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
Vibrant Village Foundation supports Surfaid with a $31,345 one-year grant to facilitate construction of a solar-powered water pump and complementary sanitation and hygiene projects for nearly 300 people in the village of Eruparaboat, Indonesia.
The villagers of Eruparaboat have struggled to rebuild their community since they were displaced by a tsunami in October 2010. Located in the remote Mentawai Island chain of northwestern Indonesia, they already had limited access to resources, government support and health services. In their relocated area, away from the coast, up the hill in the middle of the jungle, those resources are non-existent. Vibrant Village Foundation and SurfAid are working closely with local village leadership to improve health and nutrition. A new drinking water system constructed by community labor is nearing completion.
It was cloudy in Kinumbuk, at SurfAid’s basecamp in South Pagai. We were getting ready to go to the Eruparaboat hamlet. Our agriculture officer, Nando, had scheduled an activity with Eruparaboat’s women who are interested in starting a vegetable garden.
The meeting and other activities are part of SurfAid’s Long-Term Post Tsunami Recovery Program. The vegetable garden aims to support mothers with children under five, in particular, with a source of nutritious food to reduce the number malnourished children and pregnant mothers.
Nutrition is a big concern in the area. The relocated communities have no farming activities, are very far from a local market and have not yet found new sources of income. With nutrition gardens, families do not need to spend money on vegetables and can sell the surplus. The community is keen to participate, but has to balance the tasks of reconstructing their homes with participating in activities to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. To address these competing priorities, the residents decided that the men would focus on the house construction, while the women participated in setting up the gardens.
So, there we were, ready to go. Friska, our nutrition advisor, Gonggom, our health promotion officer, and I joined Nando for the activity. We planned to work together with the community to clear the land so they could start the vegetable demonstration plot on land next to their church.
We first stopped at the house of Ibu Susan, a community health volunteer. Susan is one of the natural leaders in the hamlet, and an active health volunteer for the community health post. When we arrived, the rain was pouring down, so we chatted for a few minutes hoping for the rain to go down. Before long Ibu Susan turned to us matter-of-factly and said, “Shall we go”? We were surprised, since it was still raining so hard. “I know it is raining,” she explained, “But I have go because some of the mothers might be waiting at the arranged place. I have to keep my promise whatever the situation is, whether the mothers are there or not. If any mothers are there, we can decide together what’s best. If it’s canceled, that is fine, but at least I showed up as I promised.”
We walked for two kilometers from Ibu Susan’s house to the plot next to the church. Along the way, the mothers from houses we passed shouted out to Ibu Susan to ask if the activity was still happening. To each person, Ibu Susan replied, “Just meet in the church, and see if the rain will stop!”
With this reassurance, the mothers got ready and caught up with us at the church.
While waiting for other mothers at the site, I asked Ibu Susan how many women had joined. She said, “In the beginning, it was only 5 to 10 women, but then more and more wanted to join. At first, they thought the demonstration nutrition garden was only for a few families. But then I explained that it is for the whole community, so whoever wants to join, we are happy to work with and learn together.”
Ibu Susan recalled how Gonggom and Nando described the demonstration garden as a ‘school’ for the community to learn how to have a good productive vegetable garden. “We do know how to plant,” she explained, “But most of the time we find pests in the vegetables or have some other planting issue. We don't know whether we did wrong or right.”
Susan continued, “With this demonstration garden, we want to improve our knowledge, so that later we can practice it in our homes. Some mothers also asked about the harvest from the demonstration garden. We will use the harvest from the demonstration garden as the source of supplementary food in the community health post or for the cooking nutritious food class activity.”
By that time, other women had arrived and the rain stopped. There were about 30 women who happily joined to clear the land. They brought their own machetes and gloves. Some women also carried their children with them. After a short briefing from Ibu Susan and Nando, all of us jumped up and start clearing the bushes, stones and tree trunks!
It took less than one hour to clear the 400 square meter piece of land set aside for the demonstration garden activity. After the work, we sat together for a coffee before wrapping up to go back home. The women agreed to finalize clearing the land the next week, and to start preparing the soil the week after. “Together with SurfAid, we are sure that we can practice our vegetable garden at home, harvest good results and feed our families with nutritious food. Plus, we also can save some money,” said Ibu Susan laughing.
Ibu Luseria leads by example. Despite her advanced years, she is out there and digging with all other community members. The 2010 tsunami took their houses and livelihoods, their children, family and friends. The survivors have moved to higher ground, into the forest. Slowly they are trying to rebuild their lives again.
"Water is so important for our lives and health,” says Ibu Luseria. ”Since the tsunami we have been using rainwater for drinking and the runoff from the road for washing dishes and ourselves. Of course I want to contribute with the rest of the community to get clean water into Eruparaboat. Together with Surfaid, it is possible!"
The community of Eruparaboat hamlet (88 households and 287people) is among 13 communities that were relocated to a new area in the forest on a hill, in the aftermath of the 2010 tsunami. Since their relocation they have been eagerly waiting for the government to build new infrastructures, such as access roads and their permanent houses. This has only started in January 2014, much later than expected.
In addition to the new government homes, Vibrant Village Foundation has invested $31,345 to support the construction of a solar-powered clean-water distribution system for the village. A water committee, which was selected by the community, will play an important role to ensure the sustainability of the water system as its main function is to oversee day-to-day operations, initiate policies for all water users and manage the whole system. The committee will also keep promoting health and sanitation education for the community.
Photos by Nazaruddin, water and sanitation engineer SurfAid.
Mrs. Surtika, a 35 year-old community member from Eruparaboat explains, “Since we had to move from our village of origin, we have suffered from lack of food, no appropriate homes to live in and most the vital, we have lack of potable water. This lack of drinking water affects our children and us. That is why, we are pleased upon hearing the clean water project will be established in our hamlet. During the community meeting, we have discussed on contribution on labor and will work together to succeed the water project construction. My hope that the completion of this project will help a lot for community.”