As Abarash Dongoro hikes the dirt road back to her home in Ethiopia’s Siraro District, she pauses to scan the hillside and think about what’s ahead. She’s the mother of a three-year-old child with a second one on the way.
What does she see? A plantation, she says, full of trees that will help not only her children but the whole community.
It’s a sight worth a second look — 200,000 tree seedlings taking root on the slopes of once dry, barren hills. Local families planted the trees as part of an emergency program launched last fall by Oxfam and its local partner, Center for Development Initiatives (CDI). The program aims to protect people against recurring droughts, which bring hardship and hunger to farmers trying to grow food and to herders searching for pasture for their animals. In exchange for their work planting the trees, 1645 families received a payment each month to put toward food or invest in other essentials.
This approach not only helps people buy food today, but also builds resilience for tomorrow. As the trees mature, they will promote new plant growth and produce life-sustaining crops like avocados and bananas. Local women have organized groups to care for the trees and make sure they are sustainably harvested. “If women have access to economic resources, the children will grow better,” says CDI program officer Tamrat Belay.
Growing better — that’s the idea at the heart of GROW, Oxfam’s new campaign that begins today all over the world. Every day, looming constraints on resources — like fertile land and water — make it more difficult for food producers, especially women, to feed their families. Increasingly extreme and erratic weather patterns are worsening the situation (just as changes in rainfall led to drought in Siraro), disrupting agriculture and food supplies and exacerbating conflicts.
You probably know that hunger is not about too many people and too little food. Instead, it’s about poverty and inequality. Right now, the power to control scarce resources sits neither with the billion-plus farmers who produce food, nor the billions of consumers who eat it. Governments and companies control production—and they often determine who eats and who doesn’t.
GROW is about all of us taking steps to build a better food system: One that sustainably feeds a growing population, and empowers poor people to earn a living, feed their families, and thrive. Together, we can call on governments and companies to make smarter investments in agriculture and climate preparedness, investments that protect farmers living in poor communities in the US and abroad.
We don’t have to wait until the next drought, or the next crisis, to do something about hunger. We can act now to preserve scarce resources and share them fairly, to ensure that everyone has a voice in the system, and to support the world’s billion-plus small-scale food producers — for food, fairness, and the future of our planet.
To join in, take the first step now at oxfamamerica.org/grow.
Oxfam America is an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice. Together with individuals and local groups in more than 90 countries, Oxfam saves lives, helps people overcome poverty, and fights for social justice.
Photo: Women from Ethiopia's Siraro District with some of the 200,000 tree seedlings they've planted to help protect their communities from drought. Copyright Eva-Lotta Jansson / Oxfam America.
NOTE: This is a guest post written by Anna Kramer, a writer for Oxfam America.