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I saw an Associated Press blurb on Monday that piqued my interest. Amidst the varying news reports (mentioned by Brooke here) that climate change and drought are raising the world’s food prices, and the others pointing to rising poverty and hunger rates in the United States, the National Intelligence Council says that world poverty rates could be reduced by half by 2030.
The AP article was interesting to me on a couple of levels. First, the NIC pointed to a rising middle class in the growing economies in India, Vietnam and Indonesia as the driving force behind the poverty reduction; and, second because 2030 is less than two decades from now, which doesn’t really seem all that far off.
But can we, or better, should we, wait until 2030 to see those numbers drop that dramatically? I don’t think so. Sure the article is great news, and, yes, Heifer already works in both India and Vietnam, helping turn small farmers into small businessmen and women. Plus the article says that poverty reduction in these economies will continue despite economic upheaval, too. Even better!
So if what Christopher Kojm said on Saturday is right, that, “several hundred million people, armed with the resources and education will produce new technology to meet demands for food, water and energy,” don’t you think we can help them along?
I do. Heifer is already working to help create this burgeoning population of people. And we’re working harder and faster than ever before in areas that need it most—including the United States. Why don’t you help us?
On his first day in Nepal, Heifer International President and CEO Pierre Ferrari found himself among a group of withdrawn yet excited women in an unused classroom in the village of Kabilash in Chitwan district, a jostling 45-minute drive uphill on a dirt track that was patched up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.
“In the last six months, the biggest change has been that from a thatched house. I have been able to build a concrete house.” —Rukkhi Devi
Life is getting better for Rukkhi Devi. She looks at the two goats she received from Heifer India. These now have four kids. The two to be passed on are ready for the big ceremony. The goats changed her life. She got three liters of milk every day: she kept one for her family’s consumption and sold the rest at about $1 per liter to the local merchant. The family has sold two bucks for 5,000 Rupees (about US $ 100) this month. About 10 months ago, they sold a male kid male for $40. The family has earned a total of $140 that has increased their family income.
But in order to get this result, Rukkhi had to learn how to keep her livestock. She learned the benefits of keeping the goats in a shed so the hot summer sun would not burn their skin. She learned how to stall-feed them too. The fodder seeds Heifer provided also helped.
Rukkhi is also seeing the benefits of the vegetable seeds she received. Now the family has eaten green vegetables every day for the last three months. These positive results encouraged them to plant eight more trees this year.
The highlight of the project were the three import trainings Rukkhi received:
Editor’s note: This post is part of a series that follows the progress of specific families, starting at the beginning of their work with Heifer. In Asia/South Pacific, our colleagues have chosen one family in each region in the countries where we work and will bring us quarterly updates. You can read the first story about Rukkhi Devi and her family here.
While her days as the U.S. Secretary of State are drawing to a close, Hillary Clinton used an opportunity last week to again call attention to the plight women around the world.
Clinton made similar remarks in an interview with World Ark magazine, which we published in our Holiday issue. Long a champion for women, Clinton acknowledged both in her speech last Thursday and in the interview with Heifer, that there are still great strides to be made before women and girls are seen as equals to men.
“As the mother of a daughter, and as someone who believes strongly in the right of every person, male and female, to have the opportunity to live up to his or her God-given potential,” Clinton said, “it pains me so greatly when I travel to places around the world and am received almost as an exception to the rule, where the male leaders meet with me because I am the secretary of state of the United States, overlooking the fact that I also happen to be a woman.”
“We are on the right side of history in this struggle, but there will be many sacrifices and losses until we finally reach a point where daughters are valued as sons, where girls as educated as boys, where women are encouraged and permitted to make their contributions to their families, to their societies just as the men are,” she said.
The speech followed Clinton’s acceptance of a humanitarian award given by Concern Worldwide, an anti-poverty organization.
I have to admit, I was skeptical. When I wrote and blogged about the second of the two stories on Ryan Bell, I fully expected it to take much longer before he reached his goal of raising enough money for a $25,000 Gift of Transformation.
