Farmers pedal away after delivering milk to the Kiboga West Livestock Cooperative chilling plant in Uganda.
Today on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation blog, Bill Gates makes a powerful statement: Smallholder farmers are the solution to the global hunger epidemic.
We agree wholeheartedly. Since its inception in 1944, Heifer International’s mission has been to end hunger and poverty by working directly with smallholder farmers, providing gifts of livestock and training that improve nutrition and cultivate individual entrepreneurship.
But, why farming? Gates explains in his post... “Many people don’t realize it, but most of the world’s poorest people are small farmers. They get their food and income farming small plots of land. These farming families often don’t have good seeds, equipment, reliable markets, or money to invest that helps them get the most out of their land. So they work hard, but they get no traction, and more often than not, they stay hungry and poor.”
He goes on to state, “smart investments in farming families help them become more self sufficient.” Heifer’s model of sustainable development has proven this approach works.
This is a message the world needs to hear, and we need your help in sharing it. The Gates Foundation is issuing a challenge for you to create a compelling message – using your design, film making, or writing skills – that shows why investing in small farmers is good for the world, then submit your work for possible inclusion in the Gates Foundation website, blog or social media platforms.
How would you share this message? Please share your ideas in the comments.
This morning it was my privilege to work alongside about a dozen of my colleagues from Heifer International headquarters, picking up limbs and debris left by the recent severe storms that hit Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas. We joined forces with numerous ranch staff and volunteers as well as members of the community.
The din of chainsaws was constant background noise as we stacked firewood and piled branches to be burned at some future date. Utility crews worked nearby, restoring electricity to buildings still in the dark, and all around us were sheep, goats, cows, water buffalo, turkeys, and even a camel. These are among the Ranch’s best-known residents, and they came through the storm unscathed.
It was hard not to feel overwhelmed by the scope of the damage. While none of the Ranch’s guests, staff, or volunteers were injured, numerous barns and outbuildings were destroyed. The yurts in Global Village #2 were flattened, and the Ranch lost countless large shade trees. There are more photos of the damage and the cleanup effort below.
During my time at Heifer Ranch this morning, I couldn’t help but notice two things:
The infectious optimism. The Ranch staff tell me the property is already vastly improved thanks to the hard work of volunteer firefighters, church groups, utility crews and neighbors. Michelle Izaguirre, who directs Heifer’s learning centers, says the Ranch will reopen Monday. In the second Global Village, temporary structures will house groups where yurts once stood (watch video here).
The fact that it could have been much, much worse. Buildings can be rebuilt, and trees can be replanted. Our thoughts and prayers are now with the numerous families throughout the region who suffered tremendous losses of life and property due to recent tornadoes.
Times like these remind me we are all connected as one large family. Thanks for being there for us.
Read more blog posts about the Heifer Ranch cleanup here.
Photo contributed by Heifer Malawi program development manager Victor Mhango
Heifer Malawi launched the Bua milk cooling centre in Mchinji yesterday and conducted a POG ceremony for 17 new families of the USAID funded Mchinji Small Scale Dairy Project. Our partners report this project has been progressing at a record pace.
Armenia is a small country located between Georgia in the north and Iran to the South. After gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenia has faced a lot of difficulties including a plunging economy and an armed conflict with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno Karabakh region. A cease fire was reached in 1994 and things began to stabilize.
After several years of double-digit economic growth, Armenia, like a majority of countries worldwide, had to face the global economic recession of 2008. Armenia’s GDP declined 15% in 2009 and the proportion of Armenians living in poverty reached 28.4%.
In addition, about 50 percent of poor people live in rural areas. The unemployment rate is particularly high in these areas, and the main source of income here is horticulture and animal husbandry.
We visited Lernagog village in Armavir region to learn more about ongoing projects which have provided some 130 families with dairy cows. The village lost its sole employer when the local mill closed at the end of the Soviet era, and most families remain without regular income and are trapped by the lack of economic opportunities. One family in particular, the Avetisyan family, received one pregnant heifer. After the birth, they now benefit from about 10 liters of milk per day, which they consume in the form of fresh milk, cheese and yogurt. The family has four children who now have improved nutrition in their diet.
