Addressing Hunger and Hypocrisy Starts at East Washington and Pepper

2 mins read
Two women with food sacks on their heads standing in front of a building

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan complained to the media last week that he was uncomfortable with “LGBT colors” displayed at the United Nations, decorated with bright icons promoting the organization’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals color wheel logo that irritated Tayyip Erdogan. Courtesy: United Nations

U.N. diplomats dryly suggested Erdogan might have confused the 17 SDG colors displayed in U.N. headquarters with the Pride colors associated with LGBTQ rights.

Meanwhile that same week, according to the New York Times, approximately 90,000 children worldwide under the age of five died…mostly of preventable causes including hunger.

In what Nicholas Kristof of the N.Y. Times termed “an annual orgy of hypocrisy,” genial steak dinners capped the evenings after U.N. General Assembly speeches. Elsewhere, 148 million children will be stunted from malnutrition for the rest of their lives.

The SDG, adopted by world leaders in 2015 with a deadline of 2030, are a global “to-do” list that includes battling climate change, wiping out hunger and extreme poverty. But halfway through the implementation timeline toward “zero hunger” and “no poverty,” the international community is prepared to kick the mostly empty funding can down the road yet again.

Followed by cocktails.

“I’ve watched too many NGO’s fail to become sustainable in places like East Africa,” says Kimmit Haggins, a construction company owner and Executive Director of Pasadena-based New Dawn Ministries. “Based upon experience, Africans think there are too many hidden agendas, which results in a distrust of the motivations of foreigners.”

“I’ve watched too many NGO’s fail to become sustainable in places like East Africa.”

Kimmit Haggins

“For example,” says Haggins, “Western companies come into East Africa to buy agricultural products, then basically turn them into junk food for sale in the U.S.” Haggins points to how U.S.-based food companies insist that natural African farm products like cashews must have a variety of artificial flavorings added to accommodate American tastes.

“They also don’t understand Bantu culture,” continues Haggins. “International corporations tell local people they want things done their way or the highway, and that’s simply not realistic.”

Haggins takes a more pragmatic approach than U.N. delegates or Western agricultural monopolies regarding largely unfunded sustainability initiatives. He brings his construction company experience to his own SDG projects in Tanzania, Malawi and other African nations.

A group of people posing for the camera
Kimmit Haggins (center) in Tanzania with local officials. Photo: Kimmit Haggins

Success for Haggins is about addressing hunger by developing small-scale farming infrastructures — especially water projects — for growing marketable crops like Tanzanian peaberry coffee. Frequently, these products are sold directly to U.S. retailers, circumventing traditional wholesale distribution channels demanding impossibly huge production quotas.

Meanwhile, Haggins organizes local non-profit donation events to fill empty shipping containers for the return portion of the trade route to locations like Tanzania where he’s facilitating water drilling projects.

During the final two weeks in October, Haggins’ latest donation event is at St. James United Methodist Church, on Washington Boulevard at Pepper Drive in East Pasadena. Tax-deductible donations can include everything from lightly used clothing, household goods, working appliances, school supplies and computer equipment to small tractors and backhoes.

In the words of the N.Y. Times’ Kristof, “It’s maddening to see leaders proclaiming in ringing tones their passion for humanitarian goals that they don’t actually work to achieve.”

Fortunately, most Pasadena-area residents, unlike some U.N. delegates, understand that bright colors on flags aren’t a threat to anyone.

If asked, many here may also agree that realistic sustainable economic action on an interdependent planet should come before cocktails.

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Phil Hopkins

Phil is the Associate Publisher of Local News Pasadena. He is a 35-year resident of the city and his favorite local delicacy is the Combo Grinder at Connal's.
Email: [email protected]

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