While preparing to receive dairy cattle, Heifer project participants were made fun of by doubting neighbors. Two years later, these successful farmers foster peace and share knowledge with those who mocked them.
At approximately 1:45 pm today, 70 purebred cows landed at the airport in Timisoara, Romania. These heifers flew from Ireland to be integrated into a food security project for orphans and poor families in central and western Romania through a partnership between Heifer International and Bothar Ireland. Bothar is part of a network of non-governmental organizations that use livestock in development aid. It is also sensitive to children’s needs and has experience helping children in Central and Eastern European countries.
The cows are Holstein Frisian and were brought to Romania to ensure the necessary milk for institutionalized children and rural families without income. The heifers came from Shelton Abbey Prison in Ireland, raised by prisoners living under an “open prison” concept, which allows them to raise livestock.
Twenty heifers will go to Caminul Felix orphanage in Oradea. Following Heifer’s Pass on the Gift model, each of the children who receives a cow will pass on the first female offspring to another orphan.
According to the Romanian National Authority for Child Protection, 80,000 to 100,000 children between 0-18 years are institutionalized every year. The daily food allocation for orphan children is about $2.80, which is not enough to provide proper nutrition. Through the Milk for Orphans Project, daily nutritional supplements will be provided on a long-term basis for the children, meeting their dietary needs and improving their general health. The project will ultimately serve more than 5,000 children from orphanages in central and western Romania.
Milk processing will be ensured by the Animal Breeders Association in Corusu, which operates a milk collection center, built with the support of Heifer Romania.
The remaining 50 heifers flown in today will reach poor rural families in Rasca commune, 56 miles from Cluj. About 60 percent of the families here do not have consistent incomes. They are trying to establish small-scale private farming in order to earn a living. Through the project, the families will improve their nutrition and increase their income by breeding Holstein Frisian cows, well known for their high milk production and rapid adaptability to various climate conditions. These families will also pass on the first female offspring of their dairy cows to another impoverished family, and they will donate 79 gallons of milk to orphan children.
The arrival of the heifers was a huge success, according to Heifer Romania Communications and Public Relations Coordinator Laura Manciu. The animals landed and were transferred safely and without any problems. The airlift was a big media event, with more than 30 reporters from different media institutions. Mr. Valeriu Tabara, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development attended the event and gave a short speech in support of Heifer and Bothar’s efforts.
In 2008, Francois Jean Renel received a beautiful chocolate brown cow from Heifer International.
“I named her Patience because I have a lot of patience with her,” he said through a translator.
Francois gave his cow good water to drink and pasture to graze and soon she became pregnant and gave him a beautiful calf. Before long he was able to milk Patience. Every 15 days he is paid 1,500 Gourdes ($37.50 U.S.) for the milk, money which he used to complete his secondary education.
Francois lives in the small community of Fort-Royal in the Petit Goave region of Haiti. There is no secondary school in the community, and when he was younger his father did not have funds to pay for him to finish his school in the nearby city. But with the milk Patience provided, Francois was able to return to school and now, at age 30, he has a certificate which will allow him to go to university.
Patience’s first calf was designated for Passing On The Gift, but her second, born just 22 days ago, is his to keep. In time it is his dream that the milk the cows provide will allow him to save up enough money to attend university.
But it is not just his life that Patience has changed. In addition to giving away Patience’s first offspring, every day Francois gives his neighbors a little of the milk he collects.
“If I didn’t have Patience I couldn’t help other people,” he said. “So Patience helps me to help other people.”
Submitted by Liana Hayrapetyan, Communication and PR Officer, Heifer Armenia
In the years leading up to the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Poghosyan family was one of the friendliest and hardest working families in the village of Nerqin Hand in the Syunik region of Armenia. Arkadi Poghosyan was doing his best to support his family. Every evening when he came home from work, his children ran happily to him.
Every evening the family all gathered together and enjoyed their supper in a warm and friendly atmosphere around the fireplace in winter and in the open-air balcony in summer.
