The recent images of men, women and children starving in the Horn of Africa tell a painful story of famine and suffering. How does a nation recover from a devastating food crisis? To find out, Chip Duncan and Salim Aminreturned to a Ethopia, to a place where famine caused a massive death toll over 25 years ago. What they discovered was surprising and hopeful. In partnership with One, they created a documentary showing the contrast between 1984 and present-day Tigray. Read their words below, view a preview and watch their powerful short film.
In Somalia, innocent people are dying needless deaths due to a famine driven by politics and war. Those who are dying need our help and our voice.
Drought is a challenge faced by people around the world. Climate change is now making droughts more common and less predictable. But drought shouldn't equal famine. Famine is the outcome of poor infrastructure, corrupt governments and warring factions who choose to use food as a weapon.
During our recent work in Ethiopia, we had a chance to revisit the site of the 1984 famine. Our film uses footage and stills from that famine to remind us of the suffering and of its causes. Our story also chronicles the policies and infrastructure put in place during the last two decades to build sustainable agriculture. Water retention systems, irrigation, improved transportation systems, terraced farming, training programs, improved seeds and fertilizers – this is the new legacy in Tigray Province. It's a story worth sharing so people everywhere can promote small scale agriculture while motivating governments to make similar investments in the future.
Chip Duncan Director, “The Untold Story”
I made a journey following the footsteps of my father from 25 years ago. When Mohamed Amin made that journey a quarter of a century ago, he never imagined it was one that would change his life forever. He had covered every major story in Africa over four decades, but nothing prepared him for what he saw in Korem in October 1984.
A famine of biblical proportions, with more than 5 million people on the verge of starvation. A famine that was, to a large extent, man-made. The ruler of Ethiopia at the time, Colonel Haile Mariam Mengistu, was using the famine as a tool to suppress the rebel movement that was rising against his brutal regime from the north of the country. He didn't want the world to know this famine existed.
The pictures that my father shot on the plains of Korem changed his life and changed the world. They prompted the greatest single act of charity of the 20th century and saved the lives of millions of Ethiopians. After this story, he changed the way he looked at news coverage. He cared for the first time in his life and did everything he could to keep the story in the headlines. Those images were amongst the most powerful and iconic images in television history.
I was expecting to see Korem still reeling from the effects of that massive famine. It takes generations to repair that kind of damage, but I was in for a shock. I went in with the best TV production team I had ever worked with, and what we saw stunned us all! A massive drought is taking hold of the Horn of Africa once again, but Korem and Tigray Province is an oasis of crops. Irrigation schemes that have been put in place over the last decade. There's also a new awareness of the types of crops to grow and how to market and sell them for the best prices; and new resilient seeds have all transformed a community from being "takers" to being "providers".
The farmers of Tigray Province have proved that drought doesn't have to equal famine, and smart aid can work.