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HOW CAUSE CAPITALISM IS REDUCING INEQUALITIES 

Written by Thomas Kagwa

Through socioeconomic support of widows, cause capitalism partnerships to initiate actions to eradicate inequalities.

The Goat Foundation interacts with widows from impoverished communities across Kenya on a regular basis. From our observations, it is apparent that great economic disparities exist among members of Kenyan societies.

Looking objectively, we realize that outcomes of economic disempowerment lead to the loss of basic human rights, particularly for widows. It is for this reason that our efforts are focused on the provision and enablement of sustainable economic solutions for Kenyan widows.

It is a documented fact that historically, women faced social and economic disadvantages in African societies. It, therefore, portends a greater threat to their livelihood when women become widowed, especially as is common, while they are still relatively young.

A moral conundrum facing the world today is the abject poverty surrounding the lavish display of opulent wealth. This was so much that the Chinese nation banned social media influencers from airing wasteful food sampling episodes.

Many rich however feel justified to wallow in their excesses as was the case of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos who took a 90-minute flight to the edge of space at a cost of nearly $100 million while the world reeled in the midst of a pandemic and poor less than 5% of African populations had yet to afford the Covid 19 vaccine.

Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions is an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. To this end, there must be the promotion of sustainable, inclusive, and equitable economic growth, creating greater opportunities for all, reducing inequalities, raising basic standards of living, fostering equitable social development and inclusion, and promoting integrated and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems.

To be fair, most well-to-do families contribute to charitable causes and are participants in various philanthropic endeavours.

However, as much as individual effort goes towards donations and funding noble cases, very little progress was made toward raising the living standards of the majority of the world’s population.

Evidence-based solutions such as the donation of two goats to widows provide sustainable solutions to poverty eradication.

There are two varieties of economic inequality, that is income inequality and wealth inequality. Besides economic inequality between countries or states, there are important types of economic inequality between different groups of people living in the same country.

In general, technological progress, commercialization, and economic development are factors leading to rises in inequality.

Another major cause of economic inequality within modern market economies is the determination of wages by the market. Where competition is imperfect, information is unevenly distributed. opportunities to acquire education and skills unequal, a market failure results. Since many such imperfect conditions exist in virtually every market, there is in fact little presumption that markets are in general efficient.

Faceless multinational corporations have moved to the least developing nations where regulations are lax.

Variation in individuals’ access to education is key to income inequality. Education, especially in an area where there is a high demand for workers, creates high wages for those with this education.

Whereas globalization has reduced global inequality between nations, it has increased inequality within nations. Globalization increases inequality by putting downward pressure on wages (due to competition from low-wage countries) and also by making it more difficult to tax capital, which further increases inequality.

Inequality leads to higher rates of health and social problems such as obesity, mental illness, homicides, teenage births, incarceration, child conflict, and drug use. Unequal societies experience lower rates of social goods such as life expectancy, educational performance, trust among strangers, women’s status, and social mobility.

An inverse link between income inequality and social cohesion. In more equal societies, people are much more likely to trust each other, and measures of social capital (the benefits of goodwill, fellowship, mutual sympathy, and social connectedness among groups who make up social units) suggest greater community involvement.

Oxfam asserts that worsening inequality is impeding the fight against global poverty. A 2013 report from the group stated that the $240 billion added to the fortunes of the world’s richest billionaires in 2012 was enough to end extreme poverty four times over. Oxfam Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs said that “We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true.”

Political corruption, weak institutions, and legislative loopholes allow multinational companies to pollute areas around their operations in poor countries.

Greater income inequality can lead to monopolization of the labor force, resulting in fewer employers requiring fewer workers. Remaining employers can consolidate and take advantage of the relative lack of competition, leading to less consumer choice, market abuses, and relatively higher real prices.

When inequality is associated with political instability and social unrest, rent-seeking and distortive policies, lower capacities for investment in human capital, and a stagnant domestic market, it is mostly expected to harm long-run economic performance, as suggested by many authors.

Accordingly, improving income distribution is expected to foster long-run economic growth, especially in low-income countries where the levels of inequality are usually very high.

