Ellen and I had a great trip to Tanzania. We spent the first week with James and Daphne in Geita and Mwanza, both near Lake Victoria. In addition I had the opportunity to connect with two ECHO contacts who had attended classes in Florida and are helping communities with agricultural development there.
The next week was the ECHO East Africa Symposium in Arusha attended by 180+ delegates. The three days were packed with excellent presentations and enthusiastic networking. It is very encouraging to be with so many like-minded people who are working hard to fight hunger and improve food security in East Africa.
Food Security — what is that? The widely accepted definition is: “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. (World Food Summit, 1996)
This has been the focus of my study, work and ministry for 35 years now. I have moved from a general awareness and concern for “world hunger” to a deeper understanding of what that means for communities. Is this an “Impossible Dream” (my high school class song!)? Maybe not. Although thousands die daily from diseases that bodies weakened from hunger cannot fight off we can look back and see signs of progress.
Data from the 2012 “The State of Food Insecurity in the World” report from the FAO show that the number of undernourished people in the world has dropped from close to a billion to around 850 million. Progress, yes, but still too many children die every day from hunger, malnutrition and related causes.
Most of the gains have been in Asia and Latin America. In Sub-Saharan Africa the percentage of undernourished has dropped from 32.8% in 1992 to 26.8% in 2012. But since the population grew by 350 million people the total number of undernourished people has actually increased.
And that is why I am encouraged by the many people I know working daily to end hunger and extreme poverty. And motivated to keep pursuing the dream. ECHO promotes proven sustainable agricultural practices that build the soil, improve the environment and make agriculture more productive for farmers with limited resources. This is seen to be the most effective way of ending extreme poverty. According to that Food Insecurity report:
“Agricultural growth involving smallholders, especially women, will be most effective in reducing extreme poverty and hunger when it increases returns to labour and generates employment for the poor.” (poverty and hunger go hand-in-hand)
I close this post with a quote from “The End of Poverty” by Jeffrey Sachs:
“Extreme poverty can be ended not in the time of our grandchildren, but in our time.”