Archive for the Livelihoods Category

Life Lessons in Ethiopia

Posted on Thursday, August 8th, 2013 at 10:51 am

By Amanda Ruckel, Education Officer, Concern Worldwide U.S.

Stachel, Grainne, Jeffrey, Dee, Catherine, Ciara, Chloe at the Concern office in Addis Ababa.

Stachel, Grainne, Jeffrey, Dee, Catherine, Ciara, Chloe at the Concern office in Addis Ababa.

Driving through the mountains of Ethiopia from the capital, Addis Ababa, to the northern region of  Wollo, one cannot help but be impressed by the towering trees, the green, rolling hills, and the cool, crisp mountain air. Prior to traveling to Ethiopia, I had heard it was a beautiful country, but I soon realized pictures and anecdotes couldn’t do justice to the sheer beauty of the country that is known as the birthplace of humanity.

I traveled with two other Concern Worldwide staff members from Dublin and New York, one student and teacher from the United States and four students and two teachers from Ireland. The students who participated were fairly familiar with Concern’s work overseas, as the Irish students had debated development issues over the past year and had won the national Concern debates and the American student, Stachel, is a member of the Global Concerns Classroom (GCC) Club at her school and has served as a student leader for the past two years. Together, we spent six days visiting several different Concern programs and learning more about the rich Ethiopian culture.

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Kenya’s Slum Dwellers Receive a Welcome Lifeline

Posted on Friday, May 11th, 2012 at 1:01 pm

The Government of Kenya recently launched a cash transfer program that will give 10,000 of the poorest people living in Nairobi’s Mombasa slum 2,000 shillings – roughly $22 – a month for eight months. As a long-time advocate for cash transfers, especially in Kenya, we at Concern Worldwide celebrated the news, largely because we know from our own experience that it works.

Felicitas Wairimu works on her grocery stall in Nairobi's Korogocho slum. She was one of the beneficiaries of Concern's cash transfer program at the height of the 2011 drought crisis. Photo: Phil Moore

Even though $22 may seem small in our context, you have to remember that for the poorest, having this amount every month means, for the first time in their lives, they are receiving predictable and reliable income. For the first time, they are able to plan. We know that by giving people the opportunity to solve their own problems and make decisions about how to best fulfill their needs, families’ educations, health and nutrition standards are all raised.

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Cambodia’s Rice Banking System

Posted on Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 at 1:08 pm

By Moire O’Sullivan, Assistant Country Director Programs, Concern Worldwide Cambodia

Today, Dok Sareth went to the bank. He came home with a bag of rice.

“Before the rice bank was set up, I had to borrow rice seed to plant my rice crop,” Sareth told me on a visit to his village.  “Every time I borrowed, I had to repay the loan with a 100 percent interest rate.  Now because of the rice bank set up with Concern’s support, the villagers can help each other and the interest rate is much more affordable.  It has made a huge difference to my life and I am extremely grateful.”

Local farmer Dok Sareth proudly shows off his rice bank. Conor Wall / July 2011 / Pursat, Cambodia

The people who Concern works with in Cambodia depend heavily on rain-fed rice production for their income. They are rural farmers who grow and sell rice on the small amounts of land that they own. Those without land work on other farmers’ paddy fields for a small daily allowance. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Shared History: Concern’s 40 Years in Bangladesh

Posted on Thursday, February 9th, 2012 at 2:46 pm

By Mustafa Kamal, Overseas Account Manager, Concern Worldwide

Bangladesh recently celebrated two significant 40th anniversaries. As a Bangladeshi and a member of Concern Worldwide for the past 20 years, the events have a dual-significance.  In addition to marking the independence of my country, it also was the anniversary of Concern’s first mission to support vulnerable and under-served Bangladeshi refugees in Calcutta, India following the liberation war. The response in Calcutta was Concern’s second mission as an organization and led to what is now four decades of high-impact quality programming inside Bangladesh.

This month, Concern is recognizing its 40th year in Bangladesh with events in Dhaka and our headquarters in Dublin. While much work remains to be done in Bangladesh, what we have accomplished since that first mission to support Bangladeshi refugees in 1971 is remarkable. In many ways, our work in Bangladesh has shaped Concern’s programming and how we bridge emergency response and development, and I am honored and very proud to have been a part of it, both on-the-ground in Dhaka and now in Dublin, Ireland.

My first interaction with Concern was in 1989.  I was a chartered accountant student in Dhaka and had the opportunity to be a part of consultancy project to review Concern’s financial systems. As part of this assignment, I traveled to Saidpur to review the financial systems of Concern’s programs. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pakistan Floods: A Trip to Southern Sindh Province

Posted on Friday, February 3rd, 2012 at 1:31 pm

By Emily Bradley, Program Support Officer (PSO)

Bakhtwar sits proudly in front of her small shop which she reopened with the support of Concern after the floods washed it away. Jamshoro District, Sindh. Photo: Emily Bradley

Driving through Southern Sindh province in Pakistan on a bright, sunny day in early December 2011, it is difficult to imagine the catastrophic scale of the destruction caused by the floods of 2010. Beyond the bounds of the irrigated sites, the land is now dry and dusty and the heat is immense. As I meet with Concern’s beneficiaries and partner organizations, it is all too clear however, that, although the flood waters have receded, their devastating legacy lingers.

In August and September 2010, villages across Jamshoro district were entirely submerged in water. We all recall the media images of the floods in Pakistan, but it is often difficult to fully comprehend the extent and reality of the devastating impact until you speak with those who were directly affected. Imagine losing everything you ever possessed; imagine fleeing your home with your children to save your lives; imagine watching as the mud walls and thatch roof of your home and business disintegrate in the floodwaters before your eyes.

