Compassion in Action - Creating Hope after Ebola

Photo Courtesy of SEED Program International 

Photo Courtesy of SEED Program International 

By Naima Abdullahi and Peter Marks, Seed Programs International - a Week of Compassion partner working to help bring food security, women's empowerment, and Ebola recovery to Liberia.

"I am a mother of 6 living children," begins Angie Singbeh, a recipient of vegetable seeds and training who lives in Montserrado County, Libera. "I gave birth to 8 children. The oldest child is 25 and I lost him to Ebola. I lost my 5th born to malnutrition when she was just a little over the age of 1 year. I lost my first husband in the civil war and later remarried my current husband who was a widow with 4 of his own children. My current husband is physically disabled also as a result of the civil war. Together we are raising 10 children. I am a farmer, and I am the main bread winner for the family."

"I have received vegetable seeds for my small farm from the church. The seeds have fed and clothed my family, I am forever grateful for the help. The church program for women has helped me get training and seeds, without this support my family is helpless. We can now help ourselves. I work in the field and my husband works at the market to sell our vegetables, the okra is very popular at the market, it is our best seller. I thank you all that are helping me and the others that are with me. Thank you and may God bless you."

Angie's story is just one of thousands who have been impacted by vegetable seeds and support delivered with the help of Week of Compassion. Over 60 percent of Liberia's agricultural producers are women; yet, men still tend to receive more and higher quality training, and women's training is often inadequate.

Through the partnership of Seed Programs International and Church Aid Liberia, a lot has changed at the village level -- the bottom-up approach has empowered the women. They are actively involved in aspects of program management such as conducting meetings, collectively selecting training topics and presenting groups needs to Church Aid Liberia staff. We provide a community based solution that gives women access to the knowledge, skills and self-confidence they need to seek out economic opportunity paths out of poverty to self-reliance.

A recent 6 week training included sessions on basic vegetable gardening, harvest and preservation methods, how to develop a business plan, practical marketing, business management, and co-operative business structures. During the training, exchange of experiences among participants is encouraged as an important step towards securing livelihoods and reducing poverty by working together. On completion, of the course the women are able to understand among many other things:
* How to improve their vegetable yield through environmentally friendly methods
* How to start a fresh vegetable sale business
* How profit is calculated in a business
* The factors which determine the right price for their produce

Courtesy of SEED Program International

Courtesy of SEED Program International

As part of the training, the participants are encouraged to submit proposals for agribusiness projects that they intend to carry out in their communities.

A few hours bus-ride away, this vision of community-level agribusinesses that sustain and nourish the Liberian people is already underway. Week of Compassion and SPI is supporting three such agribusinesses. They are flourishing-each distributing top-quality SPI vegetable seeds to hundreds of farmers and kitchen gardens in Bong, Grand Bassa, and Lofa counties.

These "Ag Enterprise Service Centers" are run by young men and women, who work hard to provide not only vegetable seeds but also tools, fertilizers, and-most importantly-knowledge to small farmers around them. The seeds and supplies are sold at a fair price that even rural Liberians can afford, but which still sustains the enterprises. We greatly admire this type of effort because it is more than charity-it builds self-reliant, locally-sustained economic systems that help people of all ages, genders, and abilities have enough to eat, grow, and thrive.

Seed Programs International is a North Carolina-based 501c3 organization since 1999. Its mission is to provide good quality seeds, expertise, and training materials to humanitarian organizations working around the world to alleviate hunger and poverty. SPI addresses international hunger, poverty and malnutrition in a very specific way: by providing a conduit for good vegetable garden seed for international use in relief, crisis recovery, and the empowerment of women.


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