The sun FUELS many projects!

Camily Wedende likes to spread the word about the benefit of solar cookers, which use the sunlight as “fuel” to pasteurize water and slow-cook food.

In additional to receiving several SIA Community Grants to make solar cookers for families in refugee camps near Eldoret, Kenya, Camily also works with students to explore solar cooker technology. The following update was included in the latest newsletter from Solar Cookers International of Sacramento, CA. It is inspiring to read about these great innovations!

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February 2011: Student success with solar cooking

The Eldoret Student Projects in Kenya, spear­headed by Camily Wedende of Sun Cookers International, and aided by long­distance advisor, Sharon Cousins, board member of Solar Cookers International, have taken an important step in that spread with a student team who not only learned how to cook with sunshine but also learned to take a creative and scientific approach to solar cooking. Students researched existing solar cookers on the Solar Cookers World Network site. They put their heads together and came up with new ideas to try. They performed Imparative tests on an existing model and two of their prototypes.

Students display their solar cooker prototypes

While all three reached cooking temperatures, one innovation showed the strongest performance at their location. All twenty students built durable solar panel cookers to take home to the camps where they live, and have been using them to prepare food and provide water pasteurization for their families. They keep records of their progress and experiments, amazing the neighbors who stop by to see food cooking in a stove powered by sunshine, a stove that children in their community helped to invent. Camily and the team hope that other schools and clubs can use the example of their pilot project to help more youth become scientists for solar cooking, to aid in the spread of this bright idea whose time has come.

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Gratitude from Marsha Johnson

*This is a guest blog post from Marsha Johnson, SIA Advisory Board member and retired SIA Administrator.

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Today I received my Spirit in Action (SIA) Spring/Summer Newsletter, 2011.  What a celebration of hope and accomplishment!  I feel such deep gratitude for these last fifteen years of SIA’s prayerful unfolding.

A BLESSED 15TH ANNIVERSARY TO SPIRIT IN ACTION!

Joy and gratitude to all those who have been part of SIA as beloved correspondents, faraway co-workers, in-country volunteer Small Business Fund coordinators, business groups, and blessed donors, board members and advisory board members.  And of course, heartfelt thanks to Tanya Thomas Cothran, SIA’s administrator since 2007.  As I read through this beautiful newsletter, I am eternally grateful to God for bringing Tanya to SIA first as a board member, and then as administrator.  It is so exciting to see SIA as part of today’s world, with up-to-date leadership, new young board members, a continually evolving website, and now even a Facebook page!

Woman sews school uniforms in Kenya

Marsha and Dennis met with Gaudenziah (pictured here) during their visit to Kenya in 2007. She runs a school uniform sewing business.

Sharing this earth-path for close to thirty years with Del Anderson enriched my life so deeply.  For eleven of those years, from SIA’s founding in 1996 until 2007, I was privileged to serve as SIA’s administrator.  The early years were very dynamic  as the board formed, SIA’s purposes and mission were prayerfully developed, and we went through the process of becoming a 501(C)(3), not-for-profit organization.

In 2005 my true heart as administrator really came to life when I traveled to Kenya and India with my husband, Dennis, who was board president. What used to be words and photos on a piece of paper, became embraces and tears – sharing home and family, and personally witnessing the incredible power of Spirit in Action’s ministry.

I am so thrilled that Tanya and her husband, Boyd, SIA board member, will travel to Kenya and Malawi this summer and meet SIA’s co-workers face-to-face and heart-to-heart. Their lives will be deeply touched and they will have much to share with us upon their return.

It was Del’s dream that SIA would continue to serve those in need in developing countries.  His dream continues to be fulfilled through all those who take part in Spirit in Action.

Preview! SIA Spring Newsletter

A Report by Joshua Machinga, Common Ground Program – Poultry Project

In Kenya, some of the world’s most breathtaking sights intersect. Mount Kenya looms over Kenya’s plains with its snowy caps glistening under a veil of cloud near the equator. Along the stretching Mara National Reserve, lions, cheetahs, rhinos, hippos, elephants, zebras, gazelles and wildebeests kick up plumes of dust in the world’s largest migration. In Mombasa Archipelago, the labyrinth-like streets are lined with colorful flowers dotting the streets and the air is heavy with the scent of a variety of coastal trees.

