We saw other organizations doing animal projects to help those in poverty. The idea is that you give an animal instead of money to a person in poverty to help them not spend the money right away. This is a great idea in theory, but what I’m learning from living in Africa with the very poor is that people don’t live in poverty because they lack things. Poverty is deeper than just a lack of items, it’s a mindset. The cure for poverty isn’t just giving items or money, the cure for poverty is quite complex and seems to be different for each person within poverty.
What I’ve seen is that in every community, rich, poor, middle class, there are go getters, there are people who when given a little make it more. Monica is just such woman.
Monica and her husband had 4 children and as the story with many women in her village goes Monica’s husband died. She digs her land to provide food for her family. Any extra food that is left Monica sells to the locals in her community so she can buy things she can’t grow like oil, soap, clothes, and candles.
When we met Monica she had a few chickens and a goat. The problem with keeping animals is that when you are hungry your animals get eaten and are no longer kept. Monica understood this but she also understood that animals give birth to more animals. She had a proposal for us. She asked us if we would front the money and purchase a goat for her, this way she would have two…you understand where I’m going with this. Her proposal didn’t end there. Monica has a business mind and knew that a gift of a goat was a bad idea for the investor. She proposed that the goat we bought for her would remain our goat and the first baby would belong to her as payment for keeping our goat. Then the second baby would be ours and so on every other kid belonging to each other.
You can see where this idea of running an animal project would be beneficial but also take a lot of supervision. Living in the capital city and monitoring the birth of goats 5 hours away in village got overwhelming to us. (we might pick up the concept when we move into the village).
Now on to the title of my post where the goat has a cow. Monica gave it time and her two goats and a few chickens turned into quite a number of goats and chickens. With each batch of chicken Monica would trade them in for a goat. Monica called us with a new proposition. She wanted to take her now herd of goats (who were eating her out of house and home and driving her crazy) and trade them in for a cow. We gave her permission to use our goat to help in the “purchase” to a cow.
When we went last weekend to check on Monica’s cow we found that it wasn’t a cow but a bull. Monica explained to us that there is enough milk in the village but cows needed to give birth to give more milk. Not many people want to keep bulls because there isn’t the instant payoff with milk and calving. So Monica bought a bull for stud. With time she will rent out her bull to all those with milk cows.
This is why I say that poverty is complex because even with all that Monica is capable of doing she still lives in poverty. She is still stuck in the system that permeates her community. Poverty is something that needs to be tackled holistically. But improving one’s situation and in turn changing the community, slowly, slowly. That can help. Jesus said, “there will always be the poor among you”. But removing obstacles for the poor is going in the right direction.