The ECHO East Africa Impact Center seeks to extend the services of ECHO to help those working with the poor in Africa to be more effective, especially in the area of agriculture. The ECHO East Africa Impact Center functions primarily as a technical support organization helping community development organizations and workers operate more effectively.
Why East Africa?
Over the past decade, food insecurity has increased for East Africa's rapidly growing population, expected to increase 150% by 2050. This will require higher food production yet it has been declining over the last 40 years. Africa is a net importer of food. Hunger has increased with over 40% of its children malnourished. A large number of these are orphans and vulnerable children who rely on economically stretched extended families. A majority of the rural population live in poverty and rely on subsistence lifestyles. The causes of this situation include:
- inappropriate, conventional extension approaches promoting high external input farming practices unaffordable to the poor, and which have not availed surpluses for urban production nor sustained smallholder rural families with nutritious produce throughout the year
- a high percentage of food produced is lost before consumption
- poorly developed markets, value chains and infrastructures
- few farmers and fewer pastoralists in the region have access to agricultural extension, continuing education or access to formal credit
- communities in many areas have become highly dependent upon food distributions
- in pastoralist areas, the mostly illiterate population seeks barriers against rustling and wild predators, disease among their livestock, and land alienation to agriculturalists
- increased land pressure forcing families to cultivate marginal, erosive lands, with resultant environmental degradation and unsustainable food production
- recurring drought particularly in drier pastoralist areas. Rainfall patterns have become more concentrated within fewer months, forcing community members to try earlier maturing crops and strategies to harvest water at home and in fields.
The public and private sector including non-government organizations in each country in the region seek to provide alternatives and opportunities for small farmers to increase the availability and consumption of locally produced food. ECHO has an unique role to play to guide these stakeholders, because
- ECHO emphasizes regenerative methods which require low external inputs, enhance the environment through conservation field practices, and increase yields in dry years while improving soil fertility and water retention
- ECHO emphasizes self-reliance, low waste and optimizing utility
- ECHO promotes alternative technologies such as improved food storage, solar processing, water harvesting, use of food sources from the wild, vaccinations to reduce losses of livestock and poultry. These interventions can help buffer the effects of drought and reduce drudgery especially for women.
- ECHO offers responses which are realistic, appropriate and within the reach of the poor.
ECHO East Africa Annual Report 2013