Self Help Africa

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Self Help Africa
Self Help Africa logo.png
FounderNoel McDonagh
Father Owen Lambert
FocusImproving agriculture and food production, promoting entrepreneurship, supporting women, and climate change adaptation
HeadquartersDublin, Ireland
  • Kingsbridge House, 17-22 Parkgate Street, Dublin 8
Area served
Sub-Saharan Africa
Key people
Raymond Jordan (CEO)
Tom Kitt (Chairman)
SubsidiariesPartner Africa, TruTrade, Traidlinks.
Formerly called
Self Help Development International; Harvest Help; Gorta-Self Help Africa

Self Help Africa is an international charity that promotes and implements long-term rural development projects in Africa. Self Help Africa merged with Gorta in July 2014.

The organisation works with rural communities in eight African countries – supporting farm families to grow more and earn more from their produce. Self Help Africa provides training and technical support to assist households to produce more food, diversify their crops and incomes, and access markets for their surplus produce.[1]

The agency also helps rural communities to access micro-finance services, and supports sustainable agricultural solutions that enable rural farmers to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change.[2]

Enterprise development, value-added production, on and off farm diversification, programmes that promote community-seed production, innovation and working with women farmers in Africa are also features of the organisation's development work.

Self Help Africa works with local partners across its African programmes to support the provision of good quality local seed and planting materials. This work includes assistance to local communities to multiply their own seed,[3] and provision of support for rural groups so that they can get certification for the seed that they produce.[4]

Self Help Africa is a recipient of funding from Irish Aid, the European Commission, US AID, the United Kingdom Department of Foreign and Overseas Development (DFID), of variety of trusts, foundations, other institutional donors, and the general public.

The organisation has its headquarters in Dublin, Ireland,[5] UK offices in Shrewsbury, Belfast, London and American offices in New York and Boston.

Programmes in Africa[edit]

Self Help Africa collaborates with government agencies and local partner NGOs on programmes in Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, , Togo, and Burkina Faso. It has also worked in Ghana and Benin, but completed its projects in these countries in 2016-7. Self Help Africa currently works in partnerships with other INGOs in Eritrea, where it had its own country programme until 2011.

Projects currently being carried out Self Help Africa include a cassava development project in Kenya that is backed by the European Union, and a multi-year local development project in Northern Zambia that is supported by Irish Aid, funded multi-year project in Northern Zambia. In late 2018, Self Help Africa received support of €12m from the EU to implement a multi-year farmer training project in Malawi, and an enterprise development value-chain project in Kenya that will support the creation of up to 50 new agri-enterprise businesses - projects that will provide markets for up to 100,000 rural poor farming families. This project will disburse grants through a 'challenge fund' that is being implemented in conjunction with South African base Imani Development. Support of €2.5m for the work was received from Slovak Aid in 2018.

Self Help Africa are founder members of The Irish Forum for International Agricultural Development (IFIAD)[6], a multi-agency platform that has been created to share knowledge and good practices for the benefit of development programming and policy. Its members include the Irish farm advisory service Teagasc, the Irish Department of Agriculture, Irish Farmers Association and other NGOs[7].

A subsidiary of Self Help Africa, 'Partner Africa'[8] was established in 2012 to support ethical and socially responsible business practice. Partner Africa is based in Nairobi, Kenya, and provides high quality and innovative ethical trade services and capacity building programmes to the private sector across Africa. A further subsidiary, '"TruTrade"' was created in 2014 as a joint venture between African trading businesses, Rural African Ventures Investments and Self Help Africa. The organisation, which is based in Kampala, Uganda, seeks to improve the share of income that small-scale producers receive for their goods at market.


Farmer and businessman Tom Corcoran, a former chairman of agri-food corporation Glanbia was appointed chairman of Self Help Development International (SHDI) in 2006, and Raymond Jordan joined as chief executive in 2007.

Self Help Africa was established in mid-2008 following a merger between SHDI and the UK agency Harvest Help - both set up in the wake of African famines in the mid-1980s.,[9] Both agencies had worked for almost 30 years, seeking long term solutions to the problem of famine and food insecurity in Sub-Sahara.

Self Help Africa has won several awards for its website, including an Irish Golden Spider for 'Best Charity Web Site' in 2004, and an Annual Digital Media Award 'Best Information Web-Site' in 2007.[10]


In November 2009 Self Help Africa was formally launched in the United States by former Irish President and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson.

