2014 marks an important milestone in the history of Self Help Africa. 3 decades ago , at the beginning of 1984, few in the West were aware of the looming famine in Ethiopia and other food security problems across Sub Saharan Africa. By the end of the year, the plight of so many starving families, had made a major impact on public consciousness. Emergency and humanitarian efforts were mobilised , getting badly needed supplies to those most in need.
At the same time, other individuals were looking at longer term solutions. Surely, by helping smallholder farmers and their families to grow more, to build sustainable livelihoods from the land, rural communities across Africa could begin to develop better futures.
As it happened, 2 similar organisations, one in Ireland, the other in the UK started to think along these lines. Self Help Development International grew from very small beginnings in Ireland, as did Harvest Help in the UK. Right from the start both organisations wanted to empower farmers to move from subsistence farming to growing a surplus.
This has never been an easy journey, with many challenges along the way. In 2008, both charities recognised ,in one another, not only a similar ethos and approach to development but a shared desire to deliver more effective help, on the ground in Africa. The subsequent merger has allowed Self Help Africa to use its additional scale and technical expertise to extend the range of our work , across 9 countries.
Our focus remains resolutely on the projects already in hand and those in the pipeline. But , in this our 30th year, we would like to pay tribute to some of our ‘founding fathers’. Amongst them, Father Owen Lambert who recently shared his memories with us.