Every holiday season I invariably receive several non-profit gift catalogs with animals to give as gifts to people living in developing countries. It wasn’t until early this year I understood the measurable impact of these gifts to those who need them most.
When I was in Kenya with ONE I saw first-hand the power animals have on the prosperity of a family. For those living in rural areas animals mean the difference between having little to eat to having abundance. Animals like cows, goats, and yaks provide milk for families to drink as well as milk to sell. Chickens, for example, provide families with eggs to eat as well as to sell. Even honey bees are beneficial to a rural family living in a poor, developing country. Honey bees provide honey to eat and sell, too, as well as a natural way to pollinate crops.
In The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change, a fantastic book about agriculture in Kenya, its author Roger Thurow, a former Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent and Chicago Council Fellow, tells heart-wrenching stories of poor smallholder farmers and their desperate fight to grow enough corn and beans to feed their families and sell them at market. Money earned at the market, where prices are often volatile, typically goes to necessities like school fees and medical bills.
Living as a smallholder farmer has its constant challenges and when the rains do not come as expected those challenges are exacerbated ten-fold. Despite difficulty growing crops animals can make a monumental difference in the wealth of a family in the midst of a crop failure. Animals give families options and as we all know it is better to have few options than no options at all.
The holiday season is approaching quickly and for a small donation you can provide a family in need with an animal, fish and even insects that will immeasurably elevate their earning capacity and ability to eat.
Here are five organizations I recommend where you can purchase animal gifts.
1. Heifer International: Since 1944 Heifer International has been at the forefront of providing animals to families in need in developing countries. Heifer International believes animal are more than a one-time gift for a family. Rather it is an investment in raising a family out of poverty. Plus Heifer International requires the families they help to pass on their gift to another family causing gift recipients to also become donors.
A dairy goat can supply a family with up to several quarts of nutritious milk a day – a ton of milk a year, according to Heifer International Price: $120 or you can purchase a share of a goat for $10..
2. GiveaFlock.org: Sarah Ehrlich, the founder of Help for Orphans, recently launched GiveaFlock.org where you can gift three egg-laying hens to orphans and in return you will receive a Give a Flock tee. One tee gifts three hens that lay – on average – one egg a day for fifteen months. The Give a Flock tees come in women, men’s, and kids. Price: $29.99 – $49.99.
3. Mercy Corps: Portland-based Mercy Corps, a poverty and oppression alleviation organization that works in some of the world’s poorest nations, also believes in providing better means for people to earn wealth and bring themselves out of poverty. One gift I found to be interesting is crickets. You can gift crickets to a family because they are a delicious meal for chickens.
Mercy Corps gifts a loan to a farmer to buy cricket eggs and incubaton boxes. Price: $33.
4. Oxfam America: Oxfam is an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice. For $18 you can donate honey bees to farmers to harvest fair trade honey to sell. Price: $18.
5. World Vision: A Christian humanitarian organization that helps communities reach their full potential offers people the option of gifting fish ponds to those in need.
For $200 World Vision will help locals in East Timor and Zambia create a fish pond and stock it with Tilapia, an easy fish to grow and care for. Price $200.
This year I have honey bees, chickens, and crickets on my list. What about you? Have you ever given animals as a gift during the holiday season or anytime of the year? Share your story.