But this remarkable young man proved me wrong. Again. Ryan reached his goal lofty goal late last week, and his Team Heifer page continues to bring in money. I’m truly grateful to have been able to tell his story; to have gotten to know Ryan and his family.
But the best part of all of this? Ryan isn’t done. He’s not satisfied with reaching his goal years before he expected to. When I contacted Ryan’s mom, Laura, last week, she was going to text him at school to tell him the news. He was thrilled, she said. Their conversation went a little like this:
Laura: “It made his day! So, that afternoon we looked up the new total and I said, ‘You know, at this rate you might be able to add a camel to your goal.’ You know my son by now… He said, ‘Mom, I think we should add an Ark!’”
Right now he’s more than half-way to reaching his NEW goal of adding $5,000 more to his remarkable total. If you want to help Ryan, you can go to his Team Heifer page and donate.
The horrifying story of a young woman who died after being brutally gang raped in New Delhi is putting inequality in India in the international spotlight. The murder of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandey is spawning widespread protests and a push for major change to the chauvinism and oppression Indian women face.
The need for change became even clearer this week, as political and spiritual leaders continued to openly blame women for inviting assault by being out in public after dark or wearing skirts. And on Wednesday, a lawyer for three of the five men accused of raping and torturing Jyoti Pandey said Pandey and her companion were solely responsible because they were out together after dark, but were not married. Wow.
The moral argument for addressing gender inequality in India is clear. And surprisingly, the economic argument is clear, as well. A survey of 2,500 women in several Indian cities revealed that nearly 82 percent of the women are leaving work earlier since the infamous Dec. 16 attack to avoid being away from home after sunset. The survey indicates that one in three women in Delhi reduced their work hours or quit their jobs altogether to avoid making themselves vulnerable to attacks. This drop in productivity will only add to India’s poverty.
India is one of the world’s poorest countries when measured by per-capita income, and the country’s failure to invite women into the workplace and support them there is a major factor. Only 35 percent of Indian women work. Just think of the potential forfeited when millions of women opt out of the workplace.
Today is World Malaria Day, which might have slipped your mind. That’s understandable. The United States eradicated malaria in 1951, and unless you’ve done much traveling it’s probably never topped your list of things to worry about. But for half the world’s population, the 3.3 billion people threatened by the deadly mosquito-borne illness every day, malaria isn’t so easy to forget.
Malaria symptoms include fever, headache, chills, vomiting, anemia and respiratory distress. Children infected with the disease are extremely vulnerable because they haven’t had time to develop any level of immunity.
Malaria is a mean disease that preys on the poor and the innocent. In 2010, 90 percent of all malaria deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, the region of our planet that’s home to the highest proportion of undernourished people. Poor people with limited resources and limited access to health care often can’t afford housing with screened windows and doors to protect them from infected mosquitoes. And once infected, people suffering from malaria lose work days and the paychecks that go along with them, deepening their poverty. This is a handicap faced by countless Heifer project participants who can find themselves incapacitated by malaria multiple times each year.
Most deaths from malaria claim children under the age of 5. That means that every single minute of the day, a child dies of malaria. Pregnant women also face heightened risk.These numbers will knock the breath out of you, but luckily they’re better than they used to be. Malaria mortality rates have fallen by more than 25 percent since 2000. And with continued use of mosquito nets and insecticides, the hope is that the disease will continue to loosen its grasp.
The theme for World Malaria Day 2013 is “Invest in the future. Defeat malaria.” The disease still kills 660,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization. But not everyone agrees on the numbers, and in fact, the Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation puts the death toll at 1.2 million per year. I know that number will be stuck in my head for a while.
Happily, we know that bed nets, insecticides and improved housing can slow or stop the spread of malaria. We also know how to treat it. It’s just a question of resources. If, after reading this, you’re having a hard time getting malaria off your mind, visit the WHO’s World Malaria Day 2013 website to learn more.
