Moo-vement for charity
Ulster man Lindsay Easson is planting the seeds of a Christmas appeal.
The 68 year old farming expert has just returned from Africa where charity Send a Cow has helped over a million people.
He was humbled to meet families saved from starvation who now have enough food to sell at markets and educate their kids.
And as Ethiopia faces its worst drought in 30 years, which the UN has warned could leave 15 million people facing famine, he’s called on the Northern Ireland public to help out.
“I met families who had worried about where their next meal was coming from. Now they’re planning for the future,” says Lindsay.
For the dad of two the most poignant moment was sitting in a mud hut in a remote community while local people quizzed him about climate change.
“They explained how climate change is making life more difficult for them and asked how it affected us,” he says.
“But we are the ones causing it, and it’s their food on the table that’s getting hit.”
Lindsay, who retired three years ago from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, has agreed to become an ambassador for Send a Cow which trains poor farmers to work their land and gives them tools, seeds and livestock.
He says its success is in targeting the poorest people in already impoverished communities, and teaching them valuable farming skills.
“Some of the families told us they were looked down on by their neighbours because they were so poor. After working with Send a Cow they can provide for their families and are respected in the community,” he says.
“They have land which is fit to be farmed, but they may not know how to improve its fertility or how to save water.
“Send a Cow gets volunteers and trains them for up to nine months and then stays with that group for three or four years.
“The tremendous thing is how the neighbours around a family see what is happening and they want to do the same.”
The charity was set up by English dairy farmers 30 years ago and works in seven African countries to lift families out of poverty. It has just launched its Planting Hope campaign, when the UK government has agreed to double donations made by December 31.
For Lindsay, who made the trip with wife Gwyneth, it was an eye-opener to meet families who had to struggle just to feed their children.
“In the dry season families would not have had enough food to last them through the season, and even in the wet season they were not getting the rain.
“The charity is saying if you are prepared to work we will help you turn things around – they are not just handing stuff out. And the response from the families has been so enthusiastic.
“After they have done the training they can set up their vegetable gardens, selling the surplus to pay for their children’s education, and if they have livestock like goats they pass the kids on to another family.”
He also witnessed how the charity is making massive progress in changing the mindset in communities which left .
Women would normally have to work the land while the men were expected to find food further afield, but in reality the women ended up doing all the work.
“The charity got them to sit down and talk about this, and the changes that brought about were readily adopted.
“I thought it would take years to change the men’s attitudes but they told me they could see how much happier their families are since they started sharing the work.”
He was also moved by a women’s group brought together by the charity to learn cotton spinning which uses donations of a few pence a week from each member to buy a house in the next village.
“When the children finish primary school they go to second school in the next town, but it’s too far to walk. They need a house for their children to live in so they can stay at school,” says Lindsay.
To donate to the charity go to www.sendacow.org. The UK government has pledged to match donations of up to £5 million to the Planting Hope appeal made up until December 31.