Wednesday, November 16, 2011

To whom much is given, much is required.

(L to R) Mozart Adevu, Africa regional coordinator for UMCOR-SA&D program, June H. Kim, UMCOR’s Hunger and Poverty executive, and Isaiah Chot of Child Action Initiative, address more than 100 Kasumgami, DRC community members on the importance of growing food for themselves and the nutritional benefits of Moringa. Photo: J. Santiago/UMCOR

October 19, 2011

Traveling with UMCOR’s Sustainable Agriculture and Development (UMCOR-SA&D) staff and local partner Isaiah Chot of Child Action Initiative, to Kasungami, Democratic Republic of Congo, brought to my mind some of Jesus’ words.

In Luke 12:48, Jesus recites a parable about the Master’s return, saying, “Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.”

UMCOR staff was traveling to Kasungami to assess the needs of the community. (At the end of the assessment, it was determined that UMCOR would begin agricultural trainings there before the end of the year.)

On our drive to Kasungami, we witnessed escalating poverty from one community to another, including makeshift homes, less-than-quality foods at the markets, and visibly malnourished children. I greatly admired UMCOR for fulfilling its part in this scripture to alleviate suffering, empower communities, and provide sustainable solutions to severe malnutrition and hunger. A lot has been entrusted to UMCOR, and this visit was a reminder that many lives may be waiting to be reached with a piece of good news, as it was with Jesus in spreading the good news of the Kingdom. 

My visit to DR Congo reiterated for me the ongoing responsibility we have for knowledge-sharing. This is also the UMCOR-SA&D model, and it is embraced by UMCOR staff and passionately communicated to rural communities throughout Africa: Share what you have learned with others. The responsibility is required from each one of us.

According to a 2009 census, the population of Kasungami is 42,772. Most of the people residing in the eight villages that make up Kasungami are living in extreme poverty, and they have little or no access to adequate food supplies. Families are forced to take on various small, odd jobs to help put food on the table. Education is another luxury that cannot be afforded. School fees run about 7,000 francs (approximately $9 per child, according to Chot).

In addition, while some of the people grow vegetables like corn and beans, soybean powder is purchased from the local market as the key source of protein in their diets. We learned that most of the large families consumed about one meal a day. All cited bukari, a popular dish made of corn meal, as their main meal of the day.  Unfortunately, bukari is not enough to sustain them nutritionally.

During the assessment and introduction to Moringa, a plant that provides a nutritional supplement and a special component of UMCOR-SA&D’s work, Mozart Adevu, UMCOR-SA&D’ Africa regional coordinator, and June H. Kim, executive for UMCOR’s World Hunger and Poverty unit, charged the community to take action and ownership of agricultural training that will teach them new methods of growing quality food for themselves, with the potential for future income-generating opportunities. The challenge brought upon Kasungami, in my opinion, wasn’t just the new training provided by UMCOR, but rather the challenge to join the fight against malnutrition for themselves, and against the bigger mountain of hunger in their families’ lives that could impact future generations. 

What was required of them? In a similar vein to the Gospel, commitment, action, share what they learn, engage with others, and spread the word about adequate nutrition.

I pray that Kasungami captures the vision of health and well-being for themselves and their future generations, and that the foundation of the root causes of hunger and poverty be violently shaken through shared knowledge, community engagement, vision, and hope for a more viable, prosperous future.

Judith Santiago is the Media Communications Associate for UMCOR.

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