Together with the newly formed Canadian Foodgrains Bank, World Renew sent $619,000 worth of money and food to twenty countries affected by disaster that year – a major increase over its previous disaster response budgets.
One of those countries was Kenya. In 1984, Kenya had experienced a severe drought that left thousands of families at risk of hunger, malnutrition and starvation. World Renew responded with $9,000 worth of food aid. This was the first time the organization had worked in that country.
The following year, it provided seeds to 5,200 families on time to take advantage of the mid-March rains so that farmers could once again provide for their families on their own.
For the nearly 30 years since these first interventions, World Renew has continued its presence and programming in Kenya. While this started with food aid and seed distribution in the early 1980’s, it also included long-term community programs aimed at helping people become self-sufficient. In 1985, for example, World Renew helped the Redeemed Gospel Church sponsor five business groups in the hopes of increasing incomes for 125 families.
Today, World Renew works alongside the Anglican Church of Kenya and the Reformed Church of East Africa to help Kenyan communities reduce poverty, increase health standards, train church leaders, address HIV and AIDS, and increase family incomes through small business and agricultural training. Last year, these programs helped 4,552 people in 29 communities.
But while these long-term programs are making real and lasting changes in lives of Kenyan people and their communities, the work is frequently set back by disasters. Droughts are common in the region, and all too often these periods of too-little rainfall are followed by seasons of flash flooding that further devastate the subsistence farmers living on the land. Tensions between tribes, religious groups, and other factions of society have also caused many instances of violence and unrest. As a result, thousands of Kenyan families have been forced to flee from their homes on several occasions.
"There is a realization that disaster response programs and long-term development projects need to work in collaboration with each other. Only by leveraging each of these programs, will it be possible to overcome many of the chronic issues facing the region."
Over the past three decades, World Renew has responded to these crises in Kenya each time they have arisen. This has gained the organization a reputation for its consistent presence, its effective and efficient use of funds, and its willingness to be there to provide assistance wherever it is most needed.
“There is a rich dialogue in Kenya about linking disaster response to long term development,” said Jacqueline Koster, Disaster Response and Preparedness Manager for World Renew in East and Southern Africa. “While this is the case in many regions where World Renew works, it is more prevalent in Eastern Africa because of the repetitive nature of disasters experienced here. There is a realization that disaster response programs and long-term development projects need to work in collaboration with each other. Only by leveraging each of these programs, will it be possible to overcome many of the chronic issues facing the region.”
Fred Witteveen, Country Consultant for World Renew in Kenya, agrees. “The more linking and leveraging there is between programs, the more enduring the outcomes will be,” he said.
This is exactly what World Renew has been doing. While in years past, World Renew would respond to crisis situations by primarily providing food assistance or other emergency supplies, it now combines these efforts with disaster risk reduction training, health promotion, conflict prevention, leadership coaching and food security programs.
Last year, for example, a severe drought once again plagued the region. This “East Africa drought” was considered to be the worst drought in 60 years and affected more than 13 million people. Through generous donations from individuals and churches and through partnerships with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, World Renew raised over $10.2 million to respond to this new crisis.
In July 2011, World Renew began monthly distributions of urgently needed food and water, as well as feed for livestock. At the same time, a Disaster Risk Reduction specialist went to communities and worked with farmers to introduce new drought-resistant crop varieties. He also provided tools, seeds, and training on new agricultural techniques that could be used to reduce risks of floods or famine.
Several food assistance projects were also carried out as “food for work” or “cash for assets” initiatives where community members would build a water pan or contribute to other community improvements in exchange for food and/or cash. As a result, communities now have better access to sources of clean water.
“World Renew hopes that, by taking a more long-term approach to disaster response and by promoting rehabilitation, disaster mitigation and development, the need for direct assistance will be reduced in these vulnerable areas,” said Koster.