We all know for sure that Heifer’s model works. Millions and millions of farmers and families have increased their standard of living many times over. Seeing it firsthand is amazing; according to Sahr Libbee, VP of the Africa program, it’s addictive. I think I understand why, now.
For one thing, this landscape is amazing. It’s a paradise, and I could totally live here.
But, really, I think what it has to do with is seeing Heifer’s model working, yet also seeing how much more there is to do. Pierre, coming from a strong business background, has a talent for asking the right questions. He asks almost everyone we meet with, “What are the problems you continue to face?” “What would make this easier for you?” and “How can we expand upon what you’re doing to make it even more profitable and longer lasting?”
The answers he receives are incredibly interesting. They need better marketing skills. They need more trained service providers. More aluminum milk containers. Better roads so they can get the milk to the chilling plants faster. A strategy for maintaining steady prices for their milk, in the face of a dairy processing monopoly. Better access to clean water. More micro-finance opportunities.
Once you’re here, you can’t help but want to try to fix each of their problems right away. If I had the capacity to do so, I would personally fix these crazy roads (I know, I know, they’re way better than in Kenya and many other places, but they’re certainly the worst I’ve ever seen.)
It’s going to take even more that the great work that Heifer does to really move these people all the way out of poverty.
The good news? Each of these issues is resolvable. The better news? Heifer is learning that many of these issues are but growing pains associated with scaling up the Heifer model and looking at it as an investment model, instead of solely a community development one. Seeing the East Africa Dairy Development Project’s (EADD) successes and challenges, Heifer is now better positioned to help meet all of the needs listed above.
Yes, improving the nutriton and income of 13.6 million people is amazing. But we live in a different world from that of Heifer’s founder, Dan West. To truly end hunger and poverty, Heifer must look for opportunities to expand upon the model we all know and love; starting with helping farmers with entrepreneurial spirit enter the marketplace in a more substantial way.
What do you think? What are other ideas for ways Heifer can deepen its impact?