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170 posts categorized "Foreign Aid"
by Roger Thurow
In Lutacho, Kenya, the rains were late. It was mid-March 2011, and the farmers of western Kenya were still in the grip of the brutally hot dry season. The year before, the seasonal rains that usher in the corn planting began at the end of February; by March of that year the first shoots of the stalks were already pushing through the soil. Now, though, the fields remained parched and the farmers nervous.
And every day the farmers’ worry increased. They knew that a drought, bringing great hunger, was spreading across the eastern and northern realms of their country and throughout the Horn of Africa. Western Kenya, one of the breadbaskets of the region, was usually blessed with good rains. But the extended dry season had made some of them anxious that the drought might reach them as well.
“What if it doesn’t rain?” I asked Agnes Wekhwela, one of the farmers. She was 72 years old, two decades beyond the average life expectancy in Kenya. Her face was creased with wrinkles and wisdom. She had more experience divining the weather than most anyone else.
“It will rain,” she said firmly.
It was a cloudless day, with a brilliant blue sky. “How can you be so confident?” I pressed.
“God knows where we live,” she said, again with great certainty. “God knows who we are.”
A few days later, her bedrock faith was confirmed. The rain began falling, the farmers planted, the heat and the anxiety broke.
That conversation with Agnes became a touchstone for me. Yes, I thought, God knows where the farmers live, God knows who they are. But do we?
That conversation and those questions drove my efforts to report on the lives of these farmers, their hopes and fears, their struggles and triumphs. Every day I was with them, my conviction grew stronger: we must know who they are.
With the presidential election fast approaching, there will be no shortage of stump speeches, fundraisers and “personal” emails from the candidates. These may not be the best forums for voicing your opinion, but there is one platform that is ripe for making concerns about hunger and poverty known—the town hall meeting.
A town hall meeting is an informal public meeting where everyone in a community is invited to attend, voice opinions, and hear from public figures about a particular subject or subjects. Attending one of these meetings is your right as a member of the community, but it can be nerve-wracking if you haven’t gotten your talking points together to effectively engage your member of Congress.
Bread for the World now offers useful resources for bringing hunger and poverty to the forefront of these meetings. They include tips on how to get your Congress member’s attention and quick and powerful facts about hunger and poverty. You can also find ideas for taking things a step farther—guidelines for writing letters to the editor, scheduling a meeting with your members of Congress, and publicizing responses to your questions using social media.
While poverty and unemployment in the United States reached record rates between 2008 and 2010, the rate of food-insecure households did not rise. This is largely due to the success of anti-poverty programs like SNAP that help people get back on their feet in times of heightened need. Overseas, U.S. funding for medication helps prevent more than 114,000 at-risk infants from being born with HIV each year. Additionally, more than 33 million people affected with HIV since 2004 have received counseling. Unfortunately, programs that support hungry and poor people in the United States and abroad risk grave cuts as Congress continues work to reduce the deficit.
It is more vital than ever for you to take action and lift your voice for hungry and poor people, and town hall meetings are perfect platforms to do so. Ask your members of Congress to create a circle of protection around programs that provide vital support and nutrition to vulnerable people in the United States and around the world. Visit Bread’s Elections Matter page for more resources to ensure that hunger and poverty are top priorities this election season.
Screen shot of North Carolina Bread activists taken from WFMY-TV.
Bread’s engine runs on the fuel of dedicated and faith-filled advocates across this nation who continually address decision makers on issues of hunger and poverty. When organizers see members independently creating events like the Bread for the World North Carolina Team did on Wednesday, we know we are doing our job right. With song and prayer, over 20 religious leaders and activists surrounded the Guilford County Department of Social Services, making public their concern for protecting programs that are critical to people experiencing hunger and poverty.
Vital domestic nutrition programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps) are facing severe cuts by Congress that could send more hungry to already overburdened church pantries. The Greensboro Urban Ministry got a small taste of the daunting task of feeding the recipients of such programs when a computer glitch stopped local SNAP benefits. Over a two-month period, 1,500 more people needed food, compared to the same period in the previous year.
