©InfoMany people in wealthy countries take their access to food for granted. Millions of others around the world cannot.
That disparity can lead to over-simplistic views. It is not unusual, say, for people in the UK to think the entire continent of Africa is drought-ridden, permanently stricken by famine and dependent on overseas aid. Such mistaken views perpetuate an equally misleading impression of helpless, dependent and desperate people.
This lively, fast-moving, photo and video-based lesson will help the process of challenging those views. It is designed to deepen students' understanding, allowing them to glimpse the range and diversity of food problems and solutions. It provides a chance to reflect on some of the complex factors affecting access to food in a global world, in particular looking at the effects of conflict.
As well as the self-contained lesson plan, the resource outlines some relevant "take action" citizenship projects.
Download the lesson plan as a PDF or Word document or continue reading this page. The photos are available in a powerpoint.
11-16 year olds
By the end of the activity students will be able to:
identify some of the strategies people use to secure food supplies in emergencies
say how impressions given by news media and charities about tackling poverty and food shortages can be overly simple and inaccurate
describe specific effects of conflict on the availability of food.
Say to students that you want them to imagine a photograph. It is a picture of a girl in a camp for people who had to leave their homes in fear because of war. It's in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a very large country in Africa. The picture illustrates something of what life is like in the camp, and particularly the shortage of food. This is a major problem in this and similar camps.
Without seeing this photograph, ask students to imagine what they expect it to be like. Ask them to call out words brought to mind by the idea of food shortages and an African camp.
Keep the contributions fast and light. This is just a quick exercise. If necessary, prompt with open-ended questions or trigger words.
For example, how do students imagine:
- the weather?
- the state of the ground?
- whether there would be any food to be seen and, if so, what kind of food?
- who might provide essential food, and what might the camp residents be doing about it?
Summarise and list the answers, building up a picture of what students think.
Have a discussion about where impressions come from. Ask students to say how they know what they know. List all the sources of ideas about what a camp in the Congo might be like.
Show students photograph 1.
It matches the description given in the starter activity – a girl in a camp for displaced people in Congo.
Invite impressions. How is it different from what students expected? In what way is it the same?
Explain that the young woman is in the Kibati camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She's in an area used as a market. While the camp does receive food aid from agencies, people also bring in food from other sources and buy and sell it in the market.
Ask students to look closely at the photograph and say in detail what they observe. This could be done in small groups or pairs. If needed, draw attention to aspects of the photograph they might think about:
- the rain and mud, not the dry, dusty land which many people expect
- the greenery
- the good condition of the potatoes
Come back into the full group and hear the small groups' responses. After discussion, read out what the photographer, Finbarr O'Reilly, says about the camp. He doesn't know where the young woman was from, and guesses she is a teenager.
"Lots of other basic food items are sold at the market – corn, flour, vegetable oil, charcoal and so on. She could probably get 50 cents for her collected potatoes. The land around Kibati and around the city of Goma is hugely fertile and there are tonnes of vegetables available, for those who can afford them. Goods are transported by wooden bikes or on people's back, like the woman in the background of the picture."
Look again at the picture and invite any further thoughts from students.
Then move on to the video. Play the whole of this three-minute Channel 4 News report. The video can also be viewed on the Channel 4 News website.
After the viewing, ask students to think of words and phrases that describe the mood and current circumstances of the fishermen on this part of the Kenyan coast. Log them. If necessary, prompt with questions such as:
- Do the fishermen seem happy or unhappy?
- Do they seem in control of what they do?
- Do they seem to be taking action themselves, or are they dependent on others?
Review the list, and ask students if this is how people in Africa are usually seen in news reports. Why is it news that fishermen catch fish? What does this say about how Africa is normally shown on the news?
What might the people in the fishing community think of the massive commercial factory ships that for many years reduced the stocks of fish available? What message might they want to send to the international community about what their community needs? Contrast this with commonly-held western views about dependency and the importance of food aid.
Now introduce photograph 2.
What is extraordinary about this picture? Nothing. Except that it is only in the past few years that it would have been possible.
Invite students to look at the photograph and identify things that are familiar to them – objects, situations or activities. Can anyone spot anything unusual, striking or surprising? Invite thoughts about where it might be. Explain that it was taken on a Sunday afternoon on a beach in Mozambique, not far from the capital city Maputo. It's a scene that is now very normal, but hasn't always been so.
Mozambique, on the south-east coast of Africa, has seen many troubles in recent decades. But the country is now beginning to manage the economic problems that devastated people's lives, during and after a long and violent civil war that lasted from 1977 to 1992.
The photographer, Joan Bardeletti, is very keen to picture the middle-classes in Africa, showing distinct stories and cultures to highlight their diversity as well as what they have in common. He believes that the middle-class in Africa is largely hidden in the media. Do students agree? Why might this be? What would be the benefit of showing photographs such as this one?
Look at the photograph again. Remind students that it is a picture of an ordinary day in a country in south-eastern Africa. How different might people's understanding of the world be if this and similar pictures were part of what they imagined when someone mentioned sub-Saharan Africa? From now on, when someone mentions food in Africa, will students think of food as social event and pleasure, a comfortable picnic on the beach? If not, why not?
Sum up by asking students to say if and how their attitude to Africa has changed after seeing the two photographs and the video. List and discuss their responses.
A common thread in the images has been conflict. Talk through the connections, seeing how conflict affected the different examples:
- In the camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo, conflict forced people to leave their homes and their normal source of food
- In the seas off Kenya, conflict restricted the movement of factory fisheries that affect food supplies for locals
- In Mozambique, conflict denied economic growth and the development of professional and middle-classes, which were able to flourish only after the wars ended.
For an action project following the session, invite students:
- to create their own video or series of still images on the theme "food in Africa". Their aim should be to gather images that encourage viewers to challenge their own thinking about Africa.
- to approach friends, family or known outsiders with vox pop style interviews on attitudes and understanding of food in Africa. Students will have to devise a list of lively questions to stimulate interesting and varied replies.
This resource was written by PJ White and first published in May 2010. It was revised in September 2012.
The British Red Cross would like to thank Finbarr O’Reilly and Joan Bardeletti for their kind cooperation during the development of this resource, and Channel 4 news for permission to use the news report.
Joan Bardeletti’s photo project can be found at classesmoyennes-afrique.org