A Good Move By The Obama Administration (Finally)

Great progress is being made at the World Food Programme.  The U.S. Representative to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture has announced that the US will allow for additional purchasing of food from local farmers in developing countries (including Uganda and Tanzania) under the World Food Programme’s Purchase for Progress program. The US will nearly double its purchase of local Maize to 400,000 metric tonnes. This is a huge step in the right direction

While food insecurity is a major global issue, the international response to this crisis has come at the expense of the local farmer. As Ambassador Cousin notes, “The US President traditionally ships food produced at home as aid to needy countries…Barack Obama’s administration is trying to change this.”

The US provides large amounts of aid for developing nations but a majority of US aid is tied to buybacks of US goods and services. The US supports the work of the World Food Programme generally with donations of US commodities, a policy that makes the economic situation in developing nations worse.

The dumping of food from donor countries on developing countries is crippling to local markets and farmers that are struggling to survive. Agriculture supports the livelihood of roughly 80% of Africans and by purchasing locally grown crops, and by increasing the market access of small farmers in Africa, we can help create an environment where Africa wins the fight against food insecurity. This shift in US policy is a step in the right direction and a huge win for small farmers in developing nations.

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Trade As One

Was introduced to this video today. Beyond some obvious struggles that I have with their statement that the answer to our problem (debt) was the answer to their problem (poverty), I think that math the Trade as One team uses is a little off.

“If every person who attended church in this country (the USA) made just one fair trade purchase, one million families would be lifted out of poverty for one whole year”

Well this is where the math gets tricky.

Let’s look at the need first:

1,000,000 families out of poverty.

Let’s assume that the average family in the developing world has 5 members. This is a conservative estimate as the births per women tend to be high in developing countries and women in many developing countries tend to have over 4 children.

1,000,000 families x 5 people = 5,000,000 people.

A standard measure of being out of poverty is crossing the $2 per day threshold.

$2 per day x 365 days =$730


When you multiply that by the number of people that they are anticipating will be lifted out of poverty the total economic need is

$730 x 5,000,000 = $3,650,000,000

Lifting 1 million families (5 million people) out of poverty for an entire year would take $3.65 billion!

Now let’s look at the group that will support that economic out put.

Roughly 40% of Americans go to church on a weekly basis.

According to the US Census Bureau there are approximately 311,000,000 people in America.

311,000,000 x 40% = 124,400,000 church goers

So according to the Trade as One video 124.4 million church goers can purchase one fair trade item this Christmas to support $3.65 billion in economic development that will support 1 million families.

If we all equally divide up this task that means that 3,650,000,000 would need to be divided among 124,400,000 people.

3,650,000,000/124,400,000 = $29.34 spent on fair trade products per church attendee

If we were to generously assume that 50% of the sales price of the product made it to these people in need each church attendee would need to spend $58.68 ($58.68 * 50% = $29.34) per product in order to generate this level of economic impact. The first problem this is that none of the products on the Trade as One website were sold for $58.68, and many were sold for less than $10. The other problem is that the people living in poverty likely make was less than 50% of the total sales price.

 Not too sure how they came up with their marketing pitch, but the numbers just don’t seem to support their claim.

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Public Executions or Civil Unions

Later today the State of Illinois is likely to pass legislation to allow Civil Unions for homosexual couples.

Regardless of one’s opinions on homosexuality, the discussion, debate, and legislation around this issue should bring every American joy.

 It is not often that we truly contemplate the freedoms that we have in this country. We are an amazingly blessed people who are privileged to experience some of the greatest freedoms on this planet.

While our government is debating legislation that will impact benefits for same-sex partners such as joint parental rights, adoptions, social security, welfare, and tax filings as it relates to homosexual couples other governments are debating whether it should be legal to imprison people caught in homosexual acts. Some are even calling for the Ugandan Parliament to reintroduce legislation that would allow for the execution of certain homosexuals (a measure that Uganda President Museveni vowed to support).

This fall a newspaper in Uganda even ran an article showing the pictures of 100 Ugandan homosexuals with the headline “Hang Them”.

While the legislation in Illinois is bound to create division among the people of Illinois, I am much happier that we are having a debate about unions and marriage than imprisonment and execution.

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Free Isn’t Always Good

Dave Ferguson has inspired a great discussion around TOMS shoes and the impact that it has on the developing world. 

Of course giving a free pair of shoes to children in the developing world is a good thing, isn’t it? Maybe not.

