On the 4th and 5th of December 2012, London will awake to a realization that women are central to solving the problems of the developing world. The Trust Women Conference will highlight the potential and achievement of women around the world in solving the day to day problems that their communities face. The headlining themes are:
Rewriting the rules: Embedding women’s rights in constitutions
Female genital mutilation: Challenging ‘culture’ to stop the cutting
The modern day slave trade
Child marriage: Forced marriage
How to put the trafficking business out of business?
Women and finance: The high cost of exclusion
Influential speakers will highlight issues and experience with the aim to drive innovation and partnerships by connecting legal expertise with the financial, technological and educational resources that enable women to exercise their rights.
Photo by Russell Powell, courtesy of Heifer International.
Today’s world problems ranging from food insecurity, malnutrition, lack of education, health and finance are all in one way or the other connected to the state of women and the lack of their participation and/or recognition thereof.
Heifer’s work in more than 40 countries around the world involves many women smallholder farmers. Its gift of livestock and training allow these women to incrementally increase their potential to provide for their families and strengthen their stance in their cultures and communities, making them less vulnerable to the tribulations that exist. Our scaled up approach now focuses not only on increasing production to alleviate poverty and hunger around the world but will also build their capacities to become active proponents of value chains and access markets directly contributing long term sustainable economies susceptible to most social, economic and natural disasters. Women in such positions are better able to promote and ensure women’s rights.
Heifer hopes that this conference will lead to a better understanding of global poverty, hunger and environmental issues, the connection to women’s rights and how women can play an active part in mitigating these concerns.
On his first day in Nepal, Heifer International President and CEO Pierre Ferrari found himself among a group of withdrawn yet excited women in an unused classroom in the village of Kabilash in Chitwan district, a jostling 45-minute drive uphill on a dirt track that was patched up from recent landslides especially for his visit. The ethnic tribal women spoke of the challenges of and their aspirations for Heifer’s signature project, of which they were going to be a part. This was a first for Ferrari. Having traveled through Nepal in February 2011 and having heard about the country’s achievements in implementing transformational projects ever since he joined Heifer, Ferrari was more accustomed to strong women displaying confidence. “It validated the time and money we put into trainings to build the social capital to strengthen and transform women,” said Ferrari.
The women in Kabilash are part of a groundbreaking effort in Nepal that will scale up Heifer’s work to end poverty and hunger by increasing goat and milk production by helping women farmers increase production and enabling them to take part in the value chain through cooperatives formed and led by women. The overarching goal of the project, reducing importation of live goats and milk, will increase income for smallholder farmers through increased production and participation in the value chain, which will ensure that they get a fair share of the profits.
Heifer’s plan in this beautiful but resource-poor community is to establish sustainable partnerships with the local government, which is a co-funder of the project. “Our five-year plan consists of improving livestock and agriculture to help the people of this village escape poverty,” said Village Development Committee Secretary Pradhumna Khadka. “So when Heifer came to me with an opportunity to partner, I accepted it without any reservations.”
This is a partnership that works for all. Because after Heifer completes its work in Kabilash, it can be assured that the impacts will be exponential. “By this time, Heifer will have strengthened the farmers, the cooperative they form, and the agents of development, the government organizations, who are there to stay,” said Parbati Rawal, executive director of SRAM, a Heifer local partner NGO that will implement the project in Kabilash.
Heifer Nepal is geared up to implement similar projects in 28 districts of Nepal in the next five—an ambitious plan that has already been able to seek support in forms of resource leverage and collaborative partnerships from the national and local government and other development agencies.
I must have been 10 when I watched a beautifully tattooed muscular man show his tongue to a white man and dance a powerful dance that was both intimidating and intriguing at the same time. The Māori of New Zealand have captivated my dreams ever since.
Indigenous people are the life and soul of many countries and communities. Their rich heritage, close ties to the land, deep connection to nature and knowledge hoaned over generations have proved to be more advanced than some modern sciences. And yet, indigenous people are amongst the most vulnerable in the world today. So on the United Nation’s International Day of World’s Indigenous People, we take the opportunity to focus on the issues that they face every day.
Most modern development paradigms have attempted to include the indigenous. But the perception that that indigenous people want to be poor still exists and is derived from skepticism of development crafted by those who threaten their culture and way of life. The demarcation between modernization and development is still vague. There is a strong correlation between ethnicity and poverty. Often, poverty is a directly related to national and international policy that limits indigenous control over land and resources. There is a need for adequate procedures and perceptions to be established to truly incorporate the indigenous into mainstream development. More so, development approaches need to be bottom up and participatory when it concerns this special group of people.