Our team also visited projects in the Arpi and Areni villages in the Vayotz Dzor region. The Melkonyans are a family of 6. As is the case with many families here, the Melkonyans are unemployed and the only source of income is their son’s temporary construction work. The family has received one pregnant heifer in 2008 and now is going to pass on its first offspring in the fall of 2011. From the cow, they consume fresh milk, cheese and yogurt for all the members of the family. Sometimes they have a little extra and manage to sell some milk or cheese to generate extra income.
But where do we go from here? The Avetisyans — and many other families we met with in Armenia — want to move beyond subsistence farming and create income opportunities through the sale of milk to the local milk collection centre. For this, they need to increase their stock of dairy cows, improve barn and milking facilities and enhance their technical knowledge.
Heifer Armenia is now developing follow-up initiatives to link families to markets. In the immediate case of the Lernagog community, the team is developing a partnership with one of the main milk processing enterprises in the country. Heifer will provide access to additional animals and technical assistance, while the enterprise will collect milk from the families supported by Heifer. The end result will be families with a regular source of income, with an enterprise that is able to continue growing sustainably through the provision of locally-produced milk.
Why is this important? Heifer works with with poor families to build their capacities and link them to sustainable markets. We call this moving along the poverty continuum, and it empowers these families to go from not having enough to eat to being able to support themselves.
This means people, families and communities that are no longer poor.
Pietro Turilli is vice president for Central and Eastern Europe programs at Heifer International. He was accompanied on his recent project visits by Cathy Sanders, vice president of philanthropy, and Paul Yeghiayan, associate director of philanthropy.
The opposing beliefs of the two are captured in this statement by Bjorn Lomberg:
“…Fortunately, there is a more sensible way forward that could use the same $250 billion that the European Union is expecting to waste annually on ineffective global warming policies. First, we should spend about $100 billion a year on research and development to make green energy cheaper and more widely available. Mr. Singer argues that it is not ethically defensible just to hope for a “technological miracle” that will allow us to end our reliance on fossil fuels…”
Lomberg believes that were going to spend too much money on policies that have to little return on investment and that this capital can be used to help the impoverished with programs that have been time tested.
I would love to open this to the public to see where Heifer supporters stand. Click here for a link to the Wall Street Journal piece.
The sari clad women in the hills that skirt the capital city of Nepal Kathmandu gaped in awe at the President of Heifer International. They knew that life had changed a lot for them since they came together in a group to be the beneficiaries of a Heifer project. The trainings and constant brainstorming had given them insight and direction to self-reliant and sustainable lives for their families and communities. As they met the individual who headed the organization that had brought this change in their lives, a woman, they felt the magnitude of change they could influence.
Heifer International’s President Jo Luck visited an ethnic Tamang community’s Passing on the Gift ceremony on a windy ledge. Ramkot, was a winding and bumpy 45 minutes from the city but a world away from the hum-drum. In a skeleton of a two story community building, the ceremony was conducted in all Nepali galore, the walls, doors and windows, yet to be built when the money would be collected by the women. Along with the project activities which included raising goats, buffaloes, chicken and growing organic vegetables and floriculture, a specialty of this area, the women also briefed the guest on their plans for this building which included a room for a health-post, a cooperative office and a place for the children and youth.
In Jhor, outside of the city, Jo Luck participated in an interaction program with the women. Amongst other things they talked of the hopes and aspirations for the future and how Heifer had given them the platform to make them come true. Jo Luck also visited the homes of some project participants and heard their individual life stories.
Puja Singh is a Heifer communication officer based in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Watch this slide show to see images from Heifer president Jo Luck’s recent visit to our Nepal projects.
A Heifer project participant cooks on a stove fueled with biogas.
by Terry Wollen
This year’s international round of discussion on climate change is taking place in Cancun, Mexico. Officially known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, this summit is focusing on numerous topics – not the least of which is greenhouse gasses. Indeed, one of the important themes around climate change has to do with mitigation of the effects of greenhouse gasses – in other words, “What can we do to make these changes less severe or hostile?”
Here at Heifer, we’ve been answering this question for years through our innovative yet simple agroecology programs. All over the developing world we’re fighting the environmental effects of greenhouse gasses by training smallholder farmers to use sustainable methods of rearing animals and raising crops.
Here are just a few of our programs that improve local ecosystems while helping families lift themselves out of poverty:
·Improving soil water retention through planting trees and wise grazing management
·Controlling soil erosion
·Rotational grazing practices for small and large ruminants like goats, cattle, llamas alpacas, and water buffalo
·Periodic or sustained use of zero-grazing pens
·Improved animal feeding with local resources, using an educated understanding of animal nutrient requirements
·Better manure management through composting, covering wet and dry manure storage and incorporation of this animal by-product in crop grounds.
