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Reason to Hope in the Fight Against Hunger

Ethiopia, Africa

Concrete examples of development — like smart agriculture, modern tech, and efficient stoves — show how smart development aid produces not dependence, but independence.

Complete Video Script

This program is about how those in extreme poverty — the poorest of the poor — are improving their lives by addressing very basic needs. Progress is incremental. And it happens with a combined and coordinated effort: smart nongovernmental organizations (or "NGOs"), the support of local governments, development aid and fair-trade policies from wealthy countries, and most of all hard-working local people.

In Ethiopia, Abadi and his family are a good example. While still poor, they have a more modern home, and are actually making progress. Abadi explained how he's running a productive small farm, growing enough for his family needs with a surplus to sell.

He showed me how a tank he fills with manure produces fertilizer. At the same time, it generates methane (or "biogas"). Abadi can now fire up his stove and boil water without using firewood. He has light even after the sun goes down. His home is spacious, with windows for ventilation and a sturdy tin roof.

The old kerosene lamp grows dusty as this light is now powered by a solar panel. And the same panel provides enough juice to charge their cell phones. The family has worked hard and has enough food stored to get them, hopefully, through the hunger season. And a few sheep share the courtyard…until they're sold at the market to boost the family income.

Here in the highlands of Guatemala, an indigenous Mayan couple, Diego and Catarina, while still poor, are also gaining modest and dignified lives.

They told me how, unlike their parents, they were able to buy their land and have diversified their sources of income: growing more crops than just corn and raising goats. An NGO from the United States helped them become landowners — providing a loan and a lawyer to get firm title.

When asked how this house was better than their last, Diego showed us their concrete floor, electricity, a bedroom for the children, and running water. And their kitchen has an elevated stove equipped with a chimney.

Around the world, great strides in fighting poverty are being made with simple technical upgrades — for example, smarter stoves. Less fortunate neighbors still have an open fire on the floor — wasting firewood and filling their family's lungs with smoke. Elevated stoves with chimneys allow women to stand rather than squat, are more fuel-efficient — saving lots of trees, and make living quarters less smoky — avoiding lots of respiratory disease.

Families like those we visited have worked hard. They've been provided not with charity but with a path to development, and they seem to be flourishing.

Charity is important for emergencies. But development aid is for the future. Today's development aid is smart. Rather than dependence, it creates independence. It breaks the cycle of poverty, connects people to markets, and opens the door to the benefits of capitalism.