Wings of Kilimanjaro: Six Months Later- Good News from Tanzania

Six months ago the Wings of Kilimanjaro expedition put 95 climbers on the summit of Kilimanjaro and in the process raised over $550,000 for environmental restoration, clean water and education in Tanzania. Plant With Purpose received just over $165,000 as a result of this effort. (Fundraising efforts are continuing and you can learn more or make a donation here.) It was an amazing adventure that continues to have a lasting impact on people’s lives. Below are a few of the highlights of how Plant With Purpose has used these funds:

1. Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) – We have started 24 new VSLA groups with a total of 473 new VSLA members. 73% of these members are women. These groups provide a platform for farmers to save money and make it available for loans to start small businesses. As a result of being in a group, families are able to save money to pay for school fees, pay for emergencies and in general live with a much greater level of security.

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Village Community Banking

 2. Farmer Field Schools: 43 schools involving 1,075 farmers.  Farmer Field Schools are literally outdoor classrooms and laboratories, where farmers can learn about and test new crops, organic methods of pest control, fertilizers and water conservation techniques. By actively being involved in learning, farmers are much more likely to implement these new techniques on their own farms: “I hear, I know. I see, I remember. I do, I understand.”

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In Farmer Field Schools, farmers lean by doing

3. Trees Planted: 784,095 – Trees provide income for families in the form of fruit and wood products. Trees also conserve soil and water, which raises crop yields while at the same time restoring the environment.

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4. Stoves Built: 130 – Each stove reduces wood use by 60%, reducing deforestation and smoke inhalation, dramatically improving the health of women and children involved in cooking.

5. Number of Group Members with Vegetable Gardens – 546. Vegetable gardens are incredibly important for improving the health and nutrition of children and their families. According to the latest stats released by the World Food Program, 38.8% of Tanzanians are malnourished. In children, this malnourishment causes irreversible loss of brain function and reduced ability to learn and other chronic health problems. It doesn’t have to be this way!

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Tanzania has plenty of land to grow food and farmers are anxious to work hard. Thanks to the support provided by Wings of Kilimanjaro, this child and thousands like him will have hope for a better future.

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Tree Planting in Oaxaca: The Difference Four Years Makes

I have the privilege of being in Oaxaca this week with our group from Solana Beach Presbyterian Church. We participated in a variety of activities this week and I’ll be putting up a few posts. First I want to show you a couple reforestation pictures.

Oaxaca is the most deforested state in Mexico, and the Mixteca Alta region, where Plant With Purpose works, is the most deforested part of Oaxaca. The good news is that with the participation of the local community, things can really turn around. Take a look at these pictures of pine tree seedlings being planted and of those that were planted for years ago:

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Our intrepid visiting tree planting team about to get to work

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A Oaxacan Pine in it’s new home

After we were done planting these trees, one of the leaders of the local community of La Union, Don Nivel, wanted to show us a hillside that they planted four years ago. We were pretty amazed by what we saw:Image

A forest of 1,500 Four year old Oaxacan Pines: with Don Nivel and Eduardo, who leads Plant With Purpose’s reforestation work in Oaxaca.

Don Nivel led the effort to plant these 1,500 trees four years ago and was very proud to show them to us. As we walked through them we could see how the pine needles were building up on the ground. Bird nests in the trees were a sign that wildlife was returning. As we thought about the barren hillside where we had planted in the morning, this gave us a living example of what the future could look like in Oaxaca. The trees will also make a tremendous human impact as the control erosion which will increase crop yields and reduce water-borne illness by naturally filtering the water as it soaks into the ground.

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Don Nivel pointing out a bird nest

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A Presidential Goal for Tanzania

Guest Post! A reflection on the work of Plant With Purpose in light of President Obama’s remarks during a press conference while in Tanzania last week, by development department intern Maddy Swoy.

During President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Tanzania, he was greeted with warmth and gratitude. President Jakaya Kilkwete of Tanzania thanked President Obama and the United States for their effort to assuage Tanzania’s “food security” problem, which has led to “nutrition security” and is “building Tanzania’s capacity for self-sufficiency and food supply.” President Obama said, “Tanzania has the potential to unlock new economic growth not only in this country, but all across East Africa.” He continued, “President Kilkwete and I agree to keep tackling the hurdles of greater economic growth, starting with the sector where the vast majority of Tanzanians work, and that’s the agricultural sector.” The United States is taking action through the Feed for Future campaign, which works with 14,000 farmers, and has helped to increase yields by 50 percent.

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This type of work is aligns closely to that of Plant With Purpose as farmers are trained to engage with sustainable and practical farming techniques that serve as long-term solutions to food scarcity, water shortage, malnutrition, and community development.

As President Obama said, “Ultimately the goal here is for Africa to build Africa for Africans and our job is to be a partner in that process.” Plant With Purpose is doing just that in empowering farming families and helping them help themselves by inspiring farmers to take pride in their work and affording them the ability to provide for their families with dignity. Plant With Purpose is empowering communities to go together, creating self-sustainable, dignified results.

