Portland, OR (PRWEB) April 23, 2014
Africa Bridge today announced the successful completion of the first year of a project to invest in village farm livelihoods for families who care for vulnerable African children. Supported by a grant from The Monsanto Fund, Africa Bridge provided 224 families with start-up loans for investments in dairy cows and avocado tree seedlings.
The Monsanto Fund, a private charity separate from the corporation, is committed to improving lives in farming communities around the world. In 2013, it awarded a $143,000 two-year grant to Africa Bridge for “Sustainable Incomes through Village Agricultural Cooperatives.” The project focuses on seven villages in a region of Tanzania hard-hit by poverty and HIV/AIDS. The grant supports Africa Bridge’s mission to improve the lives and futures of vulnerable children, by means of family economic strengthening.
“We’re grateful for the grant from The Monsanto Fund,” said Barry Childs, founder, Africa Bridge. “These investments represent the first step in the families’ transformation from subsistence farming to profit-making agricultural ventures.”
Focusing on the needs of vulnerable populations far from urban centers, Portland, OR-based Africa Bridge works in remote villages in the highlands of southwestern Tanzania. There, the land is fertile. Neighbors and families step in to care for children who have been touched by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. But low literacy, geographic isolation, and limited access to capital hinder the ability of families to make ends meet.
Africa Bridge reverses these conditions, by organizing families into village-based farm cooperatives. The farmers receive loans and intensive training in agricultural practices and entrepreneurship. The cooperative groups provide mutual support combined with the power of group buying and marketing.
In this project, nearly 500 vulnerable children live in households now participating in cooperatives. A year after project start-up, 84 new highly productive cows live in thatched shelters in the villages, and 140 farmers each have orchards of 100 sturdy avocado seedlings. Through investing “patient capital,” Africa Bridge predicts that within four years these families will enjoy income that has doubled or tripled, along with improved health, nutrition, and access to education for their children.
“Since its inception in 2000, Africa Bridge has helped nearly 6,000 children in Tanzania, along with their guardians and whole villages,” said Barry Childs, Africa Bridge’s founder. “In this project, hybrid cows will give five times the daily milk of local variety cows, and the co-op groups can market milk to distant, more profitable markets. When avocado trees mature, crops will be exported to the UK, allowing isolated African farmers to participate in the global economy.”
Sustainability and fostering self-reliance are key features of the Africa Bridge approach. Financing mechanisms embedded in new co-ops ensure that after an initial up-front investment, co-op membership will grow larger each year into the future.
About Africa Bridge
Africa Bridge is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 2000. Centered on the needs of orphans and other vulnerable children, Africa Bridge promotes family self-sufficiency, empowers women, and bolsters whole villages in rural Tanzania through integrated, sustainable development programs. See http://www.africabridge.org for more information.
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