Today is World Environment Day. It’s a time when the United Nations encourages you and me to get out and enjoy nature. The UN hopes this inspires us all to protect the planet we share.
In my work with Food for the Hungry, I’ve seen that both protecting the environment and enjoying it are vital to the survival and development of individuals, families, communities and economies. Let me illustrate by explaining the holistic impact of environmental protect in the life of a mother in the Marsabit area of northern Kenya.
Meet Halima: An Environmental Protection Success Story
As pastoralists, Halima’s family roamed from place to place to find pasture and water for their livestock. Since owning many animals was a status symbol, people here rarely sold their livestock. Herding defined these families for centuries.
But, when drought hit northern Kenya, pastoralists suffered. Families had to walk farther and farther to find the pasture and water their animals required. When they did find a precious water source, fights often erupted between competing herders from different regions.
Children suffered the most. They were tired and hungry. They couldn’t attend school. Health facilities were sparse.
Providing a Permanent Home
Then Food for the Hungry stepped in to help stabilize the livestock market. We helped to build a modern road that linked the area to other parts of the country. We also helped to construct the Merille Livestock Market, along with schools and health facilities.
This alone attracted more people to Halima’s community. With FH’s help, Halima and her children could stay behind when Halima’s husband Mirgichan left with the herd.
For the first time, Halima hoped her children could attend school. But she had to find a way to support herself and her children while Mirgichan was away.
Water Still a Problem
Her answer was to open a food stall in the marketplace. She got up early on market days to walk more than two miles to a shallow well to collect enough water to make the food she sold. To minimize trips, she also collected enough for her family’s daily needs—cooking, cleaning, drinking and hygiene.
Unfortunately, the community shared the water source with animals.
When Halima’s customers complained about an unpleasant taste in her food, she attributed it to the contaminated water she hauled home each day. She couldn’t walk any farther, so she bought fresh water from vendors. With the high price the water vendors charged, her business became unsustainable.
She couldn’t keep her family well fed, pay for school fees, or get health care when her children needed it.
But another Food for the Hungry program solved her problem.
Kenya Resilient Arid Lands Partnership for Integrated Development (KENYA RAPID) supports sustainable and resilient livelihoods in the country’s arid and semi-arid lands by improving water availability and water service delivery to people and livestock. It also improves hygiene and sanitation practices, along with rangeland management.
Because of this program, Halima now has clean, safe and affordable water. And because rainwater is now collected, the area is more resilient when droughts occur.
“My customers and income have increased,” Halima says. “Expenses on water have reduced. My children no longer have to help me fetch water, so they can focus on their education. I would like to thank FH for making water accessible and boosting my food retail business.”
Flowers of Hope
During one of my recent visits to the area, I noticed that people planted flowers. They wanted their children to appreciate and value the beauty of nature. They felt good about themselves because they had the skills and resources to contribute to beauty.
Flowers were the outward manifestation of an inward change brought on by appreciating, valuing and protecting the environment.
Not only do people in this area now have a stable livestock market to increase their income, they also have found dignity. Their flowers are a symbol of that.
Protection From Drought
You may have heard about the debilitating drought that has struck Africa. As a result, the UN recently reported that several areas are now experiencing drought. It is estimated that some 20 million people’s lives are at risk due to famine.
FH programs often protect people in times of drought. When we teach people how to conserve and care for the environment, we also teach many how to collect and store rainwater for times when the rains don’t come.
You can help Food for the Hungry provide more of these kinds of projects. Your generous donation now can help people like Halima and her children get beyond just surviving from day to day.