I had the great honor of accompanying my father, a SHI board member, to Ghana and witnessed first hand their vested staff, various programs in action, and personal stories from their inspiring beneficiaries. Self Help establishes programs in direct response to their communities unique needs. In Ghana, specifically, they provide micro-financing to women pursuing small business loans, teen girls clubs that aim to educate, foster independence and build self-confidence in young women; School feeding programs providing quality nutrition for optimal learning; And a training center teaching best practices farming methods to young adults. These programs actively display the countless ways that Self Help International lives its mission of Ending World Hunger by Helping People Help Themselves.
The grass roots nature of the organization allows for intimate and thoughtful application of theories and strategies that directly impact the communities they serve. Self Help International provides faith and hope for individuals and entire communities in rural Ghana as well as those, like myself, blessed to witness their important work in action.
Self-Help International’s Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Training Center sits on 1.5 acres with .9 acres in crop demonstrations near the regional capital of Kumasi in west central Ghana. It opened in 2013 and has a training room for up to 30 people.
Three field days have been held at the Center recently for a total of 75 farmers who were targeted after community meetings introduced them to the Center and Self-Help International. Some people visit the Center after hearing about it in the community.
There are several demonstration plots under cultivation at the Center, including a field of Orange Flesh Sweet Potatoes (OFSP) that has been bio-fortified with beta-carotene (vitamin A) for extra nutrition. Self-Help is promoting the cultivation of the OFSP for its “Growing Healthy Foods, Growing Healthy Children” program that aims to prevent the stunting of infants before they start school. OFSP cuttings were obtained from the Crop Research Institute, which is located nearby.
Another demonstration features drip irrigation techniques introduced by Roger Engstrom of Ames, a former Peace Corps Volunteer who has advised on the Center’s activities. It’s a simple system: Water from a barrel feeds drip irrigation tubes that deliver the water to a raised seedbed of cabbage and onion plants that have been intercropped for natural pest control.
A 462-square-meter square test plot of Quality Protein Maize (QPM) has been planted with macuna, a tropical legume, as a cover crop for the corn. QPM seed and crop inputs are provided by Self-Help to school feeding projects. The QPM corn is planted, cultivated, and harvested by parents and others in the community. Self-Help’s crop specialists provide instruction on how to grow and harvest the QPM for the best yields.
Another demonstration plot has QPM intercropped with cowpeas, a legume that will enhance the protein content of the QPM corn-cow pea porridge that can be fed to infants and school children to improve their diet and development.
Benjamin Kusi, Self-Help’s Ghana director, said proceeds from the sale of the QPM are used to offset some of the Center’s expenses. The Center eventually hopes to become financially self-supporting, he added.
There also are demonstration plots showing the best growing practices for ginger, a root crop that can be sold for milling, and for tomatoes. The tomato demonstration plot compares the traditional way of growing tomatoes and the new way using no-till cropping practices with mulch and ridges to prevent runoff.
There also are rabbits, quails, chickens, and snail production demonstrations. A poultry trial is comparing the Bovans Brown breed from Russia and with Bovans Brown chickens sourced locally.
Recently, Self-Help began an agricultural entrepreneurship program and selected its first three agricultural entrepreneurs-in-training based on a competitive process.
The three student-entrepreneurs who were chosen for the program are hard at work raising a 3,250-square meter plot of intercropped maize and cowpeas and are using “smart agriculture” techniques to grow vegetables.
“Smart ag” uses recycling and waste management techniques to produce vegetables. Bell peppers, spring onions, lettuce, and cabbage will be planted in 5-kilo (11-pounds) sacks that were once used for rice packaging. The vegetables will be planted in a fertile mix of compost made from rice residue and poultry manure in a three-to-one ratio, respectively. The plants will be intercropped for natural pest resistance and will be drip irrigated using water from a well the three ag entrepreneurs dug at the demonstration farm.
The ag entrepreneurs also help train others to raise poultry or snails for marketing purposes.
