Fair Trade Cash Crops

Who says money doesn’t grow on trees? I recently visited several villages in Burkina Faso and Kenya where the primary sources of livelihood fall from the sky, later to be collected from the ground and sold on the market – macadamia and shea nuts. Okay, it’s not always quite that easy, especially for shea nuts, which must go through a rigorous production process, shown below, to be made into a marketable product like shea nut butter or shea nut oil. The photographs shown here were taken for Shared Interest, an investment company in the UK financing fair trade growers and producers in the developing world. They are copyrighted, so please don’t use them without permission.

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Feed the Future Nigeria

There’s no magic bullet when it comes to poverty alleviation, especially when working with communities for whom living off the land is their sole form of sustenance. Problems here in northwestern Nigeria are complex, and the diverse challenges create a devastating domino effect by which families are often overwhelmed. Poor agricultural production leads to malnutrition and to communities that lack income. Desertification and the expanding Sahel lead to fewer water sources and make it more difficult for communities to observe proper sanitation and hygiene practices. These factors impact everything from livelihood, to health, to education, and form the boundary between mere survival and success. Only a holistic, multi-pronged approach can address the myriad of obstacles faced here. Feed the Future Nigeria Livelihoods Project is funded by USAID and is being implemented over a period of five years by Catholic Relief Services in some of the country’s most vulnerable households. As the project enters its fourth year, staff and stakeholders are lobbying the Nigerian government to uptake and implement […]

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Wisdom from Wisdom

The renovation of a school in rural Zambia by ChildFund has had an incredible domino effect in the community, impacting everything from teacher morale to child marriage. Instructor extraordinaire, Wisdom Chanda, tells us how a bricks and mortar makeover can go a long way towards impacting education and child rights.

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Married at Fifteen

A number of video stories I recently produced for ChildFund in Zambia deal with child marriage or the prevention thereof. Child protection is a hallmark of the organization’s programming, but especially so in Zambia where the practice of child marriage is yet to be eradicated.

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What We Hear

What we hear is the sound of metal scraping metal. It was that deliberate, unsettling sound that echoed across the compound of this remote village in Luangwa District, Zambia and drew me to discover its source. What we see is a three year old boy scavenging for every morsel of charred and hardened cornmeal leftover from his neighbor’s cookware in a vain attempt to quell his hunger. As I frame this stark picture I’m reminded of an occasion when I myself scraped a bowl with such vigor. I’m reminded of the times growing up when my mom made cake or chocolate chip cookies and I relished the sweet remains in the mixing bowl as the batter baked in the oven and the sweet aroma filled the house. The comparison of pleasant childhood memories and the dismal situation before me is a vicious reminder of the reality at hand, the reality […]

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This is how We Play in Zambia

This weekend my quaint little neighborhood in Richmond, VA went three straight days without electricity following a powerful storm. During the marathon power outage I noticed a lot more children playing outside than usually do. Maybe they should take some creative playtime tips from these kids I came across recently in Zambia.

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Ghana’s haute couture handbags

The straw basket and handbag makers of northern Ghana are drawing a lot of attention lately– enough, in fact, that two of my clients have each sent me to the region on separate occasions in recent months to get a close up glimpse of these fashionable totes. The groups that make them have banded together in cooperatives in order to buy supplies in bulk and save and lend amongst each other. Some groups have even managed to find financial backing and gain certified Fair Trade status, which would explain why Shared Interest, a fair trade investment firm, sent me there to capture these entrepreneurs at work. The colorful hand bags and baskets are crafted by groups of women using straw that is first rolled and split with their teeth, then dyed in vibrant colors before being woven into intricate patterns by hand. It’s a tradition that’s long been passed down through the […]

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EPPICS: Community Change from the Inside Out

Until recently the northern Ghanaian district of East Mamprusi had the poorest maternal and child health indicators in the region.  Most women gave birth at home, and while this may sound very trendy in our society, in theirs the reason was not a matter of choice, but for lack of transportation to a health facility.  With home births there were no skilled supervisors to assist in deliveries. To make things more complicated, traditional beliefs and practices surrounding pregnancy and childbirth also often inhibited women and children from accessing good health care. For instance, in cases of complicated labor, a soothsayer would be consulted to pour libations in supplication to the spirits or ancestors, rather than seeking help from a health professional. After birth, one of the first things a child may ingest is a concoction made by the traditional healer, often made with contaminated water. How did Catholic Relief Services turn the statistics upside down and make East Mamprusi the […]

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