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When Pierre Ferrari was named Heifer International’s President and CEO on October 28, 2011, he brought with him big dreams. After one year, we’re seeing the results of Ferrari’s vision: changes at Heifer that will help feed thousands more hungry families worldwide.

Right now, Ferrari says, the global food system is struggling to feed a rapidly growing population. “And yet,” he says, “there are big opportunities right now for our partners, the smallholder farmers.”

Photo by: Geoff Oliver Bugbee

In their search for a CEO to replace renowned humanitarian Jo Luck, Heifer’s board found the right blend of experience and passion in Pierre Ferrari.

In his first year as head of Heifer, Ferrari has implemented three important strategies set by its board of directors. The most ambitious one is to expand Heifer’s projects in developing countries. In an effort to feed more hungry people around the globe, Heifer will now increase the size of its programs by an order of magnitude, focusing on areas with the most need.

“We as an institution need to lead what has been called the livestock revolution,” says Ferrari. “We must reach a rapidly growing group of small farmers, who are mostly women, to create the surplus needed to feed the world.”

Ferrari also intends Heifer to lead the way in use of technology to fight poverty. Improved technology, like cell phone connectivity, can empower people in new ways and make Heifer’s work even more impactful.

Dramatically enlarging our programs, though, means some real challenges for Heifer International. In order to fund larger projects, Ferrari is pursuing more diverse revenue streams, including foundation and governmental grants.

Photo by: Geoff Oliver Bugbee

“The G8, the G2O, the Gates Foundation, and others have all rediscovered the critical importance of agriculture and are promising to do more for the small farmers,” Ferrari says. “From our point of view, it’s about time!”

The third of Ferrari’s priorities, and maybe the most difficult to manage, is to bring all the organization’s systems around the world into alignment. As a global institution, Heifer has seen its processes grow complex. Now, the website management, human resources, planning and finance systems are being streamlined and strengthened. Ferrari says these changes will let Heifer grow while still being flexible and transparent to donors, and maintaining the high-quality work Heifer is known for.

These new priorities – to work with more families than ever before, and to secure the funding and structure to work effectively with these people – are all critical to Heifer’s mission: to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. Pierre Ferrari is leading the charge to turn Heifer International into a leader in the development community.

“This has been one of the most fulfilling years of my life,” says Ferrari. “None of us could’ve predicted what we’ve accomplished in such a short time.”


Kelly MacNeil