Saturday, 2 December 2006

The Times, Goats and Oxfam

The ongoing saga of criticism of goats and other grazing animals being used in Africa developed a new twist when, according to an article in The Times "some of the aid agencies questioned whether the argumment was more about whose catalogue was most ethical. They pointed out that.... the [World Land] trust offered a chance to preserve an acre of rainforest." Ignoring the fact that the WLT does not actually have a catalogue, I should point out that wildlife, animals and habitat degradation are all areas in which the Trust has expertise. I would also point out that another charity with expertise in animal husbandry is also critical of the goat schemes (Animal Aid).

Land purchase is central to the whole mission of the World Land Trust. Trading in goats, is not central to Oxfam or any other of the aid agencies doing it -- which is one reason why I and others see it as a cynical marketting tool.

It is also worth pointing out that the WLT's offer is very transparent, totally traceable and subject to a proper review and evaluation process, and any developments on the land subject to an EIA. And the projects are all run by competent local NGOs. And we publish on our website details of the location so that anyone can visit the projects if they wish.

Part of the problem with the whole goat issue has been the difficulty finding out any hard facts. This time last year I first wrote to Oxfam, and later on a TV broadcast confronted some of the issues, but they have never come back with any satisfactory responses. For all I know, they may be carrying out effective Environmental Impact Assessments, but when they come out with claims such as the animals being supplied to pastoralist communities, and fed on crop wastes, I do wonder if they know what they are talking about -- since most pastoralist societies do not grow crops, by definition. Of course the issue has now been clouded further, because of the admission by some of the aid charities that the money does not actually go into purchasing goats and cows....

One of my criticisms that has not received any serious coverage, is that putting all this information on the internet, about goats and cattle being a way out of poverty, gives entirely the wrong message to people living in that part of the world. When schoolkids in Nairobi or any other part of subSaharan Africa search the internet -- and millions do -- they will be subjected to a barrage of misinformation that flies in the face of all the research published by the United nations Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO), as well as the Nairobi-based United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP).

Or do the aid agencies assume that the rest of the world live in ignorance and do not use the internet or mobile phones?

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