Welcome to our blog series—At the Table: Baptist Fight Hunger!
Part 16 is by former CBF Moderator Colleen Burroughs. Burroughs is the vice president of Passport, Inc. and founder of Watering Malawi, an organization which advocates for clean water and other systemic solutions to poverty and and hunger in the southeast African nation.
By Colleen Burroughs
Where did Watering Malawi come from?
In 2005, CNN reported that five million people were at risk for hunger, starvation and death due to cyclical drought in sub-Saharan Africa. Then CBF Global Missions Coordinators Gary and Barbara Baldridge had a working partnership with World Vision. That connection was the critical key, which opened the door for Passport campers to participate in hunger relief efforts in Malawi.
Why are so many Malawians hungry?
The combination of extreme poverty and climate change in sub-Saharan Africa means that subsistence farmers, who count on the rains for their crops to grow, have no safety net when the rains do not come. In the United States, a bad growing season results in higher produce at the market. A bad growing season Malawi means there is no produce at the market
Food insecurity has long ranging effects.
Undernourishment stunts growth, physically and mentally. It saps energy and hinders fetal development. It affects people’s health, sense of hope and overall well-being. Economically, the job of finding food consumes valuable time that could be spent earning an income. Children in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia face a higher risk of dying before their fifth birthday, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Half of all US-grown produce comes from California.
It’s not because it rains there but because California can afford a multi-billion dollar irrigation system. That is not a practical solution for Malawi yet, but a sustainable solution for one farmer could be as simple as a $200 treadle pump. So, students in the United States have been raising funds in their communities since 2005 to access clean water and simple irrigation systems in Malawi.
We at Watering Malawi participate in a much bigger plan called MWASH, funding proposals with non-government organizations (NGOs) like World Vision and other smaller Christian organizations to access water in creative life-giving ways that help to alleviate symptoms of chronic hunger and extreme poverty.
We concentrate on long range sustainable solutions to food security, not immediate crisis management.
If you dig a hole and fill it up with water and fingerlings, then families can grow protein-rich fish to both eat and to sell at the market. If you teach mothers to use the run-off water from the well to grow green-leafy vegetables, then the nutrition in her children’s diet is measurably improved. Her children grow up stronger and smarter.
If you put a simple hand-washing station in a school, student illness can be reduced by half. Grades go up. If you put a bathroom in the school, then young girls are less likely to drop out one week a month, eventually falling too far behind to catch up. For every year that girl can stay in school (not having to spend the day carrying water for her family) then one day her own children are 80 percent more likely to live past the age of five.
Where is the Gospel?
Jesus said when we give cups of water to the least of these, it is like giving it to him. Malawi is a nation with many many Christians. They know Jesus and actually teach me a lot about loving-kindness and walking humbly each time I visit.
The water is working. Malawians are accomplishing the hard work of breaking the cycles of extreme poverty. The students are simply cooperating in an effort to help meet some needs of the larger body of Christ.
More good news:
Malawi’s president is strong and making courageous leadership decisions. Her country is on track to reach 4 of the 8 U.N. Millennium Development Goals.