Food security
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    PHOTO: Sean Hawkey

    Food security is not simply a question of more food: it is about allowing children and families have the sustenance, water and nutrition they need throughout the year. In addition to eradicating hunger and malnutrition, it is also about enabling people to thrive, in harmony with their ecosystem, with their traditions and with dignity.


    In partnership with Foods Resource Bank CWS supports farmers and indigenous communities in three of the most food insecure and vulnerable to natural disasters areas of rural Latin America and the Caribbean:

    • Central America: Guatemala, Nicaragua (Atlantic and Pacific coasts) and Honduras.
    • Haiti's Northwest department and Dominican Republic's bateyes (Hispaniola island)
    • South America's Chaco region


    These programs provide inputs, protect land rights, promote soil conservation and use of natural resources, teach nutrition and food diversification techniques, and value indigenous knowledge. They also focus on promoting more integral public policies regarding food security and nutrition. Community and family lead interventions are at the centre of the programs.

    PHOTO: Sean Hawkey

    Growing Healthier is a regional program integrating food security and nutrition education and monitoring. The program brings together four CWS partners in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua who are breaking new ground by combining nutrition education with sustainable agriculture.


    Malnutrition is endemic in Central America. Guatemala has the highest level of chronic malnutrition in the Western hemisphere -46.3 percent- and it affects 3 out of 5 people in indigenous communities. Honduras and Nicaragua are not far behind.


    The program carried out a nutritional baseline survey in 2009 survey in 55 communities in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The study found alarming evidence of the prevalence of malnutrition in children under five. Despite gains in food security, it revealed that malnutrition persists in part due to lack of adequate water systems but also practices which do not favor good nutrition.


    In response CWS launched "Growing Healthier" with the objective of supporting families develop access to nutritious food each year and all year round, improve their nutrition awareness, food practices and water systems.


    In Guatemala, the program supports greenhouse-based food production, crop diversification and livelihoods in programs that emphasize indigenous women empowerment and organizing. In Nicaragua, it supports the establishment, operation and expansion of model demonstration farms in the remote and isolated Atlantic region and land banks and sustainable improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene sectors in the Pacific coast. In Honduras, reforestation, crop diversification, micro business development and participatory water management are the focus of program activities.


    CWS and Program staff recognise that advances go beyond increasing crops, that the program represents an integral approach to sustainability and community development by incorporating water, sanitation and a focus on nutrition. "Before the baseline study, we focused mainly on what the farms would look like. Now, we focus more on nutrition and on the families", says one staff member.


    Through the Growing Healthier Program, CWS works with four of the most recognized ecumenical relief and development agencies in Central America:







    Food Security for the Bateye Population in Eastern and Southern Dominican Republic

    Through this program, CWS supports 32 rural communities known as Bateyes which are made up of Haitian immigrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent. Residents of Bateyes have historically been among the poorest and most discriminated in the Dominican Republic. Most of them survive by consuming the food they produce in small lots (average of 0.7 acres per family) and selling the amount left over to middlemen. In most cases their access to land is fragile and/or insufficient and access to agricultural inputs, proper training and fair credit is virtually nonexistent. The project addresses these problems by helping communities to become more organized and have sustained access to land, inputs, training and credit. In addition to focusing on more diversified family food production as well as increased access to markets, the project also supports pre-schools and adult literacy programs for improved quality of education.


    Through this program CWS works with Social Services of Dominican Churches (SSID):


    Supporting Haitian Farmers in the Northwest and Artibonite Departments


    CWS is one of the few agencies that focuses exclusively on the most food insecure region of the country, the Northwest, where the arid and mountainous landscape makes farming difficult. It is also one of the most isolated and neglected regions - although it is only 150 miles from the capital city of Port-au-Prince, because of underdeveloped roads, it's a seven-hour trip by car, and even longer by bus.


    The focus of this program is on the development of cooperatives which empower rural communities to create economic, educational and food production systems. The cooperatives provide micro-credit to their members, enabling them to purchase agricultural inputs, or to complement their agricultural work with small businesses. Each cooperative is independent and self-governed, and utilizes its resources to meet the specific needs of the community. Some cooperatives hire vets, some develop tree nurseries or bakeries, and others have literacy classes for adults and primary schools for children.


    The strength of the cooperatives was put to the test by the 2010 Haiti earthquake, when 500,000 people fled Port-au-Prince to the rural areas. The population of the Northwest and Artibonite departments increased by 10% in a matter of days as internally displaced people joined family and friends in the region. Despite limited resources, the cooperatives welcomed and supported these earthquake survivors, sharing the small amounts of food, clothing and even cash from the cooperative funds with them. Program funding was subsequently increased enabling the displaced remain in rural areas rather than returning to the earthquake-affected-zone. CWS financed the expansion and repair of houses of families that received displaced people in the North West.


    Key achievements of the program so far:

    • Over 4,000 individuals have joined the cooperative since 2005 including 1,099 people who joined in 2010 onwards, many of them earthquake survivors who resettled to the rural areas.
    • 1,439 individuals received micro-loans from the cooperatives for agricultural inputs or small business in 2011. Over 75% of the recipients were women.
    • Training and technical support provided to thousands of cooperative members in credit management, community development, disaster risk reduction and other areas.


    Through this program, CWS works with SKDE (Christian Centre for Integrated Development).


    The goal of this program is to support sustainable food and nutritional security in 11 indigenous communities in the Gran Chaco region of Paraguay and Bolivia.


    The communities  are based in the semi arid part of the Chaco, which has an average annual rainfall of just 450-650 mm. The region is prone to prolonged dry periods, which have exasperated the already precarious food security of indigenous communities. A Food and Nutritional Survey carried out by the project revealed alarmingly high levels of chronic malnutrition in children under 5 years old.



    The Program began in 2011 with the development of production plans by all 11 communities in a process based on their indigenous values and vision. The implementation of these plans is being supported by the project with a strong focus on skills training to ensure sustainability. So far the communities have developed kitchen gardens that are expanding in size with new vegetables being introduced, and small livestock projects with goat and sheep population tripling in the first two years of the program.


    In 2013 a new phase began which will in addition to strengthening these initiatives, also focus on food processing and marketing of agriculture and livestock. Access to markets will provide the communities with additional income to purchase essential food items in periods when, due to the climate conditions in the Chaco, production activities are limited. As communities largely depend on rain water, during the dry season from April – November almost no production activities can be carried out and families often face serious food shortages.


    You can see the participating communities on the 'Chaco interactive map' in the South American Chaco section of the website.


    This program is carried out in partnership with Foods Resource Bank and the implementing partners are:

    Center for Regional Studies in Tarija (CERDET), Bolivia

    Churches Committee for Emergency Assistance (CIPAE), Paraguay.

    Mingara Association for Sustainable Development, Paraguay.

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