The challenge for policymakers is to control structural inequality, which reduces the country’s capacities for economic development, while at the same time keeping in place those positive incentives that are also necessary for growth.

The potential for improving the lives of poor people by finding different ways of distributing current production is nothing compared to the apparently limitless potential of increasing production.

A study by OECD makes a number of suggestions to its member countries, including:

  • Well-targeted income-support policies.
  • Facilitation and encouragement of access to employment.
  • Better job-related training and education for the low-skilled (on-the-job training) would help to boost their productivity potential and future earnings.
  • Better access to formal education.

Progressive taxation reduces absolute income inequality when the higher rates on higher-income individuals are paid and not evaded, and transfer payments and social safety nets result in progressive government spending.

Wage ratio legislation has also been proposed as a means of reducing income inequality. The OECD asserts that public spending is vital in reducing the ever-expanding wealth gap.

Deferred investment programs that increase stock ownership amongst lower income levels can supplement income to compensate for wage stagnation.

Economic inequality leads to political inequality and the beneficiaries of the economic system that gave rise to this inequality are unlikely to implement correction mechanisms.

 

THE KILIFI GIVEBACK

A woman greeting a man while holding a pair of goats by their leash

A beneficiary of The Goat Foundation giveback in Majajani village, Kilifi County Kenya, greets Founder Steve Down

The Goat Foundation was started with a vision of reaching out to the most vulnerable families across rural Kenya. The founder, Steve Down, met a family at one of the funerals he attended during his first visit to Kenya. The woman who continues to propagate this vision was widowed and left with 4 children.  She only had a vegetable garden that she thought would sustain her young family. 

Steve Down learnt that goat farming was one of the climate-smart methods of agriculture that people living in ASALS were fast embracing. He took it upon himself to help this family by donating 2 goats (a he-goat and a she-goat.) 

This inspired his vision of ensuring no family lacks basic resources or goes to bed hopeless. 

So far, The Goat Foundation has donated 850 goats across Kenya and empowered 500 households through the cause initiative. Recipient families are asked to donate the firstborn goat from each pair to the next village family in need. This could provide perpetual giving of goats and nutrition. 

Our vision is in alignment with Sustainable Development Goals 1,2,&5. (No poverty, No hunger and Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls). We envision a hunger-free Africa where its most marginalized populations have a chance at wealth creation. 

The issue- What we are solving? 

  1. Poverty- to ensure widows earn a sustainable income through climate-smart agriculture
  2. Hunger- to ensure no widows and their beneficiaries go to bed hungry. 
  3. Injustice- to create awareness of the tribulations faced by widows and ensure their rights are withheld.  

Our Cause Capitalism Philosophy.

A man with many microphones held in front of him

Founder of The Goat Foundation, Steve Down Addressing the press during the goat giveback

Cause Capitalism according to Steve Down is when a for-profit company partners with a nonprofit, not as a gimmick but as a true sustainable partner. 

We believe that for-profit companies should ensure sustainability around the communities they operate in, to promote economic inclusion. 

Companies have to ensure people benefit positively from their creations. That is why we advocate for For-profit and non-profit partnerships. 

Non-profits address global issues by reaching out directly to vulnerable groups. They educate, enable and empower them. This can only be possible if they have financial access to ensure this happens. 

Therefore, we call on more stakeholders to join our cause capitalism initiative and make the world a better place. 

 

The 200 Goat Donation. 

Financially Fit through The Goat Foundation will donate 200 goats to 100 low-income households in Mariakani, Kilifi County. We work through partnerships with like-minded institutions and strongly believe in the power of the media to amplify the impact of climate change on low-income households fully dependent on agriculture and call for mitigation across all sectors. For this reason, we invite you to witness the impactful donation from The Goat Foundation. 

We look forward to hosting you on the 8th of November 2022. 

