Charity begins at home

The NYT ran an article on charity:

CARE, one of the world’s biggest charities, is walking away from some $45 million a year in federal financing, saying American food aid is not only plagued with inefficiencies, but also may hurt some of the very poor people it aims to help.

In 2004, Mr. Maxwelhtt and Mr. Barrett made the case against the practice at CARE headquarters in Atlanta. They recalled that the senior vice president, Patrick Carey, who has since died, cautioned them that leaving the system would be like “an act of partial suicide” for the nonprofits. Nonetheless, CARE committed to the shift the following year. CARE says it will try to raise money to replace the lost revenues from philanthropies and other donors, and by making its own aid programs profitable.

One of those programs could be seen in action one recent afternoon in the Kenyan village of Poche. CARE has helped local women bypass local middlemen to sell pineapples at better prices in Nairobi’s big supermarkets, 10 hours away by road.

One woman, Doreen Amimo, a 52-year-old grandmother, has seen her weekly earnings rise to $18 from $11. She can now afford to feed and clothe an orphaned niece and nephew.
“And I never lack sugar in the house,” she said, “and we can have tea and milk every morning!”
These farmers are selling their fruit to a small company, Vegcare, that CARE and a Kenyan company started with an investment of $170,000 in 2005. Vegcare advises farmers on how to grow pineapples that meet supermarket standards, buys them and trucks them to a wholesaler in Nairobi that supplies Nakumatt, a Kenyan supermarket chain.

With the rules of the market in Africa, I had mostly thought that charities like ARC and the HEIFER PROJECT had a better idea for long run help for poorer countries. Innovation, hard work, and entrepreneur spirit for a worthy idea – the American ideal of the small farm and cooperative effort.

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