While animals and animal by-products do emit greenhouse gasses, an educated understanding of where these gasses come from and means to reduce their impact are mitigation practices that can be accomplished by all smallholder farmers.
Let me offer a real-world example: In the Conco community in Copan Ruinas, Honduras, the family of Jesus Esquivel and other partners of the local Heifer Honduras project have transformed the fragile surrounding hillsides from erosion and excessive tree harvesting to a sloping landscape that now holds water for irrigation, productive livestock for community markets and a school for local children. This has been accomplished through wise management of livestock grazing and zero-grazing pens, tree planting, contour land management for farming, manure composting and application to soils, along with improved kitchens using biogas from the animal pens and improved stoves.
The issues surrounding greenhouse gasses and climate change are many and complex. Heifer International can speak with authority on ways to mitigate the effects of climate change as we’ve seen our model yield real, life-changing results in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.
Terry Wollen is the Interim Vice President for Advocacy at Heifer International and a former livestock veterinary practitioner.
Christine Aanyu remains relatively healthy despite being HIV positive. Oxen from Heifer help her cultivate nutritious food to eat and sell.
Today is World AIDS Day, and one of the countries hit hardest by the ravaging effects of this disease is Uganda. Last year Austin Bailey visited a village where nearly every family is effected by the disease, and she captured their stories for World Ark magazine. What better way to observe World AIDS Day than to read an inspiring story of how these families are overcoming hunger and poverty in spite of the disease’s aftermath.
Uganda was among the first sub-Saharan countries to fall victim to the AIDS epidemic. The country’s first case was diagnosed in 1982, and by 1992 the prevalence rate climbed to 18 percent. That number is down to roughly 5.4 percent among adults in Uganda now. It’s progress, but it still seems high compared with the United States’ 0.6 percent rate of adult HIV/AIDS infections.
In Abokakwap, a village hit especially hard by the AIDS epidemic, people are hopeful. Because the Ugandan government and nonprofit groups subsidize anti-retroviral treatments, and because infection rates are dropping, the sickness is not the menace it once was. Still, the villagers of Abokakwap deal with HIV and AIDS daily. When the epidemic was new, people were afraid to admit they were infected or even seek treatment because of the stigma that was attached. Today, that stigma is largely gone, especially in places like Abokakwap where just about every family is affected. Most households include at least one orphan taken in when the parents died of AIDS.
Christine Aanyu, 37, is both lucky and unlucky when it comes to AIDS. She’s unlucky because both she and her husband are HIV positive. She’s lucky because she remains in good health for the most part, despite some joint pain and aches in her chest. She’s also lucky that none of her eight children, ages 20 months to 17 years, have tested positive for HIV. Last year Aanyu’s family received oxen as part of a heifer project. They use them to cultivate cabbages, cowpeas and peanuts so they can eat healthfully and make some extra money at the markets.
Aanyu isn’t shy about revealing her status, and she’s hopeful enough to make plans for herself and her family for years down the road. Like many of the women of Abokakwap village, Aanyu carves out four hours a week for a literacy class. She enrolled because she couldn’t understand her children’s schoolbooks, and she wanted to one day be able to read the Bible for herself.
Aanyu is a strong student, as are most of her classmates, teacher Harriet Adong reported. “They are good learners, and they are so much united. When they are digging, they are working in one garden. They are always together,” she said.
The students help each other as much as they can, but sometimes it’s not enough. Aanyu asked to send a message to people in the United States in hopes of helping them understand a bit more about what her life is like.
“Please tell them that people in Africa try their best, but we don’t have every resource we need,” she said through a translator. “If you can help, then I would appreciate it very much.”
Austin Bailey is a senior editor for Heifer International’s World Ark magazine. This post is an excerpt of “After The Animals” from the Holiday 2009 issue.
Business, social innovator brings ‘passionate urgency’ to role
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Heifer International — a global nonprofit leader of sustainable agricultural development for smallholder farmers — today named Pierre U. Ferrari its chief executive officer.
