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February 19, 2017
John visits Haiti, Ecuador & Peru

Northern Haiti - Sonje Ayiti

In January, John Stephens, our Senior Director of Programs and Partnerships travelled to Haiti to visit Sonje Ayiti, our grant partner that runs several projects in the small villages of Paulette and Phaeton in the northern region. 

New community restaurant in Phaeton

Lunch being served at the restaurant       

Happy patrons at the communtiy restaurant

Sonje Ayiti recently opened two new community restaurants to replace what was previously a feeding program. The restaurants now provide a free nutritious lunch for the communities' most vulnerable citizens (children and the elderly), which is about 10% of their clientele, while also providing low-cost meals for other patrons from the surrounding area. The new, brightly painted restaurants have quickly become a source of pride in Paulette and Phaeton. Sonje Ayiti expects the restaurants to become self-sufficient over time, as paying customers help to offset the cost of meals for those most in need. 

Northern Ecuador - VVF

After his trip to Haiti, John spent a few days in Northern Ecuador where he visited with one of VVF’s oldest direct implementation programs, which has been running since 2010. The primary programs are improving food security via home gardening, improving irrigation water systems and community enrichment in the small town of Paragachi. The team is implementing a system of vegetable and fruit gardening which is taken from the practice of biodynamic farming, and keeps much of its ethos around organic methods and natural resource management. The gardens are nurtured by various forms of organic fertilizer and also benefit from Ecuador’s excellent climate.  The gardens have shown to be extremely productive and families are reaping incredible harvests. As gardens become more abundant and provide surplus produce, communities are searching for new ways to engage with local markets, and are interested in various schemes to transport and sell fruits and vegetables to nearby communities.

                                    

Farmers in Ecuador display their recent harvest and share their knowledge about different crops

“I was impressed with how productive these home gardens were, which is directly related to the results of the organic fertilizer,” John explained. “Using simple technology, participants can very easily produce sufficient nutritious food at their homes to address household food security concerns first, and income generation second. The benefits of home gardening not only promote better nutrition, but also displaces processed foods purchased in the markets, saving families further money.”

               

                         A pair of gardeners proudly show their plot                                                          The VVF Ecuador Team

Peru - DESEA PERU

After Ecuador, John made his first visit to Peru to visit with our grantee DESEA Peru, working in the high Andean mountains near Cusco. DESEA’s work involves empowering local women as community health workers and installing water filters. The health workers, or Qhalis, are having enormous impact on the health of their community members by promoting improved nutrition and hygiene practices, and have even saved lives by applying their first aid training. The water filters are produced locally and use a bio-sand filter mechanism. These filters are low-tech, inexpensive and when properly maintained, last indefinitely. DESEA is happy to share their water filter design with any interested NGOs!

A biosand filter installed in a home in Peru

A Qhali and her young family

The DESEA Peru Team

February 6, 2017
VVF Kenya visits USA & Northern Kenya

In December 2016, Nick Kempson, Vibrant Village Foundation’s Program Director in Kenya and Charlie Wright, Kenya Education and Training Coordinator spent six days in Portland, Oregon visiting with Ken deLaski and our staff at headquarters. We had several days of meetings where Nick and Charlie shared presentations about the program in Kenya, highlighting their key successes and learning over the past year. This year they tripled the number of farmers involved in their farm input program, moving from 500 farmers to nearly 1500 farmers. Despite a few growing pains, they had a very successful year in terms of repayment among their farmers. 

Nick and Charlie also presented their ambitious 3-year plan which includes additional expansion of their farm input program and education programming with the goal of reaching self-sufficiency by 2019.  Ken and the HQ team also had a chance to share ideas for future growth for the Foundation, which was very fruitful.

Exchange with The BOMA Project

In January 2017, Nick Kempson, Vibrant Village Kenya's Program Director and Hilary Owinyo, VVF Kenya’s M&E Specialist, traveled to Northern Kenya to meet with one of our newest grantees, The BOMA Project.

Nick Kempson meeting with BOMA staff and community members

The exchange was an opportunity for Nick and Hilary to learn more about the Graduation Approach and the specific targeting and coaching involved in that model. Nick and Hilary were also introduced to the remote data collection system BOMA uses to monitor their programs effectively in very distant and spread out communities.

Nick meeting with BOMA participants during their savings meeting

January 16, 2017
CREATE! exchange with VVF Ghana

In late November, Lenny Baer, Vibrant Village Foundation’s Program Director in Ghana and Philip Bune, VVF Ghana’s borehole mechanic, traveled to central Senegal to visit CREATE!, one of our grant partners. During their six-day trip, Lenny and Philip learned about CREATE!'s cooperative garden program and gained valuable insights into cookstove construction, village savings and loan associations, chicken farming and other appropriate technologies.

Philip touring a garden in Senegal

On their visit, Lenny and Philip were struck by many of the similarities and differences between the communities where they work in Northern Ghana and the communities where CREATE! works.

“In Senegal, we saw many of the same vegetables that we have in Ghana, including okra, moringa, and a green tomato-like vegetable that we call ‘kombye.’ We also saw vegetables that are either uncommon or unavailable in Fielmuo, like eggplant and a red variety of turnip that looks like parsnip.” It was also interesting to see the differences in how people consume vegetables, Lenny explained, “In Ghana, people eat spinach-like leaves as part of stews whereas in Senegal, people reportedly throw the leaves away.”

It was clear from their visit that Senegal’s rainy season is much shorter, which poses more severe challenges around food security. Lenny remarked that, “the soil in Senegal is also much sandier, which makes it even more amazing to see beautiful lettuce growing in a desert.”

With CREATE! Lenny and Philip had the opportunity to attend a formal Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) meeting. Lenny’s team has not worked directly with VSLA’s before, but have a sense that the VSLA program in their area, which was disseminated many years ago through Plan Ghana, has strayed from the original concept over time. After seeing an example of best practices and realizing the extent of the problem in the Fielmuo area, Lenny is hoping to integrate VSLAs into several of their projects and emphasize the benefits of strong savings groups.

VSLA meeting with CREATE! in Senegal

During their visit, Lenny and Philip also participated in a cookstove construction demonstration using clay, sand, millet husks, and water, all of which are also available in the Fielmuo area. Upon their return from Senegal, Philip built a cookstove for a member of the soap making group in Fielmuo. According to Lenny, “It was not as polished in appearance as the one made in Senegal, but it was a wonderful start.” Philip and a group of interested women have since completed five more cookstoves. Each cookstove is better than the previous one, as Philip and the women gain experience.

                                       

                                      Stove construction workshop in Senegal                     Philip building a stove in Ghana

Lenny and Philip were excited to bring back many new ideas and experiences to share with their team. They extend a huge thank you to all the staff at CREATE!, to the community members they met in Senegal, and to Vibrant Village for sponsoring the exchange. 

Thanks to the CREATE! Team for a fruitful exchange

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