Jan 7th, 2013 10:09 AM UTC
By Roger Thurow
In the vast assembly room at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, overlooking one of the nation’s premier food banking facilities, Drexton Granberry joyfully came to the end of his speech. He and 25 others were graduating from Chicago’s Community Kitchens (CCK), a 14-week program that teaches culinary skills to unemployed and underemployed adults. One of them was the 1,000th graduate since the program’s beginning in 1998; many of them have gone on to begin careers in the foodservice industry.
Concluding his touching speech, Drexton said, “CCK didn’t just give me a fish, they taught me how to fish.”
I have heard that phrase many times writing about global hunger and poverty. It’s an old chestnut of development practitioners. But this was the only time it brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. For I knew what the graduates had endured, not only in the class but in life. When I was writing for The Wall Street Journal, I followed one of the Chicago classes from start to finish; similar classes were also being taught at a number of food banks across the U.S. Among the students in that class were former inmates and addicts, homeless people, men and women down on their luck and looking for a way back up.
On graduation day in mid-December, the assembly room at the Food Depository, filled with friends and relatives of the students, was bursting with smiles and pride. For some students who hadn’t finished high school, this was their first real graduation day. For many of them, it was their first chance at a real career. More than three-quarters of the graduates from the previous ceremony already had landed jobs in Chicago’s vast foodservice industry.
Drexton Granberry, a 47 year-old father for four and grandfather of three, told the gathering he had worked odd jobs throughout his life, never anything that was a semblance of a career. He was in Minnesota, working in a warehouse for a potato chip company, when his mother had an accident earlier this year. He moved to Chicago to be near her, to help her get around. He couldn’t find a job. “I felt like a broken toy on Christmas Day,” he said.
Then he saw an advertisement announcing the beginning of a new CCK class. He applied and studied hard and hustled through the tasks. During the daily classes, the students helped to prepare nearly 2,000 meals each day for children in afterschool programs and for seniors. Along the way, Drexton latched on to the prospect of a cooking career. “The program gave me a can-do attitude,” he said.
Kate Maehr, the executive director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, dabbed at her moist eyes. Speaking earlier in the ceremony, she spoke poignantly of the 1,000 CCK graduates. “For 14 years, they have come filled with hope,” she said. “For some, hope of finding a better job. For others, hope of finding any job.” Sometime during the course, she noted, hope turns to opportunity.
It is true for both the individual and for the Food Depository. “It wasn’t good enough just to be a warehouse that moved food out into the community,” she said. “We also needed to move out of hunger and bring opportunity into the community.”
Community-based responses that work from the bottom-up are key to ending hunger and poverty at home and abroad. And long-term solutions that result in self-sufficiency, rather than short-term emergency food handouts, are vital to attacking the root of the problem and ending hunger permanently. As the keynote speaker observed, the importance of learning to fish.
The CCK graduates and the current class of students showed off their culinary chops at the lunch they prepared for their 200-or-so guests. It was a veritable feast of marinated chicken, barbecued beef medallions, vegetable rice, cubed sweet potatoes, assorted breads, holiday cookies and cupcakes and hot apple cider.
As I moved through the buffet line, I recalled the feast I had observed nearly a year earlier in the Lugulu Hills of western Kenya. Chicken, beef, beans, tomatoes, kale, a mound of corn meal and a plate of flat bread. Leonida Wanyama, a smallholder farmer, and her family were celebrating a year of bountiful harvests. Following the lead of a social enterprise organization called One Acre Fund, she finally had access to the essential elements of farming – better quality seeds, soil nutrients, financing to pay for it and extension advice. It was a solution that involved entire communities of farmers, a solution that aimed for a permanent end to the farmers’ hunger season. The Christmas before, following a typically meager harvest, Leonida had served only boiled bananas.
The pride and joy I saw at that home-grown Christmas feast in western Kenya I now witnessed again at the CCK graduation ceremony. The students laughed about a phrase they repeatedly heard in class as the teachers stressed the importance of a well-ordered, efficient kitchen: mise en place.
