Give them something to eat



And all ate and were filled. - Matthew 14:20

It is difficult to miss the miracle that is happening here. People who did not have food in the dry season, now have enough food to eat.

In the village of Raikachar in central India, a new canal helps families store enough water from the monsoon rains to plant a second crop each year when the weather is traditionally dryer. MCC partner CASA (Church Auxiliary for Social Action) says there are many villages like this one where people can be empowered to increase the quality of their own lives.

“This is how we share the love of God with the people,” Dr. Sushant Agarnal, director of CASA, tells us. MCC’s project is one of 25 that CASA is implementing, and in most of the villages CASA is working in, most of the projects revolve around agriculture and virtually all of them involve water.

In Raikachar, more access to water means water can be used for gardening and for bathing. There is more food to eat and some left to sell as well. The quality of life is significantly increased. And now, these villagers will also be able to send their children to school.

In the nearby village of Tendu Tikra in the Bilespur area, we hear a very similar story. In a community meeting, the people tell us, “We will not be hungry here . . . we will not have violence . . . God has given us this community . . . and we want to live happily here together.”

In this community, CASA is helping purchase seeds and implements for cultivating the fields, and man-made ponds and bunding (dirt mounds) help store and direct the water that comes in the rainy season for use later. CASA also helps these tribal people get access to the government benefits they are eligible for.

“We are not as poor as we used to be and we have more bargaining power with the officials,” village elder Vedlal tells me.

MCC is supporting CASA’s work with almost 10,000 families from 125 villages across 10 states in India.

In the state of Orissa in southeast India, MCC is working with a second partner organization Disha in 12 villages. For nine months of the year, these tribal people have traditionally not had enough food to eat. The local government is weak and these villages have not had a voice.

After just two years of water and agricultural training, people in these villages now have adequate food for nine months of the year, instead of just three. The land cultivated has increased by 50% and the rice yield has more than doubled per acre.

MCC is providing better quality seeds, tools for cultivation and better access to water. Land quality is improving because reliance on chemical pesticides and fertilizers has decreased. One crop each year has increased to two or three. A reliance on rice has now expanded to other crops and vegetables.

We gathered with the community in the village of Tangrain. A woman told us, “Life was tough, but nowadays, we have enough to eat.”

Addressing food security issues first has also enabled Disha to work with these villages on self governance, gender justice and the rights of children in the community. With the increase in food available, parents are less likely to feel it necessary to sell their children into child labor outside the community to work in the mines or other industries.



Jesus’ words ring true here. Referring to the crowds who had gathered to hear him speak, in Matthew 14, Jesus told his followers, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” As followers of Jesus today, we can still respond to Jesus’ call.

Ron Byler is executive director of MCC U.S.  

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