Connecting local responses around the world
The hunger summit convened by the British Prime Minister over the final weekend of the Olympics confronted the issue of hunger in the world. It is estimated that food production globally needs to double in the next 20 years. This fact alone is sufficient to throw the spotlight on food security as the principal challenge facing Africa and pretty much everywhere else.
It was really encouraging to read of one initiative in Kenya that has demonstrated an approach that gives real hope by acknowledging that without engaging people respectfully and patiently, little will be accomplished. It is the initiative of the US-based not-for profit organisation ACDI/VOCA. The Kenya Maize Development Program (KMDP), implemented by ACDI/VOCA with USAID funding, nearly tripled smallholder yields during the six years of its implementation. The programme acknowledged the reality that farming in most of sub-Sagaran Africa is a family-based, small-holder business. KMDP resulted in increased net earnings of $206 million for 370,000, mostly smallholder, farmers. But in order to accomplish these gains, the program needed time and flexibility. Time and flexibility are not the two most popular words in large scale development funders. The secret that KMDP recognised is that people need to be engaged in a real dialogue. They used the medium of sport. The distinct impression one gets is that they listened to people as much as 'taught' or 'trained' them.
<em>Us</em> (the new name for the UK-based Anglican mission organisation USPG) has been advocating for much the same approach saying that real and sustainable transformation in attitudes and behaviour has to start with a respectful, attentive conversation. We argue strongly that the church at the local level is best placed to convene and facilitate communities, bringing people together to make community-wide responses to shared challenges, concerns and hopes. For far too long 'poverty' has been tackled by industrial-scale development practitioners who are so focused on the impact of their own, carefully controlled, vertical projects that they have forgotten that people are human-beings with strengths that have to be engaged with. With such strengths being named and affirmed, responses by communities become possible, but as ACDI/VOCA has learned, time and flexibility are critical.