The Poghosyans were very happy. Respect, love and mutual understanding were reigning in every corner of their house. They couldn’t even guess what fate had prepared for them.
It was a cold winter morning when the grievous news spread all over the village: Arkadi had been killed in the war.
The heavy burden of the family fell to Arkadi’s wife, Anush. She had to support her four children and her father-in-law. Arkadi’s eldest son, Vardan, was 16 then. He understood that it was very hard for his mother to carry the family burden alone; he knew that he was to help the family overcome the difficulties. It was indeed hard for young Vardan to work in the barn, in the garden and in the field, as he even did not know how to use a scythe.
The grandfather insisted on giving up livestock farming as he was too old to help Anush and Vardan. On the other hand, Vardan was too young to run the farm alone and Anush could not manage to do it together with the daily housework and children’s care.
Though the war had ended, many Armenians were suffering from post-war hunger and poverty. Only one cow was left to feed and support the family.
Vardan grew up, served in the army, and took the responsibility as breadwinner of the family. He had a vision in his mind, to have a happy and large family as once they used to have when his father was still alive. Soon he married Hermine, a beautiful young lady from the neighboring village, and they became parents of two wonderful children.
Vardan was doing his best to support his family of seven. When Heifer Armenia started a program in Nerqin Hand, Vardan’s family was on the list of future project participants. In November 2008 the Poghosyans received a cow from Heifer Armenia.
Now Vardan’s children, Aren, 4, and Arkadi, 5 months, have fresh milk and other dairy products every day. The family sometimes sells some of the milk to buy other products. Their cow has given birth to two calves, one male and one female.
Vardan’s vision of an ideal family has become reality. Now the Poghosyans live a happy and carefree life as they did once many years ago. They enjoy wonderful sunny mornings in the summer and warm and cheerful evenings in the winter in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot tasty tea prepared with mint and other herbs gathered from the Syunik fields and mountains.
The Kiboga West Dairy Plant, which processes 8,000 litres of milk per day and serves 1,500 farmers
This morning, Moses Nyabila shared a remarkable story of transformation that’s taking place in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda through Heifer’s East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) project. Moses has been the regional director for EADD since 2008, and he spoke to a diverse group of representatives of numerous non-governmental organizations and agencies at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) offices in Washington, DC.
The EADD program began in 2008 when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a five-year, $42.8 million grant to Heifer with the goal of doubling the income of 179,000 farming families in three East African countries over 10 years. EADD is now in its fourth year, and we’re analyzing the program’s results and discussing phase two of the project.
And the results are impressive, to say the least. Here are some key points from Moses’s presentation:
Before the program, millions of dairy farmers were disfranchised, without any say in the direction of the dairy industry in their area. Now, 142,000 farmers are mobilized into more than 3,000 active communities of producers.
In the past, few women were willing to take up leadership positions within their communities. After implementation of EADD, 26 percent of the program’s local leaders are women.
Before EADD, less than 10 percent of farmers in the three EADD countries banked or had access to credit. Now, 80 percent of the 90,000 participant farmers in Kenya have bank accounts in communities once considered too poor for sound investing or bank financing.
At today’s event, Heifer CEO Pierre Ferrari told the attendees about his trip this past December to visit some of the EADD projects. Pierre holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, and he said he was impressed with the farmers he met. Through EADD, these burgeoning entrepreneurs were selling their surplus milk and participating in the regional economy. “The rapidity at which they were learning and implementing these business practices was remarkable,” Pierre said.
And now it’s your turn. Should programs like this East Africa dairy initiative be implemented elsewhere? Could this same model be applied to other food commodities? Leave your ideas in the comments below.
Farmers pedal away after delivering milk to the Kiboga West Livestock Cooperative chilling plant in Uganda.
Today on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation blog, Bill Gates makes a powerful statement: Smallholder farmers are the solution to the global hunger epidemic.
We agree wholeheartedly. Since its inception in 1944, Heifer International’s mission has been to end hunger and poverty by working directly with smallholder farmers, providing gifts of livestock and training that improve nutrition and cultivate individual entrepreneurship.
