Heifer project in Zambia wins Best Practice Award

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Heifer International’s Miyoba Women’s Draft Cattle Project in Zambia 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 supported Women Farmers in Building Community Resilience Through Harnessing Crops and Livestock—built economic resilience and self-reliance by increasing crop yields and improving nutrition of families through gifts of livestock and training. It also encouraged environmentally friendly farming through the use of animal manure and reducing overgrazing. Heifer was recognized especially for its strengths in promoting gender integration and livestock production.

“Heifer is delighted to be recognized with a Best Practice Award by InterAction, especially for accomplishments in our Cornerstones,” said Martha Hirpa, Heifer’s director of gender equity advocacy. James Kasongo, Heifer’s country director in Zambia, echoed Hirpa’s comments stressing the organization’s Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development as the foundation of Heifer’s successful development model.

The project began in 2001 after disease wiped out draft cattle in southern and central provinces of Zambia, and the privatization of veterinary services, coupled with drought, led to high cattle mortality in Mumbwa, making farming difficult due to a lack of draft animals.

Farming became increasingly dependent upon women, whose fields—planted with protein-rich crops like groundnuts, monkey-nuts, sweet potatoes and bean—suffered because they had to spend much of their time working in traditionally men’s fields, on crops like maize, to feed the family. Protein deficiencies contributed to high malnutrition, particularly in children.

Concerned about the needs of their families and communities, the women formed a group and approached Heifer, which provided multi-purpose draft cattle.

During the five-year project, Heifer International and its Zambia country program provided cattle and trained women in eco-friendly diverse and small-scale farming techniques. Heifer worked with the Zambian government, which provided veterinary services for livestock, and with the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, which helped women organize themselves into community groups, develop group constitutions, open bank accounts for revolving funds and develop leadership.

The project especially addressed gender-based discrimination women faced through gender and development training, by involving women in all village-based training for livestock production and management, involving women in managing village-based revolving funds, helping women access incomes and improved returns for their labor, providing women-friendly technology, and training to use and maintain equipment. Additionally, women’s groups were trained in Heifer’s Cornerstones, which encouraged families to share benefits and knowledge with one another.

The project initially directly benefitted 20 families, 90 percent of which were headed by women. At the project’s end, more than 200 families had benefited. With an average family size of six members, this meant that more than 1,200 people directly shared the benefits from the project in a meaningful way.

The Best Practice Award was created with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to promote information sharing on effective program approaches, and to improve practice standards by boosting the efficiency and impacts of field programs. The goal is to highlight successful and promising interventions that improve the lives of the millions of people suffering from poverty and hunger. Other organizations being recognized this year include Mercy Corps, Helen Keller International, World Vision Australia and Honduras and ADRA International.

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 1-800-696-1918.