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Review for Self-Help International, Waverly, IA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

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.

Role:  Board Member