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Aschileus-RomaniaStory by Katya Cengel; photo by Geoff Oliver Bugbee. Katya and Geoff are visiting Heifer projects in Romania and Armenia this week for World Ark magazine.

ASCHILEU, Romania—Ioan Copacean is animated when it comes to his water buffalo.

"My water buffalo is the best," he says.

He does not have money to rent a tractor, so he cuts grass by hand to be turned into hay for the animal. Together with his wife, Ildico Gombas, he rebuilt an old mud brick shelter so his water buffalo can stay protected from the elements in the hills of Northern Romania where they live.

In past, Copacean found day labor jobs and even a short-term cleaning position, but his dream is to build his water buffalo herd to 18, like his neighbor, a man who has 18 cows. His first water buffalo was given to him by Heifer Romania in 2010 as part of a larger revitalization of water buffalo project that aims to reintroduce the hardy, milk-producing animals to villages where they were once common. So far, the program has provided 36 water buffalo to the community. The program also includes an artificial insemination component to help with breeding.

With only one buffalo at present, the milk it produces goes to his three children, Ildico, 10, Ioan, 8, and Dennis Daniel, 4. His oldest, Ildico, was born with a growth on her eye which he has been told should be examined by an eye doctor. But the family lacks the funds needed to see one. With more water buffalo will come more milk and hopefully more money to pay for a visit to the eye doctor for Ildico.


Donna Stokes

Donna Stokes is the managing editor of World Ark magazine. She has worked for Heifer International since September 2008 when she leaped over to the nonprofit world from a two-decade career in newspaper journalism.