Everything in place.
It is a culinary phrase. And, in the CCK, it is also a metaphor for life.
I think it should also be a slogan for the war on hunger:
Put hunger in its place. Which is to say, in the dustbin of history.
Sep 10th, 2012 10:32 AM UTC
By Roger Thurow
Francis Mamati was gobsmacked by what he heard.
Why would they say that?, he wondered.
Sitting under a shade tree in front of his little house in western Kenya, Francis had just been told that there are people who think African smallholder farmers are better off planting seeds saved from previous harvests than planting newer, fresher seeds purchased every year. The rationale behind this thinking is that these saved seeds are cheaper; annual purchases would trap these very poor farmers in a cycle of higher expenses, leaving them beholden to seed companies.
“You mean they would rather we be trapped in a cycle of hunger?,” Francis asked incredulously.
For years, he and neighboring farmers had routinely used saved seeds or purchased cheap, tired varieties that have been in use for decades. And for years they have struggled through a hunger season, unable to grow enough food to feed their families throughout the year. Francis knew the misery of the hunger season all too well. In fact, his middle name, bestowed by his mother, is Wanjala, the local word for hunger. He was born during the hunger season of 1957.
Thus, Francis and tens of thousands of other farmers in his area jumped at the chance to purchase better-quality hybrid corn seed when a social enterprise organization called One Acre Fund presented the opportunity. Crucially, One Acre also provided the financing in the form of micro-credit to enable the farmers to afford the seed, as well as tiny amounts of fertilizer. We’re not talking about the new generation of seeds called GMOs, or genetically modified organisms –- they aren’t even available in Kenya or in most of Africa — but about seeds produced through conventional hybrid breeding techniques that adapt for disease or climate or soil conditions. The result can be harvests with double or triple yields.
RELATED: Excerpts from ‘The Last Hunger Season’: Francis’ Story
“We will all pay more for seeds if they give us much better harvests,” Francis explained. “Who wouldn’t? It doesn’t cost anything to be hungry. Starvation is cheap! You mean these people would rather we not spend money and be content with low yields?”
He continued: “We’ve come to discover that the seed you save in your house and use year after year doesn’t perform as well as the hybrid seed. One, it is too easily attacked by disease; no changes have been made to resist new disease. Two, the cobs are smaller than with hybrid seed.”
“Look,” he said, “Life is going on. There is new technology in the world. So you should follow the technology rather than hold on to old customs that are leaving you hungry. We look forward to our better harvests.”
I write about this conversation in my book The Last Hunger Season. And I repeat it here because as I speak about the horrible oxymoron of “hungry farmers”, of the need to end hunger through agricultural development, a frequently asked question is the very one that was put to Francis: are we somehow trapping farmers in the expense of buying seed every year?
My reply: Listen to the famers.
Listening should be the most cherished skill of anyone doing international development work. Ask and listen. Don’t assume. Don’t dictate. Don’t impose your notions of what is best.
I thought of Francis while watching former President Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democrats’ convention this week. “Arithmetic!,” Clinton shouted when revealing the secret of balancing the national budget.
Arithmetic was also key to Francis’ farming rationale. He acknowledged that hybrid seeds cost more than the traditional varieties, a couple of hundred shillings per half acre more. But he said it was well worth the cost if he could harvest an additional five or six bags of corn, each worth more than 1,000 shillings (and perhaps as much as 4,000 shillings, depending on the time of year and the market price). Who, he asked, wouldn’t make that transaction, particularly if their children were hungry?
Listen. There is wisdom in these voices.
Aug 13th, 2012 10:05 AM UTC
By Claire Hazelgrove
This weekend UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Bazil’s Vice President Temer hosted global hunger event in London, with the aim of focusing the world’s attention on combating hunger and malnutrition.
On Friday, ONE members working with Concern Worldwide, UNICEF, Save the Children and Oxfam helped hand in a petition of 643,486 names calling for action on hunger by World Leaders:
Poverty means parents can’t feed their families enough nutritious food, leaving children malnourished. Malnutrition leads to irreversibly stunted development and shorter, less productive lives. Less productive lives mean no escape from poverty.
