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.

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.”

Preparing to travel to East Africa

Three of us from ECHO will be leaving next Friday, Nov. 4th for East Africa.
The first stop will be Arusha, Tanzania where we will meet with key people and discuss plans for opening an ECHO East Africa Impact Center.
Two of us will proceed to Kigali, Rwanda to consult with Akilah Institute for Women on plans for an agricultural component on their new campus.
From there I will continue on to Kenya and join our son James in a visit to Turkana. James and I will then attend the 25th anniversary celebration of the Africa Inland Church Cheptebo Rural Development Project on Sunday, November 20th.
And of course I will squeeze in some birding along the way!
My intentions are to send a report from each of these countries — you can check up on me 🙂

En route to Tanzania

It took me a few days to get this posted!
Wednesday morning (16 June) and I’m having breakfast at the airport waiting to begin my journey and watching the World Cup. After the match, in which Chile defeated Honduras 1-0, there was a piece on the recent history of South Africa. Well the sound was off but the pictures from Robben Island, of Nelson Mandela and fighting in the streets made it clear that the subject was the end of apartheid.
Interestingly, the father of one of my key contacts in Arusha, Tanzania served in the Vermont House of Representatives for 30 years and publicly addressed this issue.
From a letter by Robert Kinsey that was added to the US Congressional record in 1985:

“After Erwin went to Africa, he told me what was going to happen in Uganda with Idi Amin and he was right. He told what was going to happen in Rhodesia and again he was right. Now he tells me that “Apartheid is going to end in South Africa in one of two ways. If the end of Apartheid has to be by bullets, the whites are going to be pushed into the sea.”Erwin would prefer non-violent pressure such as H210 as the only hope left to create equality and harmony amongst all colors. I support H210.”

We thank God that the end of Apartheid was not by bullets and under the leadership of Nelson Mandela and others South Africa has come a long way, a “Rainbow Nation” that now has the attention of the whole world.