“If The Hunger Project were to leave tomorrow, we would be OK.” – 2012 Focus Group Participant, Champiti Epicenter, Malawi
Fundamental to The Hunger Project’s values is the inherent belief that all people are extraordinary. People are creative, visionary and hardworking. We value human dignity and believe in people’s inherent entrepreneurial spirit. We stand in solidarity with those living in hunger and poverty as the principal leaders of their own change who are taking self-reliant actions to improve their lives and conditions in their communities. This is the sustainable pathway to ending hunger once and for all.
At the heart of The Hunger Project’s approaches are holistic, multi-sectoral strategies with multi-year partnerships that acknowledge that complex human development takes time. This process — which we call “gender-focused community-led development” — must become available to all who need it if the world is to meet the Sustainable Development Goal to end hunger by 2030. Find out more about our approach.
The Epicenter Strategy in Africa
In eight countries of Africa, our Epicenter Strategy mobilizes clusters of rural villages into “epicenters,” which band together 5,000-15,000 people in a cluster of villages to create an “epicenter,” or a dynamic center where communities are mobilized for action to meet their basic needs.
This strategy is designed to partner with communities over a period of about eight years to graduate to a phase of “sustainable self-reliance,” which means that communities have demonstrated the confidence, capacity and skills to act as agents of their own development.
What do we mean by “self-reliance?”
The Hunger Project defines self-reliance to be when community members are confident and have the capacity and skills to act as agents of their own development. The Hunger Project orients its work around reinforcing local knowledge and skills, such that communities and local governments take charge of their own development processes, and can therefore perpetuate, sustain and enhance the work begun in partnership with The Hunger Project. By stimulating community-led development, The Hunger Project fosters a culture of self-determination and economic viability in which the community itself is the driver of continued change.
A self-reliant epicenter does not necessarily have every single need fulfilled. Yet, these communities do have an increased ability, willingness and skills to tackle development challenges and identify ways to have additional needs met thanks to the capacities built in partnership with The Hunger Project.
Does self-reliance mean “self-sufficient?”
In short, no. Self-sufficiency implies needing no outside help in satisfying one’s basic needs.
Epicenters are not self-sufficient. Whereas before these communities were largely isolated from public services, they are now managing effective links with district resources to build skills, develop additional infrastructure and increase access to services. The epicenter communities are active members of civil society and remain committed to the fulfillment of ongoing and future needs. They both give and take from their wider circles of contact.
The measure of community self-reliance is based on indicators that evaluate progress in all integrated, epicenter-level program areas. The Hunger Project has identified a diverse set of indicators to measure program outputs, outcomes and impact. The community declares its self-reliance when it demonstrates sufficient local capacity (defined as meeting the locally set targets) in each program area.
What does self-reliance look like?
Self-reliant communities have demonstrated progress in the following eight goals:
- Mobilized communities that continuously set and achieve their own development goals
- Empowered women and girls
- Improved access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities
- Improved literacy and education
- Reduced prevalence of hunger and malnutrition, especially for women and children
- Improved access to and use of health resources
- Reduced incidence of poverty
- Improved land productivity and climate resilience of smallholder farmers
When a community has achieved the targets set to demonstrate its self-reliance, The Hunger Project has activated its exit strategy, and it is anticipated that there will be no further financial inputs, with the exception of not-as-frequent staff visits and a post-evaluation three to five years later in a select number of epicenters.
Before this milestone is achieved, communities go through a transition period during which The Hunger Project has scaled down its program activities and the community solidifies its own leadership and management.