As our thoughts turn from the bitter cold that some areas are experiencing to the hopes of warm spring days, the anticipation of planting a new garden is on the minds of those who enjoy fresh vegetables. Groundhog Day, on February 2 this year, pinpoints our focus as we wait to see what Punxsutawney Phil has to say about how much longer winter will last. Will there be six more weeks of winter weather or, to the relief of many, will there be an early spring?
People in developing countries around the world, who depend on growing all of their own food, consider “planting time” a matter of life and death. It is not just a pleasant diversion for them. Food for the Hungry (FH) has worked with and provided means for people in these countries to be able to supply the necessary food and nutrition to meet their needs. FH does more than just provide seeds and leave them on their own to decide how to use it. We walk alongside them throughout the whole cycle of planting, growing and harvesting, educating them about best practices for greater yields.
FH begins by meeting with leaders and families to hear the struggles they may have when planting and growing their crops. They determine what works and doesn’t work for them. FH provides ideas and methods to best take advantage of their growing season. These solutions help parents provide a better life for their children.
Tending to the crops takes hard work and skills, which have to be learned. Since many of the families live on land that was previously taken from them in war, they never had a chance to learn how to farm from the older generations. Their farming practices can be improved, and changes can be made through directions from FH workers. FH works in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture to determine the best seeds to plant for an abundant harvest.
This field in Haiti is labeled with the type of crop and the planting date. Often, FH will help to test newer varieties of plants that are more resistant to disease and harsh climates. Special farm plots are created which are accessible to the whole community. Those plots can be used to teach farmers how to cultivate.
FH conducts cross training to teach the women how to grow not only the garden vegetables, but how to access the right seeds and tools to grow cash crops, which are usually raised by the men. They sensitize men about how to farm in the areas that have traditionally been done by just the women.
FH specifically targets families with children to help prevent death from malnutrition, stunting and underdevelopment. In some areas, FH focuses on mothers who need help to grow vegetable gardens that will improve the nutritional value of the foods eaten daily.
Farmers often struggle with too much or too little water and with ways to get the water to their crops. FH helps find reliable water sources and creates systems to make the water available. To protect from flooding, the farmers are taught to build dams or terraces.
The right tools make a difference to struggling farmers. FH often has to distribute tools, especially after floods or in war zones where tools have been lost stolen. In tough times, desperate families often sell their tools in order to have money to buy food.
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