 

CASE STUDY – KNOWLEDGE OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE BEING USED TO EMPOWER WIDOWS IN KITUI COUNTY, KENYA

Woman dressed in green overall and boots bent picking plants on a farm

Sustainable agriculture is empowering widows in Kitui County, Kenya

Widows are a vulnerable demographic lacking in economic means, social capital and means to protect their individual rights. In recognition of their unique status as societal pariahs, community-based organizations in Kitui County came together and brainstormed ideas for creating sustainable livelihoods for widows living amongst them. Earlier on, it was evident that sustainable agriculture would be transformative and practical. It was a consensus that through a communal collaborative effort, widows could grow crops and raise livestock to guarantee them a source of food and income. 

Sustainable agricultural practices were intended to protect the environment, expand the natural resource base, and maintain and improve soil fertility in areas where it was practised. Based on a multi-pronged goal, sustainable agriculture was chosen as it increased profitability, and income, and promoted environmental stewardship.

Kitui region is located in the Arid and Semi-arid region of Kenya that receives little rainfall which is often sporadic. 

Among the activities undertaken were:

  • Rotating crops and embracing diversity.
  • Planting cover crops and perennials.
  • Reducing or eliminating tillage. 
  • Applying integrated pest management (IPM). 
  • Integrating livestock and crops. 
  • Adopting agroforestry practices. 
  • Managing whole systems and landscapes.

It should be understood that these widows were women previously displaced from their matrimonial homes, and they lacked the technical skill of utilizing scanty ecological resources to practice agriculture.

The introduction of this activity was therefore revolutionary in a sense. Previously destitute mothers could now look forward to harvesting their crops and selling them at local markets. The proceeds from this would then be used to pay for their children’s school fees, rent living quarters and purchase dignified clothes. The resultant social effect was the emergence of a class of empowered widows, who no longer looked at society with a bowl in hand, begging for sustenance. 

As a sustainable agricultural practice, the resulting effect was;

  • Increase in productivity, employment and value addition in food systems.
  • Protection and enhancement of natural resources.
  • Improved livelihoods that fostered inclusive economic growth.
  • Enhanced resilience of widows, whose socioeconomic ecosystem could withstand different economic shocks.
  • Adapt governance to new challenges especially as widows acquired social capital and economic power, they were able to hire legal aid to advocate for and speak for their rights.

The example of how widows were rescued from the throes of poverty and propelled to a life of hope and dignity is what the goat foundation aspires to and continues doing across the country. Scores of women have received a pair of goats from this foundation and the socioeconomic outcome has been similar. At the Goat Foundation, we felt encouraged to observe how different aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals were being attained by the simple act of communal cooperation, training and inculcation of relevant skills. It is for this reason that our foundation not only offers a pair of goats to widows, but we also provide crucial financial literacy training that ensures these women can start to grow their financial base through making informed decisions. 

 

A man with microphones infront of him

THE RATIONALE FOR CAUSE CAPITALISM

Cause Capitalism is a call to action for corporate organizations to exercise deliberate social compassion by proactively pledging humanitarian assistance to communities around them. Between seeking to maximize profits, fulfill shareholder expectations, and secure the cheapest production factors, corporate executives find little time for exercising deliberate programs to benefit the communities around which they operate. I am aware that multinational corporations no doubt bring massive investment to developing countries.

Foreign direct investment and new technologies introduced by multinationals spur GDP growth and the growth of different micro industries. Multinationals are also beneficial for developing countries in terms of bringing employment opportunities and new technologies that spill over to domestic firms. Furthermore, multinational companies often benefit from government subsidies, which could in the future be linked to investment in local firms. 

However, as it has been widely documented, some of these multinational corporations migrate their business to third-world countries for more nefarious purposes than what’s advertised.

In industrialized nations, labor laws and unionization have kept wages relatively high and protected employee rights. Companies are required to provide health benefits, paid vacation, and ensure anti-discriminatory practices. Companies are additionally mandated to observe strict environmental protection activities such as cleaning their effluent, proper disposal of waste, and cleaning up after industrial accidents. 

Uncomfortable with these stringent supervisions and faced with the prospect of reduced profits, most companies relocate to third-world countries where laws are lax or non-existent. With deep corporate pockets and sleek PR campaigns, these organizations receive licenses to operate in regions where access to cheap labor and raw materials is guaranteed. 

