It was almost four decades ago that I (Dale) came face to face with real poverty – the mind-numbing kind. I was just in my late teens, and it had a strong impact on me. A good part of the next 30 years of my life were spent trying to figure out how to make a difference in developing countries.
I remember sitting in the international airport at Port-au-Prince, Haiti, watching individuals who I knew were bringing lots of money into the country to help the poor, and yet after many years of financial assistance, change was nowhere in sight. Hope in my eyes was almost gone.
Something changed a few years ago, when Linda, my wife, and I decided to try an experiment. In 2004, the same year we witnessed the orphan pandemic in Malawi, Africa, my wife created a company that distributed products to health stores across Canada. Initially the proceeds from the company‘s sales provided funding to build orphanages and schools in different parts of Africa. However, as we traveled around that continent, we kept running into the reality that very few people were growing their own food. It just didn’t sit right with us. The fertile soil in Kenya can grow anything, and yet we discovered that this country, which is the most affluent in the area, was now importing 80% of its food. This was primarily due to rising costs for fuel and fertilizer.
Shortly after discovering these facts, we came across one of Africa‘s best-kept secrets, Manor House Agricultural Center in west Kenya. This school teaches students to make their own organic fertilizer and pesticides and to save their own seeds. Once tools, fencing, seeds and watering equipment are bought, people can grow their own amazing organic food year after year at no additional cost.
Ecology Action, an American organization, helped to start the agricultural centre some 20 years ago by training them in one of the most sustainable and reproducible forms of organic farming. Their material called Grow Biointensive has now been taught in over 140 countries. It dawned on us that we could hire graduates from Manor House to train orphanage staff and community groups to grow life-giving organic food. That was the beginning of Organics 4 Orphans.
Right after that, we found what we feel is Africa‘s second-best-kept secret, Anamed International. This group originated in Germany, and for over 20 years has been studying African indigenous plants with strong medicinal properties. Their five-day courses for communities provide the knowledge people need for natural disease prevention and treatment.
Our game plan with community groups and orphanages is to show them how to create food security the first year, provide nutritional training the second year, educate them about disease prevention the third year, and then have them produce enough food so that income can be created in the fourth year. This is what we call GROWING HEALTH.
We believe it is possible to accomplish all four objectives for pennies a day per person because there is so much life and health in plants and soils. In our opinion, the principles of GROWING HEALTH represent the only hope that one-sixth of the world has.