Heifer’s work around the world includes many indigenous communities. Nepal is home to approximately 9.8 million people who belong to one of the 102 indigenous caste groups and speak 92 languages. In the Chitwan district of Nepal, Heifer’s work with the Chepangs has proved to be a learning experience. Heifer’s values based participatory model for development considers the special needs of these people and allowed the implementation of programs that were both sensitive to their special status and their needs. With gifts of livestock, inputs in agriculture and health, literacy and social mobilization trainings, Heifer was able to help the Chepangs lead more food-secure and sustainable lives. Lessons learned from the Chepangs have given Heifer the fuel to fire its work with other indigenous people inside Nepal and around the world.
Ganga and her goats. Photo by Geoff Oliver Bugbee, courtesy of Heifer International.
Ganga belongs to the Gurung ethnicity of Chhang Village, Tahanu. The Gurung have a proud heritage and are famous for their bravery during their service in the Nepalese and the British Army. They are quite and helpful and like to keep to themselves. The women are more introverted than men and keep themselves busy in farm and house work.
Ganga has emerged as a strong leader in the village. Her leadership in the local school’s management committee is exemplary. She is also sought after for advice on goat keeping and vegetable farming by all men and women in the village. Ganga’s eldest daughter Yamuna Ale just finished her 10th grade. She wants to become a nurse and Ganga aims to fulfill her daughter’s dream. In the past three months Ganga has earned seventeen thousand rupees from the goats which will come in handy in paying Yamuna’s tuition.
Durga Koirala is a part of Heifer’s project in the eastern part of Nepal. Their village in Khudunabari, Jhapa district has been very quick to incorporate Heifer’s community development methods. Durga’s husband Padam got the ball rolling by forming a men’s group and started a savings and credit scheme. They plan to start farm enterprises like their wives have done with small loans from the savings. Sudip, Durga’s 16 year old younger son is taking similar leadership position amongst the youngsters in the village. He leads a youth group that has recently started organizing sports and creative events.
Heifer’s projects in Nepal not only provide livelihoods to vulnerable families through livestock and trainings but also create strong foundation for holistic community development by generating full participation of men and youth of the community
Maya Rani Tharu started her journey with Heifer with one hope in her heart, to give her children son Arvind, Ashish and daughter Jeetu a good education so they can lead better lives than she did. As a farmer’s daughter from a poor family, Maya Rani never got to go to school. Her inability to read and write is the reason behind her lack of confidence to learn anything new. This is why she enrolled into Heifer’s Values Based Literacy Program. This program uses Heifer’s Cornerstones and REFLECT, an adult literacy approach pioneered by Paulo Freire, to teach its participants the basics of reading and writing. Her dream for her children has inspired her to learn and with Heifer’s help she can.
Last time we checked in with Laxmi was March and she had just planted mustard and lentils. Three months have passed and we went to see what new developments she had to tell us. Laxmi has harvested 54 kilograms of mustard and 78 kilograms of lentils. She also harvested 150 kilograms of wheat which she has stored for the family’s consumption throughout the year. Laxmi has planted corn now in her field which will be ready to harvest in the next three months. Laxmi is landless and has leased a small piece of land to farm. Her dream is to own a piece of land in the village of Kalleri where she lives with her husband and two children, son Bishal, now 8 years old and daughter Trishala, now 1 years old. Laxmi’s brother is helping take care of Bishal as Laxmi and her husband do not make enough money to care for him and his sister both. Laxmi had also started raising chicken. Some of the chicks were eaten by a jackal but the remaining are growing well. Her goat has not been well. The community animal health worker has given some medication that should help it get well. Laxmi’s life is better after she received 2 goats and trainings on improved management for livestock and commercial vegetable farming.
Laxmi watches as daughter plays with her cell phone
In January Heifer launched its dream project for Nepal, Strengthening Livestock Value Chain (SLVC). Its goals are to increase meat and milk production to substitute current imports and create a unique value chain for meat and milk that incorporates smallholder farmers not only in the production phase but also in marketing it. But there was a glitch. Over the years degradation of genetic merit in goats resulted in lower levels of productivity. In layman’s terms, they had fewer babies who did not grow as well and farmers could not sell them for good prices.
