LOS ANGELES, California — In 1988, a group of U.K. dairy farmers established Ripple Effect. They refused to obey EU milk quotas, which would have required them to slaughter healthy dairy cows; instead, they were prompted to take action by an appeal from Uganda for milk.
At the time, Uganda’s civil war had just ended and left the country’s communities and farmland ravaged and livestock slaughtered. The U.K. farmers traveled to Africa to explore the ways they could help and they learned how smallholder dairy farming in Africa could be successful. They decided to send cows from their own herds to Uganda.
Milk powder has long been sent to Africa as a non-perishable and cheap source of food for starving communities. However, these farmers discovered that sending one cow to a single family could change their lives. Not only does the milk that the cow produces (30 liters per day) benefit them nutritionally, but also financially.
That one cow generates income, which can generate better housing for the family and better education for the children. This idea gave rise to Send A Cow, which has since expanded and become Ripple Effect. Nowadays, cows are obtained locally, and sending livestock is only one of many of the organization’s activities. Ripple Effect is transforming Africa through sustainable farming.
Poverty and Food Insecurity in Africa
The rural regions of Africa abound with opportunity. If farmed efficiently, the fertile land could produce enough food to feed the continent. Unfortunately, the families that live there often struggle with extreme poverty and farmers frequently lack the knowledge and skills necessary to cultivate and market their products effectively. Climate change, war and epidemics are other obstacles that push millions into poverty.
According to the World Bank, in 2018, around 40% of people in sub-Saharan Africa lived below the poverty line. This number represents more than 400 million people in the region who live on less than $1.90 a day, making up a majority of the world’s extremely poor.
Ripple Effect’s initiatives focus on places where the need is the most urgent, sharing the knowledge and benefits among everyone in the community. Ripple Effect works specifically in six countries where the need for assistance is the direst: Burundi (65% of the population lived below the poverty line in 2014), Ethiopia (55% of children eat fewer than three times per day), Kenya (83% of mothers have had no secondary education), Uganda (2.4 million children struggle with stunting), Rwanda (35.8% of the population is undernourished) and Zambia (54% of the population lived below the poverty line in 2015).
How It Works
Ripple Effect establishes its projects in African countries in need of farming intervention. It recruits native farmers into the program and encourages them to spread their knowledge and pass on the skills they’ve learned to people in their community and beyond, in hopes of creating a ripple effect.
The program model consists of “self-help groups, peer farmer training, copy farming, pass-on gifts of seeds and livestock, gender and social inclusion interventions, and community savings and loan groups.”
Accomplishments and Goals
Ripple Effect’s latest annual report (2021-2022) shows that the organization reached a record 1.1 million people, raised £7.52 million in funding and started 11 new projects. Its impact is wide-ranging and significant and the statistics include the following:
- In the Ikawa a’Iska project, 95% of households now have access to safe water.
- As a result of the Push Pull Technology project, 61% of farmers have more than four sources of income.
- The organization has fostered a 237% increase in farmers producing milk in the Greening Girinka project.
- Halfway through the Living with Wildlife program, the percentage of households that were food secure rose from 17% to 38%.
- In the Developing Business Women project, 80% of participants have savings and credit schemes.
Since the organization’s founding, 70% of project participants have achieved food security and six times more farmers are earning at least $4 per day. In addition, Ripple Effect has fostered a 164% increase in women making decisions in farming. Ripple Effect aims to achieve six principal goals by 2030, including its aim to reach 5 million more people.
- Of the people reached by Ripple Effect, 70% will eat more than five types of food per day.
- After completing a Ripple Effect project, 65% of participants will save more than $0.50 per day.
- Program participants will be more inclusive (67% women, 15% with a disability, 20% young (aged 15-30) and 8% with HIV/AIDS).
Ripple Effect dreams of a future in which rural Africa is “sustainable and thriving.” The organization focuses on alleviating poverty in Africa by supporting families and empowering them to take control of their futures through sustainable farming.
Ripple Effect began by helping communities fight nutrition, one cow at a time. Now, Ripple Effect is committed to solving food insecurity in Africa through—something we often take for granted—education.
– Skye Connors