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Strong, Peaceful Communities in the Face of Rising Hunger

This month, five UN agencies released a new report warning that conflicts and protracted violence – exacerbated by climate change – have pushed the number of people living in hunger up from 795 million to 815 million between 2014 and 2016. The report notes that the majority of people living in hunger – 60 percent – live in countries affected by conflict.

At The Hunger Project, we feel it’s important to highlight that despite this sobering news, the world has made tremendous progress in ending hunger and malnutrition. In fact, the report notes that “most countries have achieved significant 25-year gains in reducing hunger,” and that the number of malnourished children, as evidenced by stunting (height for age), has decreased from 29.5 percent to 22.9 percent between 2005 and 2016. This shows that many of our efforts are working.

We can learn from the interventions that are working to find new ways to build inclusive, peaceful communities where women are empowered. Though The Hunger Project does not work in conflict-affected states, our women-focused and community-led approach is pertinent beyond the 16,000 communities where we work. In Bangladesh, we have seen through a partnership with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) that our community-led approach builds social cohesion, which can reduce violence in communities.

The findings of the new UN report, while alarming, should not undermine our efforts. We will continue to advocate for women-centered and community-led approaches with partner organisations and governments worldwide: this is how, together, we can achieve the commitments the world has made with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Header image: Community members hold a meeting at Ndereppe Epicenter, Senegal, 2015. Image Credit: Johannes Odé

Bringing education, healthcare and sanitation to villages

The programs in our Epicentre communities change the lives of men, women and children in ways that are most valuable to their specific needs.  Our village partners are empowered with knowledge and skills that help them create sustainable communities where systems of education, healthcare and sanitation are prioritized to help end hunger and poverty.

By empowering people with an education, they are mobilised to take action towards creating communities that will one day be self-reliant.  Charged with the information required, they instigate change that leads to their desired vision of the future. As they make changes within their communities, the positive impact is felt by all and the community-held vision transforms to one of a future free from hunger.

Basanti (pictured above), from India, is one of 14,065 elected women who brought education, healthcare and sanitation systems to her village in 2016.  Because she is educated, she earned the support of her community and won the role of president of her Panchayat (village council).  She aims to create a ‘thriving community and thriving people‘.  As part of the untouchable (lowest) caste in India, Basanti understands the power of education on an individual’s life and is passionate about upholding the rights women and children have to an education.  Her training with The Hunger Project has enabled her to study for a degree, and she wants others in her community to have the same opportunities she has had.

Basanti and other village partners go out into their communities and educate people about proper healthcare, including the treatment and prevention of potentially fatal diseases, like HIV/AIDS, malaria and malnutrition.  By sharing information about the disease, people are encouraged to visit our healthcare centres where they can access; tests, immunisations, antiretroviral treatments, counselling and other healthcare services.  As more people come to understand the health issues that afflict their communities, and how they can be treated and prevented, attitudes, stigmas and behaviours that perpetuate problems surrounding them begin to change, and incidences of diseases decline.   Between 2001 and 2012 there was a 1.1 million decrease in the number of newly infected cases of HIV worldwide.  With the right information, people learn to protect themselves and their families, a healthier society begins to emerge and the new community-held vision becomes one of strength and vitality.

Women and girls in Africa empowered to end their own inequality and hunger

In 2016, 107,283 volunteers participated in our Women’s Empowerment program and have become village leaders equipped with the knowledge, skills and confidence to promote the rights of women and girls within their communities.

By placing women at the centre of our programs, we aim to end deeply embedded cycles of hunger and inequality which have resulted in women being; victims of sexual abuse and violence, denied opportunities of employment and education, married in childhood and malnourished since birth.

When we empower women with education, they understand the significant influence they have in transforming discriminatory systems that have failed them for generations.  Their creativity and leadership skills are unleashed and they can see how they are the solution to ending their own inequality and hunger.

Our programs empower village leaders, like Lucy from Kachindamoto, Malawi.  Lucy and her friends (pictured above) are now able to face their futures with optimism and hope and can educate other women in their community to; understand their rights, stand up for themselves in the face of adversity and protect themselves, and each other, from sexual discrimination.

By embracing their role as change agents, these women shift mindsets within their communities, so that others prioritise health and equality too.  The whole of society benefits from the changes they bring to their communities, as; food security, nutrition and family health improve, rates of malnutrition, hunger, poverty and child mortality decline.

395,000 locally trained volunteers ending hunger around the world

Together with the invaluable support of our investors, we have been successful in mobilising 395,000 locally trained volunteers globally – all of whom are dedicated to ending poverty and hunger within their communities.

We know that the people living in communities afflicted by poverty and hunger are key to providing solutions to the issues they face. By partnering with these people, we can empower them to make changes so that they can end their own hunger.  Mobilising and inspiring local volunteer leaders within our community Epicentres allows us to gain insight into the mindsets of the people we aim to help, so we can then understand what they need as an individual community.  We don’t recruit ex-pats, instead, we train locals – allowing us to direct 75% of all funding to our program communities.

