THE BLOG

Why Coach Class Isn't Enough for Africa

29/01/2016 14:14 GMT | Updated 28/01/2017 10:12 GMT

Send a Cow has exciting news. Our three month fundraising campaign, Planting Hope has raised over £1.15m which when matched by the UK government, means the charity has over £2.3m to help more than 200,000 of Africa's poorest people out of extreme poverty.

Given the negativity about some charities' approach to fundraising in the UK right now, it's an amazing achievement - a testament to all the people who donated, fundraised and bought virtual gifts. It clearly demonstrates that there is still support for the work of charities among people, who like us, fundamentally despair at the inequalities and injustices of life and know that if they don't do something, no one else will.

Thinking about injustice, there is one image I simply cannot get out of my mind since Oxfam planted it there during the World Economic Forum at Davos. The thought that you could get the world's richest people on a single coach. Oxfam reported that just 62 of the world's richest individuals collectively own more than the poorest 3.6 billion.

From my experience, these billionaires will be well informed individuals who donate substantial sums to charity every year. I have nothing but admiration for what many of them have achieved, but goodness I would like to get them on a coach and take them on a magical mystery tour, sharing some of the sights I have witnessed in Africa.

People eking out a living with just one cash crop, feeding their families on a few root vegetables and sending their children out for hours on end every day walking miles to graze animals, collect firewood or ferry gallons of water. I would like to introduce them to the youngsters whose families have been torn apart as their parents travel to find work as day labourers or even worse, have died because of political strife or HIV/AIDS. I would like them to hear first-hand the stories of impoverished grandmothers trying to bring up orphaned grandchildren alone and even support numerous children with no relationship to them because however poor their personal circumstances, they have a burning desire to help those unable to fend for themselves.

At the time of Live Aid, back in 1985, many of us imagined Africa as an arid dust bowl. The scenes we saw reported were flat, grey camps brimming with suffering children, batting flies away from their huge eyes set in heads way too large for their tiny, distended bodies. And we still see some of that today. Famine, like the one currently affecting 10% of Ethiopia's population, continues to be the curse of the unprepared and unknowledgeable in Africa - those communities unlucky enough to be barely visible in remote regions where extreme weather conditions, unexpected shocks and disease can take hold swiftly and with devastating effect.

2016-01-28-1454000871-8409857-UKAIDDonationsflag4C.jpg

But in reality, large parts of Africa are positively verdant. There are mountains, valleys and lakes; there is sunshine to help things grow tall and fast; there is rainfall that may be performing erratically across the continent, but can still be harvested and used to maximum effect. Yes, there is land eroded by climate change or undernourished through lack of cultivation, but with the majority of the continent's rural population working in agriculture, Africa has all the ingredients to feed itself. Its resources should be its recipe for success. So what's stopping it?

I think it's money and it's not even about the 62 I could tour around with Africa on a bus. It's the 1 percent of us who Credit Suisse say fall into the richest people on the planet - those with homes and pensions worth around £500,000. I number myself among them and remarkably our combined wealth is more than the world's remaining 7.2 billion.

We have to be more generous with our cash. We have to stop harking back to Live Aid and complaining that nothing has changed, and start recognising that Africa is changing. Send a Cow has decades of evidence that when money is wisely spent and effectively managed on practical training, seeds and tools, people's lives can be transformed within a matter of months and futures secured.

We know that once people learn how to survive, they gain the confidence to be entrepreneurs and the skills to negotiate with local decision makers. They learn to support one another, to work together for the good of their community and share all their new-found skills, knowledge and first-born livestock with those less fortunate than themselves.

And if they can share with such good grace then surely the one per cent of us can too? In Africa we ask those we work with not ''what do you need'', but ''what do you have?'' Perhaps we should ask ourselves ''what do have'' and ''what can we share?''