In Purpose

Another drought in Africa. So what?

The following is a post I wrote for Orchard: Africa.  You can get updates, see photos or videos of the day and follow stories on their blog.

East Africa is facing it’s worst drought in over a generation.  The last such devastating drought was recorded sixty years ago.  Everyday, over 3,000 people arrive in Kenya and Ethiopia, hoping to find food, aid and refuge from the severe famine.

Although East Africa is currently experiencing a drought, hunger in many other parts of Africa is the norm.  Hunger in Africa is a systemic problem.  It is as a result of interrelated problems, not only drought.  African agriculture itself is in crises.  According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, 200 million Africans are malnourished.

The African continent is huge, with 53 independent countries.  No one problem or solution fits all.  However, there are some common critical issues.

  • Decades of underinvestment in rural areas where people have very little political clout has led to little or no infrastructure.  Rural people struggle to grow crops with no irrigation.  Even in times of good rain, any overflow of food cannot be sold because rural people do not have access to transport to get their crops to markets.  Nor do they have adequate storage facilities so excess crops cannot be kept over long periods for lean times.
  • International trade agreements and subsidies favor strong economies.  This makes it difficult for poorer countries in Africa to compete. Added to that is a lack of sound governance in many African countries.  Politics, more than drought, causes hunger in Africa.
  • The biggest culprit over the past two decades that has caused hunger in Africa is HIV/AIDS.  This pandemic has robbed families of their strong, productive workforce.  In fertile countries like Zambia, where crops can grow in abundance when the rainy season comes, millions are starving.  Adults are too sick to work their fields.  Life expectancy has dropped from 50 to 32.  As the adult population dies, the children and the elderly are left vulnerable and hungry.

At Orchard: Africa we recognize that hunger in Africa is a multi-layered problem that needs long-term solutions from various sectors.  In the short term, we feed the hungry.  We have provided 3.2 million meals to the hungry.  By 2014 we aim to increase that number to 5 million.

We take this scripture verse personally. “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble…” (James 1:27).   In the long term we are working toward an HIV free continent, educated children who are emotionally and spiritually whole and leaders who are equipped and actively participating in bringing about sustainable change in their communities.  We believe that severe poverty and AIDS can be overcome in this generation.

Question:  What does James 1:27 mean to you?  Do you think we are to take it seriously?

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