Self Help Africa

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Self Help Africa logo.png
Founded 1984
Founder Noel McDonagh
Father Owen Lambert
Focus Improving agriculture and food production, promoting entrepreneurship, supporting women, and climate change adaptation
  • Kingsbridge House, 17-22 Parkgate Street, Dublin 8
Origins Dublin, Ireland
Area served
Sub-Saharan Africa
Key people
Raymond Jordan (CEO)
Tom Kitt (Chairman)
Slogan "Food and a future"
Mission Self Help Africa works with rural communities to help them improve their farms and their livelihoods. The mission is to empower rural Africa to achieve economic independence.
Formerly called
Self Help Development International; Harvest Help.

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 ten 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, UK offices in Shrewsbury, London and American offices in New York and Boston. It operates in Ireland as Gorta-Self Help Africa, and as Self Help Africa in other jurisdictions.

Programmes in Africa[edit]

Self Help Africa collaborates with government agencies and local partner NGOs on programmes in Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso. It completed 15 years of development activities in Eritrea in 2011. It began work in its newest programme country - Benin - in 2012, with a programme that is supporting small-scale farmers to access international markets for its cashew crops. In July 2014 the organisation undertook new programme work in Tanzania arising from a merger in Ireland with Gorta.

Projects currently being carried out Self Help Africa include DISCOVER, a multi-annual consortium project with a number of partners including GOAL, Concern Universal and local partners that is seeking to support 100,000 people to adapt to climate change and produce food in Malawi; a US Aid backed project 'Community Connectors' in Uganda, an Irish Aid funded multi-year project in Northern Zambia; and a UK Aid backed collaborative Progamme Partnership Agreement (PPA) with FARM-Africa. The PPAs are strategic level agreements based around mutually agreed outcomes and individual performance frameworks against which the organisations report on an annual basis.

Self Help Africa is also implementing the Mtukula Agricultural Enterprise Fund (MAEF),[5] a grant-making initiative that has been established to enable smallholder farmers in Southern Africa to develop enterprising solutions, and is involved in the creation of African Agriculture Alliance (AAA),[6] a social enterprise to provide a sustainable and scalable way of supporting agricultural enterprise development.

A subsidiary of Self Help Africa, 'Partner Africa' [7] 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.,[8] 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 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.[9]


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'[10] 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.[11]

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.[12]


Self Help Africa extents its work to Benin, and establishes Partner Africa,[13] 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,[14] 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.[15]


In Summer 2014 Self Help Africa merged in Ireland with Gorta,[16][17][18] and oldest development organisation in Ireland. The merger, which launched Gorta-Self Help Africa in the Irish market appointed Ray Jordan as chief executive, with Tom Corcoran of Self Help Africa and Sean Gaule of Gorta co-chairing the newly merged organisation. 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.,[19] and launched a range of new agriculture and enterprise development activities in a number of countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, and West Africa.

Mr. 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.[20]