Heifer International: Working To End World Hunger, One Llama At A Time

bolivian farmerGot an extra $20 burning a hole in your pocket and want to make a difference in the lives of others? Buy a flock of ducks. Eighty-five dollars will get you a camel share, while a mere $48 purchases a share in a “Knitter’s Gift Basket (a llama, alpaca, sheep and angora rabbit).”

Since 1944, Heifer International has provided livestock, and animal husbandry, agricultural and community development training to over 125 countries, including the U.S. The goal: to help end world hunger and poverty by improving breeding stock, providing valuable dietary supplements such as milk and eggs, and creating viable business enterprises for commodity products such as cheese, wool, honey, or crops cultivated by draft animals like horses and water buffalo.

The livestock species used to support disenfranchised communities are diverse, but traditional to their respective regions. They include goats, sheep, honeybees, beef and dairy cattle, water buffalo, yaks, horses, donkeys, llamas, alpacas, camels, rabbits, guinea pigs and poultry.

When I was a kid growing up on a small ranch in Southern California, we used to donate our male dairy goat kids (which, if sold here, would most likely be relegated to dinner) to Heifer. Although the program no longer ships live animals overseas (it’s easier and safer/more humane to ship frozen semen), the concept remains the same: using top bloodlines to improve the quality and enhance the genetic diversity of herds or flocks in impoverished regions.

Heifer teaches the concept of the “Seven M’s: Milk, Manure, Meat, Material, Money, Motivation and Muscle.” These are the benefits livestock animals provide to people in developing nations. With the training provided by Heifer employees and volunteers, the cycle of poverty can be broken, and families and villages can thrive. During the holidays or for birthdays, I like to make animal gift donations in the name of the recipient, an especially valuable lesson for children (who, let’s face it, really don’t need another electronic piece of crap to foster their ADD and lack of global awareness).

Never doubt the power of a furry friend to change the world. To make a donation, click here.

Check out this Heifer International gallery of animals and their proud owners from around the world:

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Man sets out on 5,000 mile hike throughout Asia to raise money for charity

man walks 5,000 miles across asia to help children Winston Fiore, a 26 year old Marine from Bloomington, Indiana, has set out on a 5,000 mile journey, by foot, throughout Southeast Asia and China. Fiore arrived in Southeast Asia on September 25, 2011, for what is called “Smile Trek”, and is projecting it will take him a year to walk the entire route, which begins and ends in Singapore.

The goal of the journey is to raise $50,000 or more for the International Children’s Surgery Foundation, a not-for-profit that provides children in developing countries with free corrective surgery. Through fundraising efforts, such as giving presentations at rotary clubs across the United States as well as having help from the CouchSurfing community who have helped organize benefit dinners, charity walks, and media interviews, Fiore has been able to raise over $28,000 for the cause.

Fiore’s inspiration for Smile Trek stems from an experience he had when training for the Marines in a very poor region of Lingure, Senegal. When he returned home, he read a newspaper article about a successful plastic surgeon in the United States who gave up his career to perform free surgeries in developing nations for children with cleft palates and lips. From there, the idea began to grow.

To follow Fiore’s Smile Trek or donate to his cause, visit his blog here.

Developing nations see huge gains in tourism revenue

Developing nations are seeing huge benefits from tourismAccording to data collected by the United Nations World Tourism Organizations (UNWTO), developing countries have seen significant gains in both the number of tourists visiting those nations and the amount of revenue generated from visitors over the past decade. In many of those countries, tourism ranks in the top three categories for economic development, demonstrating that travel can play a vital role in helping developing economies mature.

These findings were revealed at a recent United Nations conference on developing economies, with the study revealing that the 48 least developed countries saw the number of travelers rise from 6 million visitors in 2000 to over 17 million in 2010. Perhaps even more encouraging however, is that the revenue generated from those visitors rose from $3 billion to $10 billion.

The UNWTO is hoping that these findings will give developing nations the incentive they need to build a sustainable tourism industry. Tourism is already proving that it can be a driving force in creating new jobs and building a more dynamic economy. Discussions at the special conference centered around just that, with a focus on creating good governance and sustainability practices in tourism; promoting investment in a tourism based economy; nurturing poverty reduction through tourism; and developing methods for training a sustainable work force. Attendees at the conference also discussed ways of protecting their considerable natural and cultural assets as the numbers of visitors rise as well.

It is interesting that despite the harsh global economic climate over the past few years, emerging economies across the planet have continued to see a significant increase in the number of visitors and revenue generated from them. This bodes well for countries looking to improve their economy, and tourism is now seen as a very viable way of climbing out of poverty.

That is definitely something I can put my travel dollars behind.

It’s time travel writers stopped stereotyping Africa

Africa, africaPop quiz: where was this photo taken?

OK, the title of this post kind of gives it away, but if I hadn’t written Africa, would you have guessed? It was taken in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. This isn’t the view of Africa you generally get from the news or travel publications–a modern city with high rises and new cars. A city that could be pretty much anywhere. That image doesn’t sell.

And that’s the problem.

An editorial by Munir Daya for the Tanzanian newspaper The Citizen recently criticized Western media coverage of Africa, saying it only concentrated on wars, AIDS, corruption, and poverty. Daya forgot to mention white people getting their land stolen. If black people get their land stolen, you won’t hear a peep from the New York Times or the Guardian. If rich white ranchers get their land stolen, well, that’s international news. And look how many more articles there are about the war in Somalia than the peace in Somaliland.

Daya was objecting to an in-flight magazine article about Dar es Salaam that gave only superficial coverage of what the city has to offer and was peppered with statements such as, “Dar es Salaam’s busy streets are bustling with goats, chickens, dust-shrouded safari cars, suit-clad office workers and traders in colourful traditional dress.”

Daya actually lives in the city and says you won’t find many goats and chickens on the streets. But that wouldn’t make good copy, would it?

Travel writing has an inherent bias in favor of the unfamiliar, the dangerous. Some travel writers emphasize the hazards of their journey in order to make themselves look cool, or focus on the traditional and leave out the modern. Lonely Planet Magazine last year did a feature on Mali and talked about the city of Bamako, saying, “Though it is the fastest-growing city in Africa, Bamako seems a sleepy sort of place, lost in a time warp.” On the opposite page was a photo of a street clogged with motorcycle traffic. If Bamako is in a sleepy time warp, where did the motorcycles come from?

I’m not just picking on Lonely Planet; this is a persistant and widespread problem in travel writing and journalism. Writers, and readers, are more interested in guns than concerts, slums rather than classrooms, and huts rather than skyscrapers. In most travel writing, the coverage is simply incomplete. In its worst extremes, it’s a form of racism. Africa’s problems need to be covered, but not to the exclusion of its successes.

As Daya says, “there is more to Africa than famine and genocide.” There are universities, scientific institutes, music, fine cuisine, economic development, and, yes, skyscrapers.

And if you think Dar es Salaam is the exception rather than the rule, check out Skyscrapercity.com’s gallery of African skyscrapers.

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