“Families hold societies together, and intergenerational relationships extend this legacy over time. This year’s International Day of Families is an occasion to celebrate connections among all members of the constellation that makes up a family. It is also an opportunity to reflect on how they are affected by social and economic trends – and what we can do to strengthen families in response.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for 2013
When Heifer International measures the impact of its projects and programs, it doesn’t just count individuals. Gender and Family Focus is one of Heifer’s Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development, and the family unit is central to our work. In fact, we count on strong family bonds and the cooperation that comes with them. Family members are invested in each others’ success, even when they know the fruits of that success won’t be reaped until they’re gone.
“I have seen whatever I would like to see in my life, I don’t need anything more for me. Everything is for my grandchildren,” explained Tsovinar Davtyan, 67, a grandmother of four in the Armenian village of Tekhenik. She cares for her family’s cows because she knows the benefits will last for generations.
May 15 is the United Nations International Day of Families, and this year’s focus is on fostering inter-generational solidarity. That’s a challenge for families in the Philippines, Bolivia and other places where job opportunities are few so young people set off to find opportunities elsewhere. This is where Heifer steps in, helping to build agricultural opportunities locally to keep families intact.
Click here to support a family in need through Heifer International.
This weekly post shines a light on a handful of stories from Heifer.org’s “From the Field” section.
Heifer International’s Training and Education Cornerstone is the first stop on every participant’s journey to Passing on the Gift®. Education makes the achievement of self-reliance and sustainable livelihoods possible and gives project participants the tools to multiply justice and hope worldwide.
The Port Loko district of Sierra Leone suffers from seasonal bush fires, which consume fruit trees, cause water shortages and reduce crop yields. Heifer International is working with Kids Arise, a local non-governmental drama organization, to educate communities on the dangers of bush fires and preventative measures. Through drama and song, Kids Arise has helped decrease deforestation.
Renuka Begum, a 40-year-old wife and mother, did not receive a childhood education due to extreme poverty. After participating in trainings on Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development, gender and justice and improved animal management, she began applying her education to improve her family’s livelihood. Her daughter’s education is now secure and Renuka is diligent in sharing, caring and participating in self-help group (SHG) activities.
Sixteen-year-old Shushan Khachatryan of Armenia presented a business plan and received a $100 grant to start her business through Heifer Armenia’s Young Agriculturists Network of Armenia (YANOA) project. She selected a business plan by applying what she had learned through YANOA, which increased her haricot bean sales. “When I was developing my business plan I took into account many details,” Shushan said. “Yet, in my simple business idea I invested an innovative approach. I decided to provide recipes of dishes prepared from haricots to all the customers who would buy haricots from me.”
What is your greatest dream for you and your family? What do you wish for most for your children? For just one moment, ask yourself these two questions and imagine all the possibilities.
And now let me tell you a story.
It was my first morning in Rwanda and already I was feeling overwhelmed by the beauty and harsh realities of this amazing country. As we drove south out of the capitol city, Kigali, to the Mareba district, everything I saw was foreign to me but somehow familiar at the same time. All the images I’d ever seen of Africa were right here on the road we were traveling−women carrying babies on their backs while balancing giant bundles on their heads, men on bicycles taking banana bunches to market, a blast of music from a passing mini-bus, and luscious green hills opening up to wide vistas as we wound our way out of the city into the countryside. It was a bright and sunny day, the wind blowing through banana trees. By the time we reached the village of Ruduha, I was enamored with and at ease in this new, exciting place.
But the harsh reality of what my travel companions and I were there to see quickly rushed in. That morning we were visiting families with severely malnourished and sick children. These families had little or nothing to eat on a daily basis and their children were often sick from malnutrition. We were there specifically to visit Emmanuel Hategeka, a 5-year-old boy with enormous eyes and a sweet disposition. Emmanuel’s family lives in a mud house, not unusual for most rural Rwandan families, but as we went inside I saw that there was nothing–no bowls, no cups, no clothes, no bed.
