Written by Joseph Akure, Vista Hermosa Programs Officer
Going to bed hungry can be safe as long as you’re eating a well-balanced diet throughout the day. But this is not an option for 811 million (10%) of the world’s population that regularly goes to bed hungry. Conflicts, such as the Ukraine-Russia war, extreme weather patterns because of climate change, disparities caused by economic shocks and health crises including the coronavirus pandemic are the main drivers behind the global rise in food insecurity.
In Kenya, drought has affected 4.2 million people after four successive rainfall underperformances. Crops dried up, livestock died, and children were malnourished. The drought hit the northwestern Turkana region especially hard, and almost half of the population was in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Being Kenyan, the drought was more personal to me. It affected people I know, my uncles, brothers, family, neighbors and friends. Every time I read the humanitarian reports on the drought crisis from back home, I felt guilty that here, I had plenty that sometimes went to waste. I started asking for prayers in chapel for the people of East Africa, that God sends them rain.
The continued drought situation got the attention of the Board, who requested updates and inquired about what our partners on the ground were doing. Partners appealed for funding to provide emergency food supplies, cash transfers and livestock survival rations to the affected communities. In May & July, VHF partnered with the Mennonite Central Committee and World Relief to provide these emergency supplies and alleviate the suffering of the people in Turkana South and North respectively. The timely assistance helped sustain life and hope to the communities. Despite their adversity, people recognized that there were others who felt their struggle and cared enough to do something.
The 2022, short rains (Oct -Dec) were below normal and the future remains uncertain as the few remaining livestock that many in the community rely on have not recovered. As climate change progresses and becomes a reality, livelihoods diversification and building resilient livelihoods that are not dependent on weather variability is crucial. In line with our thematic approach of supporting Sustainable Livelihoods, VHF funded World Renew’s project, along the emergency projects to strengthen resilience of Katilu, a community in southern Turkana, against climate extremes by supporting farmers to increase crop production and build the capacity of local leaders in community development and resource management.
In the last two decades, these recurring droughts have become cyclical and emergency food distribution has become a norm. This type of aid conditioned many in the community to believe that they are powerless and only external aid can change their life situation. To end food insecurity and adapt to climate change, a mindset shift is necessary for both communities and development agencies. Through mindset change, individuals, households, and whole communities can be empowered to identify their God-given talents, community assets, and opportunities to take the lead in developing their community, while envisioning solutions that can make them resilient to climate change and other weather shocks. Meanwhile, development agencies must see and deliberately involve communities as participants in their own development, not just as beneficiaries to their services and aid. Taking this approach will allow the space for mindset change and sustainable development to flourish.