Companies in the least developed countries feel less obligated to observe social responsibility. Having paid their way to the highest government echelons, these corporations launch lucrative businesses that stash 99% of their profits abroad in tax havens, while delegating a minuscule amount of their earnings to local projects as initially envisaged.

Multinational companies look to reduce their liability in regions where they operate through the practice of outsourcing. Outsourcing takes place when a company hires or contracts another company, which is not related to the first, to do some type of work. Outsourcing work decreases the liability of the multinational through the contract of the work. The contract states that if there is to be any liability at all in the contract, the liability will be shared by both the principal and the contractor.

Another way in which these multinational corporations minimize liability is through renegade regime regulation. Multinationals can use the jurisdiction of one state to protect themselves from the jurisdiction of another. These companies use this to their advantage by seeking “refuge” in certain states, so-called secrecy havens. 

Liability reduction has given international companies the ability to be unaccountable and reckless in business practices. In the past, these megacorporations have been untouchable through the use of contracts, lack of policy enforcement, and basic corporate organization. The difficulty arises when placing responsibility on these companies as most are to be held accountable under national laws. With the wide scope of the actions of multinational corporations and their transnational nature, it is no wonder that national law cannot deal with these issues. 

One way to keep these conglomerates liable for all the actions that they undertake. That solution is international law. In four applicable ways, the international community can start holding the right people accountable for the activities that they undertake.

Communities must also be appraised of their environmental rights, labor rights, and social protection rights.

There have to be mechanisms by civil society and local non-profit organizations to recognize companies that show deliberate social responsibility and environmental protection. Conversely, lawbreakers and irresponsible exploitative practices must be called out and highlighted. Robust legal institutions must uphold existing laws so those rogue organizations can account for their practices.

Locally, independent multi-stakeholder committees must be encouraged to oversee the company’s activities and supervise adherence to laid down regulations. National governments should tax these multinational companies and use these funds for environmental protection purposes and as insurance against disasters such as oil spillage. Community advocacy and local participation in legislative frameworks are encouraged too because the voices of local communities are best placed to indicate the failure or success of investment strategies.

Given the rampant abuse of power, privilege, and position by some companies, it is not only fair but logical that we urge these corporations to contribute a percentage of their gross income to a charitable cause. multinational corporations can partner with a non-profit with the aim of supporting a worthy cause such as housing, water, sanitation, environmental clean-up, or food for impoverished communities. This will not only paint these companies in a positive light but will effect real change for communities in these countries.

In most third-world countries, their citizens no longer rely on governments for the provision of basic social infrastructure. Given the massive wealth and influence wielded by multinational companies, it can be competently argued that societies can depend on these corporations to bring about social and economic change, and by doing so escape the delineating label affixed on them such as “The Evil Corporations,” “Tax Evaders,” or “Exploitative Capitalists.”

Joyce Tabitha for The Goat Foundation

Thriving widows: How Kitui widows intend to put cause capitalism into action. 

 

Joyce Tabitha for The Goat Foundation

Joyce Tabitha narrates her journey through widowhood.

” The rains in Kitui have become short and unpredictable. Look at how crops are wilting on farms and how the earth is cracking. It is dry and to us farmers, this period has been chaotic. “says a distraught Joyce.

Like the 100 beneficiaries who received seed capital of 2 goats, Joyce is happy to have her pair. The region she hails from is categorized as part of the larger Arid and Semi-Arid areas in Kenya. Owing to climate change, the nature of Joyce’s business demands her to close shop.

” I am a farmer dependent on rainfall. If there is no rainfall, I cannot eat. I am also a widow with 5 children to feed. In our small table banking group, we converge with many other widowed women and 1 man to pool resources for economic productivity. The past few months have been hard, we have tried chicken farming and learned how to produce chicken feed from our gardens but still, the high cost of production does not allow us to fully delve into it. We started this group a few years ago when we realized the pain points of single-headed households.” Says a confident Joyce.