Emmanuel’s family had one possession, a grass mat. The family had proudly put the mat–which is used by the family to sleep on every night–out in front of the house to greet us when we arrived. As we spoke with Emmanuel’s mother about his health and the family’s access to food, we learned that he and his two sisters, Jacqueline (4) and Josiane (1), often just eat cassava. Cassava is a tuber root similar to potatoes, and while it is a good source of carbohydrates, it does not provide enough protein or other nutrients to help children like Emmanuel develop strong and healthy bodies. When we asked when the family had last eaten, Emmanuel’s mother did not immediately answer. It was as if she was trying to remember when it had been. Today? Yesterday? She could not tell us for sure.
One of my colleagues asked Emmanuel’s mother, “What is the greatest dream for your family? What do you wish for most for your children?” Her answer was, “Three days of food.”
Three days of food.
I could see the devastating effects of malnutrition in Emmanuel. Although he was intrigued and excited to be the center of attention by this group of strange visitors, he quickly tired and had trouble standing and staying awake. Emmanuel’s body was so tired from lack of food that he was falling asleep as we filmed and interviewed him. My vibrant morning and feelings of exhilaration vanished at that moment–this is what we had come to see and the reality was that this 5-year-old boy was starving.
The work we were there to do–identifying these real-life stories of need–will hopefully bring many, many new donors to Heifer International. My hope is that it will allow us to increase the number of families we can reach in Rwanda and all across the world, so that children like Emmanuel have nutritious milk and eggs to eat every day, and have the chance to grow up healthy and strong, to go to school and to have medicine when they are sick. We need as many partners as we can to reach these families and help them lift themselves up out of poverty and hunger.
I had to remind myself of the good work that Heifer does and the good work we will continue to do as I watched Emmanuel struggle to stay awake. I reminded myself when I thought of Emmanuel’s mother and what she must feel knowing that her children won’t eat that day. I remind myself of the good work we do so that we can give mothers like her bigger dreams for their children instead of the daily struggle just to keep them alive.
And I reminded myself of it when we drove away from their village after thanking the family so much for allowing us to meet with them. I imagined what the rest of their day would be like, as the sun begins to set and no fire is made and no food is being cooked. And Emmanuel goes to sleep with his mother and father and two sisters on the mat on the floor of their house, with an empty stomach, again.
CHULIDANDA, Nepal—We (Puja Singh of Heifer Nepal staff, photographer Geoff Oliver Bugbee and Donna Stokes of World Ark) started out the day in Surkhet, Nepal at 6:30 a.m., imagining the headlines that might result from today’s task. It was an uphill climb of nearly 5,000 feet, on steep and arguably treacherous footpaths Nepalis take daily, to one of the most remote soon-to-be Heifer goat projects in the forest near Surkhet in the western region of Nepal.
“World Ark team meets tiger” was our frontrunner imagined headline, as Heifer Nepal staff in this region reported seeing wild tigers not that long ago. Yet as we began to climb what Puja lovingly dubbed “goat mountain,” a different theme emerged.
In Nepal in mid-April, scores of expeditions are arriving in Kathmandu to begin their Mount Everest summit attempts during the short season, many for no other reason than the infamous one—”because it is there.” But our group of Heifer Nepal and headquarters staff was climbing because “they were there,” they being the women and men in need who live at the top and will soon begin training for Heifer’s goat value-chain project.
The first lesson: Goat mountain was very nearly more than this treadmill- and Zumba-trained American could handle. In the more than three hours it took us to climb up to talk with the villagers (not to mention the two hours back down at the end of the day), the women here would have made the whole round trip to fetch water. And they do it twice a day, in the morning starting at 4:30 using flashlights to see the rocky path, and also every evening to haul water for their animals and families.
Stay tuned for a full story on this village’s challenges and plans in a future issue of World Ark magazine.