Now try and imagine all of this as a severely disabled mother of eight. Read the rest of this entry »

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An Old Man in Tanzania Learns New Tricks

Posted on Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 at 10:56 am

Mzee Barosha on his farm with curious children, many of whom are his grand children, Kasulu. Photo: Isla Gilmore, Tanzania

By Isla Gilmore, Communications and Advocacy Officer, Tanzania

I have a soft spot for elderly people, so I was delighted to meet Mzee Bakari Barosha, a gentle 70-year-old farmer in Kasulu District, West Tanzania. We met him at the back of his little mud-brick house in Kigembe village, where he was tending to two baby goats that were born that day.

Mzee Barosha has never had much money. His 70 years have been spent cultivating crops to use for food for his family. He has always cultivated a small amount of beans that he would sell in order to buy essential items but he has never made much out of it. Because of this, it was impossible for his eight children to go any further than primary school.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Chad: Taking a Gamble with Better Odds

Posted on Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Dosseye Refugee Camp, Southern Chad. Photo: Francesca Reinhardt

By Francesca Reinhardt, Program Support Officer, Chad  

At 6:30 am on the dot the rain begins to fall in Goré, southern Chad.  It sounds like an avalanche clattering down on the tin roof overhead.  This is the sound everyone’s been waiting for with bated breath, because it’s already mid-May and the rains should have started a few weeks ago.  But after twenty minutes it stops.  Is it a false alarm?  There’s no more rain, but the air is thick and heavy and clouds still hover in the distance, promising more.  So after a long, hot dry season, the farmers swing into gear.

When to plant is a serious gamble for farmers.  If the rains don’t start in earnest, the soil will dry up and precious seeds will get blown away.  If they wait too long, it might be too late, and food stores from the year before will have to last even longer.  For many subsistence farmers, the months between the end of the harsh dry season and the first harvest are known as the “hunger gap,” when they have to survive on the last of the cereal crop, foraging, and loans.

There is an added danger that if families get too hungry, they will eat the seeds they need to plant for the next harvest, thus threatening their food supply for the following year.  Some families hide their seeds in trees, or anywhere else that will keep them out of reach of hungry children.  This is obviously a difficult choice for families to make: to have their children go hungry now, or risk starvation the following year. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Enemy is Hunger: Women Fight Back in Malawi

Posted on Friday, June 10th, 2011 at 7:21 am

Concern Worldwide is investing in women farmers in Malawi like Ariema Benetala to improve nutrition of mothers and children during the 1,000 days from pregnancy to age 2. Photo: Kathyothyo, Malawi, Pieternella Pieterse for Concern Worldwide

By Anita McCabe, Country Director, Concern Worldwide Malawi

As the hot, dry breeze wafts through the lakeside district of Nkhotakota, Malawi, a group of women sing as they take turns to water their near-ripe crop of maize. Further downstream, another group is busy making seed beds in preparation for another crop.

Like many women in developing countries, these women face a particular set of responsibilities and vulnerabilities when it comes to providing food for their families. Not only are they the primary caregivers, they are also the producers of food and the income earners. Women farmers in rural areas of Malawi grow, buy, sell, and cook food in order to feed their children. In fact, in all the countries in which I’ve worked during my time with Concern Worldwide, I’ve seen how very hard women must work to ensure the survival of their families, and the burdens they bear. Read the rest of this entry »

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White Gold in southern Chad

Posted on Thursday, April 28th, 2011 at 8:00 am

Shea butter training gets underway in Goré, southern Chad, where Concern trains women in the processing of Shea butter and production of soap, food stuffs, and cosmetics. Photo: Chad, Concern Worldwide

Francesca Reinhardt, Program Support Officer, Concern Worldwide, Chad

I’m based in a small town called Goz Beida in eastern Chad.  It’s a dusty corner of the Sahel, where the bulk of the traffic comes in the form of slow-moving donkeys and camels. It’s an unforgiving environment, but I’m learning things here that I don’t think I could learn anywhere else.

Chad is a vast landlocked country, covering several eco-zones, and some of the highest rates of poverty on the planet. The challenges are enormous.  Chad has the world’s highest child infant mortality rate, and is in the bottom five countries ranked by the United Nations Human Development Index. Chad has experienced not only natural disasters, but also civil conflict, the internal displacement of populations, refugees fleeing conflict in neighboring Central African Republic (C.A.R.) and Sudan, the Sahel food crisis, drought, flooding, and cholera outbreaks. Read the rest of this entry »

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Irrigation Puts a Check on Hunger in Malawi

Posted on Thursday, February 3rd, 2011 at 3:57 pm

By Joseph Scott, Communications Officer – Malawi

Kachigamba, a member of Concern's irrigation group in Chitukula, Malawi. Photo: Malawi, Concern Worldwide

The month of January is usually the busiest in Chitukula, an agricultural community situated in rural Lilongwe in central Malawi.  With the onset of the rains, most farmers in Chitukula are busy in their fields determined to make the most out of the heavy rainfall.

Contrary to the surrounding hub of activity, Wellington Kachigamba’s pace (46) has slowed. On this usually labor-intensive Wednesday morning, he sits with legs outstretched on his tobacco shed verandah whilst stringing together his first crop of tobacco into bunches for drying. He looks up at the hundred or so bunches perched on the trusses of the shed and smiles with satisfaction. Read the rest of this entry »

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