“Most widows are chased away from their matrimonial homes after they bury their husbands. They bear the burden of sole provision while they have no jobs. In our group, for example, some women dropped out of school. They do not have secondary school certificates leave alone credentials that will give them jobs. So, they opt to remarry and a few lucky ones start businesses.

Joyce gazes far into the horizon, lost in thoughts as if she was trying to picture the sudden curve her life had taken after her husband’s demise. Her face lightens up with new energy and she bursts out;

“This self-help group has uplifted many women around this area. Now that we have all received a pair of goats from The Goat Foundation, we are going to pool resources after our goats reproduce and start a proper lending system in this area. We are targeting widowed households. After selling the goats we should be able to raise capital for a start. This money will go into lending widows’ capital to start their businesses. We will teach them how to be entrepreneurial and in the spirit of cause capitalism ensure that we buy from their businesses too.”

Cause capitalism as a wave of change in business operations across Kitui.

The Loomba Foundation attributes widow poverty to an immediate loss of income that tips widows and their children into poverty, as well as deepening the poverty of families already on low incomes. To mitigate this, widows have been identified as a vulnerable group in need of empowerment.

Joyce Tabitha says her group’s vision was brought after The Goat Foundation’s CEO spoke about cause capitalism. He taught them a viable model for business operations that is symbiotic and guarantees long-term success.

The self-help group has pledged to empower and educate other widows on the benefits of self-reliance.

“As goats reproduce two times in a year, we will take the second set of kids and nurture them then sell. The first will be given to other widows as a continuing practice of cause capitalism. From selling, I assure you now widows in Kitui in the next 5 years will go to bed hungry or cry about school fees.

I have never witnessed such a project and I want to thank Steve Down and The Goat Foundation for thinking about widows. From Kitui, we say Asante sana.”

 

 

 

Veronica Kanini speaking to the Goat Foundation

SHE DARES TO DREAM

A Chance Meeting

During a donation exercise by The Goat Foundation in Kitui Central, Kitui County, I was drawn to a lady of about 30 years. She wore jeans, a gray hoodie, and open slacks that were rather too fashionable. 

I watched as she energetically marshaled her local group of widows through the set program. She embodied the enterprising hope envisioned by conveners of The goat Foundation. I made a mental note to request an interview with her and find out what her story was. 

Six months later I sat across the bubbly lady named Mwende whose story was quite an eye-opener. 

“I am a businesswoman, so I have trained myself to read a customer before they open their mouth. This intuition has guided me to succeed in business and once, it saved my life”  

The Goat Foundation

Some recipients turned their lives around and begun giving as cause capitalists

 

She pauses for effect to see if she has my attention and then begins her narrative. 

“Let me tell you my story. It began ten years ago when…”

Tragedy and Redemption

Mwende got married right after finishing high school. Her husband was from Mwingi, a town that was near her rural home. He worked as a clinical officer at the Level-5 hospital in that town. Musyoka (not his real name) had courted her through her secondary school and after finishing her ‘O’ level examinations, she promptly packed her bags and moved in with him.

For the next 8 years, they lived happily as a married couple though they never got to formalize their union. The one consternating factor in her marriage was her inability to conceive. Her husband’s relatives whispered loudly urging him to get another wife. Her in-laws had performed medical telepathy that somehow diagnosed her, and not Musyoka, her husband as the offending culprit in that childless union.

As animosity grew against her, her husband remained faithful and refused to entertain village ‘advisers’ who made regular trips to their homes to consult on ‘family matters.’

Tragedy struck in July 2018, she lost her husband in a road accident. He had traveled to the capital city for an interview with a large private hospital. The grief and sorrow that soon overwhelmed her were compounded by the fact that her in-laws wanted her out of her matrimonial home as soon as the burial ceremony was over. The house she was being thrown out of had been fully purchased by her husband before he died. 

Clinging to Hope

Determined not to lose everything in her life, Mwende vowed to stay put and never leave the house and property she shared with her husband. What followed was a series of orchestrated threats, beatings by unknown intruders and social media bullying and verbal assaults. It appeared like all of a sudden all members of her husband’s family had something rude to say to her. 

