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Communities Nourishing Communities: We Call It Progress

Imagine if the meal you ate for lunch every day at school was made from ingredients grown only a few kilometres away. That’s the reality for Mebrat and Bizunesh, students at Harifa Chafa Primary School in Ethiopia. Their nutritious WFP school meals – a porridge made of bean and maize flour, vegetable oil, and salt – don’t just give them the energy to succeed in the classroom: most of the food is grown by farmers in their community through WFP’s Purchase for Progress programme.

You might not have known that working with small-scale farmers like those in Mebrat’s and Bizunesh’s community was such a big part of our work. WFP is known for being first on the ground with lifesaving food when emergency strikes. When most picture WFP, it’s as a truck emblazoned with our blue and white logo rambling down a twisting and turning mountain road to get food to the hungry in some of the hardest hit places on earth. We are that – and will be. Solving hunger, however, is about more than responding to emergencies: it’s about helping communities get stronger in the face of hunger and crisis.

We can’t do that without small-scale farmers. Here’s why. When we say that a farmer is “small-scale” or “small-holder,” we mean that they only grow crops on small plots of land – often just an acre of two. Somehalf of the world’s hungry live in small-scale farming communities.  In good times, they struggle to get by and when crisis hits – say a drought -- these families have no harvest, or savings to fall back on. They have nothing to live on until the next harvest. This is when extreme hunger happens.

farmers holding dried crops

If we want to help lift rural communities out of poverty and solve hunger, we can’t do it without supporting these small-scale farmers grow more, and better crops. As the world’s largest humanitarian organisation fighting hunger, we buy a lot of food every year. In 2011, we distributed 3.6 million tons of food; that weighs as much as 36 cruise ships. Our Purchase for Progress programme (P4P) works with small-scale farmers in 20 countries, many of whom are women. Our experts work with partners to help train these farmers in agricultural techniques and provide inputs that make their farms more resilient to sharp changes in climate. P4P emphasizes the importance of good quality crops and  helps  these farmers not only sell their goods to WFP but also other  reliable markets  where they can continue to sell their food long after we are gone.

It comes down to the community helping the community. Since 2010, for example, WFP has contracted over 55,000 tons of maize and haricot beans through P4P to use in all of its programs in Ethiopia. As a result, small-scale farmers in Ethiopia are achieving more than they ever thought possible. Many keep expanding the potential of their farms and learning new skills. Others still are sending their kids and grandkids to school for the first time. And for students like Mebrat and Bizunesh, it means their daily WFP school meal is made from crops purchased by WFP directly from Ethiopian farmers.

It’s not just Ethiopia, either. There are stories of hope like this growing throughout the developing world. Learn more about the 20 countrieswhere P4P is in action and see for yourself why we put progress in the name of the programme – and in our future.