Browsing Category: Agriculture

Growing hope in the desert

“The desert” brings images to my mind of sand dunes and a quest for water. However, not every desert looks like the Sahara. In reality, the desert is a harsh ecosystem where everything fights to survive. In the rain shadow of Nicaraguan volcanoes lives a community of people who were in need of new ways to thrive in this harshness. This community was smart and motivated. All they needed was some resourcing to help them thrive.

Working with the community, Convoy of Hope’s Agriculture team put our heads together to find something that would work well with the assets this community already had. Though the community was in desert-like conditions, agriculture appeared to be the best answer. Growing food in this environment wasn’t going to be easy, especially because drought conditions were anticipated for several years.

The team decided to focus on a cash crop that could grow in the dry environment — dragon fruit. Dragon fruit is a perennial cactus that produces a large fleshly body which can be consumed and exported around the world. A dragon fruit plant can produce viable fruit for over 10 years once it has been established. The stage was now set to start farming in the desert.

As the project moved forward, we worked with a group of first-generation farmers with little or no knowledge on the production of dragon fruit. Convoy’s local Agriculture staff educated them on all aspects of production. This included pest management, choosing varieties, fertilization, irrigation, and harvest.

When the planting began, the sandy volcanic soils provided a great foundation for the plant to thrive. The cooperative clearly understood that in two years they would provide the startup plants for another cooperative who needed resources just like them.

Nine months after planting, I walked into the dragon fruit plantation and was blown away by the level of precision agriculture and human talent. The growers had set up experimental blocks away from the main field to test new varieties, pest management plans, and try new techniques. The cooperative had purchased a drip irrigation system so they could water the plants based on true evapotranspiration rates. Each plant was being managed with nutrients individually, not just as a whole field, allowing for environmental stewardship.   

Convoy’s Agriculture staff were working with the growers almost every day, transferring knowledge so they had the skills to problem solve on their own when problems came up. As we continued to walk the field, I hear how they have fought off disease, pests, and lived through acid storms*.

As the plants grew and started to produce fruit much earlier than anyone expected, the government of Nicaragua started to take notice. As Nicaraguan government agriculture staff toured the fields, they found themselves learning from the individuals in the cooperative on best practices and what they had learned from the process. The government staff now goes around teaching what they learned from Convoy’s staff and partners.    

There are now several dragon fruit cooperatives working with Convoy and the government, learning and working together like never before. A hope is seen in a group of people who are living in the rain shadow of a volcano.


*Fun Fact: The flower is almost 10 inches long. When the volcano is active, the steam clouds hold acid in their vapor. As the steam clouds move away from the volcano, they create their own weather. The rain that falls is acidic, burns the blossom, and destroys their ability to complete fertilization.   

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Agriculture
Head teacher Twati Mollel shows organic tomatoes growing in a greenhouse at his school near Arusha, Tanzania. Profit from the produce will feed students for years to come Head teacher Twati Mollel shows organic tomatoes growing in a greenhouse at his school near Arusha, Tanzania. Profit from the produce will feed students for years to come

10 tons of tomatoes grown in Tanzania increase sustainability

 

As the Tanzanian government increases its requirements for nonprofits, Convoy of Hope’s method of capacity building through nutrition programs has emerged as a leading model

For three days in December, high-ranking officials came from three government ministries to inspect Convoy of Hope’s programs. The delegation visited Ngaramtoni Primary School near Arusha, where Convoy has a feeding program.

What impressed the officials was the execution of Convoy’s plan in equipping the school to become self-sustaining, which enables the organization to move on and do the same with other schools.

Since Convoy entered Ngaramtoni in 2014, they’ve held community meetings, helped identify income generating opportunities, addressed hygiene and sanitation issues, empowered mothers to do business and taught students gardening techniques. The school is now poised to harvest and sell more than 10 metric tons of tomatoes per year, which will fund the lunch program in the future.

The officials asked Convoy of Hope to expand into other schools, and they marveled at how the organization invests in building capacity in the community.
“Where have you been all along!?” exclaimed one government official.

In fact, Convoy has received accolades from district government in recent years, and its development work has been featured on the evening news. Recognition from the national government, however, is new.

