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How your donation to Oxfam is worth more: Five highlights

Moul Phaly, 26, is an expert rice farmer using the System of Rice Intensification in Cambodia. Patrick Brown/Panos for Oxfam America

Your gift to Oxfam is worth more than its face value—it’s an investment in the power of people against poverty.

Think of Oxfam as a fund manager for people who want to improve the world. Your steady investments in our work see returns that are hard to imagine in purely financial markets. The secret to these returns? Everything Oxfam undertakes is turbocharged by a phenomenon we call the “the power of people against poverty.” We explain this as the amplifying effect that your support has on the efforts of others, but it all comes down to the same thing: together we have a bigger impact.

Looking back over stories from the past year or so, these are a few highlights that illustrate the impact that people like you have had:

1. BOGO? Try invest 1, get 30

Vietnamese farmer Hoang Kim Vuong examining rice that she cultivated using SRI on her farm in Van Yen district, Yen Bai province. Chau Doan/Oxfam America Photo: Chau Doan/Oxfam America

Change is possible: since 1990 the number of hungry people on earth has dropped 21 percent. To continue this trend requires steady investments. Thanks to people like you, for more than 10 years Oxfam has been working in Cambodia and Vietnam to promote a rice-farming method (called System of Rice Intensification or SRI) that increases yields dramatically while reducing the need for costly fertilizers and pesticides. Recently, we crunched some numbers to see what kind of returns we were getting on your donations. The numbers surprised even us!

In Cambodia, our investment of $3.7 million in SRI during the past decade has returned $3 for every $1 invested. In other words, for every dollar of yours that we put into the program, we saw a $3 gain at the farm and household levels. Results in Vietnam are even more impressive. Collaboration with the agriculture ministry has helped us reach 800,000 small-scale farmers and through them added $100 million to the rural economy. We estimate that over the same 10-year period, we have invested $3.5 million in SRI in Vietnam, which has returned $30 for every $1 you invested!

2. Backing entrepreneurs to work their own way out of poverty

After working for a year in a factory that is part of Oxfam’s enterprise development program in Rwanda, Uwera Gisele has managed to save enough money to buy a cow—which means her family now has a reliable supply of both milk—and fertilizer! Photo: Eleanor Farmer/Oxfam

Damien Mbatezimana has big dreams. He wants to build his cassava leaf business into the leading food-processing factory in Rwanda. And with donations from people like you, he’s on his way. Mbatezimana’s factory is part of Oxfam’s enterprise development program, which works with local businesses to create opportunities for small-scale farmers and women. We identify and invest in businesses where the potential for social impact is highest—and those are often the businesses that get overlooked by traditional investors. Through a mix of loans and grants to small and medium-sized businesses, your donations are enabling people to work their way out of poverty.

Having developed a reliable market for cassava leaves, which it now sells internationally, Mbatezimana’s factory has created new jobs, and nearly 2,000 people are benefiting from the business. Many are women farmers who now have a reliable market for their harvests. “There was a time when I didn’t have enough money to pay school fees,” says a farmer named Madeleine. “Now [that] I have started tosell cassava leaves, my life has changed.” Newly empowered, she doesn’t plan to stop there. Her goal is financial security for her family.

3. Helping people learn how to defend the environment and their rights

Ping Chamroeun uses her smartphone and Facebook account to document illegal activities on the communal lands of her indigenous community in northern Cambodia. Photo: Patrick Brown/Panos for Oxfam America

Last year, when elders in a remote community in Cambodia found Chinese miners searching for gold on their land without permission, they asked them to leave. When the miners defied them, the elders called Ping Chamroeun. Thanks to training funded by people like you, Chamroeun knew just what to do. First, she came and took photos with her phone to post on Facebook. Next, “I showed them [the miners] the photos … and I explained to them what I would do with the information,” she recalls.