Heifer is working with communities in Honduras and Guatemala to create livestock and agriculture businesses, which help residents overcome poverty and malnutrition. Pierre Ferrari, Heifer’s President and CEO, visited these projects in March 2013 and attended a Passing on the Gift® (POG) ceremony in Guatemala. There, project participants gave him a goat to symbolize their gift to Heifer to pass on to communities around the world.
Photos by Geoff Oliver Bugbee
BHARATPUR, Nepal—A Heifer Passing on the Gift® ceremony is filled with moments of joy and playfulness, more than a touch of chaos and the pure pride of recipients who in an instant become donors to other women in need in their community. Heifer executive staff and Board of Directors members celebrated with hundreds of families in three villages in the Chitwan region of Nepal this week.
President and CEO Pierre Ferrari, in Bharatpur for a 13th generation celebration, took the opportunity to pass on a symbolic goat from San Carlos Alzatate village in Guatemala.
“This goat is a representation of the global community and the solidarity we all have for each other,” Ferrari said, who traveled to Guatemala just before the Nepal trip. “The women in Guatemala want you to know that you are not alone, and they salute your success amid the real challenges that they also face. The key to understand is that together there is nothing we cannot do.”
Heifer Board of Directors Vice Chair Arlene Falk Withers also spoke at the celebration, praising all the women present for their hard work and impressive returns on the investment of animals and training they received from Heifer.
“We want you to know how proud we are of you,” Withers said. “We know that you’ll go on to do tremendous things in the future.”
SHAKTIKHOR VILLAGE, Nepal—You don’t have to go far in the Chitwan region of Nepal to get a good look at a goat; they’re everywhere you look. However, to see true innovation in the raising of goats for profit, Shaktikhor village is the place to be. It takes a bit of a stroll to get there, over a river and through farmers’ rice and vegetable fields, but it’s worth the trip.
Through this innovative project, Heifer aims to reduce live goat imports by 30 percent and milk by 10 percent in the same time frame.
In Shaktikhor, Heifer farmers continue their own experimentation, through what’s called a farmer field school, to come up with the right combination of nutritional fodder, minerals, shelter and veterinary care to quickly produce the healthiest goats to be ready to take to market.
For farmers such as Niramala Magar and her husband Som Bahadur Magar, the project is paying off very well. Five years ago, Niramala received Heifer goats, and soon after her husband received animal health care worker training and now serves as an expert to help others in the community.
They started with only five does and now have more than 20, with a goal of having 50 in the next few years. Responding to a question from Heifer Board member Jay Whittmeyer, Som said that when he gets to that level, he believes he can employ others in the village to help him with the enterprise. He also is hopeful his young sons, now 10 and 8 years old, will follow in his footsteps in the goat-raising business.
“We had been raising goats for years and were not convinced we needed to plant fodder trees and use that method when we first heard about it,” Som said. “Once we started thinking about commercial farming, we decided to test for ourselves what worked best. We have been very keen on calculating every input and benefit it gives. Through our own testing, we found it was definitely more beneficial to follow this advice and began to plant fodder trees.”
The couple says despite all their success, a goat enterprise is not as easy as it looks. They have to take in consideration of pen space for the goats, feed, water and veterinary care, and then still find a way to get the best prices for their animals. Yet Som and Niramala are ready for any challenge. Som, with his village’s cooperative, just opened a small market collection center and is getting out the word that every Tuesday anyone can come to the village to purchase goats.
“I feel it is my responsibility to get a better price for all goat farmers in this area,” Som said.
Proceeds from Cody Belew’s new single “Say Love” will benefit Heifer International. You can buy a “Say Love” T-shirt and help Heifer end global hunger and poverty. You can also join Cody’s #saylove team to support Heifer’s mission.
