Action to change lives of the world’s poor

WHEN I visited Rwanda with a group of MPs and volunteers a few years ago as part of Project Umubano the idea was to bring us face to face with people in the developing world and really experience their concerns - so different in many ways from those that often dominate the political debate here, such as how to limit damage to the environment.

Now, with the unfolding famine in the Horn of Africa caused by the worst drought in 60 years, we have the opportunity to focus more sharply on the shared implications of climate change.

Not that I would dream of comparing the developing tragedy in East Africa with the spike in food prices at home, even while bearing in mind the effect of climate change on the price of world commodities such as oil and wheat.

For us, it is reassuring to know that Defra is taking steps to ensure food production can be increased while improving and protecting the environment.

But what of the poorest people in the poorest countries?

Andrew Mitchell, who shared my attempts to teach English in Kigali, has taken up the challenge by launching the Global Poverty Action Fund.

This action fund aims to help brilliant charitable organisations in our constituencies save lives and do great things in the developing world.

Up and down the country, there are many excellent organisations undertaking valuable work in poor countries.

But until now, many smaller bodies have been unable to access funding from DFID.

This scheme gives them a chance to get new ideas off the ground and expand existing projects that are already achieving real results.

So smaller organisations that have an idea which could improve the lives of people in the world’s poorest countries stand to benefit from the innovation fund, whereas the impact fund aims to boost charities that have a successful project up and running but have bigger ambitions.

We want to invest in the most effective of these projects by matching – pound for pound – money raised by the local organisation so that they can expand their work in developing countries.

So there you have it: Umubano – ‘Friendship and co-operation’ - and how to change the lives of the world’s poor.

You can find out all you need to know about the funding scheme at


MP for Horsham