[This article first appeared on TruthAtlas.com. TruthAtlas is an online news source featuring multimedia stories about people and ideas making the world a better place. Learn more at www.truthatlas.com.]
A nonprofit group is trying to alleviate agricultural problems in East Africa, Israel, and other desert environments by introducing a species of cattle they believe are ideally suited for the job: the Texas Longhorn.
Much better suited for arid climates than the typical European cows most people are familiar with, the Texas Longhorn could ultimately help many different countries rise out of poverty by significantly improving agricultural potential.
In the desert environments that they call home, there is no better survivor than the Texas Longhorn. They eat invasive shrubs and cacti, they are resistant to the diseases rampant in hotter areas, and their namesake horns make them less vulnerable to predators, poachers, and thieves alike.
Contrast this with the European cattle now found wasting away in the deserts to which it they have no acclimation. They thrive on grass, of which there is little. Higher feed costs means less nutrition, which in turns leads to higher calf mortality rates, which remain a dismal 30 percent.
Combine these with low reproductive rates, and you have a recipe for a dying cattle industry and the end of agricultural progress.
That is why the Israel Longhorn Project is trying to bring the vastly superior Texas Longhorn to the deserts of the Middle East and Africa, so that their unique advantages can help fledgling farmers gain a foothold and start providing for themselves and their families.
The project will have four stages. The first is bringing a small number of these cattle to the desert, to confirm their ability to thrive. Once they have been proven themselves, farmers need to be educated on how to raise these animals and best use their special physiology.
The third step is to get these farmers started with free cattle with the help of donations. Once the first generation of Longhorns has been given, a herd will be established to be a self-sustaining source of the cattle in the future.
To many of the poorest farmers around the world, the gift of a single Longhorn will be a complete reversal of fortune for themselves and their loved ones.
The work the Israel Longhorn Project is doing to make this a reality is the successful combination of practicality and philanthropy that will do untold amounts of good, well into the future.
• To learn more, visit http://www.longhornproject.org/