Guest blog by Balanding Manneh, Arizona State University student, President and CEO of Rural Impact and 2016 recipient of the Clinton Hunger Leadership Award.
Being named the 2016 Clinton Hunger Leadership Award recipient opened numerous doors for me to further pursue my passion of ending hunger. It has helped me raise awareness of my efforts, as many people now know about my non-profit organization, Rural Impact, and the work we do to empower communities to end hunger and attain food security. This award has helped me secure partners and supporters all over the globe.
The opportunity to attend the Clinton award ceremony and the 2016 Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit in Columbia, Missouri, was a great moment because it gave me the opportunity to meet and talk to people behind the event–other passionate young people that are also doing similar work and experts in the area of food security. After the event, I went home determined to contribute even more in ending hunger in my community and around the world.
This summer, I travelled to The Gambia, West Africa. While there, I trained women who are involved in horticulture about sustainable vegetable production techniques. Through Rural Impact, I provided them with the necessary tools–including seeds, watering cans and buckets–and other resources to help them increase vegetable production, income and food availability.

A cross-section of women at a training held by Rural Impact at Wassu, Central River Region, The Gambia
A cross-section of women at a training held by Rural Impact at Wassu, Central River Region, The Gambia

I also organized community dialogue event on hunger and food security which was attended by farmers and community leaders from several villages in the Central River Region of The Gambia. The event was centered around the theme: “Grow what you eat, and eat what you grow.” Farmers also had the opportunity to ask questions and get useful advice from experts and our collaborators from the local Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Department of Agriculture representatives in the region.
Farmers at a hunger and food security dialogue organized by Rural Impact at Ndawen village, Central River Region, The Gambia
Farmers at a hunger and food security dialogue organized by Rural Impact at Ndawen village, Central River Region, The Gambia

My main goal is to see these smallholder farmers–especially in rural communities–become a part of the solution to ending hunger. That is why I am working very hard to see them empowered and be able to locally produce the food they eat.
A family eating Benechin (local dish) in Ndawen Village, Central River Region, The Gambia
A family eating Benechin (local dish) in Ndawen Village, Central River Region, The Gambia

Since winning the award, I have come to understand that ending hunger requires collaboration because it is an extensive problem that no single entity can solve. We can make a tremendous difference individually, but when we collaborate with others and share best practices, that is when our impact becomes even greater. Winning the Clinton Award has helped my organization grow, impact many additional people, and has helped me become a better leader.

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