Send a Cow: Helping others Grow Beautiful Businesses
The showcases on Small World Beautiful Business (hoadd.wordpress.com and @beautifulbizz) have until now focussed on the way some businesses are overcoming the tensions between economic viability, sustainability and community. How they have maintained skills and craftsmanship whilst creating something wonderful, designing something special or doing something inspiring.
With their aims and objectives clearly targeted on helping, developing and supporting others, charities and social enterprises form the purest examples of beautiful ‘business’. This showcase takes a look at a beautiful charity which helps people overcome poverty, build businesses and provides futures for communities in some of the most vulnerable regions of Africa. But more than this, it also attempts to develop an awareness and understanding of Africa though their support for education in this country; Send a Cow.
For over 20 years Send a Cow have been helping thousands of African families and orphans grow enough food to eat, sell their produce and develop small businesses that last. Creating small businesses allows people and communities to achieve a significant degree of economic sustainability and solve the age old criticism of charity being seen as a dependency creating hand-out. This is a hand-up when it is needed and has thus far provided many great and inspiring examples of hope emerging from simple solutions. The spin-offs can also be amazing too, as techniques and skills are copied and shared in struggling communities, giving everyone a much needed lift. Examples of farmers emerging from poverty and creating libraries for their local community in central Ethiopia, are truly beautiful. Farmers sharing their skills by creating training farms, and neighbours seeing the success of others on the Send a Cow scheme, deciding to follow suit.
As Send a Cow state, their work has three core strands: strengthening people, farming and animals and caring for the environment.
‘Working with people in groups, to make use of peer support, we train them in how to use their natural resources wisely to build thriving mixed crop-livestock farms. This includes training in natural – or organic – farming; and in livestock care. Where necessary, we provide good quality animals, seeds and tools to get families started.
As well as being cheap and effective, the farming methods we promote are kind to the environment and are truly ‘sustainable’ development. Families learn how to combat environmental challenges such as soil erosion and water shortages – often the result of climate change.
It’s an approach that is enabling whole communities in seven African countries* to move towards self-sufficiency. And along the way, they know they can rely on the support of our extension workers’
How Does it Work?
Send a cow is such a marvellous metaphor for aid and is similar to the often used parable of teaching a man to fish rather giving the man a fish to support himself and his family. A bag of money or a word of encouragement may go some way, but the practical help and personal empowerment, capacity building and increased confidence is the key to longer term successes. Karl Marx is reputed to have said teach a man to fish and some might lose a business opportunity…in the case of Send a Cow, these are the skills which create business opportunities for farmers, families and their community cooperatives.
The charity, like many others is based on the amazing support of the public, as well as a range of grants from public and private organisations. Then the idea, though quite simple, is about training, support and ‘sending a cow’ (or similar)
As Send a Cow comment,
‘… in addition to ongoing training in animal wellbeing, sustainable organic farming practices and natural resource management, our work also provides courses in subjects such as gender equality, conflict resolution, health and hygiene and HIV/Aids awareness. This balance of practical farming skills with social, life skills is a potent mix and produces remarkable results. People are happier and healthier, children are educated, wealth is created and communities are more harmonious’ (www.sendacow.org.uk)
The Send a Cow scheme creates Beautiful businesses, ones which sustain people and communities. These businesses may be small but their significance is huge. The values it creates such as sharing knowledge, ideas and resources is a great foundation for community development
To the Classroom and Creating Understanding
An additional arm to the Send a Cow scheme is the Lessons to Africa project. Lessons to Africa is an educational resource for teachers with practical ideas and projects which help bring Africa to life for children, through fun, hands-on learning. Taking this approach encourages empathy and understanding, which will hopefully build a fairer and more sustainable future for all. As well as teaching resources, Grow it Global, African gardens and African Farmyard are some of the initiatives for schools and youth groups to engage with.As the Educational Manager at Send a Cow John Cleverly comments
‘The aim of the Lessons from Africa site is to be a one-stop-shop for UK teachers to find teaching resources about African countries, with a focus on highlighting sustainability, green technologies and a rounded and respectful view of the continent. Most of our visitors are teachers in both primary and secondary schools, as well as home-schoolers, and are also be interested in the environment and issues around climate change, taking part in the eco-schools initiative etc. The vision for this site is to aggregate ‘African’ content from all sorts of educators, so it should really grow massively in scale. We aim to reach thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of young people – giving them a positive and more rounded view of the African continent and helping them to get inspired by African young people’.
I don’t mind stretching the concept, but Send a Cow is a beautiful charity helping create sustainable communities and beautiful businesses which sustain people.
For Further information on Send a Cow and Lessons From Africa visit their website at www.sendacow.org.uk