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March 6 2012 | ROME, ITALY

Humanitarian Emergency in the Horn of Africa

Sant'Egidio and Confagricoltura: The civil society does not forget "the crisis of the others" and realizes a synergy for a strong commitment of international solidarity

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Looking Beyond the Crisis

Why sign an agreement to help Kenya? Does this make sense in times of crisis for our country? These questions were tabled this morning during the launching of the project which unites the Community of Sant’Egidio and some highly qualified organizations representing the agriculture sector, to help the population of the North of this African Country, which has suffered for almost two years of a severe alimentary crisis.

“During a crisis we are all tempted to narrow our perspective – said Marco Guidi, President of Confagricoltura – but we are convinced that now is the time to look beyond the crisis, to enlarge our own horizon”. Rodolfo Garbellini, President of ADDA Onlus, the “young” association for pensioners of Confagricoltura – which was founded only 6 years ago – added: “Often there exists a misleading image of people who work in the fields, as if they were only interested in the proper roots, the proper fields, but that’s not true. Even the elderly pay great attention to what happens in the world”. Also Marco Impagliazzo, President of the Community of Sant’Egidio, said that “Our partners didn’t forget solidarity in times of crisis and this is encouraging, at a time when Kenya is going through the stabilization of its democracy and authority”.
An Efficient Formula
The press conference in the “Hall of Peace” of the Community of Sant’Egidio was introduced by President Marco Impagliazzo by indicating the geographic and human references of this commitment: “Even if the press has stopped worrying, the humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa does not stop and continues to cause victims. Since the Summer of 2011 the Community has decided to intervene in two areas of the centre-north of Kenya, partially or totally excluded from distribution of humanitarian aid: East Pokot, 300 km North of Nairobi, and the district of North Samburu, on the east coast of Lake Turkana, more than 800 km from the Capital. These areas include a population of approximately 50.000, mostly isolated, involved in farming or breeding, strongly dependent on the availability of water. Up to now our help has guaranteed the distribution of more than 100 tons of aid”. Impagliazzo then proceeded by describing the peculiarities which are making the aid of Sant’Egidio particularly effective: “I wish to underline the presence of our local communities taking care of the distribution: these are persons, mostly young, who work for free and on a voluntary basis and can easily communicate with the locals, since they speak their language. They have taken care of the purchase of goods on the spot, the transport, the capillary distribution. By doing so, they have avoided wastage, dispersion and delays. Another decisive aspect is the synergy with the Catholic Church, more particularly with the Diocese of Nakuru and the Missions of the Consolata Fathers. Thanks to the latter it has been possible to fund two major structural works: the digging of a well serving a population of approximately 6.000 persons and the construction of a primary school for the children of nomadic shepherds.  

An Agreement Beyond the Emergency

“Agriculture is about food, land: goods of a strong ethic relevance – Marco Guidi underlined in his speech – We should invest in balanced growth. This three-year agreement with the Community of Sant’Egidio implies a fundamental vision which goes beyond the emergency. Our goal is to create a basis for future development. I mean the challenge to create agriculture on poor land, as is the case of the area of Lake Turkana, with the use of new technologies. Federico Vecchioni, representing Agriventure, an emanation of Intesa-San Paolo for the development of agriculture, and Fondazione Arare, said: “There is a need to reinforce a culture of the land, not only meant as productivity, but also as an element of life quality and the identity of people”, facing the concrete risk of a phenomenon of neo-colonialism in the hoarding of the land. Also Marco Impagliazzo remembered that the “availability of these ‘companions’ doesn’t only consist in financial resources but also in the know-how of the agricultural sector, which permits to create an intervention on a large scale, also for their technical contribution to the development of agriculture in the interested areas.
The project foresees an input of about 90 thousand euro and includes also stages of formation on the spot.

The Mobilization of the Civil Society

The project is accompanied by an awakening of the civil society, both in Kenya and in Italy. This was underlined by Impagliazzo, who reminded that “behind the generous and voluntary help of the young people of Sant’Egidio in Kenya, there is also a spontaneous movement of fund raising via text messages - “Kenyans for Kenya” - which, at the beginning of the food crisis, was able to raise consistent funds through a unique system which had never been experimented on the African continent before. The Italian response – added Impagliazzo – is centered on the mobilization of these major civil society actors, who do not forget “the crises of the others” and who today are uniting with us in a great commitment of international aid.
What emerged this morning is a “beautiful Italy”, bringing together farmers, volunteers, tax payers – through the use of the 5 per thousand contribution of Italian taxpayers – technicians, pensioners and others. All together for a new Africa.

“We were looking for land to plant our willingness to act in solidarity – concluded Garbellini, in the name of the many elderly people he represents – and now we have found it: it is Sant’Egidio!”.

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