Harvesting hope in a season of drought
In 2020, the fallout of the covid-19 pandemic brought with it a dramatic increase in global hunger. Ongoing war and conflict continued to impact people’s food security. Changing weather patterns also resulted in an increase in floods, droughts and other natural disasters, leaving vulnerable families struggling to meet their food needs.
Canadian Foodgrains Bank works to address the emergency food needs of people in crisis around the world; from distributing food vouchers to Syrian refugees in Lebanon to supplying basics, such as wheat and oil, to families in conflict-torn Tigray, Ethiopia.
Although emergency responses are necessary to give people a chance at survival during times of crisis, Foodgrains Bank, in its mission to end global hunger, recognizes that communities struggling with food insecurity also need long-term solutions. With this in mind, Foodgrains Bank provides training in conservation agriculture to vulnerable farmers so that they can sustainably grow food.
In September 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, the president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, declared a national disaster. Two consecutive rainy seasons did not bring enough rain and left farmlands barren, livestock dying and farmers unable to generate enough income to feed their families. Over 2 million Kenyans were reported to be severely food insecure.
Smallholder farmers Elizabeth Ndunge and Peter Mwanzia, both 38, have known the hardship of food insecurity. But when this national disaster was declared, they had more than enough to feed their three children.
In 2016, through World Renew, a founding member of Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Elizabeth and Peter joined a Foodgrains Bank conservation agriculture training program in their community, facilitated by World Renew’s local partner ADS Kenya. They learned how crop diversification helps improve soil fertility and allows for better pest and disease control. They also learned how minimal tillage, crop rotation, and the use of mulch protects the soil, preserving its nutrients and moisture.
With conventional farming, Elizabeth and Peter harvested a maximum of 18 kgs of maize per season – not enough to sustain their family. One year after implementing conservation agriculture practices, the couple harvested 135 kgs; after 2 years, 215 kgs; and during the drought, when other farmers saw their crops wither and die, 450 kgs. They also began to successfully grow beans and pigeon peas.
This family is now food secure. And, with proceeds from the sale of the surplus crops Elizabeth and Peter have been able to purchase their own land and construct a house. They have also purchased a cow that provides more than enough milk for the family’s needs and they sell the surplus milk for additional income.
Elizabeth shared, “My land was not producing enough for my family, but the Lord has given me good friends (Foodgrains Bank, ADS Kenya and World Renew) . . . he has helped my family improve, from poverty to a wealthy state . . . today I produce enough and excess to sell and I am able to help others.”
As our world continues to struggle with the challenges of climate change and covid-19, in the rich soil of Elizabeth and Peter’s land, there is hope.