Michael Mlonga, who leads Convoy of Hope Tanzania, was summoned to Tanzania’s capital two weeks after the visit to present and train government officials on Convoy of Hope’s innovative model. “This is the new standard to which we want to uphold other NGOs involved in school-based feeding programs,” an official told Mlonga.

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Agriculture / In the News / Inspiration / News / Program Updates

How to make a soda bottle hanging basket

Each year, Convoy of Hope hands out thousands Gardens in a Bag at Community Events across the U.S. Each Garden in a Bag includes Baker Creek seeds, helpful tips and endless possibilities for Guests of Honor to start growing their own food, regardless the amount of land they have.

One way to start growing vegetables in a small space and on a small budget is vertical wall planting. Learn how to make a hanging basket out of a two-liter soda bottle below!

What you’ll need:

  • two-liter soda bottle
  • Potting soil
  • Seeds
  • Scissors
  • String

Step 1:

Cut around the body of the soda bottle until it is in two parts. Poke 2-4 holes in the bottom of the bottle for drainage and poke two holes in the sides to tie string to.

Step 2:

Fill the bottom half of the bottle with potting soil.

Step 3:

With your finger, dig a small hole in the soil. Place 2-5 seeds in the hole and then fill in the hole, overing the seeds with soil.

  • Helpful Tip: Planting multiple seeds in one spot, helps maximize the chance of sprouting.

Step 4:

Cut a long piece of string and tie each end to the holes that were cut in the side of the bottle.

Step 5: 

Hang up your new hanging basket where it will get plenty of sunlight. Make sure to read the instructions on the back of the seed packet to know how much sun and water the plant will need.

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Agriculture / Community Outreach

Growing hope: Agricultural research in partnership with Convoy of Hope

Convoy of Hope is partnering with Missouri State University agriculture master’s student Jordan Gott to research best practices in growing crops common for the participants in Convoy’s Agriculture Initiative.

Gott’s research centers around the timing of planting corn and lablab — a kind of bean native to Africa. Does planting them at the same time cause competition or do they help each other? Is it better to plant them at the same time or weeks apart? This information will help inform Convoy agronomists on the best way to train and educate farmers in our initiative.

From Missouri to Tanzania

The research began in a greenhouse on the MSU campus, but is now being field tested in Tanzania. With the help of Convoy of Hope staff and the ECHO global seed bank, Gott is growing and monitoring her crops in Arusha, Tanzania.

Gott had to consider some cultural and environmental differences when moving her research from Springfield, MO to Tanzania. There are differences in soil types and irrigation practices. She also had to consider cultural practices, as farmers in Tanzania always plant their corn first.

While she is working to help farmers in Tanzania, Gott is also excited to learn from them.

“I’m excited to go to Tanzania — be in the culture, meet the people and see how they do things,” Gott says. “I’m excited to keep on learning new stuff.”

Follow us for updates on Gott’s work in Tanzania.

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Agriculture

Farmers in North Dakota Find Hope in Every Harvest

Just like most farmers, Russell and Holly Edgar have experienced hardships. The Red River Flood of 1997 caused mass destruction to their land in North Dakota and they were unable to plant crops on half their farm for more than two years. They were forced to sell their equipment and rent out the farm that had been in their family since the 1800’s. But Russell knew that wasn’t the end for them.

“I started thinking about what it would take to build a dairy heifer-raising facility on our land,” Russell explains. “I would wake up some mornings with design ideas.”

In 2004, the Edgars started construction on a 3,000-head facility. Once up and running, they were able to work toward getting their land back.

“I felt like God was telling me that since he had helped us through that difficult time, it was our turn to do something for others,” Russell adds.

Russell spoke with a friend of his who worked with the grain donation program, producing food for Convoy of Hope. Bob and LeAnn Bachman explained the program to the Edgar family, who decided that pinto beans would be the best fit for the children Convoy of Hope serves.

“I decided to donate 20 acres of pinto beans to the feeding program,” Russell says. “I received tremendous favor and reached out to a local bean seed company who donated all the seeds for free.”

Since then, the Edgars continue to donate pinto beans and corn to Convoy of Hope’s Children’s Feeding Initiative serving countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and the Philippines. They are proof that there is hope in every harvest.

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Agriculture