Hi Erin, thanks for your comment. I had to do a little digging so I can answer you well.
First, Heifer International. Honestly, I haven’t heard about them until you mentioned it. So I looked through their website to try to give me a mental picture of where they fit in. They operate in some African countries and I found that they operate largely through the government (oh-uh). The incompetence of the government of the country which they operate definitely will affect their effectiveness. How far it does I don’t know. And one thing is common with these organizations, they usually have stories. Like I tried to look at their report and I saw this long essay. Just give a figure summary! That is usually difficult. I know they are well intended, but the effectiveness is not so good. Most likely, at the end of their project (it has a duration), the problem would have outgrown their achievement.
Second, micro loans. I know this quite well. The system is unbelievable. In most places in Africa, wholesale and retail traders are those who often take loans like these. Why? This is because there is often a negative sentiment for locally produced items because they are often (and rightly) less in quality. So producers find it tough. The traders then do what they do; buy and anticipate to sell. But in many of these places, consumer spending is low. So, they often default in payback. Most eventually do, but the timing is too long. Others use loans to service other loans (because it is easy to get and the interest is low). Some disappear when the debts gets too much (yes, people can disappear in Africa). Micro loans looks like a good initiative but it has become a feeding bottle. They are now so used to it that life without it is unthinkable.
Fair-trade is a pretty nice idea too. The thing is, exporters are often already wealthy men looking to take the advantage. In the first place, there is not so much to export from these places. Even concerning agricultural products, the processing quality is often low and who would like to buy something substandard at a higher price? Nobody. I don’t know the intricate details of how this works, but believe me, it’s not doing much (on the African continent) if it is doing anything at all. The major spending of the elites is on foreign produced goods and services, so even if the wealthy exporters get huge payments, it’s flowing back out of the country’s economy in no time.
In conclusion, I agree that they are all well intentioned initiatives but from the standpoint of sustainable impact, they are all wanting. Plus I forgot to mention where applicable; data is hard to collect. I believe the continent has to experience a revolution in education. I have a few ideas I hope to implement in the near future.