Culprits not easily identified
(See also How plastic reindeer can feed the world.)
ALBERTON, South Africa; KOCHI, India––Animal charities in the developing world often have first-hand experience with the failures of livestock gift schemes meant by well-meaning western donors to relieve hunger and poverty.
But developing world animal charities tend to lack any ability to hold livestock gift program promoters to account, while accountability from livestock gift charities tends to be weak to non-existent, according to the charity monitoring organization GiveWell.org (http://www.givewell.org/international/economic-empowerment/livestock-gift-programs).
Because international livestock donor charities often work through government agencies, and because politically appointed administrators try to appropriate to themselves and their political parties the credit for providing livestock gifts to their communities, the local humane societies that eventually intervene on behalf of neglected animals frequently find that they cannot even name the nonprofit organizations that should be held culpable.
Twice in 2013, for instance, the Alberton-based National SPCA of South Africa intervened in failed livestock donation schemes promoted by local governments, but was unable to identify the sources of funding that enabled the schemes to begin without adequate provision for follow-up.
In August 2013, the NSPCA reported to donors, “Our swift intervention has led to food being provided for an estimated 1,500 chickens after they were allegedly without food for 7 days. The NSPCA team was accompanied by an inspector from the SPCA Vereeniging, who rendered assistance at the government-sponsored project in Clarens, the Dihlabeng Poverty Relief Scheme. The team was advised that 500 chickens had died, allegedly from starvation. Six birds with broken wings were humanely destroyed.
“Overall responsibility for this project,” the NSPCA said, “is carried by the local municipality who sent representatives to the scene the following day.”
But where the municipality obtained the funding and the chickens distributed through the project was unclear. ANIMALS 24-7 reviewed several years’ worth of relevant municipal reports without finding a word about either outside sponsorship or allocation of local tax resources.
Had happened before
“This is not the first time we have responded to a government project that has failed,” the NSPCA continued. “In 2012, the Dihlabeng Municipal Poverty Relief Scheme apparently provided 1,000 chickens to the local community, all of whom are alleged to have died. Unacceptable living conditions are believed to have lead to the deaths, including neglect, a lack of access to food and water, dirty housing, a lack of heaters, and broken shades on the chicken housing.”
Fish farming failure
Comparably, the NSPCA added, “In Rooiberg, Limpopo, a tilapia breeding project set up by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is not living up to its potential. The national government department initially supplied a small group of emerging fish famers with tanks and the education to raise and breed the fish.
“Although in this instance the necessary training was provided by the Department of Agriculture, the local municipality has not allowed the farmers to change the water in the holding tanks. Without adequate filtration, the water quality within the tanks has decreased. The effects are noticeable and severe: because the fish are living outside their specific range of water quality parameters suitable for both growth and reproduction, the fish are growing at a slow rate and reproduction is minimal.”
A similar situation occurred in Aizawl district, Mizoram state, India, where more than 300 piglets were donated to villagers through a local government program in April 2013, but soon died from hog cholera, The Hindu reported.
In fairness, the outbreak also killed about 300 pigs belonging to more experienced farmers. Altogether, about 12,200 pigs fell ill.
A year earlier, on the far side of India, a cattle donation scheme meant to help 30 families living within the nominally protected Vazhachal Forest, within the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve buffer zone, put the forest, the families, and the cattle themselves at risk, Wildlife Division of the Kerala Forest Research Institute chief E.A. Jayson told K.S. Sudhi of The Hindu.
“Though the tribal people are supposed to stall-feed the cattle, and pasturing cattle inside the forest reserve is banned under the Kerala Forest Act, the cattle are often let free to feed in the forest,’ wrote Sudhi.
Warned Jayson, “The presence of cattle can attract predators such as tigers, leopards, and wild dogs.”
Leopards had already taken some of the cattle, reported Sudhi, though no instances of the leopards attacking humans were known to have occurred.
Endemic lack of accountability
The cattle distribution was conducted by the Kerala State Tribal Development Department. The charity donating the cattle was, as usual, not identified.
Because hundreds of charities based in dozens of nations are now involved in donating livestock to people and projects in the developing world, failed livestock donation schemes do not implicate any particular charity.
But the failures do tend to lend weight to the GiveWell.org concern that “We have not found a livestock-distribution charity that has published either evidence of impact or clear answers” to six basic accountability questions, beginning with whether the intended recipients have the ability to provide adequate animal care and concluding with inquiring whether gifts of money might help the recipients more than gifts of animals.