Adrian Lovett Europe Executive Director of ONE said:
“In the last two weeks, London has seen the best of human ambition and achievement. The Prime Minister and the Vice President of Brazil deserve real credit for seizing this moment to insist on the same ambition in the race to end extreme hunger and malnutrition. For too long, this scourge has failed to receive the global attention it deserves. Efforts to provide children the nutrients they need to grow and thrive have been under funded and under resourced. Today is an important start to putting nutrition more firmly on the agenda.
“Earlier this year, leaders committed to a long-term World Health Organisation target to dramatically reduce the number of children affected by stunting. What is needed now to achieve this is much more political will to galvanise the resources, capacity and attention that are essential to accelerate progress.
“If world leaders deliver on the direction set here today, over 21 million children could be saved from stunting by the next Olympics in Rio. Among those children will be future doctors, entrepreneurs, scientists, political leaders – even the next Mo Farah. Giving those children the chance not just to survive but to thrive will be a fantastic and fitting legacy from this inspiring Olympics.
“Having laid these firm foundations, David Cameron must build on them next year. Just as Britain’s athletes have excelled in 2012, UK leadership in the fight against hunger must be world class in 2013.
“It is fitting that the next Olympics are in Brazil – a country that has made remarkable progress in reducing stunting over the past 3 decades. Brazil has shown that success is possible. For the world to succeed, the Prime Minister and Vice President Temer will need the private sector, civil society and other world leaders to join them in taking up this challenge.”
You can take action against hunger on our Act Now page.
Aug 3rd, 2012 10:43 AM UTC
By Claire Hazelgrove
Over the last couple of weeks, you might have noticed the large and exciting sporting event taking place in the UK. Athletes from all over the world have come together to compete in a spirit of peace and solidarity in the games.
With the world’s eyes on London, we have a unique opportunity to call on British Prime Minister David Cameron to launch the race against hunger.
Without nutritious food, athletes couldn’t compete at the games. But many of the world’s poorest children simply don’t get the nutrients they need to grow and develop, and won’t have the chance to fulfill their potential.
To coincide with the campaign, we’ve launched a new online game where you can compete with your friends and world leaders (and sign our petition as well).
David Cameron has announced that he will hold an event on hunger and nutrition during the Olympics, and this could be a real chance for him to take a stand.
We need to call on him to seize this opportunity and announce a commitment to save millions of children from stunting by the time of the next Olympic Games in 2016 – giving them a real chance to thrive.
And we need your help to spread the word – please play the game, email it to your friends, and share it online.
Let’s make this moment talked about for another great reason – let’s go for gold in the race against hunger.
Mar 27th, 2012 1:14 PM UTC
By Wangui Muchiri
This post first appeared on the ONE Africa blog
When ONE and ANSAF delivered a petition earlier this month on behalf of more 16,000 African citizens to Tanzania’s State House, our message was received with the urgency it deserved.
President Jakaya Kikwete had invited several African Ambassadors and the donor community to witness this event and it was clear to us from the word go that the president was indeed taking the issue of food insecurity in Africa very seriously. An event that was supposed to take about an hour, ended up with us being at Ikulu for more than three hours with President Kikwete having time for each and everyone present. He took time to mingle and speak not only with the Ambassadors present but also the small holder farmers personally.
These informal meetings and conversation saw President Kikwete ask the farmers to return the very next day, so that he could hear first hand what they would like to see his government do to boost agriculture in the rural areas.
This humble gesture left us rest assured that the petition could not have been in better hands. As if to confirm this notion, President Jakaya Kikwete went ahead and did two things:
For us this was a clear demonstration of an African leader taking responsibility and showing leadership on an issue that has the potential of transforming the whole continent.
Mar 20th, 2012 11:26 AM UTC
By Isabelle De Lichtervelde
Last Friday in Copenhagen, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Kristalina Georgieva and EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs together launched a €250 million initiative called ‘Supporting Horn of Africa Resilience’ (SHARE). ‘SHARE’ aims to break the vicious cycle of humanitarian crises in the Horn of Africa and strengthen the population’s resistance to future crises.
