Discussing Development, World Hunger, and Advocacy at the University of Kentucky
University of Kentucky One Campus volunteers Ibitola Asalou (l) and Liz Renzaglia (c) with Lesly Webber-McNitt of the Farm Journal Foundation at the April 2 development and world hunger panel. (Courtesy of Deborah Charalambakis)
By Deborah Charalambakis
How can food-aid reform and agricultural investments help feed people around the world? And what can advocacy to do help make those things possible? On April 2, residents of Lexington, Ky., college students, and faculty gathered at the University of Kentucky for an engaging, thought-provoking discussion that explored these questions, as well as others related to development and world hunger.
Jon Gromek, regional organizer with Bread for the World; Dr. Jerry Skees, president of GlobalAgRisk; Abby Sasser, regional field director at ONE Campaign; and Lesly Weber-McNitt director of government relations and program development at Farm Journal Foundation, were the participating panelists. Amanda Milward, field representative from Rep. Andy Barr’s office (R-Ky.-06), was a special guest.
Among the topics tackled during the panel discussion were agriculture and food-aid reform. Many people don’t realize the importance of investing in agriculture and smallholder farmers, something all of the panelists touched on. Both Gromek and Dr. Skees spoke about the need for U.S. food-aid reform, and the ways we can improve food security for Africa’s most vulnerable people. Investing in farmers and agriculture not only increases income and food security for those populations, it reduces poverty significantly. This has been documented in both Ghana and Burkino Faso, two of the countries profiled in the ONE Campaign report “Ripe for Change: The Promise of Africa’s Agricultural Transformation.” Ghana has seen a decrease in poverty by 44 percent, and Burkino Faso created 235,000 jobs—all because those countries’ governments invested in their agricultural sectors.
The panelists also talked about advocacy, and how it helps make such success stories possible. When I asked our panelists why advocacy is important, they all dove in to answer. Sasser, Weber-McNitt, and Gromek – who all work in advocacy— stressed that our members of Congress represent us; when groups of hard-working advocates contact their senators and representatives about issues such as protecting foreign assistance programs (which account for less than 1 percent of our federal budget), those elected officials listen. The more politicians hear from their constituents, the better the chance that they will act on the requests of their constituents. . When we become aware of issues of agriculture, poverty, and development and we continue to stand on the sidelines, this not only skews our view of justice, but calls into question our concern for humanity all together. That was something the audience truly understood in our advocacy discussion.
Though the event was a great success, and many people had questions for our panelists, it doesn’t end there. When it comes to issues of agriculture, development, and world hunger, let us be persistent in educating those around us about these issues, and become powerful advocates for the world’s poor.
Deborah Charalambakis is president of the ONE Campus chapter at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. ONE was created with assistance from Bread for the World. To learn more about what’s happening in ONE in Kentucky, follow the group on Twitter: @ONE_uky
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