After visiting the Self-Help Agriculture and Entrepreneur Center, I can see how well-managed and informative Self-Help’s agricultural programs are and how they fit in with the organization’s other programs of micro-credit, girls’ and women’s empowerment, and infant and school feeding. Funds used to run the Center have been utilized effectively to meet the group’s stated objective of alleviating hunger by helping people help themselves.
In a rural village in Ghana, where nearly every household is food insecure and 1/3 of preschool children are stunted from chronic undernutrition, a new integrated program for the first 1000 days of life from conception to 2 years; Growing Healthy Food, Growing Healthy Children, is improving growth patterns and food security. The staff of Self Help Ghana includes nutritionists, agriculturists, and micro-credit experts to work closely with the women to help with the agricultural advice and inputs to increase food production for pregnancy and weaning including high protein porridge, orange flesh sweet potatoes, and poultry production to provide an egg a day for the children. Micro-credit experts help women learn to earn and manage resources. As a Self Help Board member, and a retired member of a land-grant nutrition department, I am impressed with the results with the mothers and babies, the dedication of Self- Help staff in Ghana, and how this organization carefully manages its funds to "alleviate hunger by helping people help themselves."
My wife and I chanced to meet some of the Self Help International (SHI) board of directors on an inter-city flight within Nicaragua in 2014 . They were eager to tell us about SHI, and we were very intrigued and we wanted to learn more.
In each of the next three years, I returned to Nicaragua as part of a medical mission team. At the conclusion of each team trip and after the rest of the team departed for the USA, I flew to the community of San Carlos and was warmly welcomed for a three day stay with Jorge Luis Campos Solis, the in-country director of SHI.
Jorge very kindly took time from his busy schedule to drive me to various communities to meet and sit down for discussions with a wide variety of people whose lives have been improved by SHI. Not only did Jorge talk with people, he observed and would ask questions and offer suggestions on how to improve, correct or modify procedures or equipment.
I met women and men who were operating municipal water systems recently purified by CTI-8 chlorinators, sat in the front yards of farming families who had received training in agri-techniques and the proper use of the QPM high protein maize. I have walked into fields of maize carefully planted with a new technique with dramatically increases yields.
Jorge and I ate in small comedors or restaurants operated by women who had received some training in business techniques and micro finance loans. Jorge drove me in his Toyota Hilux truck into small villages to meet women who are baking bread in high efficiency brick ovens. SHI staffers had trained them to construct these ovens - and encouraged them to turn around and teach other citizens in their communities how to build these ovens.
In short, for a few days in each the past three years I have been treated to an immersion program or continuing education in much of what SHI is doing on many fronts with the goal of training and encouraging people in south eastern Nicaragua to become self sufficient.
I am thankful that I have had the opportunities to see and experience first hand what SHI is achieving in Nicaragua. My wife and I are whole hearted supporters of SHI because we see that they are changing lives through education, encouragement and support.
Respectfully submitted by
Dan and Shar Aument
I worked as an intern in Ghana with Self-Help International during the summer of 2018 and had the most incredible experience. The organization as a whole has high values and people with forward-thinking, creative, and goal-oriented minds behind all that they do. It is very obvious that every person involved in the organization extends their passion into their work and service to communities. "Helping people help themselves" and doing it through optimism and generosity. I am blessed for everything I learned in areas of nutrition, education, and sustainable community development in Ghana.
When I was a child, one of my favorite stories was “The Little Engine That Could”— I think of that when I am with Self Help International (SHI)—in many ways the “little organization that can”. Headquartered in the small city of Waverly, Iowa, it has taken seriously “helping people help themselves” for almost 60 years. Self Help is an organization that models resiliency and shares it with people in Ghana, West Africa and Nicaragua in Central America. As noted in other stories, over 60 years SHI has moved successfully through change in program and support to become the effective organization it is today.
Committing to long term in each country—SHI has been in Ghana for over 25
years, in Nicaragua for over 18. This means that the program evolves with the people’s needs as they change over time to help achieve a long term goal of communities that are thriving long after SHI is gone.