In 2009 the organisation collaborated with a number of international development agencies including Development Fund of Norway and FARM-Africa to publish 'Climate Frontline - African Communities Adapting to Survive', which was launched in Dublin by Irish Environment Minister John Gormley, at the EU in Brussels, in London, and in several African capitals. The publication sought to lend a voice to rural Africa, and show how the rural poor were already adapting to survive in a changing climate. The launches were arranged in advance of the COP 15 summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen.


In 2011 a campaign 'Change Her Life'[11] was mounted by Self Help Africa that sought to lobby funding agencies and donors to provide a fair share of existing support to Africa's women farmers. The campaign argued that while Africa's women farmers do as much as 80% of the work, they receive as little ast 5-10% of the support that is available - including farm advice, seed, land and access to markets. A video to promote the campaign received more than 110,000 views on YouTube, while thousands signed a petition to support the campaign.

A promotional video produced by Self Help Africa "It starts with a seed" was selected by Bill Gates as the Best Video entry in The Gates Foundation "Answering the Challenge" competition that was held in 2011.[12]

In 2012 Self Help Africa were the beneficiaries of a trans-Asian 'Silk Roads to Shanghai' expedition that took Irishmen Maghnus Collins Smyth and David Burns overland across a distance of 18,000 km from Istanbul to Shanghai - by bike, run and raft. The expedition took the participants ten months to complete, and succeeded in raising close to €50,000 to support the charity's work in Africa.[13]


Self Help Africa extents its work to Benin, and establishes Partner Africa,[14] a social enterprise that provides ethical auditing services to the private sector, and provides training and support to enable African businesses to access the international value-chain.

Self Help Africa is also instrumentation in the creation of the,[15] a social enterprise to provide a sustainable and scalable way of supporting agricultural enterprise development. A multi-sector alliance, AAA is seeking to be responsive to the priorities of farmer organisations and entrepreneurs as well as to local, regional and global market opportunities.

In 2012, Self Help Africa was the lead partner in a consortium that was awarded the contract to implement WorldWise Global Schools, the post-primary school Development Education programme of Irish Aid. The organisation was also awarded a new five-years contract to implement a major rural development programme on behalf of the Irish Government in Zambia's Northern Province.

Turnover in 2013 grew to €9.5million.[16]


In Summer 2014 Self Help Africa merged in Ireland with Gorta,[17][18][19] the oldest development organisation in Ireland. The merger, which launched Gorta-Self Help Africa in the Irish market appointed Ray Jordan as chief executive. The organisation continues to operate as Self Help Africa outside Ireland.

Gorta was established by the Department of Agriculture in Ireland in 1965 arising from a UN-led international Freedom from Hunger campaign. In the past 50 years Gorta has implemented more than 2,000 largely agricultural projects in over 50 countries worldwide. Arising from the merger the new organisation will extend its development work in Africa to one additional country - Tanzania, and in 2014 undertake additional projects in The Gambia and Rwanda.

The merger of Gorta and Self Help Africa will enable the organisation to increase its turnover in 2014 from a projected €14m up to €19m – and extend its programme reach in Africa significantly.


Self Help Africa increased its turnover to more than €18m.,[20] and launched a range of new agriculture and enterprise development activities in a number of countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, and West Africa.

Tom Kitt, a former government minister and former Minister for Overseas Development succeeded co-chairs Tom Corcoran and Sean Gaule at the helm of the organisation.

In 2015, Self Help Africa secured a number of major new grants to support its work, including $750,000 from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a development project in West Africa, and from the European Union for work, providing training and developing enterprise opportunities for rural youth in Uganda.

During the year the organisation also co-authored a report by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Ireland on the application of climate smart agriculture techniques in Africa. An opinion editorial on the importance of a global deal on climate change at COP21 authored by CEO Ray Jordan was published in an Irish national newspaper.[21]


Self Help Africa increased its turnover to more than €18.7m.,[22] and launched a range of new agriculture and enterprise development activities in a number of countries.

In 2016, Self Help Africa secured a number of major new grants to support its work, including the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency and Walmart Foundation. Existing projects in Benin and in Ghana, West Africa came to a close, while December 2016 marked the completion of five-year grant support from DFID under its Programme Partnership Arrangement (PPA).