Bread activist Bryan McFarland has a history of going the extra mile—advocating for an end to hunger by creating programs like “Jacob’s Join” that educate with song. Yesterday was no exception. With the help of Robert Herron, Frank M. Dew, Christine Byrd, Mike Aiken, and other organizers with Bread for the World’s Triad Chapter, the leaders sent a public call—not only to Greensboro, but also to North Carolina’s Senators Kay Hagen and Richard Burr— to maintain SNAP funding. Listen to what they had to say in a WMFY news story:
You don’t need Bread staff to create an event in your region. However, your Bread organizer can help you with press contacts, resources, and information about which issues are the most critical and timely. Creating the political will to end hunger is noisy business, but when advocates are empowered, active, and public, change happens.
Thank you for your fantastic work, Triad Team!
+Make the conversation about hunger public at a town hall meeting this month while Congress is on recess. We have resources for you here.
Robin Stephenson is regional organizer at Bread for the World.
School kids enjoying a healthy lunch with fresh fruit and vegetables. Photo by USDA.
Your donation will make a difference for hungry people. I want to personally thank those who contributed to our summer matching gift campaign. I am happy to report that Bread for the World raised over $180,000—surpassing our goal of $150,000!
An additional matching gift was made by a generous member, and now a total of $175,000 will be matched dollar-for-dollar.
I am grateful to everyone who participated in the campaign, which raised a total of $355,000 overall—a significant boost to Bread’s efforts to protect funding for programs that are vital for hungry people.
Thank you for your generosity and for making this campaign an overwhelming success!
Rev. David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World
At Bread, we talk about the budget as a moral document outlining our country’s priorities. Taxes are a necessary part of that equation. We often hear that Washington has a spending problem. But really, what we have is a deficit problem. Since a deficit occurs when you spend more than you take in, when people say “spending problem,” they’re ignoring half of the equation.
With all of the heated discussion about taxes, it would be convenient to turn away from the deficit issue and say, “Let’s ignore taxes: they’re complicated; they’re controversial; and they’re boring.” However, as devoted followers of Jesus, we are not the types who choose a path based on convenience. We don’t talk only on those issues that make everyone comfortable. As Christians, we speak from an understanding of the way things could be—when the stranger is given something to eat and widows and orphans are cared for.
Thus, the budget debates and the fiscal problems faced by this country lead us to talk taxes. To help move the conversation, Bread has published a new action guide on taxes, which combines our specific public policy prescriptions with underlying biblical principles—to help you speak up.
We must start talking about taxes, and we need to start talking today. If we do not push our elected leaders to bring in more tax revenue, then our voices will call out in vain to fund vital programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), poverty-focused development assistance, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, Food for Peace, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids, school lunches, and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Our deficit situation is so severe in the long-term, that without additional revenue we will be unable to fund programs for hungry and poor people at anything close to their current levels over the long term—unless Congress makes unthinkable and politically impossible cuts. Nearly all mainstream economists agree that we simply cannot cut our way out of this situation. This is not calculus or complex economics. It is simple arithmetic.
Major deficit reduction packages over the past quarter century have not only maintained a commitment to not increase poverty, they’ve also all included substantial tax revenues.
Amelia Kegan is a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World.
Did you ever try to get to a far-off destination without a map? It’s not easy.
Today, Bread for the World will join a coalition of 50 faith-based, humanitarian, and advocacy groups to present A Roadmap for Continued U.S. Leadership to End Global Hunger. At a Capitol Hill event later this afternoon, members of Congress, policymakers, and NGO leaders will officially unfold the Roadmap, charting a course for a hunger-free world through smart investments.
The document reviews progress over the last three years towards the goals set out in the original Roadmap and offers recommendations to ensure continued effectiveness of U.S. global food security programs.
The Original Roadmap
In the wake of the global food price crisis of 2008, a broad-based coalition of non-governmental organizations, advocacy groups, and faith-based organizations developed a document titled the Roadmap to End Global Hunger, which was endorsed by over 40 organizations and became the basis for legislation introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R. 2817). The Roadmap presented a vision for a comprehensive and integrated U.S. strategy to increase global food security, including suggested levels of financial support for emergency, safety net, nutrition and agricultural development programs over five years.
Hunger remains one of the world's most pressing challenges, with almost a billion people—or one in seven worldwide—suffering chronic hunger. In addition, each year up to 100 million more may face acute hunger brought on by natural disasters and conflicts. Women and children are disproportionately affected by hunger and malnutrition. With population growth placing a strain on a limited natural resource base, and changing weather patterns creating more droughts and floods, feeding the world of the future presents a serious challenge.
ACDI/VOCA's Kenya Maize Development Program nearly tripled maize yields for small-scale farmers in Kenya, about a third of whom are women. New technologies like improved seeds helped farmers realize these gains. Photo by ACDI/VOCA.
