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.
Kids Arise, a drama group from Sierra Leone, educates communities about deforestation and preventative measures. Photo by Valesius Koker
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.
Giving out recipes with her haricot bean sales gave Shushan’s business an innovative approach. Photo by Anna Arakelyan
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.”
When the newest edition of World Ark will be appearing in mailboxes around the country. Our special Holiday issue includes three country features in addition to Heifer’s Most Important Gift Catalog in the World.
Women’s empowerment is highlighted in two stories this issue. Puja Singh, Heifer Nepal’s communications and networking officer, takes a look at how projects in Bangladesh are helping women find opportunities that were once denied to them. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also weighs in on why women are key to successful development work in an expanded Asked and Answered interview.
Our Managing Editor, Donna Stokes, also writes about the USAID | Yaajeende project in Senegal, where participants received sheep as part of what will become Heifer’s largest animal distribution ever. Photographer Olivier Asselin illustrates the essay with gorgeous photos from “The Day the Sheep Came.”
The third feature story in the issue addresses habitat conservation in Malawi. Austin Bailey traveled to the project near Kasungu National Park to see a Heifer project that provides families with sustainable sources of animal protein, fuel and savings, so that they no longer need to illegally hunt in the park for food.
And if any of our faithful readers remember Ryan Bell from last year’s Holiday issue, well, he’s back. After a wildly successful campaign in which he raised $8,000 for Heifer, Ryan has launched a new effort to raise $25,000 for us. Ryan recently underwent a few surgeries to help lengthen his jaw bone and was so inspired by his own physical transformations that he wants to give his own “Gift of Transformation” to those in need, no matter how long it takes for him to raise the money.
So get out and check your mail, or check back soon at www.heifer.org/worldark for the online edition of the magazine. Happy reading!
story by Puja Singh photographs by Geoff Oliver Bugbee for Heifer International
For centuries, women have been telling stories through art and music. In Bengal, these stories are told through Nakshi Kantha, a type of folk art where colorful patterns and designs are embroidered into a quilt with a running stitch called “kantha stitch”. Nakshi Kantha tells the story of life in rural Bangladesh. It tells the story of the joys, sorrows and the dreams of the future. Originally produced for the use of the family Nakshi Kantha has seen a revival and is now produced commercially.
Heifer’s projects in Bangladesh incorporate the making of these intricate quilts as an income generating activity. Project participants work on one or many of these quilts at a time. A medium sized quilt will take 2-3 months to complete and will sell for around 5000 takka. With growing demands in the national and international market, Nakshi Kantha is becoming a good source of income for many rural families.
The women of a Heifer group in the Johari village in Natore are gathered in the porch of a house to work on Naksha Katha. Each woman works on a portion of the quilt. A usual banter hangs in the air as the women share their secrets with each other. ‘We will work on this at least an hour a day,’ says Mousammad Sabina Begam. “It’s a good way to relax and catch up with the women.”
story by Puja Singh video by Geoff Oliver Bugbee for Heifer International
In this short video, adhibashis (tribal) women dance arm-in-arm to the crescendo of drums in a Passing On The Gift ceremony where 15 cows were passed on to new families in need in Holdibona, western Bangladesh. This celebration of life — something that tribal people all over the world are experts in — oozes into this Heifer project event. It is not long before more women in headscarves join the synchrony. Islam discourages women from living out of the boundaries of their home. Taking part in public dancing is one of many such prohibitions. But the women in headscarves, watched by men, children and visitors, still join their sisters in the hearty footwork.
The Increasing Community Capacity for Holistic Development Project in Holdibona, Vashapara, Moradighi and Gopalpur villages incorporates 223 tribal and Muslim families, into a project that aims to achieve food security, gender equity and self-reliance through livestock, agricultural inputs and training. Poverty, religious differences and natural disasters pose a threat to this relatively-new nation separated from Pakistan in 1971. Heifer partners with local non-governmental organizations to fight such woes through its values-based holistic community development model.
Haiti, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Cambodia, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and the Philippines. According to a report by the British risk analysis firm, Maplecroft, these 10 countries are at the most extreme risk for impacts caused by climate change.
Maplecroft analyzed the vulnerability of 193 countries to climate change impacts. They first evaluated the degree to which countries will be exposed to extreme weather events and other climate-related natural disasters. Next, the company assessed the ability of countries to cope with climate change impacts by evaluating factors such as governmental effectiveness, infrastructure capacity and the availability of natural resources.
The report makes it clear that it is mostly the poorest sections of society that will bear the brunt of climate change impacts.
Of the 10 countries listed, Heifer works in all but two (Madagascar and DRC). Improving communities’ resilience to climate change and disaster is integrated into many of our projects, particularly those in high risk areas. Last month I posted about a project of ours in the Philippines that was in the midst of Community-Managed Disaster Risk Reduction training when torrential rains caused damaging floods, further stressing the importance of the training.
If you’re interested in funding work in a country from this top-10 high-risk list, check out the Integrated Livestock Development Project in Sierra Leone, which focuses on a region of Sierra Leone facing rapid population growth, a high incidence of communicable diseases, and increased pressure on natural resources and physical infrastructure. By providing participants with opportunities to build livelihoods using sustainable farming practices, this project will strengthen the communities and the environment at the same time.