Burundi: The role of Savings Groups in the Midst of Crisis

Despite all the upheaval in Burundi, Plant With Purpose’s programs there continue to function much as before, with the exception of those closest to the capital, where the violence has been the worst. One thing that we are quite interested in understanding better is how the work we are doing in communities is helping people weather the current upheaval, helping them to continue to farm their land and to maintain trust in their communities. One statistic that we track very closely is the average weekly savings rate across the program. We currently have 6,500 families in 268 groups. The savings rate over the last six quarters is shown here:

Burundi Crisis Savings

What does the increase in savings rate mean? While it might reflect a measure of fearfulness and lack of opportuntity to invest money on things like crop inputs, hopefully it also reflects the deep level of trust amongst that VSLA groups help to foster. One would also hope that the trust fostered by these groups could also help prevent a deepening cycle of violence in Burundi.

A Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) meetings in southern Burundi

A Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) meetings in southern Burundi

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My Dad’s Birthday greeting from Kilimanjaro

I’m about two years late in posting this, but it brought back some great memories:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxWjSH9Rzig&feature=youtu.be

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A celebration of hope in Tanzania

I had the opportunity to visit Plant With Purpose’s program the Pare mountsins of Tanzania a few months ago to participate the third annual Village Savings and Loan (VSLA) Competition Celebration. The event was the culmination of a year long competition, where 125 VSLA groups competed in tree planting, adoption of organic farming methods such as composting and pest management.

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Groups arriving for the celebration

We’re in the process of putting together a video of the celebration, but I thought I’d post a few pictures. It was a joyful and inspiring day, especially encouraging to hear farmers talk about how they were learning from each other, the impact on their farms, and their hopes to do even more in the coming year. (Photo credit to Shaun Boyte.)

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Plant With Purpose’s team of agronomists, with prizes for the winners

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Sharing knowledge and vegetables

PWP_Tanzania Day_2-174Victory!

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Creation Care in Burundi

Burundi has been in our throughts and prayers a lot lately, as they struggle with violence surrounding the president’s bid for a third term. I’ve been privileged to visit Burundi a few times in the last couple of years and shot this video of the Nyakazu Gorge. It does a pretty good job a highlighting some of Burundi’s incredible natural beauty, as well as the problems of poverty and environmental decline that farmers are working to overcome. If you like it, or have any feedback, leave a comment! Thanks.

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Tanzania Program Update- Great News from East Africa

So it’s been more than a little while since I’ve updated the blog, but I thought you might be interested some recent Plant With Purpose developments, especially in Tanzania. The program has seen some fantastic growth in the last several years, in terms of the program’s activities, and also the measurable impact on people’s lives and the environment. First of all, take a  look at this amazing graph:

Tanzania program growth graph

This graph illustrates three key things: the number of families we’re working with, the number of trees planted, and the number of Village Savings and Loan (VSL) groups that we are leading. The years across the bottom of the chart give you some idea of how rapid the growth has been. This is a real credit to the leadership of the local staff in Tanzania, who are doing a great job of figuring out how to work very efficiently, so as to be able to do more with relatively modest increases in budget. (Just to give you an idea of the scale, Plant With Purpose has planted 12 million trees over the past 30 years, but 1.4 million of those were planted just in Tanzania in the last year- they are really leading the way in scaling up.)

But what about the impact of all those trees on people? In our very recently completed impact evaluation, we saw a 50% increase in girls enrollment in secondary school. Based on the size of our program, that equates to over 550 girls enrolled in school, who otherwise would not be. As families are increasing their incomes, they are prioritizing paying for their girls’ education. What a wonderful and hopeful sign for the future, for those girls, for their families, and for the country as a whole.

Trees TanzaniaThese girls are in school, thanks to the good work of our local program partners- and thanks to all of you who have supported our program and made our work possible! (And with a special shout out to our friends at Wings of Kilimanjaro, who gave so much to support our Tanzania program last year, and who at this moment are camped out of the summit waiting for good weather to fly down.)

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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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