Story by Sameera Banoo | Resource Development Officer | Heifer South Africa
Photo by Magdalena Wos | Resource Development Officer | Heifer South Africa

Heifer South Africa began work on an exciting new project in January 2013, the Thusanang Dairy Project, supported by the Jobs Fund and Mutual & Federal Community Trust. The project will assist 600 rural people in the Matatiele area of the Eastern Cape to become small-scale dairy producers.

South Africa produces roughly 53 million gallons of milk per month, approximately 0.5 percent of the world’s milk production. This translates into about 634 billion gallons of milk every year. The South African dairy industry is important to the job market, with more than 4,000 large-scale milk producers employing 60,000 farm workers and providing 40,000 people with indirect jobs within the dairy value chain. This value chain, also known as a commodity chain, includes many different economic activities?there are many different farming and processing methods and many different organizations involved between the farm and the plate. Processing describes the production of raw milk, pasteurized milk and cream, fermented milk, long-life milk and cream, yogurt, cheese, milk powder, sweetened and unsweetened concentrated milk, butter and butter oil.

The milk used in most of these processes comes from specially bred dairy cattle, crossed and carefully bred over many generations so that they are able to produce large amounts of milk. There are four major dairy breeds in South Africa: Holstein, Jersey, Guernsey and Ayrshire. A dairy herd is made up of four different groups of cattle: cows (females), bulls (males), heifers (a young female cow that has not borne a calf), and male calves.

Heifers–young female cows–give Heifer International its name. This is because a young female cow is an amazing gift to give a family. Heifers are usually near to or at the point of being able to become pregnant. Soon, they will produce calves and provide a new generation of cattle. This is what makes Heifer International’s Passing on the Gift® concept possible–each family that benefits from Heifer's support agrees to pass on (donate) the same training, seedlings and support they received to another family. In addition, every family donates the same number of animals?generally the offspring of their own livestock?to another family in need. As soon as a cow produces a calf, she begins to produce milk. Milk is wonderfully healthy and provides an important source of protein for the whole family. At the same time, a heifer or a cow produces manure that can be used as organic, natural and low-cost fertilizer. The gift of a heifer provides milk, manure and calves.

Heifer South Africa is a community development organization that works with poor, rural families to end poverty and hunger in South Africa and care for the Earth. Through training, hands-on support and gifts of livestock, seeds and trees, Heifer helps poor families begin farming successfully, both to grow their own food and to earn income.

We invite you to support projects like this and help thousands of smallholder farmers become self-sustaining.

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Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.