Concern helping the hungry to be model farmers

mary fogarty

Published 12/03/2014 | 05:44

Jennifer Nolan from Burnaby Lawns in Greystones is back from a work visit to Zambia. Jennifer works with Concern Worldwide, where she is Overseas and Communications Officer.

Jennifer was filming, photographing and collecting case studies for International Woman's Day, which takes place on March 8. She was also meeting beneficiaries in Concern's programmes.

'It was my first time in Zambia but I have visited many of Concern's programmes across the world,' she said.

'I visited rural areas in Western Province where Concern is running programmes.' Concern runs a Conservation Agriculture (CA) programme in Zambia, which introduces farmers to new techniques including how to grow crops that minimise soil disturbance and advocates crop rotation. The charity is also engaged in teaching people how to dry and preserve their crops. The CA programme is helping 6,000 farming families in the country.

'I met a family where all five children were malnourished. They were only eating maize and roots,' said Jennifer.

The family members are part of Concern's Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN) project. The mother has become a model farmer, growing nutritious food and as a result the children are doing much better at school.

The RAIN project aims to improve nutrition in the critical time between pregnancy and a child's second birthday. The project supports over 4,000 families.

'Concern is also working on gender issues. There are some jobs that used to be seen as "women's work." It is traditional that women do jobs such as weeding, cooking and collecting water. In the past men would be laughed at for doing these jobs. Concern is working with groups of men and women on the benefits of working together,' said Jennifer. 'Indeed, one man I met has set himself up as an example and has no problem doing the jobs that were previously just for women. He heads off on his bicycle to collect water and has no problem with it.'

Management Consulting and Technology Services Company Accenture Ireland supports Concern in its conservation agriculture programme and the Kerry Group donates funds to the RAIN programme.

Jennifer, who got married last May to Dylan, who runs Everest Music in Bray, was only a few weeks home from the Philippines when she was off to Zambia.

'I went out to the Philippines on November 13 as part of the Concern emergency team. We were responding to the typhoon that had struck the country. I was the communications coordinator but I was also helping with assessments, logistics and distributions.

'Concern is well known and respected for the work it does. We distributed household materials, non food items and tarpaulins.

'In the early stages immediately after the typhoon we distributed over 10,000 kits, each costing between $100 and $120.'

She saw firsthand the devastation that was caused to buildings and communications were down on the islands of Negros and Panay, where she was.

'The Filipino people were really amazing. Their resilience is simply incredible. Yes, the Government was well prepared but the strength of this typhoon overwhelmed them. In 2013 they have had 10 typhoons and one earthquake but nothing like the ferocity of this.'

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