This is the last in a four-part series introducing you to our proactive, sustainable approach to ending poverty and improving lives. Our Four Pillars of international community development — Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods — comprise an 8- to 10-year integrated program that equips and empowers impoverished families and communities to achieve self-sufficiency.
Today we’ll take a look at the Livelihoods pillar, where we work toward positive, lasting change by helping parents and kids learn new and better ways to make money—because that feeds their whole future.
The fight against childhood hunger isn’t just about stopping kids’ bellies from growling. Feed the Children provides programming to help expand parents’ sources of income—from sales of small livestock, participating in savings groups, and other means—so they can provide their children with food, life essentials, and a future.
Our programs also help communities make improvements in gender equality (like helping more girls attend school and reducing domestic violence), environmental stewardship (like planting trees to reverse deforestation), and disaster risk reduction (like training community leaders to develop disaster prevention and response plans).
They say if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. At Feed the Children, we want to do both—feed kids who are hungry now and give them tools so they won’t go hungry again.
Sometimes, we actually do this with fish—like in El Salvador and the Philippines, where tilapia sells at high demand in local markets. We give families a kit with everything they need to begin the cycle of fish production, including a tilapia pond, fingerlings, and fish food, and we provide education on the best way to care for them. Raising tilapia gives the family their own nutritious food and an income.
Sometimes neighbors do this for each other. Our animal gifts—including tilapia, chickens, bees, cows, and goats—are also an incredible way for families to help strengthen their own communities through a pay-it-forward system.
And sometimes, a couple of goats help a devoted dad keep his family going.
Etani’s mother died when he was just four months old. In Malawi, it’s not uncommon for a widower to ask his relatives to keep his orphaned* children, but Etani’s dad wouldn’t have it. Maxon wanted to take full responsibility for his son.
Now 3-year-old Etani has a step-mom to help take care of him, but that’s not the only blessing that’s arrived for the little boy and his family.
When Etani was 2, he began attending a community-based childcare center, where he regularly received nutritious meals fortified with the VitaMeal we provide. But the solution to childhood hunger can’t just be to serve meals—we have to provide opportunities for families to become self-sufficient or else the cycle of poverty will continue.
And in Malawi, that’s where Feed the Children’s Tiwalere OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) project comes in. With funding from USAID, Tiwalere has multiple initiatives that build the capacity of communities and households to effectively and sustainably meet the health and nutritional needs of children under 5.
While Etani was coming to the center for meals, the staff identified him as an orphan and vulnerable child and determined that they could do more to help. They registered his household for the Tiwalere OVC project, and that has made all the difference.
Part of this project is the Goat Pass-On initiative, which promotes not only nutritional feeding in OVC households, but also increases their household income levels. And of course, it means each family gets to help others by passing on more goats!
When Tiwalere was distributing the goats, Etani’s family got two females, and one of them was already pregnant. Five months later, that goat gave birth to two female kids. Soon the other goat gave birth to a female kid, too. After one year, the first goat to deliver gave birth again, this time to two male kids.
In just one year, Etani’s family went from having hardly a thing to their name to owning 7 goats.
When the first two female kids were ready for the pass-on, another family got the same opportunity, and Etani’s family kept the other five goats. Then the growing season came. Maxon had cultivated one acre where he wanted to grow maize, a staple food in Malawi, but he didn’t have enough money to afford a bag of fertilizer. That year he didn’t benefit from the government’s subsidy program either. But Maxon had another option – he sold one of his goats to buy the fertilizer he needed.
Maxon is confident that he will harvest at least 10 bags of maize this year. And he’s overcome with joy when he looks at his field: “My children will have enough food this year—something which I have not managed to achieve in the past years—thanks to Feed the Children.”
And Etani? When he’s not playing outside with his family’s goats, he is working hard in pre-school, dreaming of being a police office er when he grows up, and staying busy just being a kid.
*Unlike in the U.S., where children are only considered orphans if both parents have died, children in Malawi who have lost one parent are considered orphans; if both parents have died, the child is called a double-orphan.