The Church of the Brethren Global Food Initiative (GFI) has aided Brethren groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, a humanitarian organization linked to the former Brethren mission in Ecuador, and a gardening project in New Orleans, in grants made since mid-year.
Democratic Republic of Congo
A grant of $7,500 has been given to support the Seed Projects of Eglise des Freres du Congo (the Church of the Brethren in the Democratic Republic of Congo or DRC). The projects are the result of a series of Transformation Tree trainings provided to the deacons of the church in 2019 by staff from World Relief. The trainings, sponsored by the GFI, have challenged participants to return to their local congregations and start small outreach projects to serve the needs of the most vulnerable in their communities. Specific projects include cultivating vegetables or sweet potatoes; distribution of basic household items (sugar, salt, soap, and masks) for families in need, school children, and through prison and hospital visits; and assisting widows. A previous grant of $3,320 was given to this project in Sept. 2019.
A grant of $7,500 has been given for farmer training in Burundi, to be carried out by THARS, a Church of the Brethren-related organization. This was intended to be a 5-year project but with positive results has been extended into a sixth year. The expectation is that the training activities will be extended to two new communities. As of Aug. 2020, THARS reported that 552 farmers with an average of 7 people in each household, representing at least 3,864 people, are benefitting from the project. Families are able to not only meet their own food needs but to sell extra food to help with other expenses. Reports show that farmers’ yields have improved dramatically using techniques learned from THARS agronomists–up to 10 times the yields resulting from traditional methods. Previous grants to this project, starting in April 2015, have totaled $53,375.
A grant of $11,000 supports the agricultural work of La Fundación Brethren y Unida (FBU–the United and Brethren Foundation). The grant will help purchase two heifers in order to increase milk production in the small dairy herd on the farm, and will support work with community groups to form a micro-company oriented to production of organic fruits and vegetables. FBU is providing the tools and training for the micro-company and is directing marketing efforts in major urban centers. The FBU has roots in the former Church of the Brethren mission in Ecuador. Much of FBU’s income had been generated by school and university groups who take short courses at the FBU center, but during the pandemic the FBU board has looked for other ways to seek financial stability without sacrificing the mission of service to the community.
A grant of $3,000 has gone to the Casual Labor Fund of Capstone 118 in New Orleans, La. Capstone is an outreach project of the Church of the Brethren’s Southern Plains District, which is providing matching funds. In 2018, Capstone changed its strategy from trying to find one part-time employee to using the “Casual Labor Fund” idea put in place by other community gardens. The change was necessary due in part to the high rate of part-time employee turn-over. Previous allocations for Capstone’s Casual Labor Fund have totaled $3,000, given in 2019.
For more information about the GFI and to give to this work, go to www.brethren.org/gfi .
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