What people at the bottom of the economic pyramid need is not only free producted dumped into their communities, but also low-cost products that are sold to that sustain them and their local economies.

Development is tricky business, and there is always the potential for collateral damage.

I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this, either here or on Dave’s blog.

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A Small Act

I love this. What an amazing story of exponential impact.

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GFR Truck Fire

When I was driving from Njombe to Dar es Salaam on November 10th the  Global
Family Rescue
 truck broke down in a small village called Kilimahewa.  After driving nearly 2000 KM in the previous two days, the truck came to a screeching halt about 80 KM from Dar, apparently the result of problems with the clutch.

This past weekend I spent all of Saturday and Sunday working with the mechanics to repair the issue – driving back and forth to Dar to get parts and supplies that were all unavailable in this remote village.

On Sunday evening we had a breakthrough and it appeared as if all of the issues were finally fixed! This was a huge relief as I am scheduled to fly out of Tanzania for a trip back to the US on Tuesday, and I didn’t want to return to Tanzania to deal with car problems.

At about 6 pm we packed up our supplies and started the trek to Dar. We made it through the traffic jams and chaos caused by street vendors, pedestrians and potholes that make driving in this city notoriously difficult.

As we approached the guest house where I was staying, I dropped the mechanic off and started to say my goodbyes. As he was walking around to the driver’s side of the vehicle to shake my hand I noticed what smelled like smoke. I asked the mechanic if everything was OK, and he said it was fine, and that he would come by in the morning to check the vehicle to see if it was leaking oil or something.

He could tell by my face that I wasn’t too thrilled with his answer, so he crouched down to give what felt like a courtesy look under the car. Immediately he jumped up, opened my door, and yanked me from the vehicle. Just as he got me out the door flames shot up from under the car. Within seconds there were flames under car, coming out of the engine and consuming the inside of the vehicle through the center console.

A crowd quickly appeared and began throwing water and sand on the fire, and attempted to contain the fire with several small fire extinguishers. They battled the fire for about 12 minutes before the Dar es Salaam fire department arrived and soaked the engine and interior with enough water to stop the fire.  This heroic crowed also rescued all of my personal items from the truck.

While this was not a good experience, I feel incredibly blessed. Yes, blessed. This could have been a lot worse!

  • I am very grateful that nobody was injured in the incident
  • If this had happened two minutes earlier I would have been in a crowd of hundreds of people (many of whom could have been injured) and if this had happened two minutes later I would have been in a remote parking lot, and the car surrounding cars, and all of my personal items would have been destroyed. If this had to happen, it happened at exactly the right place and time!
  • Everything that I brought to Tanzania was in the back of my truck. The loss of laptops, cameras, files and manpris would have been catastrophic. Thankfully none of these items were lost or damaged.
  • Since we were in Dar and not in a rural part of Tanzania the fire department was able to assist, and there will likely be some salvage value for the vehicle. Unlike America, there are no fire departments outside of the city and we likely would have lost everything if this happened in a rural area.

I am thankful for God’s protection and provision during this ordeal and I’m grateful that this didn’t end up as badly as it could have!

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Next Steps

This fall will mark my third year anniversary as a board member of Global Family Rescue. If you had told me when I was first nominated for the board that I would later become executive director, would travel to East Africa 8 times in 18 months, and would eventually move to Tanzania, I never would have believed you. Our tagline at GFR is, “transforming the world one family at a time”, and I can honestly say that I am someone that has been transformed by the work of GFR.

In the past three years, I have been able to see the growth and transformation in hundreds of people that have pulled themselves out of poverty, seen hope restored as our doctors and nurses provide life saving medical treatment, and have witnessed joy as teenagers have enrolled in school for the first time in their lives. I’m thrilled by what GFR has already done, but what’s next really fires me up.

Now that I am here in Njombe, we will be able to launch an aggressive growth strategy that is aimed at eradicating poverty and alleviating suffering. Here is what I will be doing in Tanzania this fall:

• Expanding our focus on healthcare by providing prenatal and child delivery services in Igwachanya

• Launching a dental clinic in Igwachanya, a region that has never had dental services before

• Conducting training on small business development and basic business practices

• Teaching advanced techniques in farming and livestock rearing to rural farmers

• Increasing our investment in local women-led business associations that help bring women entrepreneurs out of poverty.

The impact that will be seen in the villages where we are working will be amazing and I am excited to have you all on the journey with me as we continue to transform lives .

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