Overview of The Hunger Project Work in Africa

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Report to the Global Board by Fitigu Tadesse, April 2008

Impact on the Rural Population

During this period, our work in Africa has received increased visibility and success. Indeed, the Epicenter Strategy and the African Woman Food Farmer Initiative (AWFFI) micro-finance program continue to attract the support and commitment of large numbers of rural communities who have heard about our work and are constantly asking to work in partnership with The Hunger Project. The Hunger Project’s approach of mobilizing rural communities to solve their own problems using their own resources has proven to be a very effective and well adapted way to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

One of the indications of this success is that the rural communities in many African countries who live, more often than not, in isolation and rivalry, are mobilized to work together in partnership with The Hunger Project for the common good of fighting hunger and poverty. As a result, they receive credit and training to successfully access all the basic services needed to achieve the MDGs and lead better self-reliant lives.

Impact on the Policy Level

There is an increasing indication that African policy makers are interested in our Epicenter Strategy. This is confirmed by the fact that some Heads of State have either visited our epicenters or have been briefed about it by us. Similarly, many national and local government officials have attended epicenter inaugurations as a testament to the fact that they understand and appreciate our strategy as an effective tool to mobilize rural communities to work together in peace and harmony for the ultimate goal of eradicating hunger and poverty.

As recently as April 10, 2008, when Jill Lester, President and CEO of The Hunger Project, inaugurated Odumase Epicenter in Ghana, many local government officials, chiefs and parliament members were present, thus showing their interest and full support of our work. During the ceremony, the Member of Parliament for Odumase/Wawase District spoke very highly of the Epicenter Strategy and its enormous contribution in mobilizing several diverse communities to work together to end hunger and poverty in a reasonable period of time. This Member of Parliament suggested that the parliament should consider asking the government of Ghana to adopt this strategy as a national model for ensuring food security and reducing poverty in the country. This type of high consideration of our strategy is uttered by many politicians in Africa and the time will come when one Member of Parliament in one country might set the example to adopt this strategy at the national level.

Empowering Women

AWFFI is a unique program focusing on the specific needs of women food farmers –– the primary producers of Africa's food supply. By providing access to credit, AWFFI unleashes their economic potential, enabling them to fulfill their vital role in the food security and economic development of their villages, communities and nations. In addition, the AWFFI torch events, during which a symbolic torch was passed from one woman food farmer to another across Africa, have succeeded in raising awareness of the recognition owed to the women farmers who struggle daily to ensure that their families have basic nutrition.

Having witnessed the transformation that occurs in Hunger Project partner villages, many chiefs and government officials continue to ask The Hunger Project to expand its micro-finance program to support women in rural areas. They recognize AWFFI as an effective way to create wealth in villages through savings and thereby enabling rural communities to reduce their poverty level in a short span of time. In this regard, President Museveni of Uganda’s one-time contribution of $100,000 in 2000 is a good example of Africa’s active partnership in the concept and strategy of The Hunger Project and reflects Africa’s keen interest in our work.

The detailed report on our micro-finance program will be submitted to members of the Board by our Senior AWFFI Program Officer in the Africa Department. Her report will focus inter alia, on the measurable results of our work in the domain of SPIA and AWFFI and their impact in our partner villages. The Hunger Project has mobilized communities, supplied needed training and provided the initial infusion of capital (in the form of the capitalization of revolving funds) in order to enable communities to develop self-reliance on a sustainable basis and to permanently end hunger and poverty in their communities.

Scale-Up Work in Ghana

Members of the Board recall that The Hunger Project and the Robertson Foundation signed an agreement by which The Hunger Project would receive $1,000,000 per year from the Foundation to enable us to scale-up the Epicenter Strategy in a given region of Ghana to show that this model can be replicated in other regions of Ghana as well as in other African countries. Consistent with the agreement, we were required to construct four L-shaped epicenter buildings in the first year, and eight the second year.

As this was the first experience for The Hunger Project and The Hunger Project-Ghana in particular to mobilize four communities at once and concurrently build four L-shaped epicenters, it proved to be more difficult than we expected. By the end of August 2007, we had completed only one epicenter out of the four called for in our agreement with the Robertson Foundation..

Under these circumstances, as our reputation was at stake, we had no alternative but to review the major causes of our failure to complete all four epicenters. One of the glaring deficiencies that I saw was that many of the new staff members that were recruited by The Hunger Project-Ghana for the scale-up program did not have enough time to be trained on The Hunger Project’s principles and methodology. These principles, which are based on leadership, vision, commitment and action, would have helped empower staff to undertake the huge commitment that of scale-up in such a short timeframe.

Therefore, in an attempt to build the capacity of the staff both at the Accra office and in the Eastern region, I had the privilege to conduct an intensive four-day training for all staff during the second week of March. The objective of these trainings was to renew their energy, mobilize their commitment to work as one team on the ground and ensure that the three remaining incomplete epicenters as well as the new eight epicenters from Year 2 will be complete by June 30, 2008.

As far as I can ascertain, the team of The Hunger Project-Ghana, including the Country Director, Dr. Naana, are still committed to deliver on the completion of the eleven epicenters. They openly declared their commitment to me to work together as one diligent and effective team to complete the work as required by the agreement. In addition, when Jill Lester recently visited Ghana during the first week of April, Mr. Isaac, the Program Officer of The Hunger Project-Ghana stood up to reconfirm to our new President the same commitment of The Hunger Project-Ghana to ensure the completion of the 11 epicenters.

I will continue to monitor the progress of the scale-up work and ensure that all the pending epicenters be built on time.

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