Self Help Africa increased its turnover to more than €20m,[23] and launched a series of new large scale projects, in Kenya, Uganda and Malawi. Support totalling close to €40m was awarded from the European Union for BETTER, Malawi, a consortium project that is designed to create more than 13,700 community-based farmer training sites in the southern African country, and for KILIMO-VC, a part of the EUs AgriFi Kenya project that is designed to boost agri-enterprise development in the country. KILIMO-VC has also received support from Slovak Aid.

In 2017, Self Help Africa also secured an increase of 27% in annual programme funding support from Irish Aid, which saw grant support from the Irish Government increase from €2,469,510 to €3,144,626 per annum.

An innovative multi-media story-telling project,[24] won a national award from Ireland's NGO representative body Dochas for its accounts of the lives of people living in Northern Zambia over a period of years.

Meanwhile, a cashless trading platform designed for farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, and developed by Self Help Africa subsidiary social enterprise TruTrade[25] received an innovation award from MIT. In 2017, Self Help Africa also took over the operations of Irish-based trade development NGO, Traidlinks[26] which has been involved in supporting trade development opportunities for agri-businesses in Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Self Help Africa launched a number of innovative new agriculture and enterprise development projects in 2018. These included an agricultural training project in Uganda that will enable thousands of farming families to produce and sell their grain to the UN World Food Programme and a maize development project backed by US Aid in Ethiopia.

In 2018, Self Help Africa's social enterprise subsidiary won the annual Dóchas award for innovation,[27] while its annual report was short-listed at the Ireland Good Governance Awards and by the Leinster Institute of Chartered Accountants.[28]

Self Help Africa also concluded a merger with War on Want Northern Ireland in 2018, and formally launched a new branch - Self Help Africa NI at City Hall, Belfast, in March 2018.[29]

The President of The Irish Farmers Association Mr. Joe Healy visited Self Help Africa projects in Ethiopia and Kenya, and reaffirmed Self Help Africa as the chosen charity of the IFA.[30]


  1. ^ "Africa can cultivate its salvation" The Sunday Times (15.08.11)
  2. ^ "They haven't caused the problem, yet they are suffering" The Irish Times (1.12.2011)
  3. ^ "Sustaining seed production in Africa" New Agriculturist May 2012
  4. ^ "Certifying seed in Zambia's poorest province" New Agriculturist, September 2009.
  5. ^ "Offaly campaigner and businessman travel to support Self Help Africa cause". Offaly Express. 3 Jan 2019. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  6. ^ "Mtukula Fund | Enabling smallholder farmers in Southern Africa to develop enterprising solutions". Retrieved 2019-06-05.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ "Partner Africa - Ethical Solutions in Global Trade". Partner Africa. Retrieved 2019-06-05.
  9. ^ "Funding shift weakens resistance to merger" Financial Times 15.11.12
  10. ^ "5th Digital Media Awards a Great Success" Archived 2007-11-19 at the Wayback Machine Digital Media Awards. Retrieved 20 December 2008
  11. ^ Archived 2013-12-13 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ " Gates Foundation Answering the Challenge Competition
  13. ^ Marathon odyssey across land and water The Irish Times, 17.1.13
  14. ^ "Partner Africa - Ethical Solutions in Global Trade". Partner Africa. Retrieved 2019-06-05.
  15. ^ "African Agriculture Alliance". Retrieved 2019-06-05.
  16. ^ [2] Annual Report 2013
  17. ^ [3] The Irish Times, 28.7.14
  18. ^ [4] The Examiner, 28.7.14
  19. ^ [5] The Irish Independent, 28.7.14
  20. ^ [6] Annual Report 2014
  21. ^ "Turn up the heat in Paris meeting " The Irish Independent (2.12.2015)
  22. ^ [7] Annual Report 2016
  23. ^ [8] Annual Report 2017
  24. ^ [9] Two Villages
  25. ^ Lillington, Karlin. "TruTrade cashless platform helps African farmers grow businesses". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2019-06-05.
  26. ^ "Traidlinks". Traidlinks. Retrieved 2019-06-05.
  27. ^ "Reflections from Dóchas Awards 2018 Winners | Dochas". Retrieved 2019-06-05.
  28. ^ "Annual Report 2018".
  29. ^ "Africa development charities with HQs in Ireland merge".
  30. ^ "Importance of Agriculture Underlined on IFA Trip".