Counting Sheep - Microloans for Livestock in Afghanistan

August 18, 2009

Shelter Now launches fundraising drive in the Braunschweig pedestrian zone The financial crisis has revealed how artificial and unrealistic our financial structures - based on the euro and the dollar - have become. The Kuchis (pronounced "Kootchees") are a semi-nomadic people living in Afghanistan...

 

Shelter Now launches fundraising drive in the Braunschweig pedestrian zone

 

The financial crisis has revealed how artificial and unrealistic our financial structures - based on the euro and the dollar - have become. The Kuchis (pronounced "Kootchees") are a semi-nomadic people living in Afghanistan. To this day, they have retained a much more natural form of currency. All the everyday things of life are valued according to how many sheep they are worth.

 

You can't eat money - but you can eat sheep. Inconceivable amounts of money can disappear overnight - but not sheep.

 

Two years ago, Shelter Now started a project with the Kuchis. Each family receives a microloan to allow them to purchase five ewes. They also buy one ram between three families. After one year, the loans are paid back and re-issued to new families. Or some simply prefer to give five ewes to a family of their choice. After five years, the family can build up a herd of 50 sheep, which is enough to provide for an entire family.

 

Shelter Now is conducting a similar project in a number of Afghan villages. Here, families are given loans to purchase a cow and young calf.

 

On August 14th and 15th, Shelter Now will be out in the German town of Braunschweig, in the central pedestrian zone. But we will not be alone. We will have two cows and one sheep made of plastic. One of the cows can be milked. There will be various games and other interesting attractions designed to draw attention to our projects inAfghanistan. We will also be offering "dogh", a refreshing Afghan yoghurt drink and sweet lassie for passers by to sample. Girls can have henna applied to their hands in traditional Afghan designs.

 

We will also be encouraging people to purchase "sheep shares". One sheep costs around 70 euros (or about 100 US dollars). So we will be selling shares of one tenth of a sheep for 7 euros each. Afghans can expect a return of 60% on their sheep. In the investment industry, an offer like that might appear dubious, or even criminal. But here it is a natural development, and encouraging as the investment helps provide a livelihood for people in this war-torn region. It is also the right approach, as it will help the recipients to become independent of further aid and eventually self-supporting - a key goal in development work.

 

During his latest visit to Afghanistan in July, Shelter Now Director Udo Stolte found the project was going well. The loans are being paid back. Some of the farmers repaid the money for their cows late, the Kuchis were punctual. The loans have now been re-issued.

 

So far, 140 Kuchi families and 82 village families have been able to build up the basis for a livelihood. As the loans are passed on each year (either in cash or in the form of animals), many hundreds more families will also benefit from the project in the coming years.

 

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