Running their own lives

September 15, 2017
A woman sells smoked fish at a market in San Pedro, Côte d'Ivoire. UN Photo / Ky Chung

By Michele Learner

Rebuilding devastated communities for resilience also means strengthening governments so that they can meet the needs of their people. “That's an important dimension of [our] work. We do work closely with governments to ensure that they're providing the services that are ultimately required,” Michelle Nunn, chief executive officer of CARE USA says in a video, “Rebuilding for Resilience“.

Ultimately, governments and development agencies must ensure that families have ways of supporting themselves. Not just one, but several options. Nunn mentions, for example, a CARE program for smallholder women farmers in Ethiopia that trains and supports participants in cultivating honey and crops that are more resistant to drought. It also models how to start a group savings program that can provide credit for members to start their own businesses.

In Niger, a few dozen women started a similar lending program, Village Savings and Loan, 25 years ago.  “It’s grown to now 400,000 women in Niger,” Nunn says, “and half of the women that are elected to political office have been a participant in this program. That's the kind of long-term change that we're looking for.”

Ultimately, what enables countries to recover from hunger emergencies and famines, is the strength and perseverance of individuals, families, and communities. All over the world, most people, but particularly those who have survived severe hardship, will seize opportunities to improve their lives and “run with them.”

Nunn mentions a number of particularly determined people who were born in absolute poverty, but have nonetheless made a better life for themselves and in improving the lives of people around them.

One of these people is Salamatu, who lives in Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa. She is from a poor rural family. At the age of 13 she was married to a man over 60. She had four children by the time she was 20. Nunn recalls, “she did not have enough to eat any day of her life, and she had one outfit that she would wash and wear wet the next day.”

Salamatu joined a village savings and loan program that CARE staff mentioned to her, and she soon started a very small business selling salt. Over time, she expanded her business into one that generates enough money to support herself and her children, and to send them to school. But beyond this, Salamatu went on to help start 3,000 additional savings and loan programs in Cote d’Ivoire.

“Think about the impact that Salamatu has had with just a tiny bit of support,” Nunn says. “I take heart in the belief that we have extraordinary people with resilience and strength around the world who, with a little bit of help, can become force multipliers.”

The world in 2017 is facing unprecedented numbers of people at risk of starvation, forced from their homes and farms, or both — at least 81 million, including millions in four countries facing the worst famines since World War II. Without question, the global community must respond to deaths and suffering on such an unimaginable scale — and prevent such catastrophes in the future.

Can we? Nunn is unequivocal: “We have the capacity to multiply our impact to realize the scale that's before us in terms of ending hunger, and we can do it with the right investments and with the will.”

Michele Learner is associate editor with Bread for the World Institute.

What enables countries to recover from crises is the strength and perseverance of individuals and communities.

from our Resource Library

For Education

  • Election Resources

    One of the best times to raise the issues of hunger and poverty is during election campaigns. Engage candidates in your state/district on hunger and poverty using our elections resources.
  • U.S. Hunger and Poverty State Fact Sheets

    These fact sheets provide a snapshot of hunger and poverty in the United States and in each state plus Washington, D.C. 

  • Conflict and Fragility Are Hunger Issues

     Conflict is a main driver of the recent increase in hunger around the world and of forced migration. Hunger also contributes to conflict. 

For Faith

  • Unity Declaration on Racism and Poverty

    A diverse body of Christian leaders calls on the churches and Congress to focus on the integral connection.

    Dear Members of Congress,

    As the president and Congress are preparing their plans for this year, almost 100 church leaders—from all the families of U.S. Christianity—are...

  • In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional for Public Policy Engagement

    This devotional guide invites deepened relationship with and among Pan-Af­rican people and elected leaders in the mission to end hunger and poverty.

  • Sermon by David Beckmann at Duke University Chapel

    Remarks delivered October 1, 2017 at Duke University Chapel in Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

    Thank you for inviting me to preach here at Duke University Chapel. And I especially want to thank the Bread for the World members who have come this morning.

    Bruce Puckett urged...

For Advocacy

  • Fact Sheet: Why We Need $200 Million for Global Nutrition Programs

    Bread for the World and its partners are asking Congress to provide $200 million for global nutrition in the fiscal year 2020 budget. 

  • Fact Sheet: Hunger by the Numbers

    In 2017, 11.8 percent of households in the U.S.—40 million people—were food-insecure, meaning that they were unsure at some point during the year about how they would provide for their next meal.

  • Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017

    Unnecessarily long prison sentences, combined with the lack of rehabilitative programs for people in prison, exacerbate hunger, poverty, and existing inequalities.

    Overly harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences have contributed to the rapid increase of our country’s prison population. The...


African at Heart

November 22, 2019


The Africa they want

February 21, 2020

From the Blog