“You may know me as the guy from Arkansas who was both chosen and coached by CeeLo Green on The Voice Season 3, but you may not know my formative years were spent doing chores and tending to my family farm. Because of the hard work and community involvement that were so much a part of my life growing up, I vowed early on to use my voice as a means of helping others.
“Knowing people both here and around the world struggle to find food and deal with the issues of hunger and poverty on a daily basis is an alarming thing to me, and this is something that I want to use my voice to eradicate. Heifer International is an organization that shares my dream. I was always aware of the organization because I grew up in Arkansas, but then I began to study their mission and realized they have a tangible solution – a working model that is already in place.
“There’s no need for me to reinvent the wheel when Heifer International is already rolling it along. I believe in the mission of Heifer International and that together we can make a positive difference in our world one gift at a time, one life at a time, one community transformed at a time multiplied into countless others through Heifer’s Passing on the Gift® idea.
“So, I hope you can see how important this is, not only to me, but to those who will have their lives changed because of what we do together. So please join your voice with mine by helping me meet my team fundraising goal so that together we can #saylove and change the world!”
Giving animals to impoverished families is not enough. Heifer International prepares its project participants with specific training so they can succeed. Heifer helps families learn a new way of living, which renews their minds from the psychological and social effects of generations of poverty.
Giau is a member of the Heifer Vietnam project Improving the Capacity of Disadvantaged Farm Households in Chau Hung A District of Vinh Loi, Back Lieu Province Through Values-Based Holistic Community Development.
As a child, Giau’s family was too poor to afford her school fees. She never learned to read or write until a friend recently began teaching her. Now, Giau keeps excellent records of her family’s finances and investments.
She received the gift of a cow in June 2010 and has already passed on the gift to another family in her community. Giau also plans to help her son expand his mechanic business with the profits from selling cows.
Through resourceful and practical investments, Giau was able to purchase fishing nets and invest in the project’s group savings fund to cultivate vegetables. She and her husband catch fish from the river in front of their house and sell them at the local market.
In her community, Giau encourages Heifer participants to invest in cows instead of making short-term, high-risk endeavors. She views the cows as insurance and has created a network of support for her community to understand the goals of Heifer Vietnam.
This weekly post shines a light on a handful of stories from Heifer.org’s “From the Field” section.
Poverty does not always look the same everywhere. With guidance from Heifer International’s Genuine Need and Justice Cornerstone, project participants and partners continue giving back to those who most need it. From Passing on the Gift® to gala fundraisers, Heifer shines when people work together to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth.
After she received two goats from Heifer Nepal, Manamaya’s family began the journey from recipients to donors. Animal Management training prepared her for the hard work ahead and paid off when the family’s income increased after selling goat meat. Manamaya has already given back to her community by passing on two goats to another family.
Heifer Uganda was recognized as the 2013 Best Anti-Poverty Organization in Uganda for their investment in bettering the nation’s goods, services, worker’s rights, international practices, environmental protection and daily operation standards. Communities are being transformed through sustainable development as Heifer Uganda staff actively pursue positive change. The award affirms Heifer’s dedication and credibility to many.
Heifer China supporters raised about $96,500 during the Heifer Charity Gala on March 23, 2013. An auction, celebrity performances and donations contributed the the evening’s success. Mao Zhenghua, chairman of Heifer China’s Advisory Council, shared how Heifer is giving back to make profound changes for the nation’s families and communities.
Heifer’s President and CEO Pierre Ferrari, along with several key executives of the organization and a voting quorum of Heifer’s Board of Directors, are traveling this week to Nepal to meet the small farmers, partners and Heifer Nepal staff leading the $23.8 million goat value-chain project.
Through this innovative project, that includes an investment of nearly $5 million from local supporters in Nepal, Heifer aims to reduce live goat imports by 30 percent and milk by 10 percent by 2016. The project will involve 138,000 farmers in 28 districts.
Stay tuned this week for posts from Nepal from World Ark and photographer Geoff Oliver Bugbee. Click here to learn more about how you can contribute to the transformational change in Nepal.