Self-Help International (SHI) devotes its efforts to alleviating world hunger and poverty by providing opportunities to rural citizens that ultimately lead to self-reliance. Since its inception, Self-Help has served as a vessel; training, education, and opportunities are provided to rural citizens and whole communities in developing countries so that they can have better lives.
Founder Vern Schield established Self-Help International as an ecumenical, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in 1959. Raised on a farm during the Depression, Schield observed hard working farmers in developing countries unable to get ahead due to limited means and inadequate farming practices. He developed a small, sturdy, tractor called the “Self-Helper” which was shipped to nearly 50 countries around the world for over thirty years. This was a significant beginning for Self-Help’s work with farmers.
As time continued and world conditions changed, Self-Help began fulfilling its mission from a new angle. SHI discontinued tractor distribution and turned to Ghana, West Africa at the request of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr. Norman Borlaug. He requested a partnership and since then SHI has devoted its efforts to training farmers in agricultural development at the grass roots level. Training and education include: benefits of growing Quality Protein Maize (QPM) as seed to increase yields and to improve diets, to improve cultivation practices, to introduce post-harvest technology, to provide marketing tools and the concept of savings, and to provide basic instruction in nutrition and family healthcare.
Since 1989, Self-Help has carried out its mission in cooperation with the Ghanaian Ministries of Agriculture and Health and other non-government organizations. Self-Help currently works with Ghanaian farm families from more than 50 rural communities in 19 of 20 districts.
In 1999, SHI began the women’s micro-credit enterprise program, designed to empower women by allowing them to start or expand their own businesses. That same year, Self-Help began work in Nicaragua, using the successful training and education programs in Ghana as their model. SHI introduces, promotes and, grows its own Quality Protein Maize seed to improve crops and nutrition for Nicaraguans, women’s micro-credit enterprises increase income, and a children’s feeding project targets malnutrition.
Combined efforts have increased QPM production from 5 farmers in 1999 to 55,000 farmers 12 years later, with numbers continuing to increase.