Heifer project in Albania wins Best Practice Award

InterAction cites livestock production, value chain development in recognition

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Dec. 21, 2010) – Heifer International's Integrated Dairy Development Project in Albania has been selected for a Best Practice Award by InterAction, a coalition of humanitarian organizations providing disaster relief, refugee assistance and sustainable development programs worldwide.

The project—which empowered 630 families in rural areas to increase their food and income by transforming subsistence farms into a sustainable resource—increased cooperation between farmers, strengthened self-reliant associations, improved farm management through training and technical assistance on dairy farm management and gender and improved the economic viability of income-generating farms.

"Heifer is delighted to be recognized with this Best Practice Award by InterAction, especially for accomplishments in our Cornerstones," said Pietro Turilli, vice president for Heifer International's Central and East European area.

"The establishment of farmer associations and their active role in community life has provided direct assistance to families and increased access and visibility in the market, encouraging greater cooperation and partnerships with different stakeholders," he said.

The project began in 2005 with Heifer providing pregnant heifers to 400 families in need in Lushjna, Berati and Fieri communities without cows on their farms. Heifer trained farmers on issues such as practical feeding, preparation of rations, manure management, preparation of hay and silage and mechanization. Trainings on animal health, breed and artificial insemination were also organized for local technicians and farmers.

The project supported the creation of four farmers associations (FAs), while training on cooperation, leadership, resource development and gender issues were provided to FAs members. Farmers also received trainings on milk quality, hygiene, marketing and business plans, preparation of simple business plans and connections to a savings and credit union in the area.

InterAction cited benefit, including:

  • Increased number of animals per farm and increased income from the farms
  • Increased knowledge in farm management, dairy food chain and business plans
  • Strengthening of associations
  • Establishment of three agro-shops for agricultural inputs at lower prices (20 percent), compared to the general market
  • Effective division of work within the family
  • FAs organized training for farmers in the required fields to improve their farm management capacities and continuous technical assistance
  • Building partnership with savings and credit union for lower interest loans to invest in the farm

One project farmer, Mariana Kristo, said, "I cannot forget what was changed in my family, because for seven years, my family had one cow with low productivity, hardly providing for the needs of our family of six. Today, I have 12 Holstein cows in a contemporary stable."

The project was also recognized for its gender equity efforts. "Project participants have joint ownership and responsibilities of the dairy cattle and farm, as both men and women are signatories of the contracts and members of the project. The organization has training on gender equity and has encouraged participation of women in training and exchange visits."

At the project's end, 630 families benefited—more than 2,500 men, women and children directly shared the benefits from the project in a meaningful way.

The five winning organizations include Heifer International, Freedom from Hunger, ADRA International, Africare and Winrock International, showcasing the commitment to improving the efficiency and impact of agriculture, food security and rural community economic development programs in the developing world. All submissions were rigorously reviewed by a selection committee of experts and evaluated according to the following criteria: evidence of effectiveness/success, efficiency/cost-effectiveness, equitable outcomes for women and men, sustainability and replicability/adaptability.

Heifer's mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. Since 1944, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in 50 countries, including the U.S., to help families and communities become more self-reliant.

For more information, visit www.heifer.org or call (800) 696-1918.