Heifer’s Chance for All project is assisting communities of small farmers in five underdeveloped areas of Romania. The four-year project encourages small producers to work together to build successful businesses through the production of high-quality milk. Participants take special courses on health, nutrition, cattle reproduction and milking, which enable them to raise livestock that produce milk that meets standards set by the European Union. At the end of this project, which began in October 2012, 800 families will have received the transformational gift of a heifer.
It has been one year since the community of Belin received their Irish heifers. Here’s a snapshot of four Chance for All project participants and how they’re doing today.
Geza and his wife Piroska moved to Belin, in the central part of Romania, 10 years ago. They have owned cows ever since. Geza, the village milkman, considers cows smart and gentle. "We moved to the country to be able to keep our children in school,” he said. They are both university graduates and his eldest boy want to establish himself as a farmer with his parents. "The Irish cow we recieved from Heifer Romania as a gift is highly valuable and the best quality cow we have ever owned," said Gellard, Geza’s son. "I am lucky to own such a beautiful animal. We get along perfectly; she is my darling lady. We bought some bricks and, in spring next year, we will build a bigger barn and maybe buy another cow," said Gellard, Geza’s son.
Ioan and Maria have to provide for a big family of five children and five grandchildren. Each born in Belin, they have always worked in agriculture. "We are used to hard work and organizing our life around our animals," said Maria after welcoming us into her small kitchen. "I am very happy we are all together and in good health. The heifer we received through this project has been of great aid, as the grandchildren love milk and cheese," Ioan said.
The Coscodar family works the land and gathers hay by hand. They wake up each day around 5 a.m. and divide the household chores. They are thankful for the Irish heifer, as it provides food and some money for other expenses.
The name Busuioc means basil in Romanian. At 68, Busuioc is energetic and full of life, and he has a great sense of humor. His eyes sparkle with a spirit that seems forever young. Under the former cooperative system, he has worked all his life with animals, and he has always dreamed of having a farm. "I am sorry old age came too fast," Busuioc said.
Floarea, Busuioc’s wife, is a great cook. Every two weeks, she makes homemade bread. "Bread is very expensive and mine is always tastier," Floarea said.
The couple’s son and daughter-in-law, as well as two grandchildren, live with them. They are unemployed, but they help Busuioc and Floarea work the land and take care of the livestock.
"If the Irish donors were to visit my household, I would sing them a song of gratitude with my trumpet," Busuioc said. "They would see the Irish cow has a special place in the barn–a luxury suite for our most prized possession. Leaving the humor aside, I would like to thank the farmers who made it possible for us to receive a heifer."
Alexandru and Maria Borca have 35-year-old twin sons, Sandor and Zoltan. They are both unmarried. Zoltan is a repairman, and Sandor was a butcher, until he lost his right hand in an accident. Alexandru and Maria have been farmers all their life, and today, they both struggle with diabetes.
"The Irish heifer is a very valuable animal and I was very happy when we were chosen as beneficiaries," Maria said. "We hope she will give us many female calves that we can keep. Our local livestock are not as productive as this one. When it was time for calving, we slept in the barn with the cow for two nights just to be sure everything would be alright."
Sandor’s dream has been to have a farm with at least 50 animals. With his brother, he plans to accomplish this dream. “I hope my sons will find good wives because I could surely use a helping hand around the house,” Maria said. “The boys are working hard and want to increase the farm. They want to buy some agricultural machines because much time is lost gathering hay manually.”
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Story and photos by Laura Manciu, Communication and PR Coordinator, Heifer Romania