Before joining Compassion, Teresia was like millions of other children born to nomadic African farmers - moving from area to area, following the rainfall, struggling to survive. Now the 16-year-old is the first in her family to attend school in hopes of gaining economic security.
So what, if anything, can help African farmers fight emerging food shortages?
Mitigating disasters hasn't worked. Disasters are increasing. Widespread natural and manmade disasters have doubled from an average of 15 a year in the 1980s to 30 in 2000, says Jennifer Parmelee, Public Affairs Officer for the United Nation's World Food Programme.
Provision of food relief is one answer - albeit a stop-gap measure.
"A one-time gift (for food relief) helps children who are desperately hungry to regain health and go to school," says Dr. Emmanuel Mbennah, Compassion Tanzania Country Director. "It also helps parents get back to work to help provide a livelihood for affected children."
Solutions Beyond Relief
Modernizing agricultural methods is another answer.
In Tanzania, Compassion church partners are offering conservation programs to Compassion-assisted families to make them more efficient farmers. In addition, staffers provide education to families on diversifying their crops and improving their agricultural methods.
On a large scale, Palmelee says, having irrigated as opposed to rain-fed agriculture, initiating dam projects to provide regular water flow, and securing the ability to pump deep ground water into dry areas would help.
"Long-term development is the only answer," Parmelee says. "Short term, we can't deny people a lifeline when they need it. It is quite simply unconscionable to have a child starve to death in a world where food is actually cheaper and more plentiful than any other point in human history. (But) it is in all of our interests - strategic, moral, and social - to press for a long-term solution."
Perhaps the greatest hope for a solution to food shortages and other African crises lies in hopes and dreams of children like Teresia Suakei.
Hope in Children
Just off a dusty, rugged road in Kiloh, Kenya, a slim, bright-eyed 16-year-old girl, leads a small group of children in song and Bible study. Such a sight is rare in this tiny village about 125 miles south of Nairobi. Most of the children in the village are out in the fields, taking care of livestock or farming.
But ever since Teresia's parents registered her with the Compassion-assisted Kiloh Child Development Center, the teen has achieved a list of firsts.
Encouraged by center workers, Teresia became the first girl in her family to attend school. Each morning she dons a bright blue skirt and gray sweater to start her journey to Mashuru Boarding Primary School.
She spends her weekends at a Compassion-assisted project where she first started piano lessons. She's the first girl in her family to play the keyboard.
Teresia's life is still rooted in farming - she takes great pride in caring for her family's cow. But Compassion's Christian child sponsorship program has allowed Teresia to look beyond her farming lineage to bigger dreams - she now wants to graduate from a university and become a lawyer or a nurse.
"I am so glad Compassion took me in," Teresia says. "I can offer hope to other girls who are not considered or highly thought of. I would like to be a lawyer to help my community, country and parents."
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