The sixth annual Blog Action Day, on October 15, is just three weeks away. We participated last year, and I’m excited to announce that Heifer International is an official NGO partner for 2012.
What is Blog Action Day? It’s a day when thousands of bloggers from all over the world blog on the same theme (water, climate change, poverty, food, etc.) from their own perspective. This year’s Blog Action Day theme is The Power of We.
How many of you are bloggers? If you haven’t already registered for Blog Action Day, I encourage you to take part and to share with us what you write. What does The Power of We mean to you, your work, your organization, your family? What does it mean to you as a Heifer supporter? It would be great to see what our Heifer Blog readers are interested in and how you interpret this year’s theme.
So here’s your to-do list:
Leave a comment below with a link to your blog so we know who you are
On October 15, send us a link to your Blog Action Day post, and we’ll share it in a special Heifer Blog Action Day post (that’s in addition to being listed on the Blog Action Day website)
I hope you will participate and let us know about it. We participate because it’s yet another way to amplify our voices here at Heifer International. The Power of We really resonates for us, as our work is so much about collective action. Our participant families, communities, partner organizations and supporters are the WE required to end hunger and poverty.
Monday, blogger Betty Londergan posted on Heifer 12×12 about her visit to a Heifer project outside Puno, Peru, and I’m excited to share it with you all. I feel close to this project, because I worked on a grant that helped fund phase two of the project. When I traveled to Peru and Ecuador last August, I was a little disappointed that I was unable to visit the communities participating in this project, because there was a political situation at the time that made it less than safe to travel to that part of the country.
Betty’s stories bring to life the struggles and successes of the women in these project communities.
Through FEED, Heifer brought the women of Chillcapata a list of simple ideas to improve their lives (no animals in the house/a bed for every child/a biogarden to improve nutrition), offered training workshops, then sent a few emissaries like Maria to other communities to see the ideas in action.
The women came back motivated true believers, and set to work to transform their own homes, and pass their learning on to others. Luckily, these are can-do people who are incredibly clever at building things, working cooperatively, and getting ‘er done.
The Incan ancient tradition of ayni, like an Amish barn-raising where everyone pitches in to cooperatively help each other, is still very much part of Chillcapata culture. Maria’s kitchen was one of the first finished, and quickly, other women signed on to improve their homes.
Julia and Celso Apaza got the materials they needed from Heifer to start kitchen construction, and the couple worked day and night to change every room in the house. “It was like a dream for us,” she told me, “because before I felt ashamed of my house. It was a mess, and I never wanted to welcome visitors. But now my doors are wide open and I even have a bench for my visitors to sit on.”
We’ve got some big news over here on the Heifer Blog. Hopefully within the week, when you visit www.heifer.org/blog, you’ll see a brand new face. We have been working behind the scenes here to move to a new blogging platform and to become integrated into the main heifer.org website. Do bear with us as we make this transition. While we hope things will be seamless, there are few guarantees in life.
Here’s a sneak peek from our design team:
On the subject of new, tell us in the comments what you’ve liked so far about the Heifer Blog and what you’d like to see us cover in the future.
There are several different ways you can begin to keep up with important issues by using online tools and social media. Interested in hunger, poverty, or sustainable agriculture? Then check out these three easy ways you can follow the trends you find most valuable:
Google Alerts are one of the easiest ways to have information sent straight to your email about the topics you care most about. Simply enter the topic query you’d like to learn more about, maybe ‘food security in the United States,’ or ‘sustainable agriculture.’
You can choose what type of information you receive, how often and which email address. Soon, you’ll have information at your fingertips.
Heifer International’s work, country staff, families, programs and principles will be featured in a new blog, Heifer 12 x 12, written by Betty Londergan, Heifer’s global blogging ambassador.
Londergan, of Atlanta, is a longtime marketer, copywriter and author and a committed Heifer donor and supporter. Her work with Heifer follows her very successful What Gives 365 blog, where she donated $100 a day for a year to different nonprofits and causes, including Heifer International, featuring each cause on the day of her gift.
For Heifer 12 x 12, she will travel to 12 programs in 12 countries over the coming 12 months, beginning with a visit to Guatemala later this month. Her experience in marketing and advertising, in addition to her work as a writer, researcher and interviewer, will provide a fresh and candid view of the anti-hunger and anti-poverty work of Heifer. She also brings valuable understanding of the importance of caring and commitment to causes through her personal experience with her What Gives 365 blog.
