Thursday, June 30, 2011

Animal Handoff in Bukomero

This past Saturday in Bukomero, Rwanda, the community came together to celebrate and witness the first round of first-born animals being handed off to new families. Bukomero village was the first community in Rwanda to receive a microgrant, thus this is a very exciting moment to see this grant in its first steps of sustainability. The community came together months back and decided upon an animal husbandry grant, and divided into three groups according to the animals they selected; goats, pigs, and chickens. Part of their grant stated that the first born animals must be passed on to another family, in order to help all community members. This past Saturday, this exciting next phase started!

As a Spark intern, I have been working with Bukomero for the past month learning about how the grant has gone and seeing how the animals are doing. During our meeting last week we discussed the hand-off of animals and one woman was so excited that she wanted to hand off her animal then. Instead we decided to wait a week to be able to have a small celebration for the handoff. So on Saturday the community came together to enjoy some snacks and watched and celebrate the handoff.

During the first part of the meeting, the three animal groups met to discuss, decide and write down how they are planning on giving away their first born animals. This will serve as a model for them in the months and years to come. It was pretty amazing to see them come up with their own plans, and the goat group even developed a contract system that the donor and receiver must sign.

On Saturday, there were 3 goats and 4 chickens that were given away, benefiting 5 families (each family receives 2 chickens). It was very exciting seeing the community members sign away, and then sign for their animals. After everything had been signed, the people handing away animals came forward, followed by those who would receive them. They stood side by side and then transferred either the goat’s leash or the chicks in to the other person’s hands. After the transfer was complete everyone started clapping and seemed very excited for the new animals owners. One woman who received a goat was so excited that she picked it up and walked around with it in her arms.

One reason why the new receivers are so excited is for all the benefits they will receive from having an animal. The people of Bukomero decided upon an animal grant in order to get manure for their crops to increase their production, and to get eggs from chickens to sell and eat. Both of these benefits, increased agricultural yields and eggs, will also help to improve their nutrition.

I think one of my favorite moments from Saturday was that as we were leaving, the community walked with us all the way to the bus stop. It was really fun to walk with the whole community and to have children clamoring to hold your hand. But my favorite part, was that the new animal owners also walked with us either holding their baby chicks or leading their goats. I think it was a nice way to end this celebration, with the community and animals all together.

Saturday was a great moment and reminded me that the Spark concept truly works. This is an amazing community who developed a grant with a way to ensure its sustainability and equality within the community. Then months later were able to come together to usher in the next phase of their grant. Seeing the new animal owners and the other community members next in line to get animals’ excitement was really amazing. It is remarkable how the donation of one animal can make a difference not only in the life of one family, but also in many more.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

News from Tubeho

Merry faces came together at the latest community meeting with the Tubeho Association in Karama. Tubeho was last reported on in May, and Spark is happy to say that the honey cooperative plan is complete and the group is ready to take on the first stage of the project. Additionally, the association has already begun HIV education outreach for community members, and it will continue to do so as the honey cooperative is brought into fruition.

Tubeho has risen to the task of managing the massive grant awarded to them by the US Embassy. The $13,000 grant will be implemented in installations, Tubeho has already submitted its final draft of the first installation's budget, and is now eagerly waiting for allocated funds to begin honey production training and the construction of a community store.

Through the Microgrant process this inspiring group is challenging the social stigma put upon them surrounding HIV and proving to themselves that they are capable of much more than simply surviving. When individuals were asked about their involvement in association, they suggested that before Tubeho they were idle but hopeful, now they are excited and proud of what they have already accomplished for themselves.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

An update on Spark's newest partner community

On Sunday, Spark met with members of the Gisagara community to hear their ideas about how to address the problem of food insecurity (especially serious during the dry season), as well as how to do away with their persistent jigger infestation. After breaking into groups to discuss how they would most like to use a micro grant, they community came back together and decided to form an an association for addressing food insecurity, most likely through growing beans and sorghum. A president, vice president, secretary, and security officer were elected to head up the association, and each community member will have the option of joining. The association will discuss and vote on whether they would like to use a portion of their funds to eradicate jiggers, as well as how they would like to carry out their food security grant. Over the next several weeks, they will draft a MicroGrant proposal!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Local Solutions Forum

Are you part of a local or international organization or foundation that supports locally-driven development? Yes? Then we would like to invite you to join the Local Solutions Forum!

A little bit of history….

In May, Spark held its first "Community Empowerment" webex meeting to which we invited fellow organizations that support locally driven development solutions. The meeting was very successful; So successful in fact that it got us thinking about next steps, how we can grow the group and how to continue to collaborate with other like-minded organizations and individuals. There are many other groups supporting locally-designed development efforts, but there is relatively little conversation and knowledge share happening right now. Let's change that. After all, we certainly don't want to recreate the wheel, but help each other toward a common goal. As a result, we created the Local Solutions Forum ( online discussion group to promote and explore locally-led development.

Save the date because the Local Solutions forum kicks-off the discussion on July 4th. Between now and then we are focusing on outreach to get as many participants from all over the world—from local and international organizations to large and small foundations.

Here’s the plan….

Every Monday a new group will “present” via an all-group email. The first week of each month will be for smaller in-country groups that work locally. The second week will be for a global organization that supports local solutions in one or more locales. The third week will be a member-lead discussion on a topic relevant to local solutions. The fourth week will be for a funder. And then we’ll start over again. Each discussion will be entirely over email—the discussion leader is expected to start the week off with an email post to the group, which will be followed by back-and-forth questions, comments, and answers over the course of the week.

Current LSF members include:

Bugerere Education Support Organization (BESO) Uganda
Coded in Country
Dimagi's Dodoma Project
Global Grassroots
Mamelani Projects
Manna Project International
Segal Family Foundation
Spark MicroGrants
The Niapele Project
Village Health Works

Please join us by signing up here:

We look forward to starting the conversation on July 4th!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A new community in Rwanda

These are pictures of a mother from gisagara in southern Rwanda. Like most other mothers in Gisagara, she makes and sells pots for a living. For each pot she makes, she walks two hours to a valley to collect clay and walks enough clay back on her head to make one pot that she will then sell for around $0.17, if she can find a buyer at the market.
Living on around $0.17 a day, it’s easy to imagine the problems the village has with food security. Their land in the rainy season is highly fertile, but in the dry season they struggle to produce enough food. In the pictures below you can see the potatoes in Gisagara compared to those in the north in Musanze (where we supported a village to start a potato cooperative The mothers in Gisagara were open with us about when they do and don’t have food and they solidly told us that they really want to grow food and that they know how to do it if they can acquire land. They want to work together and grow, soon they will start preparing their MicroGrant proposal for their food security project!