Divine Intervention Muhammad Yunus-style
The following is what I call: DIVINE INTERVENTION. When I think of ending child hunger, this is what I envision creating.
At first glance, Muhammad Yunus did not have to make the critical choice to intervene like he did. He was a man wealthy enough to find himself in America teaching college the day his beloved country won its independence. However, Yunus and Bangeldesh, one of Earth’s poorest countries, are one and the same. The young professor felt destined to return home and make a lasting contribution.
Once there, he found himself torn. The Famine of 1974-75 was so devastating; it made the neat, elegant theories of economics he taught in class appeared impotent. All around him was hunger and poverty of a depressing order.
Being an activist, Yunus decided to organize a Farmer’s Association in Jobra, a nearby village. The Association was successful. It built an irrigation system which provided enough water to permit a THIRD growing season, which the farmer’s capitalized on with additional supplies bought at collective discount.
However, Yunus was not satisfied. He found this top-level accomplishment just as impotent as his classical arguments. The poor in Jobra did not benefit from the opportunity presented by the Farmer’s Association. Since they lacked land, they could not participate.
So, what did the poor in Jobra possess? Time, talent and skill – or their LABOR.
It was clearly evident. A casual walk through the village revealed more than enough economic activity to justify abundance. “Everywhere I went in the village, I saw people working hard to try to help themselves – growing crops in their tiny yards, making baskets, stools, and other craft items to sell, and offering their services for practically any kind of labor. Somehow all these efforts had failed to secure a path out of poverty for most of the villagers.” (Creating a World Without Poverty, page 45.)
Speaking with a woman named Sufiya Begum taught the economics professor about real world dynamics. Everyday, Begum diligently worked on crafting high quality bamboo stools. Yunus could see how they could fetch a pretty dollar in the city market. Being poor, Begum borrowed money to purchase the bamboo each week. The moneylender, who was in total control, would only loan her the money if she promised to sell him the finished product at a price that he determined. Of course, the price was far below market. The moneylender was treating Begum like an employee, instead of an entrepreneur and thus KEEPING her in poverty.
Under this economic arrangement, Begum earned 2 pennies a day.
After taking a week to interview everyone in the village, Muhammad Yunus learned that 42 families could be saved from abject poverty with a total (low interest) investment of $27.
So, Yunus did what any activist in his position would do, he reached into his pocket and providing the $27. He was surprised when everyone, thankful for his intervention, went out of their way to pay him back.
Being a stubborn intellectual, Yunus went to the banks and asked for them to intervene. They all disagreed with him, stating that everyone knew the poor were high credit risks. Only those who already had money would pay back loans given to them.
Again, being an activist, Yunus decided to stand in the gap. He would accept the bank loans and then distribute them to the entrepreneurs in the village. As he was paid back he paid the banks back. Eventually, he decided to leave the banks alone all together and start a NEW KIND OF BANK.
The result was the micro-credit revolution which led to a 2006 Nobel Prize for Peace shared by Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank.
Personally, you can keep the Nobel Prize. I want to see the birth of an America committed to feeding all of its children. Consider my efforts, and those that join me, divine intervention.