John Ariale with RCCH member Kip Knudson
 
John Ariale, owner of Ariale Stretgies and core member of the NGO, Hunger Project, shared insights on how local empowerment of communities can lead to significant reductions in poverty. The Hunger Project is an NGO delivering programs globally that focus on eradicating hunger in Africa and Asia. With just $20M in funding, this NGO has impacted over 20M people through its process of empowerment and volunteerism within communities and clustering of networked villages. Its efforts have demonstrated significant gains in poverty alleviation provided evidence for altering misconceptions about world hunger and poverty.
 
Often, we have misconceptions of global hunger and poverty. The reality is that acute malnutrition has dropped significantly around the global. Today, global hunger is more likely to be seen as young women with young families attempting to grow food on marginal land with poor channels to market and support systems. Extreme poverty (based on Millennium goals) has been cut in half. However, new goals set by international members of the Millennium Challenge are harder and require greater coordination between governments, development banks and NGOs. 
 
The projects follow a community engagement model that includes the following: 1) start with women within the community and seek ways to transform gender relationships; 2) break the mindset of dependency by mobilizing women to actively change their surroundings; and 3) address local government factors and barriers that impact women's lives within a walking radius (often within 10 miles). Actions and activities that free up time for women to focus on health and education are critical. This includes the community building epicenter structures that can house food banks, crop fields, meeting halls, rural banks, clean water wells, public latrines, health centers, food processing units and/or classrooms. Community leaders and volunteers become a key growth factor in this transformation.
 
The Epicenter Strategy has shown to be a good model to address many of the on-going causes of systemic poverty and other NGOs have adopted similar methods. The challenge going forward will be providing an integrated approach across NGO projects that can leverage knowledge and approaches while extending support reach to rural communities.