HOTLINE - week of February 28, 2011

CWS helps Nicaraguan communities access safe water for better health and harvests; Kenyan farmers discover the benefits of biogas production; Youngsters in Serbia take part in a program to improve their education and health.

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New water storage tank
Cerro Los Prados, Nicaragua -- Enjoying a new water storage tank that now helps families have access to safe, clean water year-round.
Photo: Angela R-Schafer/CWS


Dry climate. Environmental issues. Inadequate water supply.  A perfect combination for food scarcity, malnutrition and other health problems. In Eastern Nicaragua, many live in extreme poverty, lacking access to such basics as health care, education, housing, electricity and clean water.

Some 200 families in 10 communities in La Conquista and Santa Teresa municipalities, Carazo department, are working to improve their lives and livelihoods, with the help of a Church World Service-supported food security and nutrition program of partner CIEETS (Inter-Ecclesiastic Center for Theological and Social Studies).

The families have already benefitted in many ways: Six water wells were hand-dug and equipped with pumps, and two multi-family wells were sanitized and lidded; three water capture/storage systems were installed, supplying water for irrigation systems; three community water systems were improved; forty water filtration systems were distributed, with families paying 50 percent of the cost with income from their bean crop. 

In addition, 200 families planted new species of fruit trees, along with banana and plantain trees, for their own use and to sell in the market.  Each family also learned how to plan where best to plant seeds, vegetables, and trees on their family farms.

Fifteen families are raising rabbits, after learning about  rabbit handling, reproduction and disease treatment. They also learned how to build cages, using their own wood plus donated sheets of zinc and screen material. Now, knowing the nutritional value of rabbit meat, more families are building cages and eagerly awaiting delivery of their own rabbits.

One hundred and five families received seeds for a second harvest of beans, a daily food staple and a vital income crop. During the rainy season, many families had lost most of their first harvest due to heavy rains.

And, 20 “health promoters” were trained on the management and use of the community pharmacy.

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By 2013, many communities in Kenya will be using new biogas digesters, with the help of Church World Service and partner the Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers (KENFAP). Through this new technology, CWS is hoping to help farmers establish some 240 biogas digesters, constructed with local materials in each community, and find out firsthand how they can make farming – and life – easier.  

A biogas system produces methane gas, using water and cow manure. A latrine can also be attached to the digester to consume human waste.  The decomposition process eliminates diseases in the waste so that the slurry that remains can be used as a very effective agricultural fertilizer.  Methane gas collects at the top of the digester and is kept under pressure from the liquid mixture in the tank.  A gas pipe is installed in the top of the dome to collect the gas to pipe as fuel.  

The end result is twofold: 1) a cleaner-burning, sustainable fuel for cooking and other energy needs, and 2) a byproduct to be used as fertilizer for crops.

Farmers using the biogas system no longer have to purchase firewood or charcoal, thus reducing the cutting of precious trees. Having more trees on or near a farm protects soil from erosion and holds moisture in the local environment. Farmers are also learning how to use the technology safely and effectively.

The ripple effects of embracing this new technology include job creation, improved living conditions and healthier local economies.

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Sixty underprivileged children ages three to six in Smederevo municipality are coming together in an Early Childhood Education program of CWS partner, The Red Cross Smederevo.  Through the program, the children, both Serb and ethnic Roma, gain pre-school education, health care and nutritionally-balanced meals, and become socially stimulated.  The children take part in the program for a minimum of one year before enrollment in primary school.  Their families are also participating in their children’s education.

The children eat breakfast and lunch through the program each day, and take part in music, art, games and role-playing.  Creating a sense of community between Roma and Serbian children is key.

“The nutrition of the children has noticeably improved and is evident in their better growth and development,” says Ljiljana Mitrovic, a nurse with the Smederevo Red Cross.  “All the children were also immunized, with parental consent, and… I am happy to report that all the kids are in perfect health.”

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