Awhile back there was a wonderful outpouring of support from the blogshpere for a microlending group called Kiva, which, at the time, was connecting microlenders (that’s us) with small businesses in Uganda that need small loans.  dKos basically filled all the loan requests that were up at that time.

Kiva is back with more businesses that need loans from us, though this time the villages that are being helped are in Kenya and Tanzania, neighbors of Uganda. Can we fill the loan requests again? Last time the initiative came from dKos. Maybe we can get some competition among blogs as to who can help the most per capita? To further this, I also want to address some people’s comments the last time this was discussed regarding helping by outright giving. Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania together make up a region of Africa that could be at a turning point…or really three closely related turning points: economic, environmental and political. We can help.
My vision is this: a coordinated effort by the blogsphere that will focus on several interconnected issues with a view towards REGIONAL and COMMUNITY based development. The target area of Uganda/Kenya/Tanzania (roughly the Rift Valley/Lakes region of East Africa) is an excellent place to start because of the critical environmental issues, the presence of excellent groups like Kiva, and the fact that these nations have a chance for becoming more stable if some immediate crises can be survived.

My vision includes primarily economic, education and environmental issues and combines microlending through Kiva, purchases through Fair Trade organizations that operate in this area, and donations to particularly important organizations that focus on these issues in this region of Africa. In invite you to join me in this ambitious, difficult, and potentially historic effort.

We begin with Kiva’s microlending which directly connects you and a small business owner in East Africa so that you can help that business owner with a small loan. You can loan as little as $25 or you can cover the whole loan for an individual business owner in Africa. This is a loan, not a donation, and you will be repaid, though your loan receives no interest. Your only loss (barring the potential risk of the business failing) will be the use of that money for interest-bearing investment. This effort is a very effective way to boost the local economy (as opposed to the export economy) of this region. To further boost our effectiveness, we can also support Kiva’s partner site the Village Enterprise Fund (VEF) which accepts donations instead of loans and helps build up an economic infrastructure for small businesses to operate within in East Africa. Direct help for these small businesses (Kiva) combined with help for the economic infrastructure (VEF) can have an enormous impact on East Africa. And you can be a part of it!

The export economy is another issue. I have tried finding some Fair Trade groups that sell products from this region of East Africa. These can help you in selecting holiday gifts this year while helping the export economy of the same region that Kiva loans are helping. Here are some suggestions:

Fair Trade Coffee from Ugaqnda. Most of us love coffee. Why not use your addiction to help out farmers in Uganda?

Fair Trade baskets from two companies in Uganda. Very beautiful looking items, if you are into baskets.

How about cool handicrafts from several companies in Kenya? All fair trade, these companies sell items like sculptures, jewelry and drums.

And there are a couple of handicrafts companies in Tanzania as well selling fair trade items.

Next I want to address the environmental issues facing East Africa. In particular, I am familiar with the efforts of the NY Wildlife Conservation Society in the Lakes Region of Africa. I have recently read frightening stories of the massive decline of African forests and lakes, threatening the freshwater supply and environment for the entirety of the continent. East Africa is one of the areas hard hit by this decline. The NY Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has three programs trying to preserve the forests, lakes and wildlife of East Africa. One program focuses on preserving the entire regional environment in Albertine Rift region of Africa, mostly centered on Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo. This is one of the most critically threatened regions of Africa’s environment. Preservation of this region is critical for the economy and freshwater supply of the region, the ecotourism industry of the region, and for preservation of the world’s forests as a buffer for global warming. I strongly urge a donation to the WCS Albertine Rift Program.

A second program focues on the preserving the Uganda environment in particular. Again, the local economy critically needs freshwater and ecotourism and both are critically threatened by environmental degradation. A loan to Kiva can be well complimented by a donation to preserve the Ugandan environment.

The third program focuses on preserving the entire habitat of the mountain gorilla, an effort that includes some of the East African environment that provides the watershed for the nations we are focusing on. I include this program partly because it covers some of the same environmental regions as the other two programs, but also because the preservation of the Mountain Gorilla is another of my pet projects. Most people know that Gorillas are severely endangered. Not so many know that the Moutain Gorilla is directly facing extinction right now. About 6 years ago I learned that only about 600-700 Mountain Gorillas remained. That number was practically halved in a three-year period. Since then there has been a small recovery thanks to the efforts of conservationists, but any further halving of such a small population will condemn these cousins of ours to exinction. The time to save them is now and since they live in Uganda, as well as Rwanda and the Congo, I am including this program in this diary. Please donate to save the habitat of the Mountain Gorilla while you are also preserving the watershed for much of East and Central Africa.

Finally I want to focus on family and education issues. I want to suggest a few organizations helping in the East Africa region, however I cannot find a way to link to the search results directly. So I will have to highlight the groups and let you do your own search on the Network for Good website. If you search their site for these groups you will be able to directly donate.

First there is the United Movement to End Child Soldiering, which tries to stop the practice of using children in armies in the Great Lakes and Uganda regions of Africa. This group not only tries to end the practice, but tries to re-integrate children who have already been used as soldiers into civilian society.

Then there is the Ugandan Children’s Charity Foundation. This group provides education, food, shelter, clothing, and medical care to Ugandan AIDS-related orphans and vulnerable children and to nurture their mental, physical and emotional growth and wellbeing.

But a nation needs more than just help for its youngest children. A good advanced education system is critical for a successful nation. So I urge support for the Central Buganda University Foundation, which provides quality research and teaching to all qualified students at the lowest possible cost.

Finally, there is the Africa Rural Family Helthcare Uganda foundation. Its mission organization is to save the lives of mothers and children, relieve suffering for mothers, young adults and babies with HIV/AIDS infections, and to educate the community about health, nutrition, and disease prevention measures. They work with and train persons from the local community to organize and provide health services that meet their health and nutrition needs.

Again, this last set of suggestions requires that you do your own search on the Network for Good website and donate through there.

Thanks to all who help in this ambitious effort. Feel free to post other suggestions in the comments and, if you like, to brag about what you are doing to help create a more stable and prosperous East Africa. I have avoided political organizations, but if anyone wants to plug organizations that promote democracy in these nations, please feel free to do so.

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