When 12-century philosopher Maimonides wrote about the eight degrees of charity, he said:
“Lastly, the eighth and most meritorious of all, is to anticipate charity by preventing poverty, namely, to assist the reduced brother…by teaching him a trade, or by putting him in the way of business, so that he may earn an honest livelihood and not be forced the dreadful alternative of holding up his hand for charity…”
For over 30 years, Bread and Water for Africa® has been doing just that. Agriculture programs supported by Bread and Water for Africa® teach men and women to become self-sufficient farmers. These programs provide them the knowledge and the means to grow their own crops and feed their families – not just during their lifetime, but for future generations as they pass down their knowledge. This creates more stability, a far-reaching positive impact, and economic empowerment.
We actively support our partners in Africa, such as the Lewa Children’s Home’s Baraka Farm in Kenya, to establish farming operations that ultimately lead to self-sufficiency and sustainability.
How We Support Food Security and Economic Empowerment in Sierra Leone
In Sierra Leone, we’re supporting female farmers by teaching them best practices for getting the most from their land and also providing them with the means to do so. For example, in the past we worked with the Rural Youth Development Organization (RYDO) and trained a total of 75 rural women in Sierra Leone to grow vegetables and other crops. We provided them with essential farming tools and supported them in establishing small business enterprises such as food sales and other related operations based on local demands.
According to RYDO program director Joseph Kobba, this one program has benefited over 19,000 individuals. Among them is Alusine Kamanda. He lives in the village of Ngehun Songa and had to drop out of secondary school following the death of his parents during the Ebola virus outbreak because there was no one to pay his school fees.
Knowing of his struggles, Alusine was contacted by RYDO staff in their efforts to register vulnerable youths for the Bread and Water for Africa® COVID-19 support program.
“I am now a proud farmer because I can now grow rice on a large scale that can feed my brothers and sisters,” says Alusine. “Farming is very expensive work, but the support I received from Bread and Water for Africa® has helped me to take a big step forward.”
Alusine also wants all the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa® to know that their gifts have not just been of great help to himself and his siblings, “but a blessing for my community. Thanks be to God for the farming tools and training I got from the COVID-19 relief program. My first harvest surplus is this year, and I am selling it in the community I love.”
Director Kobba also notes that the program not only assists people like Alusine with training in crop production and sustainable harvesting and by providing them with seeds and garden tools, but also business management, encouraging them to develop their own entrepreneurial skills:
“One of the key differences the program has made in the lives of the beneficiaries is the improvement of the economic status of both the beneficiaries and their communities as a whole. [It has] liberated women from economic bondage, dependency and poverty.”
Women, in fact, are responsible for 80% or more of the crops grown in Africa. They sow the seeds, nurture the crop, and reap the harvest, but they have historically received little help working in the proverbial shadows.
With our partners, Bread and Water for Africa assists those most in need first, and the community and beneficiaries are involved in the project from the start, increasing engagement and helping make the whole program a success.
One married mother of two was able to turn her struggling farm into a more diverse enterprise expanding the types of crops she grows and harvesting a surplus that she is then able to sell at local markets.
The income she now receives helps pay for her family’s healthcare, enables her children to attend school, and she even has enough to open a savings account. She said:
Thanks to the training and support which have developed my farming knowledge and skills, my success in the 2022 farming seasons has improved my economic situation. I am so thankful to God and grateful to Bread and Water for Africa for the training and support I received for my farming activities, which have helped me cultivate four acres of both vegetables and groundnuts to feed my family and sell the surplus in the market so that food can be available at my home.
For those who cannot read or write, our agricultural training programs are adapted so that these types of beneficiaries are not at a disadvantage. They can still learn the tools and techniques that will improve their lives and the lives of their community. All in all, in 2022, our programs benefited over 22,000 people in Sierra Leone and Zambia alone.
But why are agricultural programs like Bread for Water such an important, strategic focus for African charities and global organizations like the United Nations and WHO?
How Food Security Impacts Health and Well-Being in Africa
Food security not only produces more economic stability, but improves health outcomes as well. Poverty and health have always been intrinsically intertwined. In 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) along with Bread for Water for Africa are pushing for greater awareness and health equity. WHO asserts that “poor health is an integral part of poverty.”
Our farming programs lift up the health and well-being of its beneficiaries by supporting better nutrition and, like the mother we mentioned above, secure the means to seek better healthcare for their family.
BMC Public Health recently published a research article on the correlation between food insecurity and health outcomes in sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. Specifically, they studied the impact of food security/insecurity on life expectancy and infant mortality, which in Sierra Leone is seven deaths for every 100 live births – the 5th highest in the world.
They found that a 1% increase in undernourishment reduces life expectancy by about .0035 percentage points. However, a 1% increase in nourishment increases life expectancy by a nearly equal amount. The same correlation applies to infant mortality rates.
The Food Research and Action Center states that “social determinants of health such as poverty and food insecurity are associated with some of the most severe and costly health problems in a nation.”
In sub-Saharan African countries, one-third of the population are identified as being severely insecure, including a high percentage of “hidden hunger” – deficiencies in micronutrients.
Malnutrition is linked to almost half of all childhood deaths. In addition, children who are undernourished get very sick from ordinary illnesses and do not develop as they normally should. On top of that, more than three million people per year die from hunger and hunger-related diseases – more than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.
Without a doubt, increasing and sustaining food security in Africa is critical to improving the health and development of its people. As Director Jospeh Kobba told us, “Food security in rural communities is a means of lessening malnutrition and saving lives.”
Bread and Water for Africa Farming Programs and Partners
We work with many amazing organizations on the ground in Africa, supporting the growth and sustainability of small farms and working to increase economic security and health equity for individuals and families. Here are a few:
Baraka Farm was founded with the mission of providing food and revenue to support the orphans living at the adjacent Lewa Children’s Home. They also train local farmers in better agricultural methods.
Our longtime partner offers programs that support local farmers, which are mostly women, but they also provide access to healthcare, education opportunities for children, dig wells so that people in rural communities can have access to safe drinking water.
Kabwata Orphanage and Transit Centre provides a loving home for about 60 children, many of them AIDS orphans and more than 120 others in the local community living in extended families or foster care. They provide education, shelter, health, nutrition, love, and security, so that the children reach their full potential.
The program goals of Shinga Development Trust are to provide primary school educations for young children, orphan care, food self-sufficiency, women’s literacy and vocational skills training.
We hope you’ll join our mission and help support the very real impact we are having on the ground in Africa. Help us increase economic security, food security, and the health and well-being of those we serve. Please, donate today!