Dear Mr. Bezos,
Your call for ideas about how to orient your philanthropy intrigued us enormously. You want to help people in the here and now — at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.
We applaud that viewpoint. Poverty, hunger and misery need immediate answers. And the solutions must lead to structural changes to the conditions that create, enable and perpetuate the despair of so many.
We humbly present our own organization, Heifer International. We’ve been doing exactly what you seek for more than 70 years. We work with families and communities to change their view of reality from hopelessness to hopefulness. We then offer training and livestock essentially by following the well-known adage of not giving people fish but teaching them to fish. It works.
Dairy cows, goats and chickens offer immediate positive cash flow and high-quality nutrition to farming families with urgent needs. The model is simple, practical and has instant impact. We have solid evidence that supports this, and we will be delighted to share it with you.
Now, what about the long term? In farming, collaboration through co-ops and other organizations allow mobilized farmers (we help them do that, too) to move forward into value chains where they are adding value beyond simply production — and earning greater profits. When farmers are well organized, responsive to markets and operating at scale, systemic change settles in and all benefit with much greater stability.
Mr. Bezos, our approach is simple, grounded, deeply practical and rapid. In the tech industry, it has become popular to talk about a universal basic income. We also believe people deserve to live with dignity, with an income affording healthy food, shelter, education and security. We’ve helped millions of smallholder farmers achieve living incomes while increasing food supplies for growing populations. With your support, we can take this to greater scale.
I will be visiting Seattle during the first half of next week and would be honored to discuss with you at your convenience the work of 1,000 team members of Heifer worldwide.