Are you up on the latest out of the Horn of Africa? If not, you’re not the only one. Bleak news on top of bleak news tends to drive readers away after a while.
So how about some good news? Luckily there is finally some of that coming out of Somalia and Kenya. The Associated Press reports that babies and children so malnourished they were expected to die a few months ago are making heartening recoveries. Among them is Minhaj Gedi Farah, who was 7 months old and weighed only seven pounds when he arrived with his mother at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. With medical care and nutritional supplements, the boy put on more than 10 pounds over the past three months. Photos today reveal him to be a plump, happy little guy.
Unfortunately, emaciated babies and children continue to file into Dadaab, and escape routes from Somalia to the camp are now mired in mud and fighting. As aid agencies continue to battle the famine, Heifer is planning projects that can help people in the region weather future crises.
What are the most formidable obstacles in the fight against hunger? Well, first of all there’s just not enough food for everyone, and there’s nothing we can do to predict when famine will strike. Luckily in the modern era, hunger is only a problem in times of emergency, which is good because we have more important problems to solve.
Wait. Is that right? Actually, no. None of it is. This week the World Food Programme put out a list of 11 Myths About Global Hunger. Some of them are obvious, some are surprising and some are simply good reminders that tackling hunger is doable with the right strategies.
My favorite was Myth 7, Hunger and famine are not easy to predict and cannot be prepared for. Wrong! We have tools to predict trends in food production, rising food prices and weather that can create food scarcity. And since we know what’s coming, we can make the necessary preparations to keep people from going hungry.
At Heifer, we bump up against many of these hunger myths every day. The one that’s most important to set straight is Myth 11, There is nothing we can do to help hungry people. Definitely wrong! You can donate to Heifer, volunteer or look here for more ideas.
Hungry travelers passing through Chicago O’Hare won’t be stuck with hotplate Chinese food or plastic-wrapped ham sandwiches anymore. The menu is broadening to include some hyper-local fare, conveniently grown between terminals 2 and 3.
Dozens of types of veggies and herbs sprout from holes in the sides of 23 white cylinders that reach 8 feet high. The plants are fed with minerals and water, but no soil. Special grow lights hang overhead.
Harvests will go to restaurants within the airport, where customers have been asking for fresher fare. Officials at O’Hare say theirs is the first urban garden inside an airport. It will be interesting to see if the concept takes off elsewhere.
Read more about fresh airport food here.
You know the scene: women in yoga pants cruise between tables of heirloom tomatoes, and couples walking their miniature dogs load canvas bags with local produce while a street musician hammers away on steel drums. You can find scenes like this easily these days as people latch on to the benefits of eating fresh foods grown sustainably. This urban, upper-crusty Saturday morning pastime isn’t the only kind of farmers market thriving these days, though.
As the economy continues to sputter along, people in rural America are tending gardens, preserving what they can’t eat right away and sharing or selling the rest. Unlike with urban farmers markets where prices are often higher than in grocery stores, rural shoppers are looking for bargains.
The New York Times reported recently on this trend, noting that garden stores are reporting more business and many community gardens have waiting lists for plots. Gardeners with surplus unload the extras for a good price, and buyers freeze, can, dry and pickle to make their produce last.
I saw an example of this recently in Hughes, Ark., where a city-sponsored community garden brimmed with tidy rows of corn, perfectly-staked tomatoes and sweet peppers that looked like Christmas ornaments. Volunteers worked together on the garden and shared the harvest with all takers. City leaders dream of expanding the community garden enough to produce excess that can be sold.
This story is a good reminder that even though locavorism is trendy these days and bank-breaking fruit and vegetables are easy to come by, old-fashioned gardening doesn’t have to be pricey and can, in fact, be quite practical. Of course, Heifer project participants in the United States and around the world know this already.
Would it bug you to find a cricket in your cookie or an ant in your omelette? On the menu around the world, insects are a cheap and plentiful protein source that’s catching on with foodies in the United States. You can read about this creeping trend in the fall issue of Heifer’s World Ark magazine, which you can find either in your mailbox or right here.
The issue also features a look at a Heifer project in Cambodia, where landmine victims are putting an end to the stigma of disability while dissolving old animosities and building a secure future for themselves and their families.
Longtime Heifer leader Jo Luck bids farewell after 22 years of service, and philanthropist-blogger Betty Londergan tells what it’s like to give away $100 every day for a year. It’s all in the new issue.
Give it a read and let us know what you think!
Flooding and mudslides wiped out homes, animal shelters and livestock for 121 Heifer-supported families in eastern Uganda this week. None of our project participants were hurt, but 45 Heifer animals have died so far.
The flooding took place about 25 miles from Mbale, along the banks of the Manafwa River. Recent heavy rains caused the river to spill out on to surrounding villages and farmland. Project participants reported losing entire fields of rice, corn, beans, sweet potatoes, coffee and cotton that would have been harvested in October.
