Food for the Hungry

Name Food for the Hungry
Headquarters Scottsdale, Arizona, USA Chief Executive Tetsunao Yamamori
Telephone

1 - 602 - 998 3100

Headquarters Staff 16
Fax 1 - 602 - 998 9448 Overseas Staff 124
Email hunger@fh.org Local Staff 1300
Internet http://www.fh.org/ Budget $26.8 Million (1997)
Formed 1971

CVs to

Food for the Hungry
7229 E. Greenway Road
Scottsdale
AZ 85260
USA


By Killian Forde

Established in 1971 Food For The Hungry International, originally an American NGO with a strong Christian philosophy, has grown into a multi-country organisation currently operational in some 25 countries and supporting projects in a further 8 territories. The agency concentrates its resources on five main sectoral areas, Agriculture, Water, Health, and Income generation and rapid response relief programmes. In recent years FHI programmes have shown considerable diversity, for example, reunifying unaccompanied minors in Rwanda, a seed and tool distribution programme in Congo and a Maternal health and Child program in Bolivia. Although mainly a 'development'
organisation Food For The Hungry International is keen to establish a bigger emergency epartment. Field Exchange spoke to their Executive Vice President Randy Hoag in his office in Scottsdale, Arizona.

FHI has one of the lowest headquarters to field staff ratios of any operational agency, approx. 1 to every 35. Obviously this low ratio ensures that more resources are spent overseas, according to Hoag "we are and have always tried to be a very decentralised organisation - we give substantial autonomy to our staff at community level and we expect them to make the key decisions and support local institutions". FHI do not, says Hoag, want to spend money on unnecessary support infrastructure "we have consciously chosen not to build a large and expensive HQ office". Instead FHI headquarters staff are scattered around the world "one is in Johannesburg, we have people in Geneva and Washington DC and this decentralised trend is increasing." Seven support offices world-wide, based in US, Canada, Japan, UK, Norway, Switzerland and Sweden help to provide funding, overseas bound commodities and personnel. Hoag says "while the support offices are independently operational their role is invaluable as they provide these resources and also advocate on behalf of the poor speaking to donors and the public in their respective countries." The Asian financial crisis, Hoag admits, has "put FHI under fairly significant pressure in 1988" as their Korean and Japanese offices which traditionally have been major contributors to the FHI annual budget have "lost up to 40% of their funds."

Fifteen years ago Randy Hoag headed off on his first FHI posting to Bolivia to work as part of the organisation's unique 'Hunger Corps' program. The Hunger Corps are, according to Hoag, "comparable to the Peace Corps". Volunteers raise their own support and serve overseas for three years. The idea behind the Hunger Corps was to give people who "were motivated and dedicated to helping the poor but who may not have had the skills or experience that other agencies were looking for, an opportunity to work overseas as development workers." Hoag claims that "we can take just about any person who has the heart to serve and make good use of them". He continues "it is a very good apprenticeship for people who want to serve the poor". FHI also have alternative shorter self financing missions for qualified people to work in 'work teams' on specific projects, e.g. educational, construction or medical, for shorter periods of one week to a year. Hoag is critical of the current relief system which responds largely to big highly visible emergencies. He believes that there is a weakness in a system which ignores the chronic emergencies, "until they become acute emergencies." Sudan, he feels is a good example of this type of weak institutional reaction "prior to this year's news stories, Sudan was out of the news, but for years the status of the people, now suffering, was worsening."

Hoag would like to see FHI being able to "expand our ability to work in many countries with a quick rapid response mechanism, under 12 months of duration." He sees a number of ways that FHI can achieve this, including training people who currently work in the FHI support offices so they could be seconded to rapid response projects, "we would have them trained in logistics, certain health initiatives, accounting procedures, computer set up and so on." Hoag says that the reaction of an agency to an emergency needs to be "decisive and fast" and believes that "training support staff as rapid reaction teams would buy operational time to hire local staff and/or place longer term people."

FHI have made use of information technology to increase the transparency of their activities. They have achieved this through the Internet and their 'extranet'. FHI's extranet is an extension of their internet site which posts many documents on the world wide web. Hoag says that their extranet "makes available FHI proposals, reports and monitoring updates both to our donors and the public". Hoag hopes that other agencies will follow suit and believes it is vital that "any organisation dedicated to helping the poor can share what they have learnt with others".

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Reference this page

Killian Forde (1998). Food for the Hungry. Field Exchange 5, October 1998. p19. www.ennonline.net/fex/5/agencyprofile