Every time I come across the word sustainability the 1st thing that comes to mind is how to make smallholder farmers profitable because if they are profitable they can provide for their basic needs and meals and the SDG #2 will be a myth – Zero Hunger! One down 16 more to go!
2030 sounds like a long time from now, there is so much to do and we are busy mobilizing resources to tackle issues in our little corners to make agenda 2030 a success story. Smallholder farmers are not hungry because they don’t produce enough – I mean, 50% of what is produced ends up as waste. So if we must achieve zero hunger by 2030, smallholder farmers are just a fraction of the pie and hence we need to look beyond- among children who represent almost half of all the people living in extreme poverty. We must come up with comprehensive sustainability approaches in tackling hunger.
In my community, orphanages are home to many children. We often visit them from time to time with bags of rice, oil, sugar, yams just to name a few as it is a traditional way of being thankful for a year well spent, for achievement or for a blessing. Most times, we visit, drop the gifts and leave to return maybe the next year or years later. I am just as guilty because I have done this a couple of times. But in 2016 after my visit to an orphanage, I began thinking, what do they live on when no one comes to visit? How can we make orphanages more sustainable beyond the gifts we bring to them once a year?
In 2017 I was selected as a Mandela Washington Fellow under the track Civic Leadership at the Appalachian State University. During one of our outdoor visits, we went to a hospitality home and there I saw something that caught my eye and when I asked it was explained that some families or individuals will adopt a farm bed and take responsibility of providing seeds, catering for the plant till harvest and then donate the food to the hospitality home. I got so excited seeing this! It was such a beautiful concept and I couldn’t wait to get home to replicate.
Exactly 2 weeks ago we launched the Adopt A Garden Initiative via which we seek to assist orphanages to set up a garden on which they can grow their our vegetables throughout the year and be self-sustainable. We are concerned by the number of children who battle with hunger especially in orphanages and are determined that No Child Goes Hungry. Our 1st story is at the House of Hope Orphanage Ngyen-Mbo which we visited in 2016 to do the feel-good ritual. Asking the matron what her biggest challenge was, she cited feeding the kids. House of Hope is home to 25 children most of which are orphaned by both parents although some are dropped off at her doorsteps. It was heart-warming to hear them talk hopefully about who they want to become when they grow up. Miriam wants to be a nurse; Tom wants to be pilot; Ransom wants to be a president when he grows up!
The excitement the children had in assisting to grow their own food was heartwarming. They farmed the beds, watered, applied manure as we planted regular vegetables like Njama Njama, anchia, bitterleaf, sweet pepper, carrots and cabbage just to name a few.
It’s been exactly 2 weeks since we planted and I went to check on the progress. They were thrilled on seeing me and to tell me how they have been tending to the crops.
In early childhood, adequate nutrition can ensure healthy growth, proper organ formation and function, a strong immune system, and neurological and cognitive development. Well-nourished people can learn new skills, think critically and contribute to their communities. Therefore for Miriam, Ransom and Tom to become who they dream to become, they need to be properly nourished. Sustainability doesn’t necessarily translate to profitability; it could just mean ensuring availability. If we end our thoughts of sustainability at the level of profitability, we could miss out an important faction of the pie – the wellbeing of the children who hold the future. We need to achieve sustainability in a way that no one is left behind!