Eight famine busters help save children’s lives in East Africa

World Vision’s famine mitigation techniques helped ensure that none of the almost 250,000 sponsored children in the Horn of Africa died from famine last year, even though many live in the most severely affected regions.

By James Addis. Photo by Lucy Murunga.
Published April 5, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

Weather forecasting services in Kenya and Ethiopia suggest “below normal,” “poorly distributed,” and “erratic” rainfall in the coming months. It’s troubling news for countries seeking to recover from last year’s crippling drought — the worst in 60 years — that left 13 million people hungry in the Horn of Africa.

But introducing new approaches and the right agricultural techniques to the region have proven to substantially mitigate and sometimes even eliminate the effects of poor weather.

Such approaches are commonly applied in World Vision child-sponsor-funded development programs. They helped ensure that none of the almost 250,000 sponsored children in the Horn of Africa died from famine last year, even though many live in the most severely affected regions.

World Vision is now applying most of these techniques in West Africa, where as many as 15 million people spread across the region are either already facing desperate food shortages or are in imminent danger of them.

World Vision’s top famine-busting techniques 


Flashes of heavy rainfall do occur in arid regions in the Horn. This water can be captured using pans or retention ditches. Other approaches include “Zai pits.” These pits are two feet deep, lined with dry grass, filled with manure and top soil, and ready for planting. The pits retain water for longer periods and facilitate healthy crop growth.


Irrigation makes effective use of available water by channeling it toward thirsty crops. In addition to providing effective watering, farmers no longer have to spend long hours fetching and applying water.


Trees retain moisture and nutrients in the soil and inhibit soil erosion. By planting trees, barren landscapes can be turned green and used for planting and grazing.


World Vision promotes crops that survive even when rainfall is limited, such as sorghum, millet, cowpeas, pigeon peas, cassava, and sweet potato.


Fruit trees are often drought-tolerant, especially if grown in conjunction with rainwater harvesting technologies. World Vision promotes mangoes, citrus, papayas, and assorted native fruits.


No rain or land is required to produce mushrooms, as they can be grown indoors. Mushrooms are a good source of nutrition and can be sold for income.


Greenhouses allow for high yields from small plots of land and can make efficient use of limited water through drip-irrigation systems.


Goats can survive harsh conditions. World Vision is introducing larger breeds, which supply more meat and milk and attract higher prices.

How you can help

Thank God for the coping mechanisms available to help children and families survive drought and famine, and pray that these tools and techniques would become increasingly available in drought-prone regions.

Sponsor a child today. During times of crisis, like the recent drought in the Horn of Africa and the escalating food crisis in West Africa, sponsorship helps provide an extra safety net for a child, family, and entire community, while devising long-term sustainable solutions to fight poverty.

Give a gift from the World Vision Gift Catalog this Easter. Gifts like goats help lift families out of poverty by providing them with a source of nutrition, income, and the means to keep their children in school.