From the desk of executive director Andy Harrington

Tuesday, October 04, 2022
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This trip showed me the reality of both heartache and hope.

Andy Harrington, Foodgrains Bank executive director

Beteset – in Amharic, it means “we are family”.

I heard this phrase when I visited Ethiopia to see how some of our members, partners, and the people we serve are dealing with the extraordinary hunger crisis that is exploding around the world.

And it is exploding, with up to 828 million people in severe hunger globally and nearly 50 million in or on the brink of famine. In Ethiopia itself, over 7 million people are acutely food insecure due to the cascading crises of conflict, economic disruptions and climate change that has caused a three-year drought, unprecedented in its length.

We can get lost in those numbers, overwhelmed with the magnitude of a crisis that is affecting more than 22 times the population of Canada. Yet, we simply must remember that those are not just numbers on a page. They are real people. They are family. Beteset.

People like Tadelech Fanta, who I met at an emergency food distribution in Wolaita, run by Terepeza Development Association (TDA), a partner with our member Tearfund Canada. As hundreds of families received a month’s supply of beans, flour and cooking oil, Tadelech told us how the harvest had failed due to the drought, and that her children were missing meals. Now with the support of Foodgrains and funding from the Canadian government as well as generous donors, her family’s needs are being met. The sincere thanks she expressed deeply moved all of us who were listening.

Tadelech Fanta picks up her food at the distribution in Wolaita district. (Photo: Kebede Workineh)

People like Meseret, who through training from TDA has adopted conservation agriculture principles and in just 12 months has seen transformation in her harvest yields, meaning that she can feed her family and others in the wider community. Her joy was contagious as she showed us the results.

Meseret lives in an area where there is a little more rainfall due to the geography, but sadly, just 80 kilometers away, we saw the impacts the drought is having on projects that had previously been successful, but now had much of their crop of maize withered in the ground. The participants are showing resilience and getting by thanks to the inputs and training over the last few years, but the going is tough.

Meseret shares the impact of the program on her family over lunch with TDA and Foodgrains Bank staff after giving a tour of her farm. (Photo: Kebede Workineh)

This trip showed me the reality of both heartache and hope. I believe that we can build a more sustainable future and a world without hunger, but to do that will take all of us, working together, committed to come alongside those who are hungry.

That’s why the word beteset is so important in this challenging time. Because we are family, all made in the image of God and called to love our neighbour as ourselves. When one suffers, we all suffer, and when one sees success, we all rejoice. May we live in and work towards hope, not despair, inspired to work for a better tomorrow for our family around the world.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2022 edition of Breaking Bread. Download your copy here.

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