A livelihood is your way of earning enough to feed and provide for your family. It encompasses everything from your job to your healthcare, education and skills training. It also includes having the resources to pay for family events and unexpected expenses.
At Food for the Hungry ( FH), we consider a vulnerable family’s livelihood sustainable when it reduces the family’s risk of losing everything, possibly even their lives, from some kind of disaster or other unexpected event.
Since most people in developing countries live on less than $2 a day, we help families and communities diversify so they aren’t completely dependent on a single, usually fragile option. We do this by helping improve the following vital elements.
Agriculture – Most people in developing countries rely on their own farming to provide all the produce the family eats. When crop yields are high enough, agriculture also contributes to a family’s income. FH helps farmers learn improved farming techniques that use less water and improve yields. We teach impoverished communities how to use drought resistant seeds, build and use better crop storage facilities, combine farming efforts as a community, plant cash crops, and learn to process crops to sell in various local and national markets at optimum prices. Learning important agricultural practices helps improve an entire community’s food security.
Livestock – Animals also can be a source of both food and income. FH programs help communities work together to improve each family’s ability to own, raise and sell livestock. We help them identify and use stronger breeds of cattle and goats, and we help them learn improved communal rangeland management. These techniques help communities keep herds healthier so they survive and reproduce. FH also helps families earn a living by facilitating easily accessible markets to sell and transport livestock.
Natural Resource Management – Some land has been depleted over time, rendering it useless for growing food. FH works with communities to model farming methods that protect the environment so it can provide a source of food for generations to come. We also work with communities to improve natural resources such as forests, rangelands and clean water sources.
Economic Development (Savings Groups) – Saving is difficult for most of us. Even people who live on less than $2 a day can be relative big spenders or big savers. However, these vulnerable people want and need access to lump sums of money for emergencies, to take advantage of business opportunities, and to pay for life events such as weddings or funerals.
Savings groups provide vital financial services to those who have no access to formal banks. A group of 10-30 members pool their savings together and, from their savings, the group is able to give out small short-term loans to members. These loans can be used for household and business needs – as decided by the group. At the end of the year, each member receives their savings plus a portion of the interest made on the group loans. The groups, which are like very small informal credit unions, also provide important support through the relationships and trust built as a group.
Members have used their savings to expand agricultural production and their small businesses, send children to school, replace grass roofs with tin ones, and make other household improvements. One saving group member in Mozambique remarked, “Savings groups have brought us life.”
If this sounds like something you’d like to help with, learn more at fh.org.