"Africa is the only continent not able to feed itself," said Dr. Fanuel Tagwira, interim chancellor of Africa University at Old Mutare, Zimbabwe. Poverty, hunger, malnutrition and deadly diseases are wide spread.

Food aid helps but at best is a stopgap effort, which can only help for a very short time. When 70 to 90 percent of the farmers in African countries are small subsistence households simply trying to survive, the future is dim. However there is hope. Many organizations are beginning to expand efforts to develop longer run solutions designed to tackle the root problems of low agricultural productivity and malnutrition.

United Methodist-related Africa University is committed to establishing a Small Farm Resource Center, which will become a focus of its agricultural and nutritional outreach efforts. The center's focus will be developing and disseminating new crops and new farming practices, as well as introducing new foods that will substantially improve the nutritional value of their diets.

The goal will be to increase the productivity of the small farmers and to introduce new crops that have the potential to reduce malnutrition. It has been effectively demonstrated on a small scale. For some, the new crops also can become a major source of income for the family.

Example for students

Africa University serves students from over 20 countries on the African continent. The center will be a laboratory for many of these students to see, by example, how they can duplicate the effort when they return to their native countries. Training programs for governmental and non-governmental organizations involved in agriculture and nutrition also will be an important way of multiplying the university's direct efforts. University outreach efforts like these are common in the United States but are not widely practiced in most of the rest of the world.

Seeds of Hope

There are a number of ways people can become involved in contributing to the Seeds of Hope funding campaign. Simply making a financial contribution is of course the easiest. Organizing a fund-raiser can be fun and effective.

For farmers who wish to help, Indiana supporters seek to identify farmers willing to donate a portion of their soybean harvest, maybe an acre, five acres or more. If they wish to participate, a seed company and a fertilizer company have offered to donate seeds and fertilizer. In addition, a Foundation has offered to match the harvest donation, dollar for dollar. You provide the land and labor and receive a tax write off.

If you, or a group to which you belong, or maybe a children's Sunday school class likes to bake, amaranth flour and the necessary recipes can be provided for a full meal, cookies, pancakes or a variety of choices. These can be sold and the proceeds donated.

Amaranth

Amaranth is one of the recently recognized nutritional seed crops being introduced in several African countries including Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The food value of amaranth is very well established and has shown to have a significant ability to strengthen the immune system of malnourished individuals. This in turn can reduce illnesses, especially in children, and can significantly reduce the symptoms of aids. A milk substitute has allowed mothers that are HIV positive to stop breast-feeding much earlier, thereby substantially reducing the possibility of the child becoming HIV positive.

For more information, contact one of the following members of the North Indiana Conference Committee on Africa University.

Indiana supporters seek to identify farmers willing to donate a portion of their soybean harvest.