ICCO Stars of 2017: dreams come true

ICCO Cooperation empowers local communities to create sustainable livelihoods and justice. We invest in the dreams of enterprising people and turn their ambitions into reality.

Maria Theresa from Bolivia

Maria Theresa from Bolivia participated in Manq’a, a project in which ICCO and Melting Pot Bolivia train unemployed young people to become cooks. This year she cooked in Michelin star restaurant RIJKS in the Netherlands.

After graduating from Manq’a, Maria Theresa started to work at top restaurant Gustu, where best female chef of Latin America Kamilla Seidler leads the kitchen. Last October, Seidler was invited to cook at Amsterdam’s Michelin star restaurant RIJKS, and Maria Theresa assisted her.

Manq’a is specialized in cooking with biologically produced local products. The philosophy behind Manq'a, meaning "food" in the local language Aymara, is that good food can contribute to a better world. Sustainable, locally produced food is healthy, better for the environment and stimulates the local economy. The training offers disadvantaged young people, like Maria Theresa, better job opportunities while stimulating the market for biological regional products. In this way, also farmers generate more income.

Suwarno Jaman from Indonesia

Suwarno Jaman from Indonesia
Suwarno Jaman is a farmer in the Gondanglegi District of Malang in East Java. He regularly plants sugar cane on his plots but has planted and grown other vegetables, such as chilis and tomatoes. Like many Indonesian farmers, Pak Jaman has faced increasing challenges in recent years due to unpredictable weather, changing climates, and lack of technical support services.

To support farmers, ICCO and six public and private partners formed a consortium to provide farmers with information services such as weather forecasts, market prices and farming techniques (inputs, pests and diseases) via mobile phone. By employing traditional and innovative methods of data collection, such as field visits and geodata (satellite, GIS), the SMARTseeds consortium aims to share location specific information based on farmers’ individual needs.

Pak Jaman tells: “So far, the main problem I faced was on the provision of fertilizer. I spend a lot of money on fertilizer based on my own estimation, suggestions from my fellow farmers and based on my crop performance. There’s no service to support me. That’s why I agreed to be a demo plot farmer for SMARTseeds because if it is successful, it will really help me to save costs”.

On 30th November 2017, Pak Jaman harvested his first round of demo plot chilis which were planted using fertilizer advice from SMARTseeds. Based on the recommendations, Pak Jaman was more cost efficient by 31.5%. Pak Jaman: “I hope that in the future the advice will show more good results, such as higher quality produce.”

Video SMARTSseeds and GREENcoffee

Amély Fanta Diallo from Mali

Amély Fanta Diallo from Mali
In less than two years, Amély Fanta Diallo became the first woman producer of quality aquaculture feed in Mali.

“I became an entrepreneur because of my passion for aquaculture. I installed my first fish-ponds 4 years ago in the Niamana zone, 30 km from Bamako. However, I quickly realized that producing fish would not be profitable because of the high cost of imported feed.” Rather than being discouraged, this 47 year old mother of seven, saw this as a business opportunity and set out to find a solution for producing quality feed using locally available ingredients. With a little help in equipment and training from ICCO’s Jege-Ni-Jaba project, Amély was able to set-up a granulated aquaculture feed production line. “I was now able to feed my fish but soon I had other fish farmers buying my product. I’m now ready to sell under her own brand “FOLOFOLO”, meaning “THE FIRST” in Bambara”.

Mulu Yami from Ethiopia

Mulu Yami from Ethiopia
Mulu Yami, 28, is one of the 30,000 smallholders who received support by the Food Security and Rural Entrepreneurship Fund (FSRE fund). Mulu, married and mother of three children, started up a poultry business thanks to the fund. She received 65 chickens that now produce 63 eggs per day, which she sells and gets profit from. “Before I had to search for work everyday, which was not rewarding at all. Now I’m making money from my home, I have my own business!”.

Mulu has a regular income now of which she can buy healthy and nutritious food for her children. Besides, she has more time to spend with her family. “Having your own business even if it is small will help you improve your family income. I call upon women to become entrepreneurs and improve their lives”.

Malu is planning to expand her business and buy more chickens. Therefore she has started to save money in a savings and loan association.

Since 2012 until 2017, the FSRE fund has supported 74 agricultural innovation projects in Ethiopia. The fund was financed by the Dutch Embassy in Ethiopia and managed by ICCO on behalf of AgriProFocus.

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Mirgul and Umar from Kyrgyzstan

Mrgul from Kyrgyzstan
“We came to the Resource Center when my son was three years old, where I learned about autism for the first time”, says Mirgul, mother of Umar in Kyrgyzstan. “My son was very different from his peers: he did not ride a car and a bicycle, he did not understand what we were saying and, most importantly, he did not speak himself”. Umar was denied from seven kindergartens. “I did not understand how I could help him and was already getting used to the idea that he would remain like this forever”.

With the first lessons in this Resource Center, Mirgul saw her son enjoying the classes where he said his first word. Now Umar is four years old and he knows how to communicate in a better way. Umar knows about 10 words that he often uses and he understands a lot from what his parents say - a huge improvement. He looks for ways to express his thoughts: cards, phone, tablet, candy wrappers, and lids from the boxes.

Mirgul: “Although we are far away from ordinary children of his age, I have no doubt that everything will be good. This is the merit of the Center where I learned to understand my child, I learned to communicate with him and learned to be calm. The center gave me moral support, and now I am no longer embarrassed of my son”.
Mirgul has grown to the level of a specialist in the Resource Center. She now conducts a program on teaching academic knowledge for children with autism.

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Kesar Bahadur Lama from Nepal

Kesar Bahadur Lama from Nepal
Kesar Bahadur Lama is one of the survivors of the Nepal earthquake in 2015. He lost a big part of his harvest, a problem for a community where farming is highly dependent on seasons ánd just enough to sustain the livelihoods of their families. Therefore ICCO and its local partner CCDN introduced resilient farming technologies, so that farmers depend less on seasons, and in that way are better prepared for earthquakes.

Kesar: “I had seen other farmers with plastic huts, but it costs 1 Lakh (1,000 euros) to put one up. For me it was just a dream. Then I found out that ICCO was prioritizing marginalized people. Currently, I am farming tomatoes in my plastic tunnel and I am very happy with the results”. The plastic tunnels protects the crops from the weather, be it sun, rain or hailstones. Besides, farmers can better administer pesticides and water, de-weed, prune and harvest despite the weather conditions.

ICCO and CCDN also link the farmers to the market, so that they can sell their crops instead of only using it for their own livelihoods. When there is a surplus, farmers inform buyers via telephone who come and pick it up. Kesar: ‘In the past year, I sold about 1,000kgs of tomatoes from my tunnel, which gave me a profit of Rs 30,000 (300 euros). Now I have seen the benefits of the tunnel, I want to construct more tunnels in the future’.

With the help of ICCO and CCDN, 400 smallholders received improved plastic tunnels for climate smart farming.