Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Heifer International Brochure

Hi, All!

I'm doing well, taking classes at UCLA Extension and looking for a job. I think about Kenya almost daily, but haven't taken the time to write. Even though I should be packing right now (I'm going home for a week tomorrow to help with Katrina & Kier's wedding), I'm compelled to write.

Will got the Heifer International holiday catalog in the mail today, and I read it with great interest. I think everyone's pretty familiar with H.I.'s model: Donations go toward providing area-appropriate livestock to very poor families all over the world. I was surprised to see that H.I. also gives to families in the US, in Arizona and Arkansas.

The brochure has very inspiring pictures of folks, especially children, with their new livestock. There are even a couple of testimonials from Western Kenya--my old hood. The people in the 'snaps'--as Kenyans say--look just like friends I made in the rural areas there. I miss it!

In reading the stories and looking at the pictures though, I can't stop thinking of nitty-gritty questions about the program, especially about its sustainability...

The first that came to mind were:
  1. How do families qualify for a cow, goat, etc.? Do they proactively seek H.I. out or does a H.I. rep approach them? Is there a waiting list?

  2. What do the recipient families do to earn the cow, goat, llama, donkey, chickens, etc? Does H.I. give them out for free? Do participants have to attend training on animal husbandry before they get the animal(s)?

  3. Do the participants' neighbors get jealous? How do they deal with that? What if one family gets a cow, and another gets a goat which is only worth a third or fourth of the cow?

  4. There's a "Pass It On" requirement--the family has to give a female offspring from its animal to another family in the area. How is the other family chosen? If it's not H.I. choosing them, I'll bet you two chickens that there's bribing going on! But I guess that's not the end of the world, is it?

  5. And most importantly, what sort of long-term studies are done to determine whether participating families' quality of life improved temporarily or more permanently?
I don't mean to sound cynical, it sounds like H.I. is doing a lot of good. But you know how skeptical I am about straight-up aid these days... I still don't know how you tell when something like this provides the exactly the leg up someone needs or if it's a temporary band-aid on a systemic problem.

Katy in LA

P.S. Just went to their site and found this page. Encouraging! Love the video about gender equality training!