Through Plant With Purpose’s trainings on family gardens, small-scale farming, and tree seedling production, change is certainly underway due to diversity of diet and having excess produce and seedlings to be sold for income. Each of these projects supports President Obama’s effort for “higher incomes and a ladder for families and communities to greater prosperity.” Plant With Purpose is adding rungs to this ladder by approaching the issue holistically—by helping to restore the environment, providing outlets for economic opportunity, and inspiring hope.

President Obama said, “We (the United States and Tanzania) are looking at a new model that’s based not just on aid and assistance, but on trade and partnership… I am inspired because I’m absolutely convinced that with the right approach, Africa and its people can unleash a new era of prosperity.” Plant With Purpose is working to do just that. With an increase in income and improved nutrition, children are able to attend school, overall family and community health improves, families generate a buffer of savings for crisis, and transformation spreads across generations, among communities, and within regions.

 

 

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Hurricane Season in Haiti: Chantal

I haven’t written much lately but thought I’d post this image of tropical storm Chantal’s trajectory. It seems that storms hit Haiti so regularly now that, sadly, we hardly think about it. I’ll probably put another post up on this later in the week.

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Spectacular hike through Nyakazu or “German’s Gorge” in Burundi

I had the privilege of hiking though this watershed and under this spectacular waterfall when I was in Burundi in January. Our team put the rough footage together into a three-minute video and I think it came out great! We were told we were the first people in 18 years to descend this gorge.

Even better, we just got a significant amount of the funding that we had needed to begin expanding our work in and protect this beautiful area.

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New Savings and Loan (VSLA) Groups in Haiti

Almost three years ago Plant With Purpose’s international meeting in Tanzania focused on the village savings and loan program,or VSLA, which I’ve written about quite a bit on this blog. Since then, the program has spread the other five countries where Plant With Purpose works. The pattern of pooling savings that are then made available for loans is the same in every country, though groups also have freedom to decide things like how much interest they will charge for loans and so on. Another consistent pattern has been skepticism as to whether “it will work here,” followed in a few months by a growing sense of excitement about how effective the groups are in empowering members and the community to work together to improve their lives.

So one of the highlights of my recent trip to Haiti was seeing two new groups, one in Tewouj in Grand Colline and another one in Tefwad. It was especially exciting to be at the Tefwad group, as this was the very first time that they were meeting to begin saving. The plan is for 50 groups like these across the Haiti program in the next year. Here’s a (not very good) picture:

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Notice that the leadership of the group is shared by four people who are elected by the group, and that all transactions (savings deposits, loans and loan repayments are handled up front for maximum transparency.

For me this has been a super encouraging and inspiring trip to Haiti and I will have a few more posts, along with better pictures, soon.

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Three Months Later: Wings of Kilimanjaro’s Lasting Impact in Tanzania

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Farmers learning together to grow more food using less water

It has been just over three months since Wings of Kilimanjaro put 93 climbers from 29 countries on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Plant With Purpose has so far received $165,000 from this event, and these funds have helped us to significantly scale up our work in Tanzania. The following are some of the highlights from the last few months:

  • Village Community Banks: 35 new groups have been added. This brings the total number of groups to 125, with a total of 16,505 direct program beneficiaries. These groups meet weekly to encourage savings and provide loans for small business development. We also use them as a platform to teach the importance or reforestation. Read more about how the groups work here.
  • In the first three quarters of the year the farmers we work with have planted 1.5 million trees.
  • 260 wood-saving stoves have been constructed. These stoves reduce wood use by 60%, which not only reduces deforestation but also means women and girls spend less time gathering firewood.

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A woman with her new wood-saving stove

While it is important to be able to count program components such as the number of trees planted and the number of wood-saving stoves installed, it is also important to understand the changes in attitude and ability that underlie these numbers. This has been very evident from the farmers’ participation in farmer field schools. We now have 61 of these hands-on agricultural demonstration projects, where farmers participate in learning rather than just listening to lectures. In a sense, these schools help us “work our way out of a job” as farmers put new skills and techniques to work and no longer need our help.

By involving the farmers through adult learning techniques instead of traditional lecture style instruction, we’ve seen significant increase in interest in our programming. Already in the first three quarters of this fiscal year, groups have planted 300% more trees per group than they have ever planted in the past. We are also witnessing similar growth in participation in building contours, conserving land around streams and steep hillsides, building new bio-intensive gardens, and in all other indicators of participation.

We continue to be deeply grateful to everyone who participated in the Wings of Kilimanjaro event and all those who donated and continue to do so. Know that your generosity is leaving a lasting impact on the lives of farmers in Tanzania who are now better able to feed their families and care for their land.

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Our route- great memories!!!

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