Hello from the road! We are headed to Tucson to visit our friend (and CEO of Raise It Up) Terry and his family.
The past couple of months have been a bit stressful for our group. Saying goodbye to Fayye Foundation was bittersweet. Of course, it is just the name that is really being retired, but there is something about the entire project and what we went through with every detail that had all of us a bit emotional.
With this last trip to Ethiopia and South Africa, we realized what we already knew- community is key. We knew the impact water had on a community, but we were shocked to see the transformation from clean water and vegetable gardens. We were introduced to projects Terry had been working on in South Africa with gardens. I was a bit skeptical. It sounded so unimaginative. I wondered, if gardens were so great, why weren’t there more people putting them in? Then I realized it is the same reason there is a water crisis- people aren’t utilizing their own strengths and passing the information on to others. Again, community is key!
We knew we would be in partnership with Waves for Water- always assisting in getting clean water to these areas first, but then we thought addressing hunger and nutrition would be our focus and strength. However, just like with water, it does so much more than the clear importance of its obvious duty.
Here is a little bit more about why we chose to focus on gardening. You can visit the Raise It Up website (at the moment it is a glorified splash page, but the rest of the website is coming soon), and use the contact page if you would like more information.
Nutrition: In many developing countries, a typical meal for a child would be one bowl of bland porridge a day at school. Many families are unable to provide their children with basic meals and, unfortunately, the school’s meals often do not meet basic nutritional needs for optimal development. Our garden gives the community fresh vegetables and thus the nutrition they otherwise would not have. We also educate the community regarding why these foods are important for their families.
Women’s Empowerment: Women often work in pesticide-laden fields and are paid very low wages compared to men, if they are given a job at all. Our goal is to provide women with job opportunities in a safe environment with fair wages.
Economic Growth: Self-sufficiency is key to the success of our community garden projects. These gardens provide jobs to community members and stimulate the economy of the area. For example, one of our South African gardens has become the go-to for vegetable and herb purchases for big game lodges. The lodges are drawn to the quality, freshness and work ethic behind these gardens. The funds from the game lodges allow us to provide herbs and vegetables to local community members and schools.
Children’s Health: The locations of our gardens vary, but, when possible, we select a school as the central location for a garden. This is due to the importance of the nutrients these gardens provide to growing children. Furthermore, because the gardens are run mainly by women, the workers are able to bring their babies and toddlers to work. This provides a stable atmosphere for the children, and strongly supports the communities’ efforts to reach the World Health Organization recommended goal of breastfeeding for two years. The communities we work in are desperately trying to reach this crucial nutritional milestone because this goal significantly decreases the mortality rate of children under five in these areas.
Lowered Abuse Rate: Domestic abuse rates declined when vegetable gardens were implemented in various areas of South Africa. This has been attributed to women’s ability to make a living, thus empowering them to leave abusive relationships. Alternatively, men start to view their partners as equals because of their financial contributions to the household and begin treating them with more respect. This is a huge improvement in largely patriarchal societies where domestic abuse is common.
Distribution Points: These gardens have become the distribution points that help expand needs-based community-specific projects in each area. These types of projects include: mosquito nets, water filters, AIDS and maternal child healthcare clinics, children’s toy libraries, preschools, and other community-specific needs.
All of our gardens are pesticide-free. We know the health risks of exposure to pesticides and insecticides, both to workers and consumers. We believe in providing a safe community atmosphere, and we teach the importance of growing gardens organically.