about the author
Snr. Public Affairs Officer
Peter Smerdon was a foreign correspondent for 20 years, mainly with Reuters in Africa and the Middle East.
WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran promised during a visit to the village of Ruhiira to double the amount of food that WFP buys from local women farmers. The beans produced in this southern village -- part of the Millennium Village Project -- go to feed hungry children in the north.
RUHIIRA, Uganda – WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran pledged at the weekend to double the amount of food that the organization buys from women farmers in the Millennium Village of Ruhiira, where a strategic, integrated approach to rural development is already changing lives.
On the third leg of a four-nation African trip, Sheeran toured Ruhiira village with Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who heads the Millennium Villages Project and is director of the Earth Institute at Colombia University.
“I came here first because I heard about the transformation and revolution of hope in this community with your partnership with the Millennium Villages and Ruhiira," Sheeran told a cheering crowd at a Women’s Association which sells beans and maize to WFP.
Beans for hungry children
“When people are in trouble, where does WFP get the food to help them?” Sheeran said. “These beans from Ruhiira are going to help very hungry children in Karamoja. These are beans of hope.” Ruhiira is in Southwest Uganda and drought-stricken Karamoja is in the Northeast.
“Today in all the places WFP works in the world, Uganda is our number one purchase market,” Sheeran said. “We look forward to purchasing more here, to working and supporting your community-based school feeding programme and to our deepening and strengthening partnership.” WFP bought close to 120,000 metric tons of food worth more than US$50 million locally in Uganda in 2009.
Sheeran pledged that WFP would at least double the amount of food it purchases from Ruhiira next year. The women’s association, using a new warehouse storing food in WFP-marked bags, has sold 250 metric tons of beans and maize this year to WFP’s Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative, which aims to give smallholder farmers better access to markets.
Millennium Development Goals
The goal of the Millennium Villages Project is to show how an integrated approach to community-level development can translate the Millennium Development Goals into ground-level breakthroughs in sub-Saharan Africa. Villages are in poor rural areas that are considered hunger hotspots with at least 20 percent of children malnourished.
Sachs, who praised WFP’s leadership in transforming people’s lives through its new, empowering tools to fight hunger, said that the main focus of the next five-year phase of the project at Ruhiira would be to increase business investment in the communityto raise the value-added of crops and encourage crop diversification. At the same time work would continue to improve infrastructure such as power and water.
Before becoming a Millennium village in 2005, more than 90 percent of the 50,000 people in the hilly Ruhiira area survived on subsistence agriculture and more than half of children under five years of age were chronically malnourished or stunted. There was no space to store any surplus harvest and the nearest market was 15 kilometres away.
“What you are doing is known all over the world,” said Sachs. “People are inspired by the progress Ruhiira is making. I want you to keep inspiring the world ... When 2015 comes, you will have shown the world how this community achieved all the Millennium Development Goals.”