This post is the first in a three-part series of reflections from Lauren Taber (UCSB ‘17) and Ashwini Bhide (UC Berkeley ‘14). In August 2015, the two embarked on an investor trip to Ghana with The Hunger Project, one of our Commitment 2030 Fund partners. They were selected as representatives of our movement because of demonstrated leadership locally and nationally. This blog series is a reflection on their experiences.
To be sure, the mission of The Hunger Project is diverse and expansive, but right in its name lies an issue that is close to the heart of the organization, and to that of the FeelGood movement: hunger.
A major part of The Hunger Project’s work on the ground in Ghana is carried out by volunteer community animators, who engage various communities in education campaigns to raise awareness about a multitude of issues concerning well being. At two different epicenters, we were privileged to witness educational sessions that focused on nutritional health, at two different levels.
At the AbeheneaseAkawani Epicenter, in the village of Akawani, a nutrition education and food demonstration was given to an engaged and participatory community of men, women and children. Led by a young woman named Patricia, we discussed aspects of nutrition such as different food groups and what specific foods they are comprised of, and the importance of eating three times a day. In the surrounding area of the village, women were pounding cassava
root to make fufu, a staple of the Ghanaian diet, while others prepared the soup with which it would later be served.
There was an atmosphere of togetherness and joy, giving one the sense that the community members did not believe that this sort of information is something to be scoffed at, or, conversely, obsessed over in the hopes of having the perfect body, the way it often is in other parts of the world. It is a basic necessity, a basic right. It enables people to go into every day empowered to make decisions that will benefit their bodies and minds, and raise children that are properly nourished not only emotionally, but physically.
Of course, an essential part of the end of hunger is the production of food. Food insecurity and poverty can often be seen as a result of insufficient access to agricultural resources and techniques. These are two aspects to hunger that The Hunger Project has identified, and leveraged its epicenter strategy in Ghana to address. This has come in the form of community animators and enterprises made possible by loans from the microfinance institution at each epicenter.
Our experience of this facet of hunger eradication came at the Atuobikrom epicenter and the nearby community of Asantekrom. At Atuobikrom, we met a young man named Sylvester, who is the proprietor of an Agro Inputs Shop, which provides fertilizer and farming materials to local farmers, and enables them to increase their crop yield. Following a similar theme, in Asantekrom we watched an agriculture and food security educational session, which demonstrated the proper way to plant seedlings in the ground, the best places to plant rows of crops based on the landscape, and described the importance of following these guidelines.
Throughout our journeys, at every village, smiling cheeks and bright eyes were abundant. Community members were playful, engaging, and welcoming. They called us up to dance with them, or made us just sit and watch them enjoy themselves. They were lucky enough to live in communities that were informed on how to properly and adequately fuel themselves and their families, and it showed in the vibrancy and vitality of each individual.
Issues of hunger and poverty are still distressingly prevalent in communities such as these, however. It was inspiring and enlightening to witness the steps that can be taken to alleviate such conditions, in an organic way that leaves room for the growth of rural communities and their younger generations. It is essential that children are exposed to and raised within the culture of education and personal responsibility that we witnessed at each village. In this way, The Hunger Project’s mission of empowerment and unleashing the human spirit will become something that is ingrained within the communities, not something which must be explained over and over.
There is a future without hunger, and it lies with the powerful men and women of this world who are most affected by it — as well as with all of those children with which I spent hours dancing the Macarena!