will provide additional financial support to the 20,000 beneficiaries involved in livelihood recovery after Typhoon Haiyan, which focuses on primary livelihood recovery and diversified livelihoods. We will also place a special focus on fisherfolk communities and vulnerable coconut farmers impacted by both Haiyan and Hagupit.

LWR is on standby for provision of non-food items and shelter kits if needed and requested by the government.

How You Can Help

You can help by giving a cash donation to LWR’s Typhoon Hagupit Fund. When you donate to LWR, you can rest assured your dollars are used wisely. Read more about the impact of your donation.

Donate Now

Please PRAY for the people of the Philippines, our staff, and our partners.

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LWR Prepares for Typhoon Hagupit http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/lwr-prepares-for-typhoon-hagupit/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/lwr-prepares-for-typhoon-hagupit/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 19:33:27 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5562

LWR is monitoring Super Typhoon Hagupit as it heads toward the Philippines this weekend. Current reports indicate that it’s heading toward a similar path as Typhoon Haiyan did 13 months ago. This means it may head across LWR’s project areas in Northern Cebu and Leyte.

We don’t yet know what the damage or impact of this storm will be; it’s projected to make landfall this weekend. We are monitoring the situation and will be in contact with more information as we know it.

LWR commits initial investment

At this point LWR has committed $50,000 to 4 program areas:

  1. A cash-for-work program that will inject needed investments into local communities.
  2. Preparing and positioning shelter repair kit materials for affected families, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Philippines.
  3. Identifying centers to transfer cash to affected people for non-food items (NFIs).
  4. Exploring additional quality and accountability trainings for local and international aid organizations, in partnership with Church World Service (CWS).

In addition, two of our local partners, Tambuyog and KAMPHIL, are involved in community evacuations and government preparation activities in Northern Cebu and Leyte.

Notes from the Ground

Joanne Fairley, LWR’s regional director for Asia & the Middle East, and Femia Baldeo, LWR’s country director in the Philippines sent the following notes:

  • This storm seems to be headed toward our current project areas.  Because we have been actively working in these communities, there is a high level of awareness about the coming storm and potential damage, but there is also a lot fear. They know that damage could be done, they know the impact this could have, and they know what it’s like to have to leave their homes and wait in evacuation centers.
  • Because Typhoon Haiyan hit just one year ago, communities haven’t completely recovered yet. Houses are not completely finished and they are certainly not yet typhoon-proof. As described in the 1-year report, our livelihoods projects have just started and are going to take some time. This storm could have major impact on those projects where we’re working with communities to restore their primary livelihoods (fishing and coconut farming) as well as help them build up secondary livelihood options to diversify their incomes.
  • But, there is a silver lining in all of this.  Because of the work LWR and other NGOs put into building relationships with local governments, there is an amazing sense of preparation and calm around this emergency. So much prep work has gone into helping communities prepare for such emergencies that, compared to the frenzy before Typhoon Haiyan, most people are feeling better prepared for Typhoon Hagupit.

How You Can Help

You can help by giving a cash donation to LWR’s Typhoon Hagupit Fund. When you donate to LWR, you can rest assured your dollars are used wisely. Read more about the impact of your donation.

Donate Now

Please PRAY for the people of the Philippines, our staff, and our partners.

God of mercy,

When Elijah experienced a great and strong wind on Mount Horeb, you were not in the wind. When Elijah felt the tremors of an earthquake and the heat of a fire, you were not in those, either.

As the wind and rains whip through the Philippine islands, let your gentle whisper, your sound of sheer silence, come to the aid of your people.

Give shelter to those who need it. Give comfort to the distressed.

And give us eyes to see our Filipino neighbors, that we may respond with wisdom and mercy to their deepest needs.

You are our rock and our salvation, the one who gives us life. We ask all of this in the name of our savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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#ThanksgivingTag: Show a friend you’re thankful http://blog.lwr.org/2014/11/thanksgivingtag/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/11/thanksgivingtag/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 20:42:52 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5538

One of LWR’s core values is gratitude. It marks the way we relate to one another and to all creation. As Thanksgiving approaches, we want to show that gratitude through a game: Thanksgiving Tag.

How to play Thanksgiving Tag

The rules are incredibly simple.

  1. Share the image above,
  2. tag a person you’re thankful for, and
  3. include the hashtag #ThanksgivingTag

Repeat as often as desired. We recommend making this a practice of gratitude every day between now and Thanksgiving.

What happens if you get tagged?

You’re it! It’s your turn to tag someone you are thankful for.

You can also leave a comment below and let us know who you’re giving thanks for today.

Who is LWR thankful for?

Here are just a few of the people and organizations we’re giving thanks for this year:

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Three Lessons I Learned Spending a Day with Potato Farmers in Peru http://blog.lwr.org/2014/11/three-lessons-i-learned-spending-a-day-with-potato-farmers-in-peru/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/11/three-lessons-i-learned-spending-a-day-with-potato-farmers-in-peru/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 12:30:29 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5456

Dr. Louise P. Evenson is a member of the Lutheran World Relief board of directors. Recently, she traveled to Peru with LWR president Daniel Speckhard and Senior Director for Latin America Programs, Carolyn Barker-Villena.

