This week, Ms. Evelyn Nassuna, the Uganda Country Program Director of our partners Lutheran World Relief (LWR), testified before Congress about a pending U.S. development program. In her comments, Ms. Nassuna stressed that work to support small-scale farmers is key in reducing poverty and hunger, and that the best programs are designed through consulting local communities and empowering women. She noted, “Mrs. Bisaso and Mrs. Kate did not improve their families’ livelihoods overnight, and, to be honest, they still face challenges. But they have more stable access to food than ever before, and their diets (and those of their families) continue to improve.”
The testimony Ms. Nassuna of Uganda gave in the District of Columbia mirrored the comments made by Peruvian coffee farmer Arnaldo Neira earlier in California. During an interview on KECG radio, Mr. Neira noted, “Well, we don’t only cultivate coffee, right? We also grow other products; we grow food for ourselves more than anything, and with our organized work we are trying to find the food security for the main family orchards and school orchards. This allows the diet for our children to be more balanced, and rich in vitamins. And well, we also have, apart from the growth of coffee, we also have fruit, and all mostly for self consumption – a lot of cultivation of bananas, yucca, and some beans.”
Testimony before Congress or running for office (which Mr. Neira has done) are important political acts. However, we can be mindful that although political elections occur every other year, every DAY we are voting with our dollars for the kind of economy and kind of world we want to build. With the food we buy, the donations we make, and/or the political campaigns we fund, we are electing what kind of world we want to financially support.
When we choose to vote with our dollars to support small-scale farmers and their cooperatives, magical things happen. The coffee you drink funds food security. Your cup of tea galvanizes neighbors to come together and decide, democratically, how best to invest the co-op’s earnings. The chocolate bar you melt in your ‘smore underwrites a seminar on organic production.
Reading the words of Ms. Nassuna or Mr. Neira, or hearing Mr. Del Gavillo, it is natural to want to support their work. That we have the opportunity to support, through our everyday purchases, the work of them and their neighbors is beyond fair — it is a blessing.