Reflections on turning 50

Find Your Feet is 50

1960 was the year when 17 African countries gained their independence (The Year of Africa); when President Eisenhower signed the ‘Food for Peace’ agreement to supply India with 17 million tonnes of surplus grain; and when FYF began.

In March 1960 FYF was founded by journalist Carol Martin as a response to the Hungarian Refugee Crisis. She was, she says, “motivated by outrage – that we, who live in plenty, do so little.”  It was in this context that FYF was to start working in 12 countries around the world, supporting thousands of people to abolish hunger and ensure long-term food security.

Over the decades that followed ‘International Development’ was caught between the ‘top down,’ neo-liberal approaches characterized by the Bretton Woods structural adjustment programs and ‘bottom up’ approaches in which participation and empowerment formed the core.  Amartya Sen’s concept of Human Development, which finally gained traction in the 1990s, opened the way for a more inclusive conception of development which cannot be reduced to the mere satisfaction of material needs and the accumulation of wealth.

Meanwhile FYF continued to work closely with rural communities, supporting them to access services they are entitled to and to practice agricultural techniques that would conserve the environment.

Then, at a time when many African countries were finally emerging from decades of post independence struggle and autocratic government, and as the environmental damage caused by India’s Green Revolution was starting to become apparent, FYF decided to draw lessons from processes of social and economic change by focusing its activities on fewer countries. This decision was based on the understanding that there are no quick fix solutions to poverty, and that real change requires the dedication of time and resources in supporting communities to build self-reliance .

FYF is currently working with 36,000 people in rural India and Malawi and aims to reach 50,000 people this year. 

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