For them, a nickel or dime increase in the price of staple items is the difference between eating and going hungry. Fighting hunger in the world’s poorest communities isn’t simply a matter of producing more food. We have to make sure people can afford to buy the food that’s already available.

Extraordinary women

Last fall in Niger, I met an extraordinary group of women whose experiences make clear the powerful link between food security and economic empowerment. They are members of CARE’s village savings and loan associations, where they team with other women in their communities to build their personal savings and loan money to each other to start small businesses.

For subsistence farmers with no other source of income, drought can quickly lead to starvation.

One of the women I met, Hadiza Sanda, is a mother of five from a small millet farming village in southern Niger. In 2005, a prolonged drought devastated her crop. For subsistence farmers with no other source of income, drought can quickly lead to starvation. Hadiza told me how she was forced to walk for hours to the nearest villages in 110-degree heat hoping to find a little food to bring home.

“One time, I was so hungry and weak that I passed out in a field,” she says. She was found by other women from her village—women making the same desperate journey for a scrap of food.

Life-saving benefits

Hadiza says CARE’s village savings and loan program had a huge impact on her life and the lives of her neighbors. The program taught her and other women in her village how to budget and manage the seasonal ebb and flow of income inevitable for farmers. She and her neighbors also pooled their money and made small loans to each other to start businesses. Hadiza used her first loan to put up a stall by the road where she sells spices and seasonings. Soon Hadiza and other neighbors took loans to buy young animals, fatten them up and then sell them for a profit. They not only paid back their loans on time but quickly started making a profit.

With their profits, Hadiza and her neighbors invested in drought tolerant seeds and a cereal bank to store the grain their families harvested. When another serious drought hit Niger last clear, their investments yielded life-saving benefits. Unlike in 2005, Hadiza, her family, and the entire village didn’t go hungry. They even had enough grain leftover to share with nearby villages. Hadiza told me, “Before CARE’s program, I had to beg for food and clothes for my children. Now, we can provide for ourselves.”

Hadiza’s story is remarkable. At the same time, it’s not surprising. Time and again our experience shows that empowered women are the most powerful agents in the fight against global poverty. I urge you to visit www.CAREpackage.org to see how you and your friends can easily help Hadiza and women like her everywhere.