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Reports from Kenya

May 4, 2009
Report #104

Foundation Priorities

I have previously sent out some reports concerning the reality that many Africans are displeased with non-governmental organizations (NGO's), foreign government aid, and international institutions like the UN, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund. Another criticism is that these organizations have their own priorities which may have little congruence with African priorities.

My son, Tommy, went into the Foundation Center in DC and pulled up all foundation grants given to Burundi in 2005, 2006, and 2007. Since Burundi is one of the poorest nations in the world and, in 2005, had just finished a 12 year civil war, one would think that support for Burundi would be a priority. Alas, this is totally false.

In those three years American foundations gave only 23 grants that included Burundi. Moreover, only 8 of these grants were solely for Burundi with the other 15 including many other countries, so I doubt that Burundi saw much – if any – of the funds given out. In addition, 12 of these grants (more than half), totaling $3,565,000, were for wildlife and conservation – a high priority for the developed world which long ago killed most of their wild animals. But is this a high priority for the Burundians?

So we are really left with 8 grants which I can analyze as follows:

By far the largest grant (equaling more than all the rest of the grants together) was a 4 year grant given in 2007 to Catholic Relief Services by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the amount of $21,876,316. Its purpose was "to increase small farmer cassava productivity". This was a very useful grant. Burundi at that time was experiencing disease in its cassava plants. Cassava is, frankly, a not very nice food to eat since it is almost completely starch. But Burundi experiences recurrent drought and cassava is not only drought resistant, but once planted it takes only about 6 months before it can be harvested and can be harvested any time after that for the next two or three years. Therefore it is mostly used by people as a famine reserve as they typically harvest it when other foods are not available. Therefore, the disease that was killing the plants could have had dire consequences. Part of this project was to "access disease resistant planting material". I understand that the disease is now under control.

The grants then decline in value tremendously.

In 2006 the Crowell Trust gave Hope Africa University $15,000 for scholarships. This is the school that Friends students attended after the Great Lakes School of Theology – run by Burundi Yearly Meeting – collapsed.

Also in 2006, the Global Fund for Women gave grants to four women's organizations. These grants, ranging from $3000 to $6000 each, totaled $18,000.

Again in 2006 the Seattle Foundation gave CARE, Seattle, $10,000 for program development in Burundi.

Lastly, and again in 2006, the Tides Foundation gave $10,000 to the Burundian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS.

If we leave aside the large Gates Foundation grant to Catholic Relief Services, the remaining seven grants totaled $53,000 for the year 2006. To put this in perspective, in 2006 AGLI spent $86,798 in Burundi!!! In 2005, when there were no foundation grants at all, AGLI spent $61,398. Once more, in 2007, when there were no foundation grants at all, AGLI spent $65,989.

Isn't this sad? Well, actually, outrageous!

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