Villagers in sub-Saharan Africa have asked if well-meaning Westerners could desist from sending them ‘useful’ gifts this Christmas, such as farm animals, teaching materials and agricultural equipment and have asked if it would be all right if they just had the money instead.
‘I do not wish to sound ungrateful’ said Papa N’Diaye from the Senegalese village Ker Simbara, ‘But we got a goat last year, and the year before. This Christmas could we maybe have an X-box or even just the cash equivalent?’ Other villagers agreed, saying that they had obviously been delighted to receive a hundred Tricolore French textbooks for Key Stage 3, but pointed out that they were of course a former French colony and all spoke fluent French already.
Inspecting the first of this year’s Oxfam packages containing farming tools and seeds, Papa was disappointed that no gift receipt had been included that at least would have allowed him to send them back to the shop and get a credit note. ‘Sure overseas aid has come a long way since the 1980s’ said N’Diaye. ‘I remember how pilots used to fly overhead and just drop 50kg bags of cereal over our villages. That’s what caused the shortage of goats in the first place. But it’s hard to get excited about sapling apple trees. We’d have to wait another six or seven years before they start producing fruit. What sort of Christmas present is that. We want stuff we can play with now! You don’t fancy swapping these trowels and hoes for an iPod Touch do you?’
But Oxfam’s regional representative in the area was eager to explain the philosophy behind useful agricultural Christmas presents. ‘There’s a saying that we put on all our literature. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. But give a man a fishing rod…’
‘And he turns into a boring twat’ chipped in one of the villagers.
sheldonprice, mattvaughan, and antharrison with thanks to all other contributors on the submissions board