Londergan is a seasoned traveler, which will suit her well as she travels to nearly a third of Heifer’s 40 countries, which are among the poorest in the world. She will chronicle her travels in her blog, sharing stories and pictures of many of the families with whom Heifer works, along with stories and pictures of Heifer International staff who daily work alongside the families as they use their own skills and energy to transform lives.
Londergan is donating her time and talent, and Heifer International is covering the cost of her travels. Beyond that, there are no rules, no boundaries, no limits. Her observations and reflections are her own.
Maegan’s taking a much needed mini-vacation, so it’s Brooke here with your Weekly Article Roundup.
I’d like to use this Roundup to prepare us for World Food Day, which is Sunday.
This year’s topic for World Food Day is Food Prices–From Crisis to Stability. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations wants us to consider what causes major swings in food prices and what can be done to reduce the impact of food prices on the poor and hungry in the world.
We posted about a New York Times editorial back in December 2010 warning of a food crisis in 2011. It’s terribly unfortunate that this prediction has come true. Rising food prices has been a significant factor in the famine in East Africa.
Rising food prices is a complicated situation, and it’s happening over much of the world. In Bolivia, the price for quinoa–an extremely nutritious crop grown and consumed in Bolivia for centuries–has risen to a price many Bolivians can’t afford. The cause: the increased demand for quinoa in the United States and Europe. The effects: poor Bolivians are eating cheaper, less nutritious foods instead.
In June this year, Maegan wrote about the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2011-2020 and asked us what changes we’ve had to make in our own lives to avoid higher grocery bills.
And if you need a reminder of why we need to work to stabilize food prices–so children and families won’t starve–you can go back to this video and see for yourself. We must act now; we must act fast; we must act big.
In addition to Sunday being World Food Day, it’s also Blog Action Day 2011, which has a complimentary theme of Food. Stay tuned for a series of posts from Heifer staff on topics related to food on Sunday in honor and celebration of the day.
11. Investing in Africa’s Land: Crisis and Opportunity
Okay, so we’re not doing EVERYTHING on this list. But while we may not be creating collaborations between African farmers and foreign entities, land grabbing is on our radar. And we are absolutely working to help farmers in Africa hold onto and make the most of their land.
Have I ever mentioned how much I like biogas? The connection between biogas and eliminating hunger might not be obvious, but it’s certainly there. I’ve written before about the Uganda Domestic Biogas Program, which is targeting 12,160 families over the five-year project period. Not only is the project helping farmers install biogas units on their farms, it is actually establishing a market for domestic biogas installations and accessories, which builds local economies.
Biogas (as compared to charcoal or wood) cooks faster and burns cleaner, which is important for rural women. Healthy women are more productive, for one thing. In addition to being better for the environment, no longer purchasing charcoal or wood for cooking frees up income to be spent on education and health care. And children whose families have biogas lanterns can stay at home and study for school, which could impact their overall success.
Another alternative to traditional stoves are improved cook stoves (ICS), which are smokeless and use considerably less wood. Fund a Project in India that will, in addition to livestock, distribute ICS to participating families.
13. Moving Ecoagriculture into the Mainstream
Heifer began practicing agroecology with our participants since the mid-1980s and officially established an Agroecology Initiative in 2000 to place a greater emphasis on environmental protection as part of our work. Methods used on Heifer’s project participants’ farms include planting trees, using manure and other sources of natural fertilizer, zero- or managed-grazing techniques, contour planting and terracing, and improved cooking stoves or biogas units.
In many of the places Heifer works, pastureland for livestock may either be limited or poor in quality. By helping farmers build zero-grazing pens and by helping farmers identify and improved grow fodder crops, Heifer helps farmers increase the yields of their dairy animals.
While in Uganda, I had the chance to see zero-grazing in practice. Here’s a little footage:
Read about Huruma Mhapa from Tanzania, a 2011 Women in Livestock Development Award winner, and her plans for an improved zero-grazing pen for her cows. What’s remarkable is that more than 9,000 people have visited her farm for training and to learn about zero-grazing and organic farming.
Heifer also improves food production from livestock by teaching and building capacity for crossbreeding and artificial insemination to improve the productivity of local livestock.
