The first week of March, Jereme and I were at the Global Agriculture Summit hosted by Dordt College in North West Iowa. Partners Worldwide, the Andreas Center for Reformed Scholarship and Service, and World Renew brought together an international group of leaders from the fields of agriculture, business, community development, and the Christian academy for an intensive two-day conference on how Christians, farmers, and NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) can work together to restore our world. About 650 people attended from business partnerships around the world. We did not see a charity in the room.
The conference was all about finding sustainable business solutions. It was most clearly demonstrated in example after example, from apple orchards in the State of Washington to vertically integrated poultry projects in Mozambique. STOP giving aid! STOP the charity! STOP building another orphanage unless it is sustainable. I can summarize the theme in three words: SHARE THE MARKET!
A Perfect Example Why Charity Does Not Work.
Several weeks ago we received a request to provide 400 water filters for a project. The NGO who made the request wanted the best price. We strongly suggested they purchase from our local supplier, although the price would be higher. It had to be. They had to make a profit. They imported the product. They paid customs. The paid the transportation. They had overhead. Unfortunately for our in-country representative, our business, and for the people being helped, the NGO purchased the product from the North American manufacturer directly.
The NGO staff and donors felt great. They saved money and were able to purchase more filters than had they purchased locally. They had donors who felt great about their generosity. The people were happy. They received the product free. The American manufacturer was delighted.
The result? “What you do not pay for you do not value! What you do not value you do not care for!” Almost immediately there will be those who would like to have the product but there will be no supplier. If it was there, they would not want to pay for it because it had been given away free of charge. Worse, when the filter needed service or a replacement, there would be no one to purchase from. There is no continuing presence. Families who had experienced clean and safe water for several years, needing a replacement filter or component, would now have to drink unfiltered water, having built up no immunity, and will find themselves very sick.
Business Connect Has a Solution.
We are committed to finding a business solution; one that is sustainable, profitable, and accessible to the poorest of the poor. When a donation is given to Business Connect we make sure the delivery is made in such a way that the local business entrepreneur is empowered.
We do not claim to have all the answers nor even the right answer but we believe we have a better answer. A new documentary entitled Poverty, Inc. documents well how flawed charity and aid have not helped the developing world at all. It provides clear evidence that charity is not the answer.
Lou …for the Business Connect Team…and so many who continue to encourage us.