On his first day in Nepal, Heifer International President and CEO Pierre Ferrari found himself among a group of withdrawn yet excited women in an unused classroom in the village of Kabilash in Chitwan district, a jostling 45-minute drive uphill on a dirt track that was patched up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.