The Heifer projects affected include a dairy goat project, dairy cattle projects and projects aimed at helping the disabled and people suffering from HIV/AIDS.
Collins Amenyi, an extension worker affiliated with a Heifer-funded farmers’ group in the area, said the damage is severe. “It is terrible. People have no food, have no homes, have no toilets, and no one is helping them,” Amenyi told Dan Bazira, communication coordinator for Heifer Uganda. Getting aid to victims is difficult because so many roads are flooded, he said.
Heifer staff will be there to get projects back up and running as soon as possible.
Flooding along roadways is making delivery of relief supplies difficult.
This house, like many others, was partially buried by a mudslide.
A woman looks for traces of her family in Butaleja district.
Gardens like this one were submerged and destroyed by the flood.
A woman is overcome after discovering the body of her missing relative in Mabono in the Bulambuli district.
Information provided by Dan Bazira, communication coordinator for Heifer Uganda
Although news reports are pouring in about the disastrous famine swallowing southern Somalia, it’s difficult to imagine quite what it looks like. Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai has a pretty good perspective, though, viewing the disaster from next door in Kenya.
Maathai claimed the Nobel in 2004 for her work with the Green Belt Movement, an organization dedicated to planting trees, improving the environment and empowering women to work and provide for themselves. She blames environmental degradation and failing government systems for the tens of thousands of deaths that have already happened and the starvation now affecting 12 million.
In an interview Wednesday on NPR’s Tell Me More, Maathai talked about the the very conspicuous damage to the environment in eastern Africa. Over many decades governments haven’t taken environmental issues seriously, and now everyone is paying the price, Maathai said. “We now see people dying, animals dying, the landscape completely devastated. This has not happened overnight.”
The weak government in Somalia has its hands full fending off al-Shabab, but it has other important work to attend to, Maathai said. Forests, mountains and rivers must be protected to prevent a repeat of the current disaster.
Of course, Maathai’s wisdom applies far beyond the famine zone. As she pointed out, protecting soil, air and water quality and promoting sustainable development are important things to do today to prevent disaster down the line. It’s a goal of Heifer’s work in Africa and around the world.
Read more about Maathai and her work in this story in Heifer’s World Ark magazine.
When I visited Senegal in May of 2010, everyone was waiting on the rain. Men sat on their heels drinking hot tea, waiting. Women tended the animals and children and kept one eye on the sky, waiting. The ground was parched after 10 months of bone-dry weather, and food stores were low or already gone. Some farmers dared to put their seeds in the ground in anticipation of the rain. Others chose to wait, knowing that if the rain came later than expected, the seeds would wither.
It was impossible for me to imagine anything growing in the blazing sand, but everyone reassured me that in a month or two, peanuts, millet and vegetables would sprout. This photo from NASA shows the stark contrast between the dry season and the wet season in Senegal. Having been there only in the dry season, the green landscape on the right seems unreal.
In countries of the Sahel, the dirt stays thirsty for the better part of the year. Rains come all at once, and farmers scurry to coax what they can from the soil before everything turns brown again. Sometimes, enough rain falls to bring in a decent crop. Most the time, though, it doesn’t. And with only the most rudimentary irrigation systems in place, growing food year-round isn’t an option.
Heifer’s projects in Senegal incorporate improved seeds that produce abundant yields even in dry conditions. The sheep Heifer project participants are raising are especially suited to the heat.
Drought has a grip on not only the Sahel, but on parts of Eastern Africa as well. Learn what you can do to help.
Junior Heifer supporters braved a cold morning in Little Rock, Ark., earlier this month to tempt neighbors and passersby with steamy mugs of hot drinks. All proceeds went to Heifer International. Teddy Jones and his friend John Maris, both age 7, teamed up on the hot cocoa stand after they were inspired by a Read to Feed program they participated in at Episcopal Collegiate School.
The kids asked for a donation of 50 cents per mug of cocoa, tea or cider. “Our goal was $50 and they raised $160!” proud mom Lisa Jones said.
Neighbors are urging John and Teddy to open their stand again next year, and are even offering help with marketing.
In the picture, left to right, are John Maris, 7; Emmie Jones, 5; Will Jones, 2; and Teddy Jones, 7.
Photo provided by Lisa Jones
Nearly a year after the quake, what does Haiti need now? Dr. Paul Farmer, a founder of Partners in Health and an effective advocate for health care in developing nations around the world, offered up some observations in Foreign Policy. His five lessons are simple, they make complete sense and they’re a great reminder that the work in Haiti is so very far from over. What’s needed now? Jobs. Good homes. A strong government. As Farmer says, relief is the easy part. Now it’s time to rebuild.