During the height of the crisis, ONE members participated in a call with Commissioner Georgieva, to learn about the EU’s response at the time and urged her to increase the EU’s efforts. Following that, ONE launched its Hungry No More campaign and more than 400,000 members signed our petition urging leaders to break the cycle of famine.
Alexander Woollcombe ONE’s Acting Brussels Director said:
“ONE’s members called for leadership and EU leaders have listened. The ‘Charter to End Extreme Hunger’ lays out what needs to be done to prevent such crises from happening again. ONE welcomes the EU’s recognition of the need to link emergency aid with support for agriculture”.
Launching SHARE, Commissioner Georgieva explained:
“Europe has done its best to alleviate the suffering caused by hunger to millions of people in the region, but humanitarian assistance is like a dressing on a deep wound – it can offer relief, but it cannot cure the disease. To prevent future famines we need to combine the short-term humanitarian response with long-term support for resilience to future droughts. This is what we intend to do with SHARE,”
And Commissioner Piebalgs pointed out on his blog:
“Thanks to EuropeAid’s assistance, more than 750,000 Somali households benefit from increased access to improved drinking water and water for agricultural purposes; more than 50,000 Somali households benefit from support to livestock production, processing and trade; and more than 50,000 Somalis benefit from support to agricultural production”.
Much more remains to be done but this is a welcome step in the right direction.
Mar 1st, 2012 1:53 PM UTC
By Wangui Muchiri
“Farming is the future. Famines should be consigned to history.”
A group of smallholder farmers and ordinary African citizens marched to State House in Tanzania today, to deliver a petition signed by more than 16,000 African ONE members. This was the first time Tanzanian President Kikwete had received a continent wide petition, and the first time ONE had delivered a petition on African soil.
ONE members and partner organisations march to State House
President Jakaya Kikwete captured the soul of the event when he explained its importance, saying:
“It is important because it reminds us that Agriculture is the life-blood of our country, sustaining our people in towns and villages and meeting their basic needs.”
ONE’s Dr Sipho Moyo presents the petition to President Kikwete
Mrisho Mpoto (aka MJOMBA) a famous East African poet, agreed:
“Hunger is not acceptable. Hunger makes people suffer, affects child’s mental growth, diminishes the honour of the family and nation. World leaders have a role to play. Invest in agriculture, support the future generation and attain the MDGs”
The petition calls on African leaders to provide greater food security for ordinary Africans by investing more in support for smallholder farmers. ANSAF, (Agricultural Non State Actors Forum), who have been key partners in the Hungry No More campaign, were also present. Campaigners called on President Jakaya Kikwete to take the lead on investment in sustainable agriculture, setting the standard for other African Heads of State.
Dr. Sipho S. Moyo, Africa Director at ONE, said:
“If you want to reduce poverty, you need to go where poverty is. Reducing poverty will mean targeting investments towards smallholders in order to employ local labor, supply local markets and spend earnings in local markets which creates multiplier effects in rural economies, improves local food self-sufficiency and reduces rural inequality.
This is why President Jakaya Kikwete’s government commitment to continue focusing on building an enabling environment for smallholder farmers, is encouraging. Currently only 7 African countries have kept their promise to do 10% – this number must increase by the tenth anniversary in 2013, and we are delighted Tanzania is leading the way”.
The petition also challenges African leaders to demonstrate their resolve in tackling famine and other agriculture related problems on the continent by:
The petition is part of a campaign led by ONE in Africa, ANSAF and other African partners stressing on the importance of agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than three-quarters of the poor live outside of urban centres and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.
Audax Rukonge, ANSAF’s Executive director said:
“MKUKUTA and the Tanzania Five Year Development Plan commits the government to address food insecurity and poverty, among others. In the Tanzanian context, and probably most of African countries, poverty is a rural phenomenon, and agriculture is the main livelihood source. Tanzania can attain some of the Millennium Development as well as MKUKUTA Goals if we invest in agriculture and particularly smallholder farmers. Let us increase the share of agriculture that benefits smallholders and transform the sector for equitable economic growth”.
