This week, the Looptail is coming to you live from outside the gates of Costa Rica’s Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio from our first-ever Summit in the Jungle. Each day, we’re profiling a different visionary whose world-changing ideas earned them one of four spots at the Summit — and a shot at winning $25,000 to fund their vision. Today, we’re proud to introduce Canada’s Rita Rayman.
My idea: The sh*t starts here
This program has already affected the lives of 22,000 people through providing sheep and goats to farmers in Africa. We provide sheep to co-operatives of subsistence farmers in order to compost the manure into fertilizer, which in turn increases crop yields. In addition, as the sheep reproduce, excess sheep can be sold for income and life advancement such as health care, educational needs and home improvement. Additionally, a stable community helps to guarantee the protection and conservation of nearby parks, forests and wildlife, including mountain gorillas, chimpanzees and other endangered primates. If there is enough food on the table and money to buy cooking fuel, there is no need to go poaching. Potential also exists for other income-generating activities such as milk, cheese, wool, and felt production.
Like micro-finance—but the currency is sheep
Working with established cooperatives, we provide each farmer with a female sheep as well as males for studding. Once the farmer has his quota of females, he returns the next sheep to the project, which is then passed on to a farmer in another cooperative. It’s like micro-finance, but the currency is sheep, and the loan is interest-free. We carefully track the number of members we’re working with, as well as the number of sheep being delivered and the subsequent births.
As we gave the initial farmers the benefit of opportunity, so they are now turning around and giving that same opportunity to other members of their community, in other cooperatives, lifting as they rise. The cycle perpetuates itself as we continue to provide new sheep to new cooperatives in addition to those being passed on by previous cooperatives.
Ours is a love story that’s full of shit
Our idea is a simple, transparent, scalable, sustainable community-building, income-generating, conservation initiative that fosters dignity and independence. Having already established ourselves in Rwanda, Northern Uganda and Bhutan, and knowing that the concept works, we are focusing on moving further north into South Sudan, as well as establishing initiatives in India, Southeast Asia and South America.
Behind the idea: Rita Rayman
Born and living in Toronto, Canada, Rita Rayman has more than 20 years of travel under her belt, “exploring most of this awesome, precious planet and the wondrous variety of people who call it home”. Along with her husband Jeff, she’s also taken notice of the suffering of both the people and the planet, and was moved moved to do something about it on a grassroots level.
We wanted to avoid the political and social corruption, as well as the administrative corruption and overhead that we had seen cripple the best efforts of so many seemingly worthy projects in so many different countries. We also wanted to avoid the inflated egos and saviour complexes that arise in so many NGO groups we had encountered. In an age of chaos and change, we recognize that there is no ‘other’. There is only ‘us’—a global family.
Having been long-time fundraisers, volunteers and activists, comfortable on ‘the road less traveled’, and semi-retired empty-nesters, Rita and Jeff founded The Guardian Project foundation, with a mission to facilitate opportunity through direct, grassroots interaction with indigenous peoples, working with them in their journey to self-sustaining independence, and encouraging them to be pro-active participants in community and country. They place special emphasis on the importance of women, as they are the backbone of a healthy functioning social structure. In their work, they “utilize local wisdom and resources rather than relying on western notions and should-isms”.
Learn more about Rita’s idea — and over 350 other world-changing proposals from all over the world at The G Project. Stay tuned to the #gproject hashtag on Twitter—where you’ll get a chance to explore Costa Rica’s Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio alongside our G Project finalists, while discovering first-hand the positive impact travel and tourism can have on the future of our planet.