Providing food security in the face of a global health crisis

Updated: Apr 18

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PORT VILA, Vanuatu — Confronted with the possibility of food shortages because of the global effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, some individuals engaged in a Baha’i-inspired educational program called Preparation for Social Action (PSA) have taken steps to protect their communities.


“My group is constantly thinking of ways it can serve our community, and now that the coronavirus is coming, what should we do?” says one participant from Tanna, Vanuatu. “We cannot sit idly and do nothing about it. We need to actively arise and serve our society.”


Within days of Cyclone Harold, efforts are under way to provide agricultural material in affected areas with the collaboration of the Vanuatu Department of Agriculture. Capacities developed through the Preparation for Social Action (PSA) program are proving essential to a constructive response.

The PSA program, which has been implemented in 17 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific, raises capacity in young people to apply knowledge drawn from both science and religion for the development of their communities.


Photograph taken before the current health crisis. A group studying in Vanuatu as part of the Preparation for Social Action (PSA) program. PSA raises capacity in young people to apply knowledge drawn from both science and religion for the development of their communities.

Although Vanuatu has no confirmed cases of the coronavirus so far, the effects on international travel and trade have caused economic hardship and reduced food imports. Measures taken by the government to prevent the disease from spreading have required the usual activities of the PSA programs to cease, but groups of participants are taking steps to not only maintain food supplies for their fellow citizens, but also to encourage others in their countries to do the same.


A covered nursery used for agricultural training in the Preparation for Social Action program, in Vanuatu. With the support of the Foundation for the Betterment of Society, a group of women on Tanna Island who participate in the program built a similar structure in their community, enabling them to protect seedlings from volcanic ash-fall and provide for neighbors who lost their crops.

Many participants are now expanding personal gardens and planting crops that can be harvested quickly, so as to create reliable sources of food over the coming months of uncertainty.


Local community members begin cleanup work at a school after Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, was struck by Cyclone Harold. The degree of unity and collective action fostered through the educational activities of the Baha’i community, including Preparation for Social Action (PSA), has enabled many people to respond swiftly and to begin rebuilding and replanting.

An aerial view of the effects of Cyclone Harold on the island of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, showing damaged buildings and stripped vegetation.

Recent natural disasters in Vanuatu have only exacerbated the current crisis. The northern islands of the country were struck last week by a devastating storm, Cyclone Harold, while Tanna has experienced volcanic ash-fall that has damaged crops. Nevertheless, the degree of unity and collective action fostered through the educational activities of the Baha’i community, including PSA, has enabled many people to respond swiftly and to begin rebuilding and replanting.


“I feel it is our responsibility to share our knowledge and experiences,” says Anika Naiu, a PSA student in Tanna. “You know, it is easy to lose hope, for example, during a cyclone or because of the coronavirus. We need to be a source of courage and hope to the other members of our community so that they do not focus too much on these challenges, but think of what they can do to move forward. It brings me a lot of joy to serve my fellow brothers and sisters.”


A group of participants in Uganda—with support from the Kimanya-Ngeyo Foundation, which implements the program in the country—is making use of local radio to promote awareness about food production.

The capacities developed through the PSA program are proving essential in other countries where it is offered. A group of participants in Uganda, with support from the Kimanya-Ngeyo Foundation, which implements the program in the country, is making use of local radio to promote awareness about food production.


This organization, inspired by the initiative of the youth, is now using its resources to ensure that food production continues and stores of food maintained over time. It is, for example, offering its own land for planting and making funds available to purchase seeds.


A group of participants in Uganda—with support from the Kimanya-Ngeyo Foundation, which implements the program in the country—is making use of local radio to promote awareness about food production.

“There is a direct relationship between hope, an attitude of service to others, and constructive action,” says a representative of the Foundation for the Betterment of Society, another organization that offers PSA in Vanuatu. “When we put the needs of others above our own, this brings hope. And, when we remember our spiritual reality, our sense of hope is strengthened, regardless of our physical condition.”


The Baha’i community on Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, has remained hopeful and joyful in the face of a devastating cyclone and the challenges cause by the global health crisis.

From Bahá’í World News Service.


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