Throughout Africa, The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy mobilizes the population of a cluster of villages within a 10km radius to create an “epicenter,” or a center from which community-led development emanates to the surrounding areas. Through this fully integrated development strategy, community members establish and manage their own programs to address food security, nutrition, health, education, microfinance, water and sanitation. Epicenters follow four distinct phases over a period of about five to eight years on a path toward to sustainable self-reliance.
Jaldu Epicenter is currently in Phase 4, during which villagers enter their transition to self-reliance and The Hunger Project begins to withdraw financial support. The epicenter community affirms its partnerships, ensures funding streams from revenue-generating activities and begins relying on its leadership structures for future growth. Jaldu epicenter serves 33 villages with a total population of 18,500 women, men and children in the West Shoa Zone of Ethiopia.
In 2012, epicenter community partners added 2,370 kgs of grain to their community food bank, which provides reliable, pest-free storage for excess harvest and ensures the food security of villagers during the off-season.
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The Hunger Project promotes a holistic approach to food security, and many of its activities contribute to increased access to sufficient food but also improved diets, greater nutritional variety and stronger ties to local resources. For example, epicenter preschools provide hot, nutritious meals to students and epicenter rural banks offer loans and savings products that often increase the amount and quality of food at the household level. Most importantly, THP trains animators, who, with support from existing local and government institutions (farmers’ cooperatives, agricultural extension workers) hold trainings in farming technologies (row planting, field rotation), seed and soil types, and low-input yield-improving techniques (organic compost, microdose fertilizer application). The trainings take place at the epicenter demonstration farm, where crops are grown for consumption by the community and distribution to local school meal programs.
Additionally, THP implements an Agriculture Revolving Loan Fund. Through this fund, participating local farmers access seed and fertilizer loans at the start of the planting season. These loans are repaid post-harvest through in-kind reimbursement of bags of grain. This grain can then be sold at a fair price to the community over the lean season, not only improving food security but also re-capitalizing the loan fund for future lending. Lastly, THP works with each community to construct a secure and treated community food bank, which can store the harvest from the demonstration farm, reimbursements from the Agriculture Revolving Loan Fund, and even individual harvests for safe-keeping. The food bank is managed by a local Food Security Committee, which oversees the operations of the entire program; each committee is made up of equal numbers of men and women and is democratically elected by the epicenter populations.