The Last Hunger Season

May 18, 2012 By Jane Kaminski

With the Group of 8 Summit this weekend and President Obama’s address on food security today, we’ve heard a lot about the Administration’s food security policies that call for a shift from providing food relief to helping countries build their own agricultural sectors so they can feed themselves.  A new book suggests how this approach works in the field by telling the story of one African community’s struggle to prevent famine.  While only one story, it draws attention to the key role that public-private partnerships can play.

Seventy-five percent of the people in East Africa are farmers who generally struggle to survive, let alone thrive, due to annual food shortages.  With more than 25 percent of children malnourished in Africa, famine and hunger have serious implications not just for today, but also for future generations.  Not only is there a need to fight the current food insecurity and famine to provide relief in times of desperation, but it’s also critical to build up farm systems to prevent future famines and malnutrition, a central goal of the Administration’s Feed the Future.

The Last Hunger Season follows four African farmers in rural Kenya as they work with an international NGO to build up sustainable agriculture and food security for themselves.  It tells how the One Acre Fund worked with the farmers through setbacks and successes on their subsistence farms to not only prevent the hunger season but also to begin to flourish.  Farmers received education, basic capital, better seeds and fertilizer, and training in post-harvest handling and storage, making them better equipped to produce higher yields, sustain their supplies throughout the year, and increase their income while maintaining a forward-looking stance and investing in the future.

Recognizing the value of this program, USAID launched a public-private partnership with One Acre Fund last year, to expand its model to 50,000 new small-farm holders in 2011.  That small investment from USAID of just $76,000 will save countless lives.  It becomes sustainable when it gives subsistence farmers in Africa, many of whom are women, the tools necessary for them to help themselves and their families.  These tools are supported by the U.S. International Affairs Budget and, especially when used in coordination with global partners, can have a lasting impact in ending global hunger.