World Hunger Relief, Inc. was chartered in 1976 by real estate developers Bob and Jan Salley. The Texas non-profit charter provided for a program in agroforestry and related technologies to address the needs of the hungry, both foreign and domestic.
In 2012 Bob wrote a book titled Keep Plowing.
The book tells his life story including much of the early WHRI history.
In 1979, Carl Ryther and his family returned to Texas after 17 years of agricultural missions in Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan). The Salleys invited Ryther to join World Hunger Relief, Inc. in 1979 to develop a program to train individuals to address hunger needs around the world. In the subsequent 32 years, WHRI has trained more than 350 interns working in 20 countries spanning 4 continents. These interns work for various international organizations promoting sustainable food production and economic development.
During his years in Bangladesh, Ryther developed simple food production systems to address the food needs of the poor. These systems, which included intensive vegetable production in grow-beds, rabbit husbandry, and agroforestry, were designed to maximize food production in situations of limited land resources. In 1980, Ryther completed a Backyard Food Production Systems training manual which was translated into several languages.
In 1994, Lee and Kathleen Piche joined WHRI as co-directors, working alongside Ryther. They expanded the program to include a Grade-A goat dairy, dried flower production, and fresh market vegetables organized in a community supported agriculture (CSA) model. They were also instrumental in significant facility improvements, including construction of the Carl and Jean Ryther Education Building, which was completed just before Ryther’s death in 1999.
In subsequent years, WHRI’s training expanded to include sustainable technologies appropriate to developing countries with more extensive resources and production. These systems include alley cropping, larger-scale organic vegetable production, drip irrigation, and rotational grazing of livestock including goats, cattle, and chickens.
In the mid-1980s, WHRI personnel became active in development programs in Haiti, Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and India. Most of these efforts involved agroforestry, utilizing the “miracle tree” Leucaena leucocephala. Well-digging for irrigation and sanitary drinking water was also a component of many of these programs.
The Ferrier, Haiti program is now 30 years old and has led to the formation of a sister organization, World Hunger Relief, Haiti. Other international partners include the Valle Nuevo community in north-central El Salvador.
In central Texas, WHRI addresses hunger issues of low-income, elderly, and disabled individuals through various community gardening projects. We also provide training in gardening for schools and other community groups. Each year we host several thousand individuals for educational programs focusing on sustainable agriculture, environmental responsibility, and world hunger issues.
In 2003, Neil Rowe Miller began as Executive Director. In the following years, WHRI underwent a major reorganization of its intern training program, providing a more comprehensive full-time curriculum, and offering living stipends in addition to room and board. WHRI staff has expanded to include four full-time and four-part time positions.
As we look toward the future, we anticipate significant expansion of our partnerships with organizations around the world. We are excited about the many opportunities God is presenting us to combat poverty and hunger in His name.
Click here to view a February 2006 Waco Tribune-Herald article about the history of World Hunger Relief.