A growing number of British charities are offering goats, like this one, as Yuletide gifts for impoverished Africans. The craze has caught on in Britain, where London-based charity FARM-Africa has sold around 7,000, Christian charity World Vision has sold over 22,000 and Bloomfield of Oxfam, one of Britain’s biggest aid organizations, has sold 55,000 goats this year.
Charity Goats the Christmas Rage in Britain
Dec. 23, 2005 â€” The humble goat is stepping out of the nativity scene into the forefront of ethical Christmas gift giving in Britain this year, with villagers in the poorest parts of Africa reaping the benefits.
Just by going online, holiday shoppers can buy a goat for as little as 24 pounds ($42) from a growing number of charities as a novel Yuletide present with a poverty-fighting purpose.
“We are currently running at 55,000 goats this year, which is pretty staggering when you think about it, compared with 30,000 in 2004,” said spokesman Phil Bloomfield of Oxfam, one of Britain’s biggest aid organizations.
It’s not just goats, either. Oxfam has sold 9,500 donkeys at 50 pounds ($87) each through its high-street retail shops and its Oxfam Unwrapped Web site, which also offers camels for 95 pounds ($165).
In every instance, there are two recipients â€” the one who gets a personalized card and picture of “their” animal, and the family somewhere in Africa who gets a valuable head of livestock.
“This year we’ve sold 22,614 goats, just to be precise,” Andrea Stephens of World Vision, the Christian charity that first introduced the “charity goat,” told AFP this week as she scrolled through the latest sales data.
“People are looking for something different. They are trying to find unusual ways of buying presents for family and friends and colleagues, particularly those people who are hard to buy for.”
World Vision even sells goats in bulk â€” 91 pounds provided a herd of 13 â€” along with many other ethical gifts from mosquito nets (five pounds, $8.50) and cleft lip surgery (100 pounds, $173) to a water dam (5,689 pounds, $9,859).
For many gift givers, goats are a more tangible way of donating to charity after a year marked by Biblical-scale catastrophe â€” including the Asian tsunami, the Kashmir earthquake and extreme poverty and hunger in Africa.
Research from the British Red Cross into the public’s attitude to disasters, released Friday, indicated that 79 percent of Britons had reached deep into their pockets for an emergency appeal this year.
Make Poverty History and its rock concert spin-off Live 8 were also factors, after more than 200,000 people marched in Edinburgh in July demanding action on aid, trade and debt relief from the Group of Eight industrialized powers.
The typical charity goat comes from the country or region where it is bought by a charity, then given over to a family or community that can use it to produce milk for resale.
FARM-Africa, a small London-based charity that specializes in village agricultural projects, has been selling goats for two years for 30 pounds ($52) each, but its work doesn’t just stop there.
It crossbreeds local goats with Toggenburgs, a venerable Alpine breed, to create “a hearty dairy goat” that can produce four to five liters (up to 1.3 U.S. gallons) of milk a day, said FARM-Africa spokeswoman Sarah Gillam.
“We always target people who are the poorest in the community,” she told AFP. “Some of the people we are working with will be on food aid, and some of them will be very close to that edge.”
To date, FARM-Africa has sold 7,000 goats for Christmas, plus 7,000 chickens and 1,000 sheep, many of them through travel Web site Lastminute.com, which advertises them alongside luxury sun holidays and gastronomic dinners.
“Goats don’t really require very much land,” Gillam said, explaining how FARM-Africa also erects a simple but sturdy shelter for each of its goats and supplies seedlings to grow crops to feed it.
As a Christmas gift, Oxfam’s Bloomfield told AFP, “goats seem to be the thing that people really respond to.”
“I have no idea why. I think it’s just because they’re funny, really. People just like the idea of being able to give a goat.”
Name: Domestic Goat (Capra hircus)
Primary Classification: Bovidae (Cattle, Goats, Antelopes and Relatives)
Location: Originally Central Asia; today, worldwide
Habitat: Originally steep hills and mountainsides; today, wherever there is grass for grazing
Diet: Grasses, shrubs, leaves, twigs, berries and almost any other type of plant material
Size: Averages 3.5 ft in length and 99 lbs in weight
Description: White, black, red or brown in color; cloven hooves; short tail that curves upward; males have beard and large, hollow horns directed upward, backward and outward; females have short horns
Cool Facts: It may have been the first hoofed animal that was ever tamed, some 8,000 or 9,000 years ago. Males emit a rank odor during the breeding season to attract females. The bottom of its hoof is shaped somewhat like a suction cup, which allows it to leap from rock to rock without slipping.
Conservation Status: Common
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