When a group of UK dairy farmers sent cows from their herds to Uganda in 1988, little did they know what they were starting.

They expected to do no more than help a handful of families rebuild their lives after years of conflict. Yet, despite countless challenges, the fledgling charity – Send a Cow – kept on growing and this summer it is celebrating its 20th anniversary.Today, Send a Cow works in 10 countries in Africa, giving locally bought animals such as cows, goats, and poultry along with training in sustainable organic farming and social development issues.

A new brochure, Twenty Years of Send a Cow, outlines how the charity matured into a respected agricultural development agency.

It details how Send a Cow was the first charity to give livestock directly to poor families how it faced up to the BSE crisis and how it adapted its basic model to meet the needs of the poorest of the poor.

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And it explains how the pass-on system, whereby all families pledge to pass on the first female offspring of their gift animal to another family in need, has underpinned the charity’s growth and magnified the effects of its work.

“It turned out that farmers make good development workers, because we have a flexible, learning working style,” said founding farmer and international programme co-ordinator David Bragg. “We just took one step at a time, learned from local experts, tried innovative measures where necessary – and it seemed to work.

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“Now we have become leaders in the field of small-scale sustainable agricultural development work. We are delighted by what we’ve achieved – and not a little amazed.”

Supporters of Send a Cow are marking the anniversary by organising a network of Big Birthday Bashes around the UK.

A new DVD, “Passing on Hope”, has also been released, following one of the original UK farmers as he returns to Uganda to see how life has changed for some of the families Send a Cow has helped.

The charity is also launching a Pass It On appeal, with the aim of raising £20m by 2010.

Celebrations will culminate in a Thanksgiving Service in Bath Abbey on 1 July.

 

Jane-Apolot