Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Oxfam admit it: no environmental impact assessments

5 November, 2014 - 16:35 -- John Burton
Monty Don and John Burton at the recording of Shared Planet.

At last, after several years of my requesting the information, Oxfam has supplied an answer to the question “Do you carry out environmental impact assessments (EIAs)?”

The last time I raised the issue was in late 2013 in a broadcast for Shared Planet hosted by Monty Don. At the time, the Oxfam representative on the panel with me assured Monty, the audience and myself, that she was pretty certain that Oxfam did of course carry out EIAs; something I disputed at the time.

My complaint has always been that the Oxfam policy of encouraging goodhearted people to buy presents of ‘goats’ in some of the world’s most arid areas is not sustainable. There are also many other reasons to argue against it, most of which I have blogged about in the past.

When I asked the same question on Twitter I had the following response: “@JohnABurton Hi, we don't carry out specific EIA's. We stick to the environ. policies of the country and try to make the projects sustainable.”

I have long considered aid agencies that don’t carry out EIAs as irresponsible. As every conservationist knows, goats are one of the causes of habitat degradation, and hence poverty. So, for Oxfam to shrug this off by saying they stick to the environmental policies of the country concerned is not very encouraging. (And I rather suspect that those implementing their projects have no idea what the country’s environmental policies are, if indeed they even have them!)

Yet again this year, Oxfam is encouraging the general public to give even more goats to Africa to help alleviate poverty. According to Oxfam’s website, giving a goat is one of Oxfam Unwrapped’s bestselling gifts.

Every conservationist knows that the only sure fire way of alleviating poverty in Africa is to spend almost every penny on female education and fertility control, and it would be interesting to know what proportion of aid from NGOs goes on projects that address population growth.

Every time drought strikes, we see images of dying livestock. It is time that the agencies funding goats and cattle, put two and two together. It is also time they realised both the environmental and social implications of livestock, which are far more important in many areas than the nutritional values.

I hope that both the broadcast and printed media will engage in this issue in the run up to Christmas as the time of goat giving is fast approaching.


Submitted by andrew on

Oxfam seems too large and corporate. The Joliba Trust is a small charity doing great work. It started with the Dogon people of Mali 20 years ago and got to know the people's needs and the area well and it was asked to expand to neighboring villages. Among other things they aim to improve the environment for animal husbandry rather than increasing the number of livestock.

Submitted by BOB A. on

About time someone pointed out the absurdities of our time. Plus Andrew has a point, which is why I find myself supporting smaller more focussed orgs.

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