Self-Help International devotes its efforts to alleviating world hunger and poverty, by providing opportunities to rural citizens that ultimately leads 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.

Vern Schield was an inventor and industrialist who founded the Schield Bantam Company in Waverly, Iowa in the 1940s. Vern was also a world traveler, humanitarian, and devout Christian concerned about global missions and world hunger. Raised on a farm during the Depression, Vern observed hard working farmers unable to get ahead due to limited means and inadequate farming practices. He developed a small and sturdy tractor called the “Self-Helper”. During his many travels, Vern recognized the need for appropriate farming technology in developing countries. He created the Self-Help Foundation in 1959 (later renamed “International”) to help meet this need.

From 1959-1989, the “Self-Helper” tractor was manufactured in Waverly and shipped to more than forty countries around the world. Self-Help eventually stopped building and shipping tractors once similar equipment could be purchased in-country for less money than what it costs us to manufacture and ship.

In 1989, upon request of native Iowan and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr. Norman Borlaug, Self-Help turned its attention to Ghana, West Africa. For fifteen years, our emphasis was redirected to introducing and promoting Quality Protein Maize (QPM), training and providing technical assistance for agricultural development, and connecting farmers and other groups / organizations.

In 1999, Self-Help introduced a method of training and education programs that had been successful at alleviating hunger in Ghana to communities in Nicaragua, with adjustments to respect local cultural and community priorities.


Our mission is to alleviate hunger by helping people help themselves.

Self-Help works to alleviate hunger by assisting the rural poor, small-scale farmers and related enterprises in developing countries. We help them become self-reliant in meeting the needs of families and communities through training, education, leadership development, and other forms of assistance.

Self-Help is not a relief organization — our focus is on development and sustainability to improve the quality of life with dignity.

Headquartered in Iowa, USA, Self-Help is currently operating sustainable development programs in Ghana, West Africa, and Nicaragua, Central America.  Given our current resources, our objective is to expand our services to new communities within those two countries before expanding into other countries in need.


In 2021, Self-Help International continues to expand the Women’s Empowerment Program, the Teen Girls Club, nutrition interventions, clean water, and QPM seed breeding programs to promote economic development and improved nutrition for Nicaraguan and Ghanaian families. Additionally, in 2019:

  • 3,600 residents of Nicaragua gained access to safe drinking water and new chlorinator systems were installed, ensuring clean and safe drinking water for 9 more rural communities
  • 680 loans were issued to women in Ghana’s Women’s Empowerment Program, enabling them to invest in the growth and capacity of their business
  • 412 rural farm families in Nicaragua learned improved farming methods through Self-Help’s agricultural extension trainings
  • 156 mothers in rural Ghanaian villages participated in counseling and lessons related to breastfeeding, nutrition, and maternal-child health through the Growing Healthy Food, Growing Healthy Children Program

See the 2019 Impact Report here