In 1980, the United Nations World Food Council predicted 60 million Africans would starve because of stagnant food production. Now experts fear that twice that many will die from the effects of a drought last year that has been called the worst of this century.
Those staggering statistics are one reason why Al and Kari Hotvedt of Burke walked 10 miles last Saturday morning in the McLean CROP walk to raise money for Church World Services (CWS), the hunger-fighting agency of the National Council of Churches.
The idea of asking people to pledge money for each mile of a "CROP walk" grew out of door-to-door fund-raising conducted by Midwestern farmers in the 1950s. Now, hundreds of walks are held in communities throughout the country, including 38 in Virginia and 30 in Maryland.
"One of our biggest walks is in Hyattsville, which earned $13,000 last year," said Eleanor Wilchynski, CWS mid-Atlantic regional director for the CROP walks.
"Last year we raised about $200,000" from the Virginia walks, said Louis Fortier, Virginia director of the Church World Service CROP. Each year more communities hold the walks to raise funds, which Fortier says return 25 percent of the money raised to fund shelters and soup kitchens in each community.
Larry Holland, CWS' communications director, said that Church World Service began in 1948 as an independent cooperative ecumenical agency. "With the creation of the National Council of Churches around 1957, one of the concerns was to coordinate the cooperative work that was going on independently and bring it under one larger umbrella," Holland said.
CWS has grown with an annual budget last year of about $42 million. In 1983, officials said they shipped over 2 million pounds of clothing to 54 countries.
Fortier said 20 percent of CWS' work is direct relief, or responding to hunger and need with food and clothing; the rest involves development projects, including fish farming, agricultural improvements, literacy training and nutrition education.
"It became clear to people in the Church World Service . . . that the real way to fight hunger was to help people grow their own food," Fortier said.
The grass-roots success of Church World Service depends heavily on people like Ralph and Dorothy Clary, organizers of the Arlington CROP walk for the last five years.
"We had nearly 200 people last year and we raised over $13,000," said Dorothy Clary. "The number of participants goes up some every year."
"Last year we raised $6,000," said the Rev. Margaret Kutz, organizer of the McLean-Falls Church walk. "We had fewer walkers this year . . . . I think our nation's leaning away from the concerns of the poor."
"We participated because we feel that Americans have more to worry about being overfed and dieting than our brothers around the world. This is a way to bring it to our attention," said Al Hotvedt, a telecommunications engineer for the Agency for International Development.
Ten-mile CROP walks will begin at 10 a.m. today at Walker Chapel United Methodist Church in Arlington and Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Mount Vernon.