How to Beat Food Insecurity with Chickens, Gardens and Moms

It’s been about eight years since the last global food crisis, but many countries continue to battle food insecurity. In fact, during the last two years, Central America’s dry corridor has faced severe drought, affecting more than 3.5 million people.

The corredor seco, or dry corridor, runs through parts of Central America, including El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. This area faces reoccurring droughts that destroy crops, which cause food scarcity leading to hunger and malnutrition — especially among children.

And hardships, such as violence and disease, magnify when vulnerable populations do not have access to food and clean water. Livelihoods of farmers and their families are also impacted because they can’t produce enough crops to sell.

Since many of our centers in Central America have experienced extreme drought, our field office staff in each country works with the churches to develop sustainable solutions tailored for their own communities.

In times of emergencies or in cases of extreme malnutrition, our student centers distribute meals, food packages and nutritional supplements. And training and education also offer unique opportunities to promote long-lasting change and a decreased reliance on food aid.

How to Beat Food Insecurity With Chickens, Gardens and Moms

Self-Sustainable Rural Homes in Guatemala

After two consecutive years distributing food to the communities facing intense drought, the field office and church partners began to think of preventative actions.

One partnership facilitator started a program with a group of churches called the self-sustainable rural home.
They provided hens that produce eggs, seeds to grow vegetables, and supplies for small gardens. Seven of those centers also partnered with an organization that has agricultural training for youth.

How to Beat Food Insecurity With Chickens, Gardens and Moms

Other centers created greenhouses where the children learn farming techniques to produce veggies like tomatoes, green peppers and jalapeños. Other centers have implemented production techniques for fish  and goat’s milk.

Training on business and income generation helps families sell their products in local markets and start productive small businesses.

Hydroponic Gardens in El Salvador

The communities in El Salvador are also fighting food insecurity.

In the urban areas, center staff from 45 church partners were trained on the construction of home gardens to produce vegetables like tomatoes, green peppers and lettuce. They were also trained on the creation of hydroponic gardens that grow faster and use less water than traditional gardens.

How to Beat Food Insecurity With Chickens, Gardens and Moms

In the rural areas, 55 centers grew corn and red beans, bred chickens and rabbits, and farmed tilapia. Last year, one group of churches produced an estimated 50,000 pounds of grain. That’s about the weight of eight elephants!

A proposal for the coming year consists of the development of many more agricultural activities: vegetable production, poultry farming, fish farming, pelibuey (a type of sheep) and goat breeding. Not only do the children and families learn useful skills, but they also benefit from business and income generation through the production and commercialization of these goods.

Mommy and Me Nutrition in Honduras

In Honduras, many of the areas where our church partners work have higher malnutrition rates compared to the rest of the country. Part of food security includes having access to nutrient-rich food that meets dietary needs for healthy growth.

But the medical evaluations of the children in our program revealed a progressive increase in malnutrition. So five years ago, a “Step by Step Program on Health and Nutrition” began. The program’s three phases took a community approach to help combat malnutrition and infant mortality by training mothers on nutrition, food preparation and hygiene.

How to Beat Food Insecurity With Chickens, Gardens and Moms

First, professional health technicians train our program staff on basic health, nutrition principles, and responsible food preparation practices.

Then, the program staff select and train “mother guides” — women that live in the same social and economic context but do not have malnourished children. These mother guides teach other mothers with malnourished children about healthy food practices and proper hygiene.

The third phase consists of a 10-15 day workshop in homes. Each day, the mother guides and mothers prepare local, seasonal food together at a low cost but with a high nutrition value. The mothers bring available food from their homes. It allows them to contribute and strengthens the solidarity among the group of mothers.

How to Beat Food Insecurity With Chickens, Gardens and Moms

In less than six months following the workshops, 80 percent of the children have gained needed weight, according to the World Health Organization standards. Our church partners continue supporting the children with home visits and monitoring their weight and height each month.

Creative Local Solutions

In each of these countries, our offices and church partners work together to find solutions that fit the unique needs of their individual communities. They assess the core issue, evaluate the resources available, and apply creative solutions. One thing is always the same though, the health and development of the children are at the heart of each intervention.

How to Beat Food Insecurity with Chickens, Gardens and Moms

2 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Myrna Mandjikov September 10, 2016

    As a diabetic myself, these pictures concern me on the welfare of these ladies. Looks like they are getting plenty of carbohydrate staples but the incidence of diabetes in Central American natives is very high and these poor women look like they will be dealing with it. Can the food security move from the abundance of carbohydrates to the consumption of more low carb vegetables and protein (chicken, egg, goat, sheep, fish)? Will there be medical resources for the adults that will fall victim to complications from diabetes?

    1. Katherine Brice September 12, 2016

      Hi Myrna! Thank you for you heart for food security and improving the health of those in need! Compassion’s main focus when it comes to food is to first eliminate malnutrition. It is also our prayer to assist families in making healthy choices in diet and to educate them. With that being said, we are careful to respect local cultures, which includes what and how they eat and prepare their meals. While we want families to be aware of how healthy their meals are or could be, we do not want to completely change their culture. We must also use what is available to certain areas and families as well as introduce new possibilities. Some animals are extremely precious and expensive in certain countries. There is also the issue of whether or not a family may have the capacity and proper equipment to care for an animal, such as a goat. We want to prevent diabetes for the children in our program and provide the resources they need to make healthy decisions throughout their lives. Compassion does step in to provide for the needs of a parent or caregiver if they are suffering from a life-threatening illness. As the post mentions, our centers teach families basic nutrition in hopes of preventing illness. God bless you!

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