15. Going Beyond Production
In the interest of diversity, I’m going to take this one in a slightly different direction, because although we’ve dealt with dairy surplus with our East Africa Dairy Development Project, and we’ve connected these farmers to the dairy value chain, I think “going beyond production” can be interpreted in more than one way.
For example, Heifer Poland’s Agriculture and Tourism Development Project is helping farmers who live within the boundaries of the East Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, which protects the ecosystem but also limits certain agricultural activities. Through the project, farmers are becoming beekeepers, converting their dairy cattle herds into beef production (EU restrictions make small-scale dairy farming difficult), and learning to become hosts for tourists interested in the reserve and in other features of agrotourism.
6. Using Farmers’ Knowledge in Research and Development
Heifer Lithuania’s Cooperation and Development of Farmers for Poultry and Rabbits in Plunge Project is increasing entrepreneurship among rural people living near Zemaitija National Park by first creating sources of income for the local community and then providing the foundation for local business creation. Last April, project participants went to a hands-on training on rabbit breeding and keeping on a local, modern rabbit farm. The farmer had received his own training in Spain and was very kind to show his farm, share his experiences and answer project participants’ questions. The farmer had 500 female rabbits, some of which were pregnant, while others already had offspring. The farmer shared his expertise in making rabbit hutches. Upon returning home, project participants were inspired to make their own farms as productive as the one they had visited.
Heifer project participants around the world use a number of soil-enriching agricultural practices. Compost, animal manure and even worms (and their castings) can be used to build the soil. Some of our projects are located in valleys with rich, fertile soil. Other projects, including those in cities, must improve their soil before they can begin to grow anything.
Fund a Project in Oregon that will provide earthworms, among other things, to participants.
8. Safeguarding Local Food Biodiversity
Heifer’s Sustainable Food Systems in Copan and Lempira, Honduras Project will benefit 2,058 families in western Honduras. Families here struggle with poverty that is exacerbated by farming steeply sloping land with low fertility. This project provides cows, hens, fish, goats, sheep, rabbits, bee hives and fruit trees. In addition to promoting agroecological practices, this project is help;ing families establish food gardens with local crops to feed people and livestock, for natural medicine and to protect the environment. The project also works to recover and promote the use of local seeds.
9. Coping with Climate Change and Building Resilience
Read this post on how Heifer’s projects improve local ecosystems, help families out of poverty and cope with the changing environment.
10. Harnessing the Knowledge and Skills of Women Farmers
Much of Heifer’s work, particularly in Asia/South Pacific, is done through women’s groups. Women are severely marginalized in many countries here, but it is the women who are the communities’ best bets. Here’s the story of a project participant from Nepal:
I am Tika Mahato, a member of the Daunnedevi Women’s Group. As the eldest of three sisters in a poor family where both parents worked from morning to night, I was burdened with the responsibility of taking care of my siblings. My father was ver encouraging about my education, but he was also pressured by society’s norms about women.
I come from a marginalized ethnic group in Nepal, the tharu, in which women are considered the family’s honor and treasure. We are not allowed to tread outside of our houses, talk to strangers or voice our thoughts on family matters. Girls from the age of 10 are encouraged to find partners and get married. I was married at the age of 15 and bore two children by the time I was 19. My in-laws were not very well off. The family struggled to provide for every meal. All of us worked as laborers, but money was never enough. In 2006, an incident changed my life as I knew it; my husband passed away, leaving me with two children.
Having always been dependent on him for everything, I was in a state of shock for a long time. I stopped caring for my two children. What would I do with my life? The question and its unknown answers plagued my mind. My mother says I used to stare at nothing for hours. During that time, a group was being formed. Seeing this as an opportunity to engage me, my mother forced me to join. Reluctant to focus on anything except my misery, I did go to the meetings but never took part in any discussions. Slowly, the members started becoming my friends. I felt like I had someone to count on in the time of need.
My group then took the Cornerstones training — it was like four days of continuous awakening. I felt like all my questions after my husband’s death were being answered. I was overcome with guilt for abandoning my children. Yet instead of looking ahead in life, I was burying myself in the sorrows of my past. Though fully capable of working and providing for my family, I was becoming a burden for my parents with whom my children and I lived after the death of my husband.
I now have a renewed sense of faith and belief in myself. I have my goats that I received as gifts from Heifer, and my life has found a purpose with the goats. I plan to be independent and raise my children without the shadow of poverty.