Farmers of Ladavir in the Sindhuli district in eastern foothills of Nepal are a part of a unique classroom under the Community Initiative for Genetic Improvement in Goats (CIGIG). Here they learn about how to improve production of goats through selective breeding. These farmers are not new to rearing goats but what they learn in this classroom will teach them to do so in a more scientific way through observation and intervention. To put it simply, it’s the Mendel’s Law in action. A pool of healthy genetically superior does and bucks will be produced by the end of the project and will be marketed across communities around the country to in-turn increase their production. Ladavir will be a training ground and resource village for genetically superior high productivity goats.
Heifer’s work around the world is not just limited giving animals and agricultural inputs if farmers but also extends to doing what needs to be done to bridge the gaps between the present that the future that Heifer envisioned together with the families it works with. CIGIG is one such initiative.
Participants of the first CIGIG class mull over a poster that depicts how to select a good male and female goat from physical traits for breeding.
Nepal celebrates the United Nations International Day of Cooperatives with the rest of the developing world. In Heifer communities throughout Nepal a new wave of cooperatives is promising lasting impacts in battling hunger and poverty and caring for the Earth.
Cooperatives have been marked as one of the pillars for Nepal’s economic transformation after it was declared a people’s republic; the other two being the state and the private sector. Recent development discourse has also shown keen interest in promotion of community based cooperatives focused on production and market establishment.
How are Heifer Cooperatives different?
Successful cooperatives depict strong cohesion, mutual prosperity and a strong ability to capture social capital. The values-based foundation that Heifer lays through intensive social mobilization has resulted in strong social capital induced sustainability. Under the flagship of Social Entrepreneurial Women’s Cooperative Limited, Heifer’s cooperatives aim to be value positive, power negative and politically neutral with strong emphasis in capacity building for production and marketing as per market signals and value addition while building institutional capacity and ensuring effective and efficient management. The services provided by the cooperatives will benefit farmers who don’t have easy access to formal financial services and lead investment in income generation activities and micro enterprises. The cooperatives will also be in a better positioned to advocate for effective services from the government to small farmers, benefitting more farmers in the longer run. Managed and led by women, the cooperative will create opportunities for other women like them.
How are we doing this?
Fifty-five such cooperatives have been formed throughout Nepal incorporating Heifer families and other farmers in the community who are exploring different agricultural enterprising avenues. One such cooperative is the Laganshil Social Entrepreneurial Women’s Cooperative in Shaktikhor. With close to 300 members in and around the area, the cooperative specializes in goat farming. Goats are the most preferred meat in Nepal with the country importing a major chunk of its consumption from India. Smallholder farmers, although capable of ramping-up production to meet growing market demands, are limited from commercial markets and necessary capital. Laganshil cooperative has ventured to strategically increase production from individual farmers and sell to consumers directly and indirectly acting as a marketing entity, hence bridging the gap between producers and consumers and ensuring the producers a decent share of the profit.
What are the ripple effects?
Now Laganshil cooperative is incorporating smallholder farmers from surrounding villages like Siddhi, which is cut-off from any market, to ensure they have a channel to sell their produce. The cooperative will partner with private and public banks to assure the flow of capital, will have a stake in channeling the various factors of production, in their case, feed and fodder for the goats and will liaison with government and non-government development partners. “We are doing what each goat farmer in every household spent a decent amount of time engaging in. It benefits all when these things (market access and access to factors of production) are managed by one entity. Our aim is to make Laganshil cooperative the go-to place for meat goats in the region,” said Chammi Magar, the President of the cooperative.
How will this be sustainable?
When farmers get a fair share in market profits, it not only ensures food security but also encourages small enterprises that are paramount to a healthy economy. With its strong values-base foundations, these cooperatives will put social values into commercial enterprises making it both socially responsible economically viable. Cooperatives in Chitwan and Nawalparasi have already been united into district unions who are influencing district level policies and coordination that favor smallholder farmers. These district unions are already voicing the needs of small holder farmers and shaping the landscape so that they are not left behind when the country moves forward economically. This is crucial to battling poverty in Nepal where 80 percent of the population are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture in the country. “I hope someday we will have good profits from goat farming so my children don’t have to leave the country to get jobs,” said Ganga Magar. Her hopes are similar to the hope of thousands in Nepal.
Cooperative members hold a meeting in the shade to escape the grueling summer heat. Photo courtesy of Heifer Nepal.
The village of Shakitkhor sits at the heart of a radical cooperative movement. Photo courtesy of Heifer Nepal.