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empowering women in Madagascar

Here at innocent foundation we support our partners to help hungry people to produce more food, to feed themselves and their families, and towards creating a stable income. We use the Global Hunger Index to help us decide where to aim our funding, choosing only to work with partners in countries described as having an alarming or serious hunger situation.  

One of the projects we proudly support is with the charity Feedback Madagascar. They work alongside communities to improve agricultural techniques and reduce poverty. The project we’re helping to fund is supporting 800 of the most vulnerable households to reduce the risk of crops failing and families going hungry. Women are especially vulnerable in Madagascar because of the difficulties they face with owning their own patch of land. The project is empowering women, helping them to own land, teaching them how to grow vegetables, and training them in leadership so they can share their new skills with their community.

One of the women who has benefited from the project is Christine. Working with Feedback Madagascar, she has learned to compost and improve the yield of her crops, which has led to an excellent season producing peanuts and corn.  Not only has she grown enough to feed her family, Christine also has some extra corn to sell to her neighbours. She has become a ‘woman leader’ in her community and is now teaching other people to grow their own food.

Over three years, the project has had 22 ‘women leaders’ active in their respective communities. Each passing on the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired and empowering more women to take on the challenge of learning new farming techniques and growing more food for their tables.

Christine with her produce

Happy 5th Birthday to Make Lunch

Our friends at Make Lunch are celebrating their fifth birthday this year. The organisation was started by Rach Warwick back in 2011 after she saw a documentary called Poor Kids. Rach learnt that school holidays are not just a break from the classroom. For many, they are also a break from hot meals. And she decided to do something about it. At school more than 1.2 million pupils who may otherwise go without are eligible to receive free school meals. Outside of term time though, free school meals are not available and many pupils are left without regular hot food. This is where MakeLunch comes in. During school holidays, their network of community groups open Lunch Kitchens across the UK to provide free, healthy, cooked food for pupils who usually receive free school meals. We're really proud to support their work. You can read more about how we do that here

It's not just about food though. What strikes me whenever I visit Lunch Kitchens around the UK is the sense of community between volunteers, parents and kids, and the fun that everyone is having. Poverty doesn't just cause hunger - it can also create a sense of isolation and stigma. So I was delighted to read five stories about how being part of the Make Lunch family has changed this for five children. 

Happy birthday to everyone at Make Lunch. 


fancy working for us?

We’re looking for a fabulous grant officer to join the innocent foundation, taking our tiny team from one person to two. The right person will share our passion to win the fight against global hunger, and will thrive in a flexible, fast-moving environment.

Innocent drinks have always donated 10% of profits to charity, and the majority of it comes to us at the innocent foundation. We’re a grant-making charity which funds outstanding charities to deliver projects tackling hunger around the world. Over the last 12 years, we’ve given £4m to help more than 630,000 hungry people and learnt a lot about how to make the biggest possible impact with our donations. We’ve now grown to an annual income of £1m which supports a portfolio of 16 partners globally.

As our grant officer, you will manage half of our grant portfolio – our seed funding and local food poverty grants - and find fantastic new partners for us to work with. You’ll keep our trustee board updated on the foundation portfolio and work with our funder, innocent, to inspire their employees and drinkers about the foundation’s work.

Does this sound like you? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Applications close 19th June with the successful candidate starting ASAP, so get your skates on.

Apply here: http://www.innocentdrinks.co.uk/us/careers/uk/innocent-foundation/grant-officer 


Project SEED helps women in South India

Project SEED is a joint initiative between Jeevika Trust in the UK and WORD - the Women’s Organisation for Rural Development - based in in Tamil Nadu, India. The aim of the project is to empower the most impoverished low-caste women and their families by teaching them about sustainable agriculture to enhance their quality of life. The three year project is funded by the innocent foundation. We met two women helped by Project SEED who told us their stories. 

Shanti’s story: conserving water, increasing yield

Shanti, 32, is mother to two young daughters and comes from a conservative community where women are rarely allowed to voice their opinion or make independent decisions. She is one of 140 women selected to take part in Project SEED. 