Yet, in the midst of such astonishing beauty, life in Kenya is often filled with staggering hardship. Although many families, especially in Rift Valley, rely on subsistence farming, food yields are unpredictable due to poor soil. Often, in northern and western Kenya, local crops like maize, beans, cassava and sweat potatoes only produce a seven-month supply of food each year. Also, few families can afford cattle or goats, and many households manage only a few chickens – due to limited poultry husbandry skills.

Reading from one of the leaflets from Del in 1991, I realized that I was the one to bring the change I wanted to see around me. I worked on small projects in my community with funding from Del. As a routine, he enclosed a $20 bill in every letter he wrote to me until his death in 2008. For the first time Common Ground Program (CGP), a local Kenyan community based organization secured a grant from Spirit in Action in 2010 to develop a poultry project in hopes of building a better tomorrow.

This poultry project is serving as a “model poultry co-op” in the community where local farmers meet, discuss, and learn about successful poultry production…

To read the rest of this amazing success story and get other updates, download the latest newsletter!

A better way to grow food

A woman tends to vegetables in a bio-intensive garden in northern Kenya.

A woman tends to vegetables in a bio-intensive garden in northern Kenya, which is run by CIFORD to grow food for people with HIV/AIDS.

Our international partners working in Kenya have long recognized the value of agro-ecology. This type of farming system, also called bio-intensive agriculture, uses techniques that help to replenish the nutrients in the soil and uses minimal amounts of chemical fertilizers and other inputs to grow vegetables and fruits. Agro-ecology methods bring greater crop yields while using much less space, water and energy, than conventional, high input methods.

In Africa there is great hope for the widespread embrace of agro-ecology technologies, especially because it benefits “small farmers who must be able to farm in ways that are less expensive and more productive.”

“But, [agro-ecology] benefits all of us,” says a NY Times op-ed, quoting a UN Human Rights Council Report, “because it decelerates global warming and ecological destruction.”

The UN Report shows that “small-scale farmers can double food production within 10 years in critical regions by using ecological methods” including compost, double digging, and relying on beneficial plants, animals, and insects for pest management. Indeed, Olivier De Schutter, author of the UN report, said that “Malawi is now implementing agro-ecology, benefiting more than 1.3 million of the poorest people, with maize yields increasing from 1 ton/hectare to 2-3 tons/hectare.”

Agroforestry training in Kenya

A group learns about agroforestry to combat deforestation in Kenya.

Samuel Teimuge, who worked with SIA to start his Ukweli Training Center many years ago, teaches bio-intensive methods and has seen how they can increase production while having a minimal affect on the environment. He also leads workshops to help reforestation efforts in the Rift Valley. Trees are important for slowing erosion on the steep slopes.

Mark Bittman from the NY Times urges us to consider agriculture from a global perspective, understanding food as a human right and sustainable agriculture as a high-priority for the world.

In addition to supporting bio-intensive agriculture training in Kenya, it is just as important to support small-scale farmers here in the US, like these young farmers in Oregon.

Do you use bio-intensive methods in your own garden or farm? Share your stories in the comments section!

Businesses bring more than just money

It so exciting to receive reports from SIA’s Small Business Fund (SBF) in the mail. It gives us a chance to see, three months after the first grant is given to a new group, how the many different enterprises are progressing. This report, from SIA SBF Coordinator Godfrey Matovu in Uganda, is a good reminder that, in addition to earning a profit from their business, the leaders also gain social standing and respect in their communities.

Here is a glimpse of the real gains experienced by the entrepreneurs, and some photos of the latest successful businesses that your donations help fund:

“It should be acknowledged that the business has brought members together in cooperation with one another but more especially it has changed the social image of the members. In conclusion, they can now have better health services, better meals and so many changes in their economic lives.”

Nyend Edwade with a brick mold.

Nyend Edwade, new business leader, with a brick mold.

I love this picture below, in spite of the fact that you can’t actually see their faces, because it shows the backdrop so nicely. I like to see the building, the trees, and the big pots which the group will sell in the market place.

Kakaire George and Malondo Timoth making pots.

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