Of the mainstream development charities, Oxfam is one of the better. Yes, it remains wedded to failed notions of ‘development aid’, but it is less shrill that many of the others. Its Oxfam Unwrapped initiative, where members of the public buy a Christmas present which goes to people in poor countries, strikes me as quite a good idea. Aid sent this way is certainly more likely to get to ‘real people’, rather than be sqandered by political elites like so much development aid.
But good intentions are not enough. Oxfam takes a perfectly good idea then ruins it by encouraging the gifting of goats. Goats are profoundly destructive to economic progress. They are the animal version of Robert Mugabe, destroying wealth and ripping up property rights, by destroying neighbours’ crops. They wreck agricultural land, turning fertile land into dust. As Lord Eden of Winton has said in the House of Lords:
Where there are large populations of goats, there is invariably poverty. Where there is poverty, there are invariably large populations of goats. Goats are marauding and indiscriminately destructive creatures. In his typically trenchant piece in last week’s Spectator, Matthew Parris described them as, “rank-smelling weapons of mass destruction”.
They destroy all vegetation, they kill reafforestation, they promote erosion and, in the long term, help to perpetuate poverty.
So why is Oxfam encouraging us to buy them for poor countries?