“My husband died of a heart attack two years ago and my only assets are the two acres of land that he left behind. I receive very little support from my in-laws and the extended family. I now live with my father in Thottipalyam village. Water is a precious resource in Thottipalyam and I could not irrigate the land as the rainfall in the last two years was poor. I often had to pay to access piped water available through Government schemes from the Kaveri River which flows across Tamil Nadu. The offer to install drip irrigation on one acre of my land was a blessing as it enables me to water my plants adequately with minimum wastage.” 

Shanti and her father, who helps her farm the land, were taught how to plant the seeds at appropriate intervals and to water the saplings for short durations every day. “The water is just adequate for the saplings and the yield of my pearl onions has increased.”

WORD has installed drip irrigation to small farmers like Shanti on the condition that a portion of the land is utilized to cultivate vegetables and that organic techniques are used to enrich the soil and enhance plant growth. Shanti has planted pearl onions, tapioca and black gram. The onions provide her with a weekly income which is utilized for day-to-day household expenses while the tapioca generates an annual income that will go towards her daughters’ education. Despite family and community objections, Shanti worked up the courage to attend an exposure visit to SVAD (Sittilingi Valley Agricultural Development) in Tamil Nadu, where farmers are engaged in organic farming. “I learned various techniques such as the preparation of an effective micro-organism solution. When sprayed on plants, this acts as a natural insecticide and enhances soil quality.”

Shanti now regularly prepares this solution and mixes it with the water used for drip irrigation, which has resulted in a significant increase in the crop yield. This has increased her income by 25%, which makes a huge difference to her small household.

Kamalam’s story: growing crops to buy a cow


52-year-old Kamalam lives with her husband Arunachalam in Tamil Nadu where they both work long hours on their 1.5 acre plot of land. To supplement their small income they also work on other farms as agricultural labourers. Their children - two daughters and a son - are now grown up and married and live some distance away.

Kamalam and her husband were selected to take part in Project SEED, attending a workshop in organic farming techniques and receiving seeds for cultivation.

“We primarily cultivate millets such as sorghum, finger millet and pearl millet, pulses and cowpeas,” says Kamalam, as she stands in a field surrounded by shoulder-height sorghum. “I attended a workshop run by WORD and learnt how to make herbal sprays. I mixed the liquid with water used to irrigate the land and it helped fertilise my crop. In January when the crop was harvested, for the first time ever the yield was high.”

As part of this project, Kamalam became a member of a Seed Wealth Centre which was set up to help the women and other farmers collect, exchange and store their organic seeds. Following the harvest, Kamalam was able to return twice the quantity of seeds she was originally given to the Seed Wealth Centre.

By selling sorghum in the wholesale market, Kamalam will be able to save enough money to buy a cow, and selling the cow’s milk in the local area will generate additional income. Kamalam and her husband will then be able to afford to visit their daughter - and see their grandchildren for the first time. Kamalam goes to the weekly market to look at the cows being sold in anticipation of bringing one home soon.


changing the way we treat childhood malnutrition in Mali

Child being screened for malnutritionWe searched long and hard to find the right partner for our first ever breakthrough development grant. When we met Action Against Hunger, we quickly realised that they were special. Why? Not just because their experts have been at the forefront of the fight against child hunger since the 1970s, but because they aren’t afraid to try new approaches and then shout about what they’ve discovered.

We're funding a ground-breaking research project which aims to prove that you can reach children with severe acute malnutrition more effectively and at the same or lower cost by working through community health workers rather than expecting parents and children to travel to distant health centres. If it works, then we can change the way Ministries of Health all over the world treat severe acute malnutrition. And that could have a massive impact on 17 million children suffering right now.

The Independent recently sent journalist Lizzie Dearden to visit one of the project research sites in Mali. Watch her video interview with Jean-Michel Grand, Action Against Hunger's CEO, and read about the mothers and children Lizzie met here