Studies show that in 2010 agriculture contributed at least 24% to Tanzania’s GDP, accounted for 60% of its labor and provided 34% of its exports. This was far more than the 17.3% contributed by the Manufacturing, 28.2% from minerals and 22.5% from the tourism industry. The strategic importance of agriculture to Tanzania’s fight against poverty is therefore not debatable.
The potential for agriculture in Tanzania and across the region is immense – the right investments now can help ensure that agriculture helps lead the economic transformation of the continent. Currently, Tanzania spends close to 7% of its budget on Agriculture. Nearly ten years ago African leaders made an historic promise to their people, – especially those amongst the poorest – it was to spend at least 10% of the budget on agriculture and farming. Few have kept this promise. Before the 10th anniversary its time they all did so as part of other improvements to beat hunger and boost wellbeing across Africa.
Following today’s event ONE and partners will take the campaign to forthcoming regional events including the AU Summit in Malawi in July.
A big thank you to all ONE members who signed the petition. With your help we really are making a difference!
Feb 17th, 2012 9:40 AM UTC
By Emily Alpert
On February 3rd the famine in Somalia was declared over. “This is hardly a cause for celebration”. And I couldn’t agree more. If you think about it, the technical definition of famine is more than 2 people or 4 kids under 5 per 10,000 die each day from lack of access to food and water. So people can still be dying, just fewer of them or families can still be experiencing extreme hardship. Even if there isn’t a famine, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a food crisis. We are clearly not ‘in the clear.’
For starters, many people in Somalia and the wider Horn region are still at risk, although the situations in Ethiopia and Kenya are stabilising. Across the Horn of Africa there are still 10.4 people in need. In Somalia, 2.3 million people at risk and 1.4 million people in urgent need of assistance. In order to assist those Somali’s in need there is a new 2012 UN Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP). Albeit revised a few times, it’s actually been in effect since September 2011. Yet somehow, nearly 5 months later in February 2012, the 2012 appeal of $1.4 billion is just 7% funded for Somalia, and just 16% funded for the Horn of Africa. Have we actually forgotten our hard learned lessons so quickly?
There is no doubt that famine could have been prevented if donors had responded sooner. ONE’s Hungry No More campaign stressed that drought is inevitable, but famine is not. We have the early warning systems in place, the calls have gone out, but action once again is too slow.
Hopefully the conference hosted by the UK on February 23rd on Somalia will help write a different tune. Although much of the conference will be dominated by security concerns, there is a platform dedicated to addressing humanitarian issues where David Cameron is expected to highlight the need for continued and sustained momentum. NGOs will also be gathering a few days before to keep up the pressure.
And momentum and pressure are exactly what’s needed. In addition to the on-going crisis in Somalia and the wider Horn region, Africa’s opposite coast is looming under the threat of another food crisis. The situation hasn’t escalated yet, but what are we waiting for? According to TIME, a third of the population in the Sahel – a mainly semi-arid region that stretches across West Africa – are at risk of hunger.
But this is not new. Hunger for many people in West Africa is chronic and occurs each year during the hunger season. This only underscores the need for long-term investments in agriculture – just like the ones that donors promised at the 2009 G8 L’Aquila summit and just like the ones African governments promised to spend on their own populations.
ONE will continue to hold donors accountable to these promises to increase spending on agriculture, food security and nutrition. By heading early warnings of food crises on the rise and making smart investments in long-term solutions, together we can break the cycle of poverty.
Feb 7th, 2012 1:07 PM UTC
By Adrian Lovett
“Famine outcomes no longer exist in southern Somalia”. These eight words, at the start of a dry assessment released on Friday by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit in Nairobi, can hardly be considered a cause for celebration. For the last four months, a part of the world had been struck by famine – not just food shortage, or even extreme hunger, but the appalling conditions that meet the strict technical definition of a famine. As ONE insisted, no f-word could be more obscene. Drought may be inevitable, but famine is not – and famine in the 21st century is an obscenity.