But, why farming? Gates explains in his post... “Many people don’t realize it, but most of the world’s poorest people are small farmers. They get their food and income farming small plots of land. These farming families often don’t have good seeds, equipment, reliable markets, or money to invest that helps them get the most out of their land. So they work hard, but they get no traction, and more often than not, they stay hungry and poor.”
He goes on to state, “smart investments in farming families help them become more self sufficient.” Heifer’s model of sustainable development has proven this approach works.
This is a message the world needs to hear, and we need your help in sharing it. The Gates Foundation is issuing a challenge for you to create a compelling message – using your design, film making, or writing skills – that shows why investing in small farmers is good for the world, then submit your work for possible inclusion in the Gates Foundation website, blog or social media platforms.
How would you share this message? Please share your ideas in the comments.
Photo contributed by Heifer Malawi program development manager Victor Mhango
Heifer Malawi launched the Bua milk cooling centre in Mchinji yesterday and conducted a POG ceremony for 17 new families of the USAID funded Mchinji Small Scale Dairy Project. Our partners report this project has been progressing at a record pace.
The unity in Heifer communities shows itself in many ways. Camaraderie and joyful greetings of welcome are a part of each meeting. Members blend their voices in song and touch hands in dance and friendship. They exchange advice, ideas and the bounty of their hard work when they come together for meetings, their bicycles laden with corn, pumpkins, sugar cane, bags of ground nuts and jugs of fresh milk.
They also reach out in compassion to those in need, whether they are part of the group or not. This all grows from the values-based training that transforms individuals into communities, recipients into donors.
Ten women formed the Twashuka Women’s Group in the Luanshya District of Zambia in 1995 to address severe poverty in their community. In 2005, after failed attempts to raise livestock on their own, they applied to Heifer International for help and received five dairy cows and three bulls. Today the original group and its two pass-on groups together own 206 dairy cows.
Group members adopted six orphans in the community when the children were just one day old. As a community the women agreed to donate a liter of milk every day to the children on a rotation schedule to improve their nutrition and help provide for their care.
Pelina Lubumbe, who cares for Anna, age 5, said the girl would not have survived without the group’s generosity. “This is a child of Heifer International,” Lubumbe said in thanks.
Pelina Lubumbe, with adopted daughter Anna, thanks
the Twashuka group at a community meeting last week.
The greatest sound in the world for Heifer donors and supporters is to hear these words from those we are inspired to help: “There is no hunger here; thank you.” It’s the soul of Heifer’s work and what we all strive for every day.
Better yet is to hear their song of thanks under a Zambian sky so bright and blue it brings tears to your eyes. The spirit of their appreciation and joy, sung in the Bemba language, needs no translation.
Click here to hear the song they asked to share with you, the donor who supports them in their hard work to break out of poverty.
In Tigwirizane, Zambia, the 28 original participants of the Fisenge dairy cattle group (phase 2) continue to celebrate the success that started in 2004 when they each received two dairy cows from Heifer International.
Today, the women’s group members are prospering from the offspring of those first cows. Many own as many as 10 dairy cows, have built improved homes, and speak of the pride they feel every day to know that their families can eat well and that their children are now able to go to school.
In the video above, Heifer Zambia Country Director James Kasongo walks through the stages of a Heifer project, using a diorama outside the main office in Lusaka to explain the changes that occur step by step as participants leave insecurity, hunger and poverty behind to become powerful, confident business owners who fully support themselves and their families.
Kasongo says Heifer Zambia cannot begin to meet the powerful demand from those in need throughout the country for its life-changing Pass on the Gift model. “Know that we are very ambitious in our fundraising efforts and are working to find partners so we can reach out to more and more in need,” Kasongo said.
World Ark is traveling in Zambia this week to learn more about women’s dairy cattle projects in the Copperbelt region. Many area residents, once dependent on mining employment, are finding that knowledge of agriculture and animal husbandry are key to their income and nutrition as the mines close and jobs become scarce.
Country Director James Kasongo at his Lusaka office.