The innocent foundation has been supporting Excellent Development on a three year programme helping community groups in rural Kenya to develop water and soil conservation projects. Last year Graham took time out from his spreadsheets to visit the innocent-supported project in Meka and earlier this year JT swapped Shepherd's Bush for Kola to set up a computer network for the ED office in Kenya.
As the programme drew to end it's been really exciting to look back and see that the Meka community group had smashed the targets they set at the beginning of the project - we were expecting them to build 5 sand dams, plant 9,000 trees and dig some terracing, but they have managed to build 6 dams, plant over 12,000 trees and dig nearly 18km of terracing. Life in rural Kenya revolves around the availability of water so the lasting impact of these achievements will continue to benefit the community for years to come.
And as if that wasn't enough Excellent Development has just been recognised at the Third Sector Excellence Awards by winning the "Small Charity, Big Achiever" category. The judges were impressed by how much has been accomplished since the organisation was founded in 2002 and the support given helping communities to build sustainable futures.
Well done from everyone at innocent.
(This blog post was written by our Graham).
Apples are hard to come by in Ethiopia. Due to the dry conditions and limited water supply, not many people grow them. Most of the time, they tend to be imported from South Africa and are extremely expensive. For example, 1kg of apples costs well in excess of an average day's pay.
However, with the support of the innocent foundation, International Development Enterprises (IDE-UK) are helping to set up apple farms across Ethiopia - providing small family run farms with additional income, improving their livelihoods and making apples readily available for all.
IDE-UK provides low cost irrigation systems to farmers, sets them up with robust seedlings and trains them in apple husbandry (looking after the trees, growing the best fruit and so on).
In the world of apples, patience is a virtue/necessity as it takes up to three years for the trees to produce a decent crop. One challenge in particular to producing well formed apples is stopping the beaks of pesky birds pecking away at the fruit.
Abebe knows all about birds. Him and his family were one of the first to plant apple trees and last year, their first crop yielded over 300kg of fruit (that's roughly enough to apple up around 4,000 smoothies).
Abebe was then able to sell the best apples at market and as well as being able to support his family with the money he made, he's now growing his business by buying even more apple seedlings to plant.
Lewis from IDE-UK has just come back from visiting the Wolmere and Ejere districts of Ethiopia where he took these photos (unfortunately, it's the wrong time of year to see shiny red apples on the trees).
Abebe is just one of 226 farmers that IDE-UK and the innocent foundation have helped in this way.
Talk about getting to the core of the issue.
(Posted by Ruvan)
We have a group of 16 people at Fruit Towers collectively known as The Foundation Guardians.
This is them pictured below (well some of them)
Angelic, aren't they? Their day jobs span everything from IT to Marketing but they also spend some time looking after the various projects that the innocent foundation supports.
Every year, innocent gives 10% of it's profits to charity, most of which go to the innocent foundation. The Foundation then invests in rural development projects (run by NGOs) in countries where we source our fruit. We have 16 projects on the go at the moment and the Guardians all look after one of them, keeping in touch with the relevant project partners, reporting back to the business on progress, and generally keeping an eye out.
Every now and then, the Guardians all get together to update each other and last week, Catriona Fox (from Find Your Feet) and Peter Ryan (the CEO of the Microloan Foundation) came in to tell us all about microfinance.
Mircofinance involves lending small amounts of money to people in rural communities to enable them to start small businesses and improve their own lives. It's the focus of a number of our projects so it was great to get a really indepth talk from two experts in the field.
They really know their stuff so it was good to be able to hear them describe their work and ask them lots of questions. Plus Sustainability Jess made cake. Which is always essential for a good meeting.
I'm afraid we ate all the cake, but if you are interested in watching the video that Peter showed us it's here...
Watch this space for more Guardian updates, coming very soon.
A few weeks ago, I was on holiday in Malawi myself and was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with Joseph and Joseph from Microloan to see some of the great work they're continuing to do out there.
The Microloan Foundation provides small loans and business advice to women in Malawi and Zambi which allow these women to start up small businesses in their local communities, selling rice, tomatoes, bananas and so on.
The women then form small groups and are collectively responsible for re-paying the loans. This helps them learn about money management and means they receive a lump sum at the end with which to improve their family and community lifestyle.
One of the loan agreements
I met Joseph and Joseph in Rumphi, Northern Malawi, to attend a repayment meeting in a local village. These meetings take place fortnightly and each member of the group is expected to repay their share of the loan and make their savings.
Having driven for an hour along a dusty track, we were greeted with the sound of singing from the women, who were singing about how grateful they were to Microloan for improving their lives.
After the repayments had taken place, we then had a Q&A session where I got to find out how the opportunity to run their own businesses had affected their lives. All the women agreed unanimously that their lives had changed for the better as they were now able to provide for their families, without having to solely rely on their husbands for support.
Annie told me that her biggest wish for next year was to save up enough money to buy a proper bed, instead of the mat she currently sleeps on.
Last year, Microloan made 22,000 loans to 11,000 women like Annie, helping them set up profitable businesses and accumulate around about £15 in savings each. £15 might not sound like a lot but these savings helped look after 66,000 dependents.
This year Microloan are looking to expand in Malawi, Zambia and Namibia with the aim of helping over 100,000 people work their way out of poverty by Christmas.
So hopefully, along with Microloan's support, Annie will be sleeping soundly and comfortably come December.
(Posted by Helen)
My brief whilst I am out here is to spend time setting up a computer network for the office staff in Kola. The office manages the operational functions of EDK (Excellent Development Kenya), they are broadly split into Finance, Admin, Logistics, and Training. Here’s most of the EDK team, John wore his shades especially to look cool, I reeled out my cheesiest grin and strangely Mbutu stared at the tree; good job the others knew how to behave on camera.
Left to right – Kyalo, Christine, John, Esther, Peter, Mbutu, Me
Right, if you are at all bored by IT talk I advise you to stop here.
The challenges to IT work in Kenya are based around getting quick access to the right hardware and software. The nearest place with a choice of IT equipment to purchase is in Nairobi, which is a good 2 hour drive. Being prepared is important as you can’t just pop down the shops to get another network cable. Also I am used to downloading the software I need from the internet, whether it is Windows Updates or new applications. You need a speedy and reliable internet link for downloading large files and this isn’t always the case in Kenya.
In remote areas such as Kola the only possible way to get internet access is by using mobile broadband (the USB sticks that are getting popular in the UK) which the mobile companies are rolling out across the country. Unfortunately the service can be unpredictable. However it is very impressive how the mobile companies are using a technology like mobile broadband to reach customers and bring the internet to such remote places. If you consider that there is no mains electricity or running water where I am staying.
It will be great if the mobile companies can get to the level of coverage and reliability they have with voice calls as an improved service will mean better communication and hopefully benefit Kenya’s communities and economy. Every man and his cow in Kenya have a mobile and the advertising for the mobile companies is everywhere. I heard a story from a visitor to EDK saying that she was out in the Maasai Mara with one of the warriors in his full ceremonial dress when his mobile went off. It’s good to talk.