In the past year we have been thrilled to be shortlisted for two UK awards, and also to have been given the prestigious Best Practice Award by the President of Ethiopia. Gemma Porter, who represented Send a Cow at the 2016 Charity Awards ceremony earlier this month, writes about how proud she felt to see our work shortlisted:

"I have worked at Send a Cow (SAC) for over two years. And like all our supporters and staff I know the huge difference we have made to thousands of smallholder farmers and their families in Africa over the last 28 years.

As a growing organisation, it is always difficult to convey the remarkable transformation in people’s lives when it can’t be witnessed first-hand. And it’s difficult, too, to communicate the value of our work to new audiences. But I am delighted to report that this is starting to change and our impact is starting to be recognised and acknowledged.

Last year, SAC’s Developing Farmers towards Food and Income Security (DEFAR) project in Southern Ethiopia received the prestigious Best Practice Award from the President of Ethiopia. This was a huge step forward for SAC Ethiopia, a small international NGO with enormous impact.

The DEFAR project was also shortlisted for the 2016 Charity Awards organised by Civil Society Media here in the UK. With Fiona French, SAC’s Trusts and Foundation Manager, I recently attended the awards ceremony presented by former BBC news presenter Bill Turnbull in London. We kicked off our wellies, put on our glad rags and mingled with representatives from the 30 charities that were shortlisted in 10 different categories.

Why were we shortlisted? Because before SAC launched its DEFAR project in Southern Ethiopia, local farmers and their families were living in abject poverty. They also had substantially worse health, poorer harvests and limited access to clean water. The majority were also not managing their land sustainably, with less than 10 per cent practising any kind of soil conservation methods.

Over a three-year period, with funding from the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID), SAC Ethiopia was able to create healthier and more secure communities. The number of food shortage months dropped from six to 1.8. And with greater, more diverse and better managed incomes for farmers and their families, there was a 429% increase in average annual incomes. An estimated 11,394 people in 1,899 households now have better access to water and improved sanitation and 93% of farmers are practising soil conservation methods.

DFID gave SAC Ethiopia’s DEFAR project a mark of A+ based on its impact, while an independent evaluation of the project by Oxford University found that: “in a short time, the health and wellbeing of households [was] improved and poverty levels reduced. We encourage others to learn from these findings.” Charity Awards judge Martin Edwards, himself an experienced charity professional and sector commentator, said the project had achieved some “extraordinary results”.

We were up against very stiff competition on the night with three other charities in the International Development category – the most competitive category of the night. We didn’t win. Vision for a Nation, a charity providing eye care in Rwanda, took the top slot, but we are very proud to have been shortlisted and recognised alongside other fantastic charities doing courageous and life changing work.

I hope to see Send a Cow’s name up in lights more often – giving us the opportunity to tell the story of the remarkable farmers and staff that we work with."

Find out more about these awards: