Many churches will have conducted Harvest services recently, celebrating God’s bountiful provision for us. Yet, as we know all too well, many live in a vicious cycle of crippling poverty and severe food shortages without much hope of escape. World Food Day is celebrated every year around the world on 16 October to raise awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger.
In purely quantitative terms there is enough food available to feed the entire global population of 7 billion people. And yet, one in nearly seven people is going hungry. One in three children is underweight. One of the Millennium Development Goals agreed in 2000 was to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015. According to the UN, progress is on track in Northern Africa, East and Southeast Asia, Latin America and Central Asia. However, one of the areas where insufficient progress has been made and which has been categorised as suffering from ‘very high hunger’ is sub-Saharan Africa.
Why does hunger exist? The causes of food insecurity are complex, and include natural and man-made triggers, such as extreme weather, war, poverty, lack of agricultural infrastructure and over-exploitation of the environment.
Ethiopia produces the most coffee and honey in Africa and has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Poverty remains a major issue – 38% of its 84 million people live on less than 79p a day – but many people are working hard to support their families and improve their standard of living.
MRDF has been working in the Wof Washa region of the Ethiopian highlands since 2004. Here, crop failures led people to turn to logging in the forests so that they could sell wood and create more land for farming in a bid to survive. At the turn of the 20th century around 40% of Ethiopia was forested; now only 3% is covered. Without the trees to protect the soil from the elements, it has become thin and rocky, making it unproductive and reinforcing the cycle of deforestation.
MRDF’s partner in Ethiopia, SUNARMA (Sustainable Natural Resources Management Association), is helping communities to break this cycle. By promoting a range of agricultural techniques including soil enrichment, terracing and crop diversification, it is enabling better crop yields while protecting the natural environment. People are now growing fruits such as apples, pears and plums, and vegetables including carrots and cabbages. Some families have received a new breed of sheep that gives better meat and lambs more than once a year, increasing profits without doubling the pressure on grazing land.
A tree planting programme has been initiated and over a million saplings have been planted so far. SUNARMA is also helping communities to build irrigation channels to provide water for their crops, enabling them to have at least two harvests a year. Around 250 people in one community now have an irrigation channel after working with SUNARMA and contributing land, rocks and labour.
Metaferia Semunuguse is 35 years old and lives in Shola Meda village with his wife. He started growing apples with help from SUNARMA and produced 32kg of apples in 2010 and 55kg in 2011, keeping some for his family to eat and selling the rest. He has recently started producing his own apple trees through grafting, following training provided by SUNARMA, and now has 30 trees.
Kindu Wolde has also benefitted from SUNARMA’s work. A 48-year-old farmer, Kindu lives in the Debele District, central Ethiopia, with his wife, son, daughter Zenbu and adopted son Getaneh, has helped him improve his bee-keeping business. He said:
‘I started keeping bees many years ago and at that time I started with small beehives. These were the old sort. After SUNARMA came to my community I received some training on how to keep bees and support on how to produce honey from them.
‘From the training I learnt how to select better breeds of bees and how to manage the bees. I also got two modern beehives from SUNARMA. Now I am gaining the honey!
‘I have learnt to breed the queen bee so now I can also give her to other farmers so that they can also breed bees. I am a very willing person to be an example so that others can learn to keep bees and have this experience also.’
The modern beehives that SUNARMA supplies farmers with have three layers in them, which means that Kindu can expect a yield of around 30kg of honey per year, instead of the 4kg of honey a traditional hive produces. Kindu can sell the honey at a good profit, and use the income to feed and clothe his family.
How you can help
Buy an Extraordinary Gift this Christmas. A breeding ram for an Ethiopian family is just one of the gifts you could buy this year. All MRDF’s Extraordinary Gifts are items included in projects carried out by partners.
Partner a Project. Thisgives your church or group the chance to make a personal connection with local communities in India or Mali. Through direct sponsorship and regular updates from the projects, you get the chance to see the lasting difference you are making and learn about a real community in another part of the world.
Do you wish more of your friends and family understood why Fairtrade is so important, took a stand against climate change, or spoke out on behalf of the poor? Consider running the Iota Course in your church or housegroup.