Orange segments, eggs and roasted coffee

Why we should be optimistic this World Food Day

Written by Donald Mavunduse, Director of International Operations at Send a Cow in 2019.

How can we sustainably feed the world?

That’s the million-pound question that people, governments and NGOs have been asking themselves for decades and even more so today on #WorldFoodDay. Send a Cow has been playing its part in the fight against malnutrition and hunger for 31 years and while we don’t have all the answers, we have adapted a sustainable approach to farming that works for rural Africa – and it gives me a reason to be optimistic for the future.

Africa can feed itself – but it’s going to take more than just seeds and tools

Tackling the issues which contribute to hunger requires a multifaceted approach. In rural Africa, the heart of our projects has always been teaching people how to sustainably grow nutritious food in a way that is good for the environment. But this can’t be done in isolation.

Mercy in her garden

Gender training has to be a core focus as well. Why? Because in parts of rural Africa such as Western Kenya, many women and children traditionally eat least and last. Nursing and pregnant mothers and their young children are receiving the least amount of nutrients, which can result in a generation of stunted children who will have impairments for the rest of their lives.

Alongside this, social barriers prevent women from decision making in the home and community. How to spend money, which crops to grow, who eats what – women are being left out of these conversations, which leaves them unable to safeguard their own nutrition and that of their children.

Training and empowering mothers

The best way of tackling chronic malnutrition in children and young people is by upskilling and empowering mothers. If you do that, you can ensure the next generation are nourished and healthy, growing up to be productive adults who can contribute to the family and wider community.

Globally, more than 50% of reductions of all stunting from 1970 to 1995 were attributable to increases in women’s economic, social and family status. There is no denying it; greater gender equality benefits everyone.

One of our current projects in Kenya is testament to the effectiveness of this approach.  Funded by UK Aid and the UK government who matched all public donations to our Mother & Child appeal in 2017, we are working with over 1,000 families in Western Kenya, with a special focus on supporting mothers, pregnant women and women of childbearing age.

The project trains women in growing food, nutrition, decision-making and enterprise. We’ve just passed the half way point of the project and the results have been very impressive. Some 60% of families are already ‘food secure’, with enough to eat all year round. Not only are families eating more, but they are eating better; accessing a more varied and nutritious diet.

Mercy and her children

18 months ago, single mother Mercy was struggling to feed her young children. Today, with newly attained skills and knowledge, she’s growing enough to feed herself, her children and is producing a surplus which she sells, providing a vital income. Any extra food she needs she buys at the local market with income from crop sales:

“We are able to eat different types of vegetables and my children’s health has tremendously improved – they are no longer sickly. I never thought my life could be transformed like this.’’

Success stories like Mercy's fill me with hope for the future. With the right approach, we can build a world where everyone has access to healthy diets and where hunger is a thing of the past.