Whoops! Where did that year go?

2014 brought us some surprises. More about that in a few days.
Happy New Year!

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Here we are in 2014

January 2014

The last 3 1/2 months have passed quickly. We have traveled to South Africa (Bob), Atlanta (Ellen), Cincinnati, Albuquerque, and Gainesville; and celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year.

South Africa landscape

Bob spent October and most of November at Ukulima Farm in South Africa

Already this year Ellen has been to Atlanta again for AIM work and at ECHO we have hosted our first Tropical Agriculture and Development class of the year.

In the year ahead we anticipate traveling to the Vancouver, Canada area for a grandson’s first birthday in March. We also look forward to the birth of two more grandchildren this year.

Day to day we continue with the work where God has called us. Ellen helps families prepare for educating their children in foreign cultures.

snow in Ohio

We saw a little snow on Thanksgiving day in Columbus, Ohio

I spend my days at ECHO answering questions from people working with agricultural communities around the world. I also help as ECHO continues to make good information available on our website, with classes conducted here at our Fort Myers, Florida site, and with the training of our interns.

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Unexpected trip to South Africa

Due to changes in personnel and the planting season coming up in South Africa ECHO  found itself with the need to send someone out there for a couple of months to lend a hand. This came up in late August and I was asked to fill that need.

I told them I needed to check with Ellen and wait until after the birth of a grandchild. Becky and Elliott were expecting in mid-September and tentatively scheduled a baptism for last Sunday (Sept. 29th). That was agreeable with all concerned.

In short, Evalena Joy Pinegar was born on Sept. 17th and Ellen and I were able to be with them in Michigan for a few days.


Evalena Joy Pinegar with her maternal grandparents!

Sunday we celebrated her baptism at the First Presbyterian Church in Bad Axe, Michigan where Elliott is the pastor. Evalena by the way is beautiful!!

Becky is doing great and they seem to be adjusting very well to having a newborn in the household. Even Montgomery the cat seems to be handling the situation well.

I leave tomorrow (Oct. 2nd) and will be in South Africa at the farm near Modimolle about 130 miles north of Johannesburg. While I am away Ellen has plenty to keep her busy at the AIM office in Peachtree City, Georgia (near Atlanta) and with her parents in Cincinnati.

I am scheduled to return to Cincinnati in time for Thanksgiving and then Ellen and I should be back in Fort Myers in early December for the annual ECHO conference there.

While I hate being away from Ellen for those seven weeks or so and while I will miss watching the Gators play I am excited about this opportunity. I have never been to South Africa but will enjoy being back in Africa and am looking forward to being involved in the research going on there.

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Midsummer Update

After the excitement of our trip to Tanzania in February I have settled into a fairly normal routine. Highlights of the past few months are:

Peter Henry Hargrave

Peter Henry Hargrave

  • Birth of our grandson Peter Henry Hargrave on March 17th in Kampala, Uganda.
  • Several events and classes at ECHO, recently named by Charity Navigator as the top international charitable organization in Florida.
  • Easter trip to Michigan to see Becky and Elliott in their new home.
  • A few days at AIM HQ in Peachtree City, Georgia.
  • Participated in the birding event “June Challenge” finding 104 birds in Lee County in June.

    burrowing owls

    Burrowing Owls

  • Spent a week at the farm near Gainesville doing some house and yard projects for Mom.

    golden silk spider

    Golden Silk Spider

Thanks for reading!


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The Impossible Dream

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.”

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Upcoming Trip to Tanzania

Ellen and I are scheduled to leave next Friday (January 25th) for Tanzania. Our first week we will be visiting our son and daughter-in-law in Mwanza on the shores of Lake Victoria. They have just moved into a rented house and need help with a few projects. We’ll be a little early for the grandchild expected in March!

The second week is the second ECHO Symposium in Arusha. I helped lay the groundwork for the new ECHO office there so it is exciting to see the progress being made and get a chance to interact with friends and development workers from around East Africa.

After the symposium I will return to work at ECHO in Florida and Ellen will travel on to 2 more meetings in Kenya. There she will be assisting students and their parents with their education needs and plans.

Keep up with us on Facebook:   Bob   |   Ellen



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