Growing a future

Niger garden
August 03, 2017

Scenes from gardens around the world

Summer is a time to get outside and get your hands dirty. At Mercy Corps, gardening isn’t just a hobby: it’s a crucial tool to build food security around the world.

Around 2 billion people worldwide rely on what they can grow to eat. That’s a huge slice of the global population—and a major portion of the world’s poor who live on less than $2 a day.

When farmers are stronger, everyone is stronger. That’s why Mercy Corps uses gardens and demonstration plots to help families learn to grow more food. Because more food means more to eat and more to sell, more money to save for emergencies, a more varied diet, children healthy enough to go to school, and a more resilient future for everyone.

For so many people, a better future starts with a simple, local garden—maybe not too different from yours. Here’s a look at some of the gardens Mercy Corps is using to grow a future around the world.

In Kandahar, Afghanistan, Mercy Corps helped develop manuals to teach farmers how to grow newly introduced crops like pistachio, saffron and grapes. In an area with low literacy rates, the manuals use illustrations to teach more than 500 farmers basics like planting, processing and production techniques.
As Colombian coffee prices fluctuate, farmers like Maria are paid after the harvest and are at risk of not having enough money to buy food for their families. Mercy Corps helped Maria set up a garden to improve her family’s food security, which she also uses to feed the coffee pickers who work on her land during harvest. Now her family is eating fresh organic greens while saving money by not having to buy produce. "I have four grandchildren and I have savings for all of them," she says.
Many youth from Gabriel's rural Guatemalan community migrate to Guatemala City or the United States in search of economic opportunity. But thanks to a Mercy Corps program near his home, now he is sowing the seeds of opportunity by learning to farm maize, peas and lima beans and saving money to start a small business. "In my country we can fulfill our dreams," he says. "What we set our minds to we can achieve."
The tea industry is India’s largest private sector employer and working conditions can be hard—especially for women. On estates like this one in Assam, workers are dependent on management for everything from housing and food to water and healthcare. Mercy Corps is working with local partners and estate managers to improve living conditions and empower tea workers to build better, stronger lives.
In Kenya’s youth bunges (Swahili for parliament), young people come together to start businesses, practice leadership skills, and change their communities. Members of this bunge pooled their money to start a business growing bamboo seedlings for sale. With training from Mercy Corps, they want to eventually scale up the business from 4,500 seedlings to 50,000.
In Mongolia where winters are extreme and nomadic herding is a way of life, livestock health can make or break a family. Mercy Corps provides seeds to help herders grow more fodder for their animals, as well as healthy food for themselves—like the cucumbers growing in this vast greenhouse.
Farmer Yin Yin Aye picks chili peppers on a hot day in central Myanmar. With Mercy Corps’ help, she has learned to eliminate weeds in her crops using plastic sheeting. Now she’s growing more food and earning more money for her family.
Pramila has farmed ginger, in Nepal, for more than six years, often struggling to fend off crop disease. With Mercy Corps’ help, now she’s learned to protect her crops and ensure a healthy harvest. She also has a demonstration plot which she uses to teach her neighbors various farming techniques. Any profits from her harvest she reinvests into her family business, and soon she wants to add a poultry farm to her land.
Mercy Corps taught Haua, bottom, how to grow cassia—a hearty plant that is easy to grow and yields enough to feed multiple families in their village. "When we don't have a lot to eat, we go out and get it," Haua says.
More than six years of conflict have damaged land across Syria and decimated many farmers’ livelihoods. Mercy Corps is working to help farmers get back on their feet and increase their outputs in plots like this one, where a young boy holds a watermelon that he picked from his grandfather's fields.
On a Timor Leste in the south Pacific, Lino, 34, grows rice, corn, bananas, cassava, sweet potatoes and beans. With Mercy Corps’ help, he’s also learned to farm and sell tilapia. In a country especially prone to a changing climate, these healthy crops have transformed Lino’s family: he sells the rice for profit and harvests the rest for his wife and three children. "My dream is to have all of my children go to school," he says.