Friday, November 11, 2005

SEND A COW : Why Send Milk When You Can Send The Whole Cow?

Back in Early September of this year, I wrote an article about an organization called Heifer that was founded in 1944. At the time, I thought that Heifer was rather unique. But since then I have come across a similar organization called Send a Cow.

Send a Cow was founded in 1988 in response to a plea from a Ugandan bishop. After the long civil war which left much of the country devastated, many people had lost their homes as well as most of their livestock. With few cattle remaining in the agricultural industry, milk had become an unaffordable luxury. As Send a Cow says on its web site: “The bishop had heard there were milk surpluses in the UK, and appealed to British farmers for help.”

Instead of sending milk, a group of Christian farmers got together and decided to send the cows themselves. These farmers, based mainly in the West Country believed that sending cows would help provide a long-term solution to the problem in Uganda.

When the cows arrived in Uganda in June of 1988 local church groups helped Send a Cow to distribute them to poor women. The women who received these cows also received training on how to care for the animals, and arrangements were made for low-cost veterinary services.

Send a Cow became a registered charity later that year, and by 1996 over 300 cows had been flown from the UK to Uganda. Unfortunately, when the bovine spongiform encephalopathy crisis (now I know why people just say “BSE”crisis”) hit the UK Send a Cow was forced to change our strategy and purchase all the gift livestock in Africa.

Two years later, after 10 years of operation Send a Cow launched a new programme called StockAid. StockAid targeted the very poorest people, especially those who have suffered from war, drought and AIDS in the organization’s client countries. A cow requires a lot of resources to maintain and many poor people in developing countries do not have the means to keep a cow. So Send a Cow began sending smaller livestock to their recipients. These smaller livestock included animals such as goats and poultry. In addition to varying the livestock it provided, Send a Cow began to expand the sustainable farming component of its training programmes.

In 1999 gained greater national recognition when it was chosen as one of the charities featured in the Daily Telegraph’s Christmas Appeal. This attention brought with it additional contributions which allowed the organization to expand its work in Africa and to increase its staff in the UK. While the bulk of the funding comes from the general public, additional funding is received from institutions such as the Department for International Development, Comic Relief, the Diana Memorial Fund, and smaller trusts.

Today, Send a Cow has operations in seven countries. Those are Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Zambia and Tanzania. Additionally, the organization has worked with a group in Sudan.

The gifts now provided include cows, goats, pigs, poultry, bees and fruit trees, for new and established projects. It is planned that in the future the organization will be supplying rabbits, fish and even draft oxen.

While Send a Cow works in seven countries, their web site boasts that “If you want to see how Send a Cow’s model works in practice, look to Uganda.” Uganda had been the location of their largest and longest-running programme. And it is there that Send a Cow is beginning to see the full effects of its work.

In Uganda many of the groups that were originally helped are rapidly expanding and becoming self-sufficient. They are even becoming a source for the transfer of skills in the communities where they exist.

Send a Cow now has three programmes in Uganda: one each in the east, the centre and the north of the country. A total of about 30 groups have worked with Save a Cow in Uganda. While most of the groups are women’s groups; three are groups of disabled people and is one comprised of children heads of households.

Due mainly to differences in climate there are regional variations to the programmes. Northern Uganda is arid and the farmers there need to cultivate more land to grow the same amount of food as in the south. Because of this Send a Cow has provided cows for plowing the fields. Water conservation and techniques to improve soil quality are given greater attention in the programmes in this part of the country.

Two of the groups in Uganda’s longest running projects have become very self-sufficient and no longer receive any livestock from Send a Cow. Instead, they give new members animals that have been passed on from existing farmers. Peer training techniques are also showing signs of paying off as some of the farmers are giving their neighbors training in group work and organic farming.

The benefits of these successes are spreading as well, the organization is now bringing some Kenyan farmers to Uganda to learn the same organic farming techniques. And the water and soil conservation techniques that have proven to be successful in northern Uganda have been transferred to Ethiopia and Lesotho where they are getting good results as well

Send a Cow is delighted with the way their work in Uganda is “snowballing” and they are rightfully proud in a job well done and a job they continue to do well.

I could spend just as much time talking about the separate Send a Cow programmes in the other six nations, but that would make the article too long. So, here’s the link if you want to visit Send a Cow .

And by the way, if you want to really give a meaningful Holiday Gift this season (It doesn’t just have to be for Christmas, you know.), why not visit Send a Cow’s 2005 Christmas Catalogue ?

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