Ferrari, who was born in Africa in 1950 in what was then the Belgian Congo (today the Democratic Republic of the Congo and from 1971 to 1997 called Zaire), has more than 40 years of business experience, ranging from large consumer package goods organizations such as Coca-Cola USA to work with socially-oriented organizations like CARE and the Small Enterprise Assistance Fund.
He succeeds interim CEO Charles Stewart and Heifer’s longtime President and former CEO Jo Luck.
“I am excited about, joyful and inspired by this incredible opportunity and just as much so by this amazing organization,” said Ferrari. “Key for me is to honor the amazing legacy of Jo Luck and the thousands who have built Heifer to date.
“But I now come along at a time where the urgency to end poverty is even greater. Heifer has a totally relevant set of values and model for today. My task will be to serve our various communities to empower more people much more rapidly, with a sense of passionate urgency,” he said.
Doug Smith, Heifer International board chair, said, “I am truly honored to introduce Pierre as Heifer’s new chief executive. The board conducted an international search for the strongest, most innovative CEO on the planet, and there is an ethos, a passion that embodies Pierre that sets him above.
“I just hope the board can keep up with his vision to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth, because if it is going to happen, Pierre Ferrari is going to help make it so.”
Ferrari is a marketer and entrepreneur and more recently, a social venture developer. He worked for many years with Coca-Cola USA, before deciding in 1995 to focus his energies and business acumen on social issues — to use his skills and aptitude to help, invest in and partner with people living in material poverty to help them achieve self-sufficiency, independence and health, goals that directly align with Heifer’s empowerment-oriented mission.
“Heifer’s work is as fundamentally powerful and relevant today as it was 66 years ago,” said Ferrari. “People need self-security, self-employment, to be able to use their own entrepreneurial spirit and energy to take care of themselves and their family. Heifer does that through its work, and through Passing on the Gift, that fundamental human energy is multiplied many times.
“Given a chance and a hand up, these families, these communities — they create their own opportunities and successes.”
Following his decision to leave Coca-Cola, Ferrari joined CARE, where he worked as special assistant to the president, leading the first comprehensive strategic plan based upon performance measures, participating in a feasibility mission for a hospital in Zaire and reviewing a women’s co-op banking project in Niger and micro loan programs.
Ferrari is chair of the board for Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream, which seeks to meet human needs and eliminate injustices, focusing on children and families, the environment and sustainable agriculture on family farms. As part of his service with Ben & Jerry’s, Ferrari led the board to firm up its global commitment to fair trade by 2013 with its vanilla, cocoa and coffee farmers, etc., a course that matches well with Heifer’s work with smallholder farmers.
“Heifer is a proven model that works, and that I have and will continue to support,” said Ferrari. “And now I am so fortunate to be a part of this awesome organization.”
Ferrari’s initial connection to Heifer was as a donor. His children were encouraged to donate goats through Heifer and he said he recalls a wedding where guests were directed to give 100 goats through Heifer in lieu of traditional gifts. More recently, on his 60th birthday, his family asked friends to honor him with gifts of yaks for Tibet through Heifer.
A board member of the Small Enterprise Assistance Fund, which provides equity financing to small and medium enterprises in developing countries and emerging markets, Ferrari also sits on the advisory council for The Emory Ethics Center in Atlanta, and on the board of an Atlanta nonprofit that raises funds for Maji Mazuri, a Kenyan organization that helps children overcome poverty.
He is an investor and director of Guayaki Sustainable Rainforest Products, a company working to steward and restore 200,000 acres of South American Atlantic rainforest and create jobs, is president of “Hot Fudge” venture capital fund, a community development venture capital fund, teaches (Sustainable) MBA Marketing at Bainbridge Graduate Institute and is a founder of EthixVentures and QuatreCinq LLC.
Ferrari holds a master’s degree in Economics from The University of Cambridge and a MBA from Harvard Business School.
We originally shared this video with you back in May when Austin Bailey was in Senegal, reporting on projects for Heifer’s magazine, World Ark. We wanted to post it again for Blog Action Day – an event held every Oct. 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action.
This year’s topic is water. In this video you’ll see Fatou Dione walking in oven-hot wind churning with dust to fetch water for her husband and four children. It’s the dry season in her village of Diarrere in Senegal, and both water and food are running low. At the time this video was shot, they were eagerly anticipating the rains the following month.
We hope this video helps raise awareness of the scarcity of good, clean water for many of the world’s people. Please note that there is no audio due to the high winds.