On Sunday, February 24, 2008, Kyempo Partners hosted an event entitled “Unleashing the Human Spirit: A Sustainable End to Hunger” with Dr. John Coonrod, Chief Operating Officer of The Hunger Project. It was an opportunity to re-connect with the profound difference that our investment is making and to have our questions answered. Of the seventeen people in attendance, five were Kyempo partners and twelve were guests. John and D.D. Hilke pledged to become members of Kyempo Partners during the event. Welcome John and D.D.! Two others present made pledges to THP’s general fund.
All who were present are invited to share their highlights with the others in the group. I will share what stood out for me, and add to this report as the details come back to me. The things that stick in my memory are those which I wasn’t already aware of.
- Phases of Epicenters: I hadn’t realized before that Phase III – Progress on All Fronts takes two to three years. This is where the programs initiated by the epicenter community (adult literacy, credit union, farming, healthcare etc.) are really grounded in practice. This is the stage that the Kyempo Epicenter is currently in.
- Food Banks: One of the five sections of a typical L-shaped epicenter building is a food bank. Prior to John’s visit, I was not clear on how these food banks functioned. John explained that rural communities are often at the mercy of speculators who charge up to three times the normal market price for food in the weeks just prior to harvest. During this period, prized possessions might be sold in desperation at significant losses just to stave off hunger. In the weeks following the harvest, the same speculators purchase food at approximately one third the normal market price – a fluctuation of 900%! Specific policies are set by each individual epicenter, but in general epicenter food banks allow community members to make “deposits” for which they are paid a fair price, set by an epicenter committee. The food is then saved for leaner times when it is again sold for fair market prices, internally established. In this way, epicenters gain control of their own destinies and are able to steward their resources with a high degree of self-reliance.
- Collaboration with other NGOs [Anybody care to take a shot at remembering the details of the response to this question?]
- Organic agriculture Although THP’s farming programs are largely free from inputs of expensive fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, there is one exception. In Senegal, epicenters are employing microdoses of fertilizer applied with the planting of seeds. Such practices have been found to greatly enhance the survival and general health of the plants through their growing season.