Aida Karwani almost lost all hope when the crops in her small garden began to fail. Aida, who lives in a small community in rural Uganda, had cultivated the same plot of land for nearly three decades to grow food for her family. As the years went by, farming on her land became difficult, and the amount of food she was able to harvest drastically decreased.
“My land was exhausted and I could hardly harvest anything on it,” said Aida. Despite the crop failure, Aida continued to cultivate her land. One harvest after another, she continued to get smaller and smaller results.
Aisa’s story of struggle is not uncommon in many of the communities where World Renew has a presence. Families living in poverty face barriers—whether it’s difficulty in finding resources to generate income, challenges in growing food, or lack of access to water. These barriers contribute to a vicious cycle of hunger that prevents people from living healthy, joyful lives.
Hunger pushes families into stories underlined by hardship, pain, and suffering. But with God, hard work, and support, barriers can be broken and these stories can be rewritten into testimonies of hope.
Aida’s life began to change for the better after she heard that World Renew and their local partner, the Pentecostal Assemblies of God Church (PAD-KIDO), were teaching conservation agriculture techniques in her community. Desperate for a good harvest, Aida bravely decided to take the time to learn. She also gave the new techniques a try even though there was a risk to changing practices that she knew would result in harvest.
This time around she tried mulch and planted 3 kilograms of maize. She could hardly believe it when she saw the results: she more than doubled her harvest—a success she had never achieved before.
Other farmers in Aida’s community have also been trained in new techniques and then gone on to practice in their fields what they learned. They too have seen amazing results—bigger harvests and more resilient crops.
One farmer, Alice, was able to grow healthy cabbage. Many of her neighbors lost their crops because of low rainfall. But with her new techniques, Alice was able to grow enough cabbage to sell and make a profit.
Alice has offered to help other farmers in her community who also want to try the techniques she has learned from World Renew. Her field is open for others to come and witness the work she is doing.
By breaking barriers to end hunger, Aida and Alice were able to grow food and move their families on the track to a future without hunger.
Barriers to income lead to desperation
Mishal is a young girl who lives in a small community in Malawi. Like many other girls her age, she sold items at the market to earn money for her family.
Without the money Mishal worked hard to earn, her mother wouldn’t be able to buy food to cook and their family would have to go without their basic needs.
One day, Mishal prepared a few large donuts to sell at the market. But after selling all of her donuts she realized that she didn’t bring in enough to make a profit.
Worried and unsure of what to do, Mishal turned to one of her friends for help. Mishal’s friend made arrangements for Mishal to sleep with a man to make up the money she had lost. This friend encouraged Mishal to sleep with men whenever she needed money.
World Renew has been working with its partner Word Alive to implement an innovative HIV-prevention project in Mishal’s community. Through this program, Mishal and her peers have access to resources, education, and support. Many of the girls are 14 to 21 years old and are the primary breadwinners for their family. With family members depending on them for survival, many of these girls have started engaging in transactional sex to earn money.
While the decision to sell sexual favours is never an easy one, many girls in Mishal’s community are unaware of the associated risks. Through discussions with small groups and guidance from mentors and peer educators, these girls are learning about the dangers to their health and emotional well-being.
To help educate the girls, a group of older women and female pastors volunteered to assist World Renew. Together with 25 girls, they shared their baking and cooking techniques and the girls learned how to make new foods to sell at the market. With new skills, the girls can sell more baked goods and earn a living without feeling the need to engage in transactional sex.
For Hamida, another one of the girls in the group, getting involved in the program wasn’t easy. She was suspicious of the program and the group that was forming in her village.
She had started engaging in transactional sex to help her grandmother, who had taken in Hamida and her seven siblings after their parents passed away.
Hamida’s grandmother made an income by collecting branches from a nearby forest and selling them as firewood. To help her grandmother, Hamida decided to drop out of school and assist with firewood collection and sales.
Although Hamida worked hard, sometimes she wasn’t able to earn enough money to buy food for her family. Her siblings had to drop out of school because Hamida did not earn enough to pay for school fees. As men started to approach Hamida for sex, she tried to resist. Then, one day, the desperation for money pushed her to try. For over four years Hamida gave herself to men to feed her family.
When Hamida met World Renew and Word Alive staff she was cautious. Through the group that was forming in her community, Hamida was able to meet other girls who had similar experiences. She learned the group was a safe place to ask questions and get information.
The group of girls encouraged Hamida to get HIV tested and supported her decision to stop engaging in transactional sex.
Hamida later attended a week-long Stepping Stones training organized by World Renew where she learned how to lead small groups. She gained more information about sexual reproductive health and cultural practices that are harmful to girls.
Now, Hamida is a peer mentor and leads a group of 17 girls. Her group discusses many of the challenges they face as girls and the pressure to financially support their families. Through their discussions, Hamida is helping more girls stop engaging in transactional sex.
In addition to breaking down barriers to end hunger in her own life, she has taken an active role in breaking down barriers for others. As a result, more people in the community are finding ways to embrace their God-given potential and become equipped to change their own stories for the long-term.
Waging War against the Armyworm
The fall armyworm is contributing to widespread crop failure in areas across Eastern and Southern Africa and pushing impoverished families into a deeper cycle of hunger.
The fall armyworm gets its name from its practice of inhabiting areas in massive amounts in its larval stage in autumn. The caterpillars feed on crops such as maize, soybean, sorghum, and cowpeas. The caterpillars turn into moths that spread to new areas, laying up to 1000 eggs in their 10-day lifetime.
The insect has already inhabited areas in the Americas, but its new home in Africa is causing concern. For areas that are already struggling through drought and food insecurity, the armyworm is making a bad situation a lot worse. Families who had very little to eat now have nothing.
In response to extreme drought, World Renew supplied farmers in Uganda with cowpeas and sorghum. By August many of their harvests had been destroyed and farmers were beginning to report an infestation of the fall armyworm taking over their fields.
Some farmers reported losing over half of their crops to the insect. Maize was among the most affected crop. For many farmers the cost of pesticides discouraged them from buying what they needed to control the spread of the bug.
To help prepare for the next planting season, World Renew is distributing sweet potato tubers to farmers in need. Sweet potatoes are a nutritious root vegetable that is high in vitamin A and can be used to make bread or be preserved for months. Sweet potatoes are also resistant to drought and the fall armyworm. With a successful sweet potato harvest, farmers can provide healthy food for their families in the short-term and also plan for a stronger future.