Committing to in-country staff—the US staff consists of 3 full time people, plus interns who are interested in development. Staffing in Ghana and Nicaragua is several times that many. This has allowed SHI to do an exceptional job of listening to and serving people in those countries in their own culture and language.
Putting into action an increasingly integrated program based in communities. Program components of agriculture, microcredit for women, clean water, work to improve nutrition, and training that supports them are brought together on a community basis. Results from integrated, community based programs such as one for women and very young children, water systems for clean water, and working to develop agricultural enterprises are exciting.
I encourage people to check out the impact reports at: www.selfhelpinternational for more information about "this little organization that can" and its effective work.
After my retirement from the US Agency for International Development, I served on the Board of SHI for twenty years. I did so because I saw how directly connected SHI is to beneficiaries in Ghana and Nicaragua. Overhead is low and volunteer participation is high. One Example: QPM (high protein corn/maize) introduction in both Ghana and Nicaragua was accomplished by SHI. Corn is a significant item in peoples' diets in both countries so this is a significant nutrition improvement. I am now a volunteer.
Vern Schield, the founder of the Schield Bantam Company, traveled widely in promoting sales of his truck-mounted cranes. He identified a need for appropriate mechanization for farmers in developing countries. In 1959 he founded Self Help International in Waverly, Iowa. SHI built a small tractor and equipment that would plow, pump, generate and transport. This equipment “package” was sent worldwide to missionaries, volunteers and research organizations. I became aware of SHI as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania (1964-67). Efforts to set up in-country manufacturing in Honduras and Pakistan were unsuccessful.
Dr. Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Peace Prize winner as the Father of the Green Revolution, had SHI equipment at CIMMYT, the research center in Mexico. In 1986, the Sasakawa Africa Association (https://www.saa-safe.org) was formed to introduce the Green Revolution to African countries. The SAA “package” includes improved genetics, available and affordable inputs, marketing assistance and extension support. Ghana was one of the first countries where SAA worked. Dr. Borlaug identified a need for appropriate mechanization and SHI sent 2 tractors and equipment packages to Ghana. This established a long term working relationship between SHI, Dr. Borlaug and SAA. Starting in the 1970s, better equipment with local sales and service support became available in many countries where SHI equipment had been introduced. SHI shifted its programing emphasis from providing equipment to its current programs promoting improved crop genetics (Quality Protein Maize – QPM) and improved ag practices, combating malnutrition, providing potable water, and empowering girls and women with educational opportunities and micro-credit. SHI has developed strong local teams which identify needs and programs to meet them. The SHI annual report documents these successful programs in Ghana and Nicaragua and is available at (www.selfhelpinternational.org).
George Cummins- Chair, Trinity United Methodist Church Missions Committee, Charles City, Iowa
I am an intern at SHI and I must say that the work being done by this organization is doing tremendous good in the world. I have witnessed progress being made by people who genuinely care for the causes that they support.
As an intern I feel that Self-Help has really helped me learn the skills that I need for my career. The employees are wonderful to work with and the new office space is inviting.
Babies are benefitting from the work that Self-Help is doing in Ghana, I have seen the changes for myself.
My daughter and I spent a week in Ghana assisting Self Help International with several of their programs. Helping these beautiful people learn to help themselves!!
As an intern with Self Help International and after traveling to Ghana to see the work Self Help has done, I am grateful for the experience here. A rather small non-profit in terms of staff, this fact holds no weight when compared to the impact that I saw first-hand in Ghana. With hundreds of beneficiaries and thousands of dollars loaned out every period, to say Self Help impacts lives would be a bit of an understatement. These women are so grateful for the loans, because the loan opens doors for themselves, but also their families, that would otherwise not be afforded to them. Women are able to send their kids to school, build a new shop for their selling or cooking, and provide healthy meals for the children. Stories of success are common in Ghana and Nicaragua but Self Help does not stop there. They have tirelessly worked to receive grants to building training centers in Ghana and Nicaragua to teach more efficient farming techniques and provide educational classes in raising animals, crops, and other plants.