The title of this blog post is something of a misnomer. I learned far more than three things on my trip! But I will say that these three things will stay with me a long time and make me even more thankful for the work Lutheran World Relief is doing around the world.

So come with me…and visit with potato farmers in Peru and learn how your support is truly changing lives!

Lesson #1: When LWR says they work in remote rural communities, they are not kidding!

After arriving in Lima and meeting Pedro Veliz and Eduardo Contreras, LWR’s Andean Regional Representative and Country Director for Peru, respectively, we traveled four hours by car along the coast of Peru. Along the way we passed many corporate farms that grew things like corn and avocados. Then, after making a left turn we began to ascend.

Our journey took us up a single-lane, curvy mountain road with no guard rail, but the landscape was breathtaking. Four hours after that we arrived in the town of Castrovirreyna.

Daisy and her family

With support from LWR, Daisy and her family grow native varieties of potatoes to eat and sell. Learn more about Daisy at lwr.org/Daisy.

This area was once the site of much conflict, forcing some families to leave their land behind and seek safety. Now many of them are coming back. Lutheran World Relief is working with potato farmers in this region to help re-establish native potato varieties to eat and sell for income. In fact, you’ve probably already met at least two people benefitting from this project – Juan and Daisy.

Lesson #2: LWR truly does works with small-holder farmers.

The second thing that was affirmed for me on this trip is that when LWR says they work with small-holder farmers, they mean it. Most families plant on land that is less than one hectare (about 2.5 acres). Yet, as I witnessed, LWR is helping them to make a living from their land.

On the day of our visit, we traveled to the village of Cocha, to accompany Daisy and her family as they went about the business of potato farming. Part of the tradition of the region is to have a planting ceremony. So we listened as the family explained how they’d received training to be able to pick out the best potatoes to use for seedlings. And we watched as they decorated oxen with flowers – as is the local tradition – before they plowed a furrow in the ground to plant the seedlings.

Decorated oxen

One local tradition is to decorate oxen with flowers before they plow the land.

As I watched I was inspired by the pride with which Daisy’s family speaks of their farm. I could tell that, to them, this was more than a piece of land, more than a home even. To them, it was a legacy they were passing onto their children. And it’s a legacy my husband, Paul, and I now share. During the ceremony we were named “godparents” of the family’s potato fields. We are praying for a bumper crop!

Lesson #3: The blessings we create through this work are both reciprocal and immeasurable

At the end of the day’s festivities, there was a festive meal, called a Pachamanca. To prepare for it, early that morning while we were still trekking to get there, members of the community dug a hole deep into the ground and filled it with timbers. In the hole they placed rocks which heat up over the fire. Once the rocks were warm enough, chicken, alpaca meat, whole lima bean pods, pots of cheese and potatoes were laid on top and then covered with grass and dirt to roast in this earthen oven. More on that in a moment.

After we attended the potato planting ceremony, we went to see how LWR has worked with the community to improve their irrigation. They’ve built small reservoirs to capture the rain and spring water, which is then fed into large scale sprinkler systems that cover over 60 hectares. Clearly, this intervention is working. Immediately around me I saw green, verdant fields amongst a backdrop of bleak ones.

Louise Paul with decorated alpaca

Louise and her husband Paul stand with ana llama that has been decorated for a community celebration.

By the time we were done visiting the irrigation site, the food had roasted to perfection and it was time to celebrate.   The entire community came out to Daisy’s family home. As I ate and joined in fellowship with the community, I saw so many blessings playing out before my eyes.

I heard farmers talking with pride about their land and crops. The land here is rough. As we traveled I saw farmers breaking up rocky dirt with axes. But many farmers here were talking about organic farming and how they wanted to grow their potatoes organically.

I saw children who were attending school. During the day we were greeted by a group of students who sang us a song. Two children in particular struck me – two girls – who were playing the drums, leading the entire school in song. This school had also received toothbrushes and toothpaste from LWR as part of the Quilt and Kit ministry. The children showed us with pride how they brush their teeth every day at school.

Kids using toothbrushes

School children demonstrate how they brush their teeth with toothbrushes contained in LWR Personal Care Kits.

And I also saw a connection. I grew up on a farm and I’ve seen first-hand that all farmers are dependent on sun and rain for their livelihood. To see that our support of Lutheran World Relief helps people in small, rural communities like Cocha live better lives is not only a blessing to them, but a blessing to me and to all of us.

I’d like to thank the staff of LWR – especially Pedro, Eduardo and staff at CEDINCO, our partner organization – along with Daisy and all the people we met for their hospitality. I also want to thank you for your prayers and support of Lutheran World Relief. Through this trip I saw first-hand that our investment in these communities does so much more than I ever imagined possible.

Learn more about LWR’s work in Peru.

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