Ambassador Mark Dybul, former U.S. global AIDS coordinator, writes that a battle is brewing in Congress over whether or not to uphold an existing bipartisan consensus on health and development. At issue is U.S. support for self-sufficiency programs in developing countries, setting the goal for those countries to take primary responsibility for their citizens’ health and well-being.
Fortunately, the brewing battle is not between Republications and Democrats.
“The reason for the strong bipartisan agreement is rather simple: it’s the right thing to do for the American taxpayer to save and lift up more lives with the highest return on investment—and that, in turn, is good for our national economy and security,” writes Ambassador Dybul in a recent op-ed in The Hill.
Those who favor this consensus argue that local organizations are closer to the ground and, thus, can accomplish more with less money. The days of paternalistic development are over, say supporters; developing countries no longer welcome support run by foreign governments or development institutions.
Those who are against increased support to self-sufficiency programs often cite corruption as an issue. They also argue that local organizations cannot manage large, complex development projects.
“A change in mindset is needed," writes Ambassador Dybul, a leader of the Consensus on Development Reform (a project of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network). “U.S.-based organizations should begin to shift from being primary implementers of programs to agents of technical support and exchange.”
The result of this battle will affect two major programs, in particular, for which Bread for the World activists advocated—and which they continue to support: the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Both were started by Republicans and continue to be supported by Democrats. Such programs are keys to our efforts to modernize U.S. foreign aid.
Bread for the World intern Reginald Egede shares his story of growing up in a small town in Nigeria around children who didn't get enough to eat:
Growing up and attending boarding school in Nigeria, I had little contact with the kids my age who lived beyond the boundary of the school grounds. I would see them in passing once every two weeks while going on our customary “Sunday walk." Although these kids, whose parents were mainly farmers and traders, weren’t the most desperate, seeing their condition sometimes triggered some serious soul-searching.
Miango, on the outskirts of Jos, was a rural community I came to love for its scenery and tranquility, but deep inside I wanted much more for the warm-hearted villagers outside the school walls. All I was certain of was that the kids did not get enough to eat, but because I could not put myself in their shoes, I made of their plight what any kid my age and in my privileged position would: I believed their circumstance would improve sooner rather than than later. But it didn’t, and I learned that the situation is more desperate in other parts of the developing world.
The Horn of Africa is a remote corner of earth beset with conflict, disease, and famine. In Ethiopia alone, 4.5 million people required emergency food assistance and 300,000 children under the age of five were at risk of becoming severely malnourished last year. Clearly, these numbers ought to call attention to the plight of our brothers and sisters in Africa.
In parts of the continent, lack of rain has significant ramifications for small-holder farmers. The decimation of livestock and poor harvests, often caused by factors such as poor agricultural practices and climate change, result in many women and children suffering from malnutrition. Thankfully, a number of programs geared toward reducing malnutrition and hunger—especially during the critical 1,000-day window between a mother’s pregnancy and the child’s second birthday—are under way.
Bread for the World is so close to reaching our summer match campaign goal of $150,000. Generous Bread members like you have already given more than $147,000! Can you donate right now to help us reach the goal by midnight?
The entire $150,000 will be matched dollar-for-dollar if we can raise just $3,000 more. That's only $10 from 300 people!
Ten dollars is less than you'd spend on eating out for dinner—will you be one of the 300 and help hungry people with a donation? With everyone's support, this will make a huge impact for millions of hungry people all over the world.
Thank you for giving generously.
Photo caption: Mother and daughter shell peas from their garden in Nicaragua.
Rev. David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.
I sat in my cubicle mesmerized by my student’s depiction of his life for 13 years in rural Africa: raised beds of vegetables, dusty dirt roads stretching to the horizon, smiling faces dripping with sweat in the bright orange sun.
As a professor at Eastern University, I traded in my life in humanitarian aid, development, and missions for the privilege of training Christian relief workers with a powerful set of program planning and economic tools set within the framework of Kingdom principles. But on days like this one, I still feel like the student.
As David recounted stories of his narrow escape from war-torn South Sudan, he transported me to the joys and struggles of life as a refugee. I learned that David alone survived from his family. I heard the story of his settlement within a refugee camp outside of his nation’s borders, the new farming techniques he mastered, and the privilege given to him to travel to other sites to teach the art of soil cultivation, crop rotation, and farming.