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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Which they can take to market: The Hunger Site

Today, on Thanksgiving, I'm thinking only about food, not about patient safety. You can get food to hungry people, for free, every day. The Hunger Site, at http://www.TheHungerSite.com, enrolls advertisers who will pay for food for a starving person, in exchange for the honor of showing their ad to you briefly on the website. You can click there as often as once a day. When you click, the money generated goes directly to Mercy Corps, Feeding America, and Millennium Promise.

Here's the story of how the aid reached Zainbon in the Aceh province of Indonesia:

Zainbon is a 37-year-old rice farmer with a black baseball cap perched atop her pink headscarf. Her husband mans a desk as a temporary, low-level bureaucrat in the district transportation office nearby, but still they struggle to find the rupiahs each month to get by. She pulls at her scarf, explaining how they stretch six or seven dollars a day across the needs of cooking staples, school fees, fuel and now, in the fall planting season, fertilizer and rice seed. A Mercy Corps survey in the area recently found staple food prices climbing between ten and twenty-five percent, on top of fuel prices that jumped forty percent earlier this year.

"This is hugely important for us — the staples are rising and the salary isn't keeping pace," Zainbon says. "What about others whose husbands are just farming? They're struggling even worse."

This worldwide crisis is striking an area just starting to find its feet again after a vicious cycle of calamity. For decades, a rural separatist conflict kept many farmers out of their rice fields and fruit plantations for fear that they would be caught in the crossfire. Then in 2004, the Asian tsunami sent a wall of water up to thirty feet deep and flattened everything in the area, including the entire village of Naga Umbang.

With the houses now rebuilt, the rice paddies cleared of debris and new water buffalo roaming the yards, villagers are now teaming with Mercy Corps to strengthen their rice farming techniques and improve crop yields. And with food prices bearing down on locals, it could't come at a better time.

"We need to modernize," Zainbon said through a translator. "We're already thinking about when Mercy Corps leaves here, and this transfer of knowledge is one way we can build independence. Money from an NGO would go quickly, but knowledge and technology sticks in your mind."

The improved techniques are aimed at boosting incomes. Typically most of the rice harvest in villages like this goes to feed families. But if farmers in Naga Umbang can grow more efficiently, they will begin to see surplus rice from the same backbreaking labor they currently put into the season. And they will hopefully have the resolve to plant a second crop each year, which they can take to market in nearby cities.

Advice: Please click on The Hunger Site's "Click Here to Give – It's Free" button today, and every day. The site is run by someone I know and trust.

Thanks to the Mercy Corps for providing this story, which is reprinted here.

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