International Cooperation


By Dolores Welsh,  Bucks Farm & Garden Branch, PA

What does it mean to be part of an organization that links women around the world – helping women help each other to feed their families and communities?  I recently had a couple of experiences that led me to appreciate the connection of all WNF&GA members to the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW).

I experienced the vast reach of the ACWW and, by association, the WNF&GA, when a distant cousin from Australia, whom I’d never met before, visited me in Pittsburgh.  As we talked, exchanging stories and images of our lives and homes, including many reflections on our gardens, I learned that my cousin Ernie’s wife, Diane, was aware of the ACWW.  Her mother is the president of the Melbourne branch of “Country Women.” Suddenly, the world was a whole lot smaller as I mentally traced the links from my Ambler Keystone branch of Farm & Garden to the national WNF&GA, to the U.S. Council of ACWW (one of nine councils worldwide), to the international headquarters of ACWW, and out through the Australian Council to Diane’s mother’s branch. What an exciting connection! We were instantly linked in gardening and in supporting women and families in ways that truly matter.

In another revelation earlier this summer, I was astonished to find myself at the 2009 Annual meeting of WNF&GA in Boston seated next to Loretta Minervini who, with her husband, built a hot house in Nepal and provided seeds so that the local growing season for vegetables could be extended. The growing season along the Himalayas is naturally very short due to cold. Imagine the daily nutritional contributions of that hot house to the lives of the local people of Nepal, year after year. Amazing!

Women Feed The World

Rural women are the principal labor force in food production in many countries.  “Women Feed the World” (WFTW), an independent ACWW fund launched in 1989, is aimed at supporting their role.  It was linked to the ACWW’s first action program, “Water For All” which met requests from women’s groups to provide water for irrigation to support diverse food growing projects. WFTW funds diverse projects that are successful because they respond to needs of rural women rather than imposing solutions. The majority of these projects have developed into profitable commercial enterprises. To ensure long term sustainability, a credit and savings facility is integrated into each scheme. To ensure functional literacy, a critical component of success, women receive essential training in marketing, basic bookkeeping, and co-ops.

WFTW provides many types of help, from grants to buy seeds and tools for new gardening co-ops to training in simple farm techniques. Common projects include dairy production, bee-keeping, grinding mills, market gardens, and traditional food crop production. Successful co-ops are linked to large agriculture and horticulture outlets ensuring maximum return on the food sold. Loans have been given to members to start new enterprises.

In Cameroon’s Southwest Province, eight women, ten girls and four boys were taught textile printing and dyeing. The project increased the level of education and provided income for the families. In Western Uganda, oxen were provided to take away some of the strain borne by women, transforming the women’s working lives. Not only do these projects help individual women, they support whole communities. Studies show that women are more likely than men to invest in community improvements, particularly education of their children and community schools.

Clearly, women are making a difference every day in the lives of their families and communities and in the lives of others around the world. On international women’s day, President Obama stated, “women are vital to the solution of these problems, and we will not sow the seeds for a brighter future, or reap the benefits of the change we need, without the full and active participation of
women around the world.” (Country Woman, July-September, 2009) The ACWW is a critical tool to engage women in sowing the seeds for a brighter future.

Pennies for Friendship

How can we help the ACWW help women feed the world? First, we can carry out important resolutions that are approved at the ACWW Triennial Meetings. When we do so, we join with women around the world in addressing the world’s most pressing challenges, beginning in our own backyards. Second, we can make regular donations to Pennies for Friendship. At branch, division, and national meetings, we often take up collections for Pennies for Friendship – a primary vehicle through which WNF&GA supports ACWW efforts to help women around the world. Our pennies go a long way in other parts of the globe.  And our dollars go even further!

I can’t think of another organization that I give to that so directly affects a person’s ability to live a better life by their own hands.  Most of the time it seems we are just giving to get someone through a tight spot rather than enabling them to go on in a much better place.  Also much of the time my gift is part of a much larger gift and is a part of a large effort that allows something large to happen.  With pennies for friendship, the gifts are smaller but the effect is so direct one can measure the improvement in one person’s life.  “There is close direct contact between the supporter and the receiver.” (Country Woman, July-September, 2009)

For even more information, contact the International Frysinger Project Chair Kay Engelhart at