THE BLOG
16/10/2011 14:04 BST | Updated 14/12/2011 05:12 GMT

World Food Day: An Opportunity to Pause for Thought

There is a global economic crisis happening and many of us in the UK are struggling to make ends meet, so why should we help hungry Africans?

I totally understand this cynicism. When we see the images of poverty and suffering on our TV screens it's easy for fatigue to set in and criticise: "Africa's perennial begging bowl is out again!

After spending four days in Marsabit, Northern Kenya, the challenges that people face in rural Kenya were clear to me. And, the fact of the matter is: none of us here will ever come close to the level of suffering these communities experience on a day to day basis.

Marsabit is the driest region in Kenya and its population consists of mainly pastoralist communities and farmers who depend on consistent weather patterns in order to feed their animals and produce crops.

This region has received three days maximum of rain a year since 2009. The scorched red dusty earth is littered with animal carcasses and despair is etched into people's faces yet still they maintain their dignity, as surprisingly, no one begs. Perhaps they're just too exhausted and too hungry.

Farmers rely on the land to produce regular harvests and to have healthy animals. If they are all dead, they have nothing to sell. Having no animals is like having no money in your bank account. Pastoralists rely on pasture to feed their animals. No rain means no food, so people have to rely on assistance from aid agencies to address a crisis that is not of their making. Rather the reality of climate change continues to have devastating consequences in the developing world, in this case persistent drought resulting in acute water scarcity.

World Food Day is on Sunday, 16 October. For the communities in Marsabit it is a day like any other that will come and go, they will count themselves lucky if they're able to have one small meal of rice. But for us, World Food Day is an opportunity to remind ourselves that no one should have to sit and wait for weeks at a time for food or water. Donor governments must invest in small-scale, sustainable agriculture and diversified livelihoods, aimed at marginal groups, to build their resilience to recurring droughts, volatile food prices and conflict.

Aid agency Tearfund works with a local partner in Marsabit to provide water to the remote rural villages and schools. When I asked one mother in a local village how the supply of water has helped her she simply said: "We are grateful. If it wasn't for the NGOs and the government who have helped us, we would have died a long time ago."