So it’s difficult to jump for joy at the news that this famine has come to an end – not least because millions of people in the Horn of Africa are still in desperate need. In Somalia especially, where new concerns about access for humanitarian organisations are emerging, the famine has left people more vulnerable than ever. Like a determined boxer who hauls himself to his feet after taking a beating, the next punch could be the most devastating of all.
And yet, the fact remains that while the world took too long to act on early warnings of crisis in 2011, it did act. Millions of people, from ordinary citizens to policymakers, stepped forward. The global African diaspora demanded action. 400,000 people signed ONE’s petition urging leaders to do more. Leading politicians responded in the European Commission, the African Union, the UK, Sweden and Kenya. Millions of people contributed to the UN’s most successful humanitarian appeal and record public appeals in Britain, Germany and countless other countries. Critically, aid workers from Africa and across the world delivered relief in the most challenging of conditions, and continue to do so right now. All these actions saved lives.
And now this belated but strong effort has been rewarded with a little good fortune. Somalia has enjoyed a better-than-expected harvest. That has pushed food prices down in local markets and there is, for now at least, room to breathe.
Now the obvious question: can we stop this happening again? If political promises made years ago had been kept in the first place, we could have avoided much of the terrible human cost of the last few months. They must be kept now – by African governments who promised to invest ten per cent of their money on agriculture, and by richer nations who made commitments at the G8. And of course it isn’t just about money. More progress was made at last year’s Cannes G20 summit to reduce the volatility in global food prices that has caused havoc in the poorest families’ budgets. That progress needs to be built on urgently.
Together, we managed to force action on this famine over the last few months. Let’s keep that pressure up. We need to build a movement that can keep food and agriculture at the top of the agenda. The US, who host this year’s G8 summit, have a big leadership role. The Horn of Africa’s wealthy neighbours in the Gulf are global players too, well able to do their part. And governments in Europe must keep their promises, starting with the British-led conference on Somalia later this month. Overcoming extreme hunger is not just a fight we must face. It’s one we can win.
Jan 24th, 2012 8:00 PM UTC
By Dr Sipho Moyo
This blog post was first published on the ONE Africa Blog
As our Hungry No More campaign continues, famed musician and trumpeter Hugh Masekela joins us in calling on African leaders to focus investments in their agricultural sectors, which will contribute to growing their economies and reducing extreme poverty.
Hugh’s support couldn’t come at a better time as the African Union Summit begins this week with our Heads of State in Addis Ababa. Now’s the perfect opportunity to continue our campaign and press our leaders to take action. We’ll be presenting your petition and signatures at the AU later this week!
Here’s what Hugh has to say:
Growing up as a musician in South Africa I witnessed first hand the man-made obscenity that was apartheid and used music to protest against injustice.
Apartheid is now consigned to the history books, but another obscenity still exists on our continent. A famine in Somalia that has killed 30,000 children in 3 months.
Yet the current crisis is a man-made disaster that could have been avoided.
As our leaders prepare to meet next week in Ethiopia to attend a critical summit, please join me in signing ONE’s petition:
The petition reads:
Dear African Leaders,
We are haunted by the famine in Somalia that has killed 30,000 children in 3 months. We respectfully request that you help make this the last famine by: 1) supporting delivery of promised emergency aid; 2) increasing effort on peace and security; 3) keeping the long-term promise toward spending 10% of national budgets on agriculture and food security; and 4) doing so transparently, so citizens can ensure this money is well spent.
With access to suitable seeds, technologies, and improved connections to markets, small-holder farmers can generate more income, send their children to school, help to keep food prices affordable and help lift their communities out of poverty.
When they meet next week our governments must show real leadership and ensure this is the last famine in Africa.
Please take action now.
Thank you for your support,
Musician and ONE member
The International ONE Blog is a daily log of the anti-poverty movement. The site is operated by ONE staff, with guest contributions from ONE volunteers, members and allies.
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