Feliciana's daughter, Flor Isabel. Photo by Jake Lyell.

Domesticated by humans nearly 12,000 years ago, sheep provide a number of benefits to families. Their wool has long been used for clothing, and sheep milk and meat are full of nutrients that are keeping children healthy around the world.

Feliciana Sanchez Calderon and her family live in the Peruvian village of Marayhuaca near the border with Ecuador. This area is characterized by high levels of poverty and malnutrition. But with training, Feliciana's family is now thriving. Along with the gift of sheep, Feliciana and others in the community were taught organic gardening, semi-grazing and sustainable livestock production. With the animals and training, the family has established food security. "Now we are working together for a better future," Feliciana said.


Wool
Depending on the breed, a single sheep can produce between two and 30 pounds of wool each year. The waterproof and durable fiber is both a valuable and a renewable resource for small famers from Brazil to the Ukraine, who can use it for clothing or sell it for increased income.

Improved Nutrition
Sheep meat is rich in iron and zinc, two minerals that are key in a child's mental development (iron deficiency is the most prevalent form of malnutrition worldwide). The milk is also rich in calcium, another vital mineral in a child's development.

Growing Flock
Given the right conditions, sheep can often give birth to twins or triplets. For struggling families in need of income, a fast growing flock provides even more wool that can be sold. It also provides them with a steady source of dairy and meat products, as well.

This holiday season, give the gift of a sheep in honor of your best friend, who can knit three hats a day. And read more blog posts about sheep here.

Author

Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She has a master's in social work and a bachelor's degree in psychology. She is married, a mother of two, and a wannabe urban farmer, raising her own chickens and killing most of her vegetable crops.