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Living & Learning My Africa Journey to End Hunger

Hello again... I thougth I would start to share more of my Africa story. I first arrived in Kenya in 2007 while in transit to Southern Sudan. Before Africa, I had been working on other missions including Kosovo, Jordan and Iraq in both humanitarian and commercial sectors. That's another story but my decision to work in Africa was not made lightly.

Within a year and half, I was emotionally raw and physically exhausted. During the first 6 months, my personal battle with African development models, UN agencies, defunct and ineffective NGOs, shysters had already taken its toll. I was ready to quit and crawl home. Instead I took a holiday, walked on the beach with my dog Moise and got back on the plane to Nairobi. I was simply being too ambitious. I needed to spend more time learning about the real reasons behind the food crisis in Sub Saharan Africa, design and build a more practical model. Any success was going to require baby steps. A good friend told me that NOTHING in Africa ever comes too easily and if it does, beware of doom. I love tribal wisdom!

In April 2009, I finally secured what I call my ‘wonder’ team of agriculture experts. Together we have launched the Backpack Farm (Agriculture) Program (www.Backpackfarm.com). To give you some quick background on the issue, more than 14 million people in the Horn of Africa are in need of food aid because of drought and rocketing food and fuel prices. The World Food Programme (WFP) says it urgently needs $400m (£200m) to prevent starvation in the east African region. Ethiopia is worst hit, with 10 million people – some 12% of the population – in need of extra food supplies. Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti are also affected, along with northern parts of Kenya and Uganda. More importantly, there are an estimated 80-100 million smallholder farmers in East Africa, an underutilized resource to support local, regional and export food production of which 80% is produced by women. In October 2010, Kofi Annan said, “permanent support of smallholder farmers in Africa and beyond is the key to reducing world poverty and hunger.”

In response, the Backpack Farm Agriculture Program (BPF) is packaged as an all-in-one canvas backpack packaged with all the essential agriculture inputs needed for small landholders to standardize both the quality and quantity of agriculture production during an annual growing season, to mirror semi-commercial rates of production. The backpack is a modular system customized depending on one of 10 crop sectors chosen for production packed as ¼, ½ and 1 acre units. The BPF supports multi-functional farming; with a primary goal to grow food but also to impact social, economic and ecological domains by targeting and supporting rural farming communities. Yes, we are workign with John Deere Water. Together we have launchded the most post costivie drip irrigation and water training program in Africa. East Africa suffers from consistent and devastating droughts. I know my team is having a direct impact on the conservancy of water resources.

So.... by eliminating the need for traditional fertilizers (which damage soil and water tables), and distributing a cost effective drip irrigation system supported by an amazing micro-franchise training pgroam, the Backpack Farm is working to shift how we develop rural agro economies.

I plan to support at least 1 million smallholder farmers over the next five years. For the first 2 years, I was told this program was crazy. People don't tell me I am crazy anymore. I know, believe and fight for the Backpack Farm because it represents a realistic model of food production that will result in sustainable food and economic security for both rural famers and the East African community. Solutions like the Backpack can't wait any longer and I believe now is the time for myself and other social entrepreneurs to step up and take action to end hunger!

So I think that is more than enough for now... I look forward to connecting with more of you in this network sharing personal stories, wisdom and strength.

Rachel

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