Lent Appeal 2022: Getting food on the table

27 February 2022

Amie in Sierra Leone cooking

Amie does everything she can to make sure there’s enough good, healthy food on the table throughout the year.

Amie and her daughter Lombeh will tell you that getting enough food all year round is much more difficult than you think.

If you spent time in their community, you would quickly realise just how much skill, planning, knowledge and strength it takes to get enough to eat.

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How to survive the ‘hungry season’

The hungry season affects Lombeh, Amie, their neighbours and millions of people around the world. It’s a critical time before the harvest when food is still growing in the ground, but stores are running low.

If you spend time in the community, Amie will help you to stay alive during the hungry season, but you have to listen and learn from her about how to plan, strategise and organise. These are complex skills for coping and adapting that have been handed down through generations.

Amie works out, who needs food most? Older people. Sick people. Babies. She will ration the food. Her neighbours might have stores of dried grains that they know how to keep safe and clean from animals and pests. They might share these if they can.

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Coping with food shortages

You all have to look out for each other and come together as a community. Share what you have when someone really needs it – as Lombeh will tell you – and you’ll all be ready to farm next year. If you don’t help your neighbour, who will help you when you need it?

If things get very serious, Amie might reduce the number of meals the family has. It’s a critical balancing act.

The hungry season shows how much strength, forethought and planning people need to make it through to a harvest. It also shines a light on the bigger food problems affecting Lombeh’s family and millions like hers.

Lombeh with her elder sister and brother, standing in front of their parents.

Amie and Borbor did all they could to help Lombeh (left) when she became malnourished as a baby.

Food shortages and food prices

We don’t see the hungry season in the UK, because our supermarket shelves are full of produce throughout the year, imported from around the world. But families like Amie’s do not have access to this global bounty. They can’t afford to buy food at the local market during the hungry season.

When goods are scarce, like in the hungry season, prices go up. Families see prices of staples increase when they are most in demand. And staple foods like rice, sugar and oil are traded on global markets, with prices set by global commodity traders.

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This means people like Amie have little control over the price they have to pay in the local market, or over the price they can sell their produce at after harvest.

They have to accept the price paid to them for their produce by local traders. They have no power to set the price themselves and can’t earn enough from selling their produce to buy what they need when they are waiting for their own crops to be ready to eat.

Getting food to the market

Lombeh’s community is a long way from a road, and farmers have to rely on a local trader, who buys their crops and takes them to market. If this trader doesn’t come when they promise, their crops can go to waste on the roadside.

These are just some of the wider problems that can weigh against people’s ability to cope throughout the year.

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