With no one to turn to, since she had run away from home to get married, Mwende decided to visit an old friend from school. On her way out she picked up a bottle of water that she had left standing on her table. On her way out she took a sip of the water, disliked it for tasting funny and threw the bottle away. That was the last thing she remembered. 

Waking up three weeks later in a hospital a doctor told her how lucky she had been. A good Samaritan had seen her collapse as she walked and got assistance to take her to the hospital. Mwende was quite sure who and why she had got poisoned. Her in-laws wanted the house and property left by her husband. 

After being discharged, she traveled back to her hometown in Kituyi carrying nothing but the clothes she wore on her back. 

The journey to Fulfillment

“How did you manage to survive, get an income and become the woman you are today?” I ask her.

“At first it wasn’t easy, I suffered from the side effects of those drugs. Later on, I did menial jobs for a small fee.”

Through her hard work and determination, Mwende scraped enough money to purchase a plot where she currently resided. 

“The Goat Foundation gave me hope for a prosperous future that I frankly believe in,” says Mwende with a smile. 

My two goats have been through two gestations. I have five goats. I gave one out to a needy friend. I hope that by the end of the year, I will add two more goats to my herd. If all goes according to plan, I will use these goats as collateral to get a loan and open a salon in town. 

Then she told me one of the most astonishing things I have heard in a long time. 

“My salon will offer free hair services to needy children. I will give one free service for every customer that I serve” she says confidently.

“How can you afford that?” I ask her, still stunned. 

“Don’t worry about that. The universe has plenty of abundances. You give to receive, and I believe blessings will keep coming my way as long as I keep giving.” 

She smiles brilliantly and rises to signal the end of our interview.

What a lady!

THE FUTURE OF THE GOAT FOUNDATION

From Humble Beginnings Great Milestones

Beckon

The socio-economic changes sweeping across villages and rural communities once visited by The Goat Foundation have been unprecedented, and according to Dominic, a community leader from Kisii town in Western Kenya, akin to a social revolution.

The donation of a pair of goats to widows and orphans in far-flung areas across the country opened societies to the potential of women, and widows in particular. Communities bore witness to the improved livelihoods and general well-being of widows, who once empowered by the initial investment of two goats, chose to apply the bargaining power that came with it towards wealth generation.   

Paradigm Shift in Perceptions

Perhaps the most cited achievement was the elimination of the inequitable gender power relations. Economically empowered widows acquired a voice and were included in decision-making in discussions that affected the community.

Loan disbursement, land rights, and inheritance rights got advocated for by community activists. By elevating widows from a whispered and shunned demographic to a celebrated group of achievers, The Goat Foundation allowed women and widows to access land ownership and resources. Widows were now able to contest for the property of their departed husbands. 

Changing lives and communities all over the country

Changing lives and communities all over the country

These attainments not only had the universal effect of eliminating extreme poverty, violence, and health risks, but they also advanced the cause of women towards education, training and awareness about their human rights. 

With the increased legal literacy, these widows are now able to confront long-standing exclusionary ideals born out of patriarchal customary and religious norms. 

During a peace and reconciliation process in Kisii County, Western Kenya, neighboring communities sat to negotiate compensation and deterrence against future atrocities. Among the items on the agenda was the payment of restitution to widows whose husbands had been killed during a raid conducted by a neighboring community.

The fact that the welfare of widows was discussed in a traditional ceremony long reserved for male community elders was a game-changing event that resonated throughout the Abagusii community.

Future Plans

The Goat Foundation has not sat on its laurels with a congratulatory grin of satisfaction. In future, they envisage a partnership with donors, Cause champions, Corporates and Businesses in endeavors across the African continent and the world. 

In the meantime, as the winds of change blow across the sunbaked landscapes of rural Kenya, it is hoped that intransigent voices of traditional patriarchy will shift their allegiance from the outdated customary norm of female domination to the caring and just idea of equality for all.

Steve Down, the founder of The Goat Foundation, his Business and Corporate partners, and friends who donate and contribute towards Cause Capitalism look forward to yet another year of fruitful engagement with widows, community leaders and all those who believe in the art of giving.