Our international programs are focused on; health, education, literacy, environmental sustainability, social justice and other support systems. We aim to equip our volunteers, village partners and the local population, with the confidence, knowledge and skills they need to create healthy, functioning, communities that will ultimately become self-reliant.

In direct response to their own experience of hunger, volunteers like Ayelech (pictured above), have been taught how to grow and prepare their own food.  Ayelech and the 53,000 other volunteers in Ethiopia who also learned these vital life skills are now able to provide healthy, nutritious food for themselves and for their families.  In doing so, they avoid suffering from malnutrition and other hunger-related ailments.  They are encouraged to pass their new-found knowledge and skills on to family, friends and neighbours to help break the cycle of hunger that has been their way of life for generations. With the dissemination of their skills; the health of the community begins to improve, widespread hunger and illness decline and the mindset within the community begins to shift away from one of resignation and despondency to one of determination and resilience.

Our dedicated volunteer leaders take a courageous stance against deeply ingrained belief systems, based on hunger and poverty, to learn new ways of living that inspire people within their community to do the same.  Their commitment to change and their instrumental efforts meant that 10 Epicentre communities reached their targets for self-reliance in 2016. In these communities, there was a 66% decrease in hunger, as well as an overall 41% decrease in extreme poverty.

Through our unique Epicentre and local volunteer initiatives, we have reached over 1.7 million people in Africa alone. This is the result of many years of dedicated work with our village partners and support from our loyal investors.  We will continue to expand upon the powerful relationships we’ve carved in order to maintain and amplify the positive impact we’re having within these communities so we can end hunger once and for all.

With safe storage, Mbale food bank promotes food security

“It’s hard to find a family with bad quality grain these days. Families keep their maize, sorghum and millet in the food bank and are able to use it while it’s still good,” says Joyce Nakato, a Community Development Officer in Mbale, Uganda.

Joyce is referring to the storage facility that is part of The Hunger Project-Uganda’s Mbale Epicentre, which currently serves over 120 villages. The food bank supports local efforts to address food insecurity by providing farmers with a safe place to store their grain before selling it in the marketplace. In 2016, our community partners in Mbale added 3,040 Kg of grain to their community food bank. By increasing pest-free storage capabilities in the community, the food bank enables the storage of excess harvests, thus promoting the villagers’ food security during the off-season.

Initially set-up in 2007, over the last decade the food bank has become a favourite resource for farmers in the area, especially because the area is fumigated on a regular basis. Local farmers note how storing maize, sorghum and millet in the food banks helps preserve the quality and quantity of harvests. The food banks also provide an additional buffer against famine in the case of unexpected food shortages.

“I am grateful for the project,” Lorna Mubogi, a farmer in the region, told local newspaper New Vision. “Each harvest season, I keep there almost one and a half tons (1,500 kg) of maize from my garden.”

The food bank also engages the community in modern agricultural methods, provides improved seeds and trains farmers on climate-related information. These learning opportunities plus access to the food storage facilities empower farmers to work towards a more food secure future!

Post courtesy of The Hunger Project Global Office.

Uganda farmer field school promotes climate resilience

The Hunger Project Uganda and researchers from Makerere University have published a new study that shows the efficacy of Farmer Field Schools in empowering farmers to adapt to climate change.

The researchers studied farmers in the Kiboga District of Uganda, an area characterized by unreliable rainfall. The study found that Farmer Field Schools were an effective tool to spread knowledge that supported farmers in adapting to changing weather patterns. The research compared a randomly selected group of farmers who participated in the Farmer Field Schools program to a group of farmers who did not. Both groups were selected from the same district.

In recent years, changing climate patterns have resulted in the movement of warm, dry air toward the drylands of Uganda, where the Kiboga District is located. This area is also suffering from the effects of deforestation. As a result, the Kiboga District and surrounding drylands have experienced both catastrophic droughts and erratic rainfall that causes flooding and damages infrastructure. The farmers interviewed for this study identified drought as the main manifestation of climate change in their region.

Farmer Field Schools were first set up at the end of 2013 to combat the effects of drought and to support farmers with new agricultural technologies that increase resilience to climate change. Initially funded by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, the project grew to include additional schools across the country over the following 18 months.

By the end of the project, The Hunger Project-Uganda had worked with community partners to establish a total of 52 schools, supporting 1,196 farmers. The most common techniques implemented by the schools included comparative studies, commercial enterprises and member training. They also distributed agricultural inputs, assessed performance and integrated village savings.

Through comparative studies, farmers were able to solve local problems by designing and testing simple experiments. For example, farmers set up study plots where they tested various farming techniques to support them in choosing the best solution. The Farmer Field Schools also trained farmers in a variety of agricultural techniques and adaptive technologies. Often, training took place on field days, during which farmers visited each other’s fields to learn new skills and techniques.

The study concluded that, when compared to farmers who did not attend the schools, Farmer Field Schools farmers were more knowledgeable about farming techniques to adapt to climate change. Participating farmers implemented a variety of agricultural methods, such as kitchen gardens, effective irrigation, agroforestry and drought-tolerant pastures for their livestock.

