Give the Gift of Goat!

Still don`t know what to give someone? Buy them a goat! They don’t need a goat? But someone in Zambia or another country does. Most of you probably got the same envelopes in the mail I did – from NGOs (Non Government Organizations) like World Vision or CARE, or similar. You can give the gift of a cow, a goat, sheep, or chickens to someone in dire need. Do it in the name of someone you don’t know what to give to. It’s a win/win situation!

Village piglets block our 'road' to Jessy's house in Mpongwe. The gift of a pig with World Vision is $40.

Driving around rural Mpongwe while visiting Zambian farmer’s corn fields, we often have to veer around free roaming goats or chickens. Some are gifts from overseas donors. It`s always pretty cool to see firsthand what donor money is doing, especially if it is doing something good. Goats and chickens are generally a good thing. They breed quickly; they provide meat, milk and eggs, and an income. Most programs stipulate that the first kids or chicks go back to the community, to a new recipient to keep the program growing.

Most leave their village chickens to run around and fend for themselves. NGOs teach people to make small enclosures and better feed, for more chicks and eggs.

The gift of a goat through World Vision costs $100. At first glance that seems like a lot. But I’ve met the people who manage some of these goat projects. By the time World Vision gives someone a goat, there’s been a fair bit of work done already. Someone has been there to access the situation. Someone has provided training in animal husbandry and bookkeeping, among other basic life skills. Someone brings the goat. Someone follows the family up, to see how they made out. As World Vision pays its employees fair market wages, it’s easy to see why the goat costs $100. But all that work ensures that the goat will bring more than a quick fix.

A small farmer with an ox is in a privileged position. They can plow their fields with their animals, or work for their neighbours with them. It's more expensive, but a great gift.

The odd time the donated goats or chickens do get eaten instead. I think of our good friend Harold Huising who’s gone to Zambia with us for several years. He never worried about whether something he gave had long term consequences. He just felt good that they had a good meal at least once. And this is one time when I might agree with him.

Think of what happens with many of our Christmas presents. Do we need them? Do they have long term impact? Maybe some do. But many don’t. It’s just one more thing hanging around. So what if the goat you gave ends up on the BBQ pit? At least someone had a good time with your money! Or the chicken goes to feed the honoured guests, because it would be terribly rude to not give them food when it is walking around outside.

Fact is: most recipients really do look after their animals properly. In time they have a sizable herd or flock. They can now sell an animal when it’s time to pay school fees or buy medicine for a sick child. They can sell eggs and buy food. Life has greatly improved. And it’s because of your gift. Pretty good, eh? Now, let’s hope that ‘someone’ on your list thinks so too.

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