The following appeared in The Boston Globe on 14 May 2015:
One of the most pressing social, moral, and economic quandaries of our time lies in this simple and depressing fact: more than a fifth of the people on the planet live on $1.25 or less a day. What can be done to lift up the “ultra-poor”?
A team of MIT researchers has harnessed the tools of science to test one promising solution: a “big push” approach that helps poor people establish a livelihood.
The three-year study, implemented in six countries starting in 2006, gave the poorest households a variety of supports, including a small savings account, mentoring, a resource such as goats or chickens, and money for food. A year after the intervention ended, there were fewer skipped meals, more income from livestock and farming, and a durable, though small, increase in how much they consume each day.
The analysis of this program, published by the journal Science on 14 May 2015, finds that the intervention more than pays for itself and has lasting benefits.
The gist of the study is that this kind of aid package — such as a cow or a few goats or some chickens — gives very poor families a very big boost. In India, for example, the economic return of this kind of program was an amazing 433 percent, and the improvement was found to last long after the program ended.
Why is one cow so powerful? It is the gift of hope. Members of a family mired in poverty and hopelessness…, given a reason to hope for a better life, begin to work more hours, even unrelated to the care of the livestock … take on other jobs … begin to accrue savings … and experience improved mental health.
When I arrived in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, for my Peace Corps service, I joined the Bishkek Roatary Club, which is in the midst of a program to give 100 cows (cost per cow: US $1,000) to families with disabled children. The cow in this photo, given to a family in Blovodsk, is giving six or seven litres of milk per day … and an infusion of hope.
In his poem “Always” Kiran envisions a world in which everyone “Has abundant food to eat” … which includes the means to have enough to eat.
See his poem also in my book THE MESSAGE.
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