Food for Thought

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As Michael Bumstead traveled down a dirt road on his most recent trip to Kenya, a sea of smiling children waved and shouted, “Jambo! Jambo!” — hello, hello.

 

Michael Bumstead grinding corn in the Kenyan village of Mnyenzeni.

 

Many hadn’t had breakfast, their bellies still empty from their meager portions the day before. For Hussein, a boy Bumstead knows, his only daily food consists of a half-cup of a corn and bean mixture for lunch and a corn-based substance similar to cream of wheat for dinner.

 

Bumstead knows, however, that it doesn’t do any long-term good to be “running around giving things away.” So he created The Institute for Self Reliant Agriculture (SRA), a non-profit with the mission of nutritional self-reliance in rural nations like Kenya, Ecuador and Peru. The institute teaches families to grow what they eat through a small-scale agricultural model.

 

“The problem is that they all grow one crop and then try to sell that in the market, but cannot get enough monetary return to buy nutritional food for their families,” explains Bumstead, president of SRA, which is based in Enumclaw, WA.

 

Realizing a Dream

After selling his family’s airplane parts manufacturing firm to Boeing in 1998, Bumstead became active in the Benson Institute — a Provo, Utah-based non-profit affiliated with Brigham Young University’s College of Biology and Agriculture that helps impoverished families in developing nations. Based on what he learned at the Benson Institute, he launched SRA in 2009.

“My only desire is to help people in need,” Bumstead says. “That’s the only reason I’m doing this.”

 

To help facilitate his vision, Bumstead met with Patsy Mallory, a Wealth Management Advisor with The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank. “Their help has allowed me to be an ongoing donor to this program,” Bumstead says.

 

With the help of indigenous professionals in each country, SRA assesses a family’s needs and then sets aside a plot of land — one or two acres — that’s divided to grow a number of different vegetables. Using a model created by the Benson Institute, SRA then teaches techniques for planting multiple crops to small, rural farmers. Once the farm is established, families are taught to raise small animals to add protein to their diets and for additional income.

 

“The majority of the people that we work with have no protein in their diet at all,” Bumstead says. “In our model, they can feed their family nutrients and have money to use for buying clothes and other things they need.”

 

Pass It On

The farmers are provided basic, affordable technologies as well as instructed on health and hygiene issues such as cooking and storing food. Families are required to send their children to school and must share what they learn with their neighbors.

 

“We have found that we can teach and develop people much more efficiently when it’s not a give-away program,” Bumstead says. “There’s no way they can pay us back for the expenses, and that’s not what we’re asking for — that wouldn’t be feasible. We want it to be their program and for them to spend enough time, energy and investment so that they really know how to run a self-sufficient and sustainable agricultural model, have ownership of it and can continually grow it.”

 

The program has yielded results, including fewer health problems for families, increased wealth and, most importantly, children now receive much needed nutrients in their diets.

 

To learn more about SRA, including how to donate, visit the institute’s website, www.tifsra.org.

 

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