The outcome? The miners ceased exploration and left. Although only 26 years old and busy caring for her infant son, Chamroeun is one of the indigenous people trained by Oxfam’s partner Media One to serve as a part of a network of community reporters—individuals who share information about natural resources and indigenous land rights, and educate others to protect their land from illegal use. Since 2015, people like you have enabled Media One to train reporters from seven ethnic groups, produced nearly 30 radio programs, and reached more than 50,000 people through its Facebook pages.

In other words, you are investing not only in educating minority groups about their rights, but—perhaps even more powerful--you are helping foster a culture of greater transparency and accountability.

4. Investing in David to defeat Goliath

Activists in El Salvador—led by Hector Berrios from one of Oxfam’s partner organizations—call for a foreign mining company to drop its $300 million case against the Salvadoran government. Photo: James Rodríguez / Oxfam America

In October 2016, support from people like you culminated in a remarkable victory. A World Bank tribunal dismissed a powerful mining company's $250 million suit against the government of El Salvador. What was the role of Oxfam supporters? For years, Oxfam and local partners worked to ensure that the needs of poor communities were being taken into account and their voices were being heard; we helped the Salvadoran people assert their right to determine how and when to develop their natural resources.

More than 90 percent of the surface water in El Salvador—which is not only the smallest but most densely populated country in Central America—is contaminated with industrial chemicals. Back in 2008, the Salvadoran government announced a temporary ban on metallic mining permits in the country. In 2012, after evidence that cyanide and sulfur from an earlier mine had leached into the San Sebastian River, the government announced it would continue its ban.

The World Bank tribunal case was hatched when a foreign company tried to begin gold mining in El Salvador, bypassed the Salvadoran government, and sought international arbitration to force the impoverished country to pay for lost exploration costs and future profits. The tribunal’s dismissal was a win for poor people on the global stage.

As Ivan Morales, Oxfam’s country director in El Salvador said after the ruling, “The people of El Salvador have spoken against this project and they have a right to be heard.” The mining company “did not hear the voices of the communities, they did not hear the voices of the democratically elected government, but,” Morales concluded, “today, they should hear them loud and clear.”

5. Funding local heroes to save lives

Drawing on the skills and expertise of local people, Oxfam hired 36 Nepalese porters to transport humanitarian supplies by foot to the remote village of Laprak after the 2015 earthquakes cut many survivors off from aid. Photo: Sam Pickett/Oxfam

When a massive earthquake struck Nepal in April 2015, followed by a second one less than a month later, the destruction was devastating: close to 9,000 people died, 22,000 were injured, and 750,000 houses were damaged or destroyed. Thanks to donations from people like you, Oxfam was able to respond immediately to save lives. The Oxfam difference? Because Oxfam believes in investing locally, we sought local solutions.

Early on, when helicopters were in short supply and some of the highest villages were virtually unreachable, we sought the experience of Nepal’s famous mountain guides and porters to ensure aid got through. Carrying enormous packs and hiking four hours from the epicenter of the first quake, a team delivered 2.5 tons of relief supplies to Laprak, 7,054 feet above sea level. This was a solution that worked for everyone. Porters and mountain guides who struggle finding work received much-needed income, and aid was delivered safely and quickly by relying on the expertise and skills of local people.

This commonsense approach is not as typical as it should be. We want more for local humanitarians: we want them to have everything they need to lead disaster responses themselves, and we are advocating for changes that'll make that possible. As Karen Ramírez, a partner who has worked for years with Oxfam around humanitarian issues in Central America, says, “Traditional global humanitarian responses to emergencies do not strengthen our communities or local organizations. They weaken us and make us dependent. Oxfam believes in building on local capacity. Instead of bringing in international staff to do things for us, they have taught us how to do the things ourselves.” Our thinking is that we don’t need to be heroes when there are ample heroes already on the ground!

Now, more than ever, your support matters as people strive to overcome poverty and build better lives for their families. Make a tax deductible gift today.

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