Every year, Food for the Hungry (FH) gets questions about how we get items donated through our gift catalog to people in FH countries around the world. Do we stick stamps on packets of vegetable seeds? Where do we get the goats we give to farmers? These are logistics questions about how your donation makes its way to the people you’re giving to help. We want to answer them. Let’s talk about the local economy.
We Don’t Ship Sheep!
That’s right! Your donation does not trigger a system that transports a chicken, goat, pig, or entire farm from FH HQ in Phoenix, Arizona to Africa, Asia, or Latin America. That might achieve one goal, of getting an important resource or tool into the hands of the people who need it, but you probably can see how it would be incredibly inefficient. Think about those shipping costs. The time it would take for trans-oceanic transport. Or even more importantly, you might wonder, “Don’t they already have sheep in Ethiopia?”
The answer to that is YES! And that’s why a big part of FH’s gift catalog item distribution process has an even bigger impact than you might first realize. Because as much as possible, FH distributes items like food, seeds, or tools that were obtained from local sources. This means that your purchase of an item from our gift catalog helps both individual families and communities and supports their whole local economy.
A Tale of Two Economies
The fragmented nature of economies in many of the countries where FH works makes it difficult for farmers and small business owners to access markets and support themselves. Millions trapped in poverty find their condition exacerbated by high prices, income losses, and lack of access to resources like credit and insurance.
And unfortunately, some methods of humanitarian aid actually contribute to the problem of inefficient, unstable, or nonexistent local economies.
Think about it. The economic law of supply and demand explains that high demand and low supply increase prices. If everybody wants something, you have to pay a higher price to be the one who gets it. This means that food prices may skyrocket in droughts. Demand is high because children still need to eat. But supply is low because the lack of water caused farmers’ crops to fail.
The opposite can happen too. Imagine you’re a seamstress who earns a living sewing clothing in a small African city. All of a sudden, a truckload of t-shirts arrives, full of free secondhand clothing donated by a charity in the United States. Even if you lower your prices, there’s no way you can beat the abundance of free clothing now available to anyone in your town who wants it. And just like that, you go from a hardworking businesswoman with a trade and income to someone out of a job, forced to find a new way to make money so you can feed your family. You may go from scraping by a meager living to struggling to even feed your family.
A Realistic Scenario
If you are a poor farmer in Ethiopia, it may be that there are sheep for sale in a nearby town, but you can’t afford to spend your family’s income to purchase one full price. Or maybe there are sheep…six hours away, too far to travel. FH works out ways for farmers to access resources that would have been unavailable or too expensive in their own communities. We close gaps.
But in doing so, we are conscious of those on the other side of the transaction: the seller, who also needs to make a living. By obtaining gift catalog items from local sources, we ensure that local businesses and farmers can continue working hard and supporting their own families…for a stronger overall economy and improved economic and social systems. Everyone benefits from a thriving community.
Doubly Sustainable Impact
So not only do gift catalog donations help move families out of poverty, but your donation allows Food for the Hungry to step in and smooth out transactions. You help close gaps and support the livelihoods of families in poverty and the local economy as a whole. That’s a doubly sustainable impact that helps households survive in the short-term and allows for stronger economies in the long-term.
This Quiz Tells You Which Gift Catalog Item to Give Based On Your Daily Routine
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