Empowering Communities Through Local Ownership

World Food Program USA
Published July 24, 2014
Last Updated May 6, 2021

Comfort Kissiwaa is a Ghanaian mother of five, wife, farmer—and now the manager of a community bank and champion of her community’s development—thanks to her participation in The Hunger Project’s local ownership initiatives. With a small loan and women’s empowerment training, Comfort was able to expand her farming business and increase her annual income from $110 to more than $750, a 600% increase.

This growth transformed her family’s circumstances and her sense of accomplishment. Comfort’s family went from barely being able to afford food every day to consistently being assured daily meals, a home to live in, access to medicine and education for her children. Her success embodies the principles and advantages of local ownership—an approach to international development that recognizes its efficacy, particularly for food security.

Local ownership is a strategy for development that puts control in the hands of the community to define their own goals, allocate resources and implement their own programs.

This strategy is based on the recognition that development cannot be imposed—the best kind of development starts within a community. Small loans, technical training or education—all forms of local ownership that organizations such as the Hunger Project and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) have started to utilize—give people access to the skills, resources and knowledge necessary to grow, while also ensuring that they maintain the power and responsibility to identify their goals, decide how the skills and resources are applied, be the agent of their own change and even assess their own success.

The virtue of these local ownership programs can be found in their record of sustainability and efficiency. They capitalize on people’s innate entrepreneurial spirit so they continue to utilize the resources and skills provided.

Rather than relying on an NGO or the government to provide her family with food, education or healthcare, Comfort leveraged the skills and funds provided to transform her subsistence farm into a small business and maintained that business to continue providing for her and her family.

This strategy is especially important when trying to expand food security. Hunger can be alleviated by providing direct food aid, but local ownership programs can create consistent access to food so that aid is no longer necessary.

By providing training to expand agricultural production, help develop productive skills or provide a small loan, local ownership programs can create a reliable income to ensure food will be affordable. WFP, for example, has tapped into this power of local ownership through many of its programs, including food-for-work, food for training, and empowerment of small farmers through its Purchase for Progress initiative.

As Comfort’s story demonstrates, local solutions have the power to not only improve food security efficiently, but also to create exponential momentum for development in a number of directions such as health, gender equality, and education.

With Comfort’s capable hands tending to the growth of her community, local ownership programs are moving us closer to a day when food aid is no longer necessary.