Working in Harmony with Nature
People living in conditions of hunger and poverty in the developing world are primarily food farmers, and their well-being is most closely tied to the natural environment. They are among the most vulnerable to environmental destruction and climate change, yet, they have contributed the least to both processes. Building more resilient communities that can cope with such challenges is at the heart of The Hunger Project's (THP's) approach.
80 percent of food-insecure people live in rural areas and half of them are smallholder farmers (land less than two hectares). Research shows that smallholder farming systems are ecologically sustainable. For example, a dairy farm can provide manure for a neighboring potato farm, which can in turn offer potato scraps as extra feed for the herd (Onwonga 2007). Actually, a large body of evidence shows that small farms are more productive than large ones (Rosset 1999).
THP works with just such smallholder farmers. In Africa, we create community farms in our epicenters, where villagers learn composting, intercropping and other methods to improve crop yields and restore soil fertility. THP partners also engage in other sustainable agricultural practices, like drip irrigation, to make the best use of scarce resources. In addition, in order to increase access to sustainable agricultural technology and practices, THP provides access to credit and mobilizes people to demand agricultural extension services from their government.
A person in the developing world is at least 50 times more likely to be affected by a climate-related disaster than a person in a developed country (Noble 2009). Because the rural poor live on ecologically fragile land and depend on vulnerable sectors like agriculture, fisheries and forestry, they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including crop failure, droughts, rising sea levels and heavy precipitation. And, oftentimes, they lack the institutional and financial capacity to protect themselves.
In India, we are partnering with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to strengthen women's leadership in forging the agenda of climate change in rural India. A film on climate change and its impact on India is currently being produced, and it will be used as a vehicle to generate dialogue amongst rural leaders to enable them to find locally sustainable solutions to their problems.
In Peru, our partner organization, Chirapaq, played a leadership role in the Latin American Summit on Climate Change and Its Impact on Indigenous Peoples, held in March 2009 in preparation for the upcoming UN Conference of Parties to the Convention on Climate Change in December 2009. Our partners are advocating for conservation of natural resources, mitigation of the harmful effects of extractive industries, and recovery and promotion of traditional knowledge and technology that is highly adaptable to changing climate conditions. Their overall platform is to ensure that indigenous people are consulted on these issues and are part of the process to create solutions.
Trees reduce soil erosion, provide oxygen to offset carbon dioxide and can be sources of food, energy and income for communities.
In Uganda, we have a partnership with the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) to establish a tree nursery at Kiboga Epicenter. This provides 80,000 tree seedlings of pine and eucalyptus species to our partners for planting in their fields to improve the environment.
In Bangladesh, trained village leaders, called "animators," and volunteer students mobilize tree-planting mass-action campaigns. Animators have established hundreds of village tree nurseries, which then become entrepreneurial village businesses, supplying families with fruit trees that not only capture carbon, but also provide impoverished families with nutrition and income.
Water and Sanitation
The provision of safe drinking water is one of the topmost priorities of our programs in every region where we work, in order to prevent water-borne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and dysentery. Identifying potable water sources and facilitating access to them is a key activity of our Epicenter Strategy in Africa. In Uganda, water-borne illnesses have been reduced by 70 percent in our epicenter communities.
In Ethiopia, our partners at Jaldu Epicenter recently completed a project to provide safe drinking water to 6,000 members of their community. Learn more about this project at Jaldu Epicenter in Ethiopia (in partnership with Rotary International).
In India, wells were dry three months of the year, forcing women to walk for hours to get water. Thousands of trained women panchayat (village council) leaders have led campaigns to install water-harvesting systems on every house and school in their villages.
The use of sanitary latrines also helps to reduce disease. In Africa, we build sanitary latrines as part of our epicenter buildings, and we also have programs to support latrine constructions in households within our epicenter communities. In Bangladesh, animators initiate projects to ensure 100 percent sanitary latrine coverage in their communities.
THP animators often lead environmental education programs to promote understanding and knowledge exchange regarding environmental issues and practices. For example, in Uganda, in partnership with Population Services International (PSI), THP sensitizes villagers in water purification technologies to reduce water-borne illnesses.
Promoting Women's Role
In most communities, women hold the most reliable knowledge about promoting food security, preserving food supplies, and ensuring their families' survival in the face of shortages. Women must have a voice in planning and decision-making processes that will impact them and to which they could contribute their expertise. Women also need access to resources, including education, extension services and information, credit, organizations and social networks and voice in the political system.
What Can You Do?
- Support the work of THP and the only sustainable solution to ending hunger and poverty: the people living in conditions of hunger and poverty themselves. Give Now.
- Host an event in honor of Earth Day 2009 and educate your friends, family and colleagues about environmental issues that affect people in the developing world.
- Even better, make that event a fundraiser for THP! Contact us for support.
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- Check out www.TheNewGreenEconomy.com, a website exploring the new values and the new language of sustainability and asking questions such as how will businesses and non profit organizations work together in the near future to address humanity's pressing challenges? The Hunger Project is one of the non-profits featured on their special Earth Day page.
1. Onwonga, Richard et al. "Agricultural Biodiversity: Lessons from the Smallholder Traditional Farming Systems of the Central Rift Valley Province of Kenya," Paper presented at Tropentag 2007, Germany (October 2007). Accessed at: http://www.tropentag.de/2007/abstracts/links/Onwonga_A4QtvxrY.pdf
2. Rosset, Peter. "The Multiple Functions and Benefits of Small Farm Agriculture," Policy Brief No. 4 (Oakland, California: Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, September 1999), pp. 12, 13.
3. Ian Noble, World Bank, based on EM-DAT (CRED) data. Accessed at http://www.worldbank.org/environment.