As the study shows, when farmers have the opportunity to learn and develop new skills, exchanging best practices with each other, they can be empowered to sustain their livelihoods, even in the face of a changing climate.

Sara can now feed her family every day


Sara knows the heartache of poverty and hunger all too well. It used to be a daily struggle to provide her two children with even one meal a day.

Too often they had to go without. The small income she earned from her fritters business was simply not enough to buy food. The family lived in a small mud hut. When it rained the thatched roof leaked.

The microfinance loan and skills training she received from The Hunger Project changed her life. She took out a small loan and used it to grow her business. With the profits from her business, she has been able to build a brick house with a tin roof and a small shop inside, buy a mobile phone and start a small pig farm.


Sara has also started a sarong business. She travels by bus to the nearest town to collect products for her shop and sarongs to sell in her village.

Sara can now feed her children three meals a day and send them to school. She is grateful for the support she has received and is dedicated to sharing what she has learned with others in her community.



Transparency Boards: A Powerful Tool for Creating Accountability and Empowering Communities

There’s increasing evidence that access to information can dramatically improve outcomes in rural communities, The Hunger Project recognises that it’s more important than ever to document and share easy-to-use and cost-effective practices for local data and transparency initiatives.

That’s why The Hunger Project involves the community in not only collecting data—but also in bringing information and analysis back to the communities. Community members need to see the results and benefits of the program interventions – their own efforts — under way, to avoid it becoming simply an externally imposed demand on their time.

The first step of showing these results–once data collection and analysis have concluded—is presenting the data on “Transparency Boards” in a central building, where information on the planning, performance, and financial status of activities are permanently posted. This is a powerful tool for accountability, empowering community members to follow up with leaders at any time regarding their concerns and allowing them to arrive at quarterly and annual meetings already armed with information. Communities use this data to make decisions about activities and short-term planning.

Watch this short video for more information…



Courtesy of The Hunger Project, Global Office



The Hunger Project celebrates 20 years in Benin and Burkina Faso

The Hunger Project-Benin and The Hunger Project-Burkina Faso are celebrating their 20th year of working to end chronic hunger and poverty!

In both Benin and Burkina Faso, we have worked in close partnership with local and national government agencies, and with the generous support of many local and international funding partners and thousands of individual investors.

The Hunger Project began work in both Benin and Burkina Faso in 1997 by mobilising clusters of villages through our Epicentre Strategy. Each group of rural villages becomes an “epicentre and a dynamic centre of community action. Communities launch and run their own programs to address their most pressing challenges. For example, epicentre communities work together to address health and nutrition, access to clean drinking water and sanitation, education and literacy, food security, microfinance, climate change and women’s and youth’s empowerment.

The Epicentre Strategy is designed to partner with communities for about eight years, after which each epicentre graduates to a phase of “sustainable self-reliance.” At this point, the epicentre has demonstrated the confidence, capacity and skills to act as agents of their own development.

The Hunger Project-Benin currently partners with 19 epicentres, serving 183 villages and a population of 297,256. Three of these epicentres—Avlamé, Beterou and Kissamey—have graduated to the phase of “sustainable self-reliance.” The self-reliant epicentres have had impressive results, including a 72% decrease in chronic hunger and a 73% increase in participation in epicentre activities in 2016 alone.

In Burkina Faso, The Hunger Project works with community partners in 15 epicentres, serving 189 villages and a population of 303,893. Of the 15 active epicentres, Boulkon Epicentre has graduated to the phase of “sustainable self-reliance” and, between 2014-2016, was able to halve the proportion of households living below the poverty line. The gains were particularly strong for women, where the proportion of female business owners increased 600% over that time period, from just 5% in 2014 to 35% in 2016!

Since their launch, programs in both countries have continued to thrive by spearheading holistic initiatives that sustainably address the needs of changing and growing rural communities. For example, in 2015, The Hunger Project-Benin led a national campaign to raise awareness about the nutritional benefits of the “miracle” Moringa tree. The pilot program has now been expanded to seven other program countries in Africa. And in 2016, The Hunger Project-Burkina Faso launched activities as part of an 11-country partnership to end child marriage. The partnership is in alliance with a group called Her Choice, which involves several organisations dedicated to creating child-marriage free communities in which girls are able to decide if, when and whom to marry.

To acknowledge 20 years of community empowerment and innovating for the end of hunger and poverty with initiatives such as the Movement for CLD, The Hunger Project-Benin organised an event at the Palais de Congress. The event brought together national and regional leadership, partnership organisations, and women leaders from the epicentres themselves in a shared celebration of sustainable development.

Our 20-year record of achievement in Benin and Burkina Faso is grounded in the principle that people must be the agents of their own change. We invite you to learn more about our programs in both countries and celebrate community partners who are doing the incredible work of ending hunger for themselves, their neighbours and their families.

Feature photo by Johannes Odé.

Post courtesy of The Hunger Project, Global Office.