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I wrote in August about Heifer's trainings in Sierra Leone, and I've always known that it makes a huge difference in our project participants' lives. But a report on a Heifer project in Kenya just crossed my desk that really brought that home.

But first, a side note: I've seen and heard comments that ask why Heifer animals cost more than the animals that some other NGOs offer. There are several reasons usually cited by Heifer staff: we also include extensive training in Earth-friendly agriculture; our projects last an average of three years; extensive measurement and followup are always included, which adds to the cost...

But this report that I read today... whoa. It concerns the Homa Bay Orphans Livelihood project in the Nyanza Region of Kenya. The project seeks to address high poverty rates among 5,000 family caregivers of an estimated 30,000 orphans who have lost one or both of their parents to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The project story in the report is about Mary Akinyi Ondiek of the Many Mari women's group. Before joining the group, Mary harvested about 198 pounds of maize from her 1.5 acre plot annually. She habitually depended on buying all the vegetables for her family from a nearby market. As a member of Many Mari, she received gifts of training and later, livestock.

From the report: "Mary and other members planted vegetables and Napier [grass] using the sustainable organic agriculture (SOA) skills they had learned. Mary made compost and used it for planting her crops. Mary was then able to stop buying vegetables from the market, saving her almost 40 cents a day. She sold her surplus vegetables and earned a steady monthly income of $33.33—$200 total during the reporting period. She managed to get about 595 pounds of maize from her land—more than a 220 percent increase!"

Whoa, right? So, even though the prices for Heifer animals via The Most Important Gift Catalog in the World have not been raised since there's BEEN a catalog, I think you can see that what some consider a higher cost definitely yields a higher impact.

Happy New Year.


Bill Fitzgerald