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Over the past decade, Heifer has developed a process to analyze Heifer project impact and effectiveness. Guided by six Board-identified Ends, the process ensures that Heifer supporters, staff and volunteers can see that donations are used as productively as possible. The Ends statements are:
Overall, the estimate of families assisted and impacts are in line with the general trend. Over the last year, Heifer was able to assist more than 1.9 million families directly and indirectly—up from 1.6 million in the previous year. Heifer's contribution to impact is largely on track and in keeping with the overall trend. Additionally, government, major international non-governmental organizations and partner organizations continue to adopt the Heifer model; and Heifer's education programs have produced beneficial impacts consistent with the Cornerstones and the Board Ends. The areas of environmental stewardship, managing Passing on the Gift expectations, and youth involvement were identified for further improvement.
Heifer's third-party evaluations show notable improvements in the areas of livestock care and management, education and empowerment. For the last seven years, the Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University has conducted impact evaluations of Heifer's country programs.
This year, evaluations addressed country programs in Albania, Nepal and Uganda. All three countries have long-standing programs and the overall findings for all three countries were highly favorable.
Average gains in the past year in income and food due to Heifer projects as reported in household interviews were $3,803 for Albania, $572 for Nepal, and $1,456 for Uganda (based on exchange rates at the time of the evaluations). In 2009, according to the World Bank, annual per capita incomes for these countries averaged $3,808 for Albania, $427 for Nepal, and $490 for Uganda.
In all three countries most participating households experienced income gains due to their participation in the Heifer project. Most of the income gain experienced as a result of participation in a Heifer project can be traced to the animal gift a household received. Below shows the average gain in household income per animal gift by type of animal for the three countries evaluated in 2011.
At the time the animal gift was received, the average household owned assets worth about $27,600 in Albania, $3,200 in Nepal, and $5,900 in Uganda. During the time between receiving an animal and the interview, households had gained additional assets (including health and education expenditures) averaging $5,609 in Albania, $1,765 in Nepal, and $3,400 in Uganda. Sampled projects had started, on average, about six and a half years before the evaluation in Albania and seven years before the evaluation in Nepal and Uganda, so households were likely to have had similar periods of time to accumulate assets.
The table below shows the averages of changes in food consumption by households interviewed based on a scale of 0 to 5. National surveys show that most Ugandans do not consume adequate calories, and according to the World Health Organization, from 2003 to 2009 among children less than six years of age, 19 percent in Albania, 49 percent in Nepal, and 38 percent in Uganda suffered from moderate or severe stunting due largely to nutritional shortfalls. Since most project participants in these countries begin with incomes well below the national average, the evidence of significant nutritional shortfalls in the reconstructed baseline (based on respondents' reports of their families' food consumption before they received an animal gift) is quite plausible.
The table below shows significant gains in consumption of staples, supplements and protein in Heifer projects for all three countries. For all three countries, even when allowing for measurement error, the evidence is compelling that most household members were at serious risk of under-nourishment when the household received their animal gift. It can be estimated that the Heifer projects prevented stunting for more than half the age 5-and-younger children in project households in Nepal and Uganda.
Evaluators attributed these health gains to increased household food production, better sanitation, as well as nutritional trainings conducted by the project. On this basis we can conclude that for every 100 families participating in Heifer projects in Nepal and Uganda, at least 50 children are likely to avoid stunting (compared to perhaps 8 children per 100 families in Albania).
Gains in income and assets are only some of the impacts from Heifer projects. These projects also promote gender equity, environmental sustainability, sanitation, improved nutrition, as well as values such as spirituality, sharing and caring and full participation, among others. Evidence of nutritional standards and asset ownership at the time the interviewed households received their animal gifts demonstrates that the projects are reaching many households that are truly in need.
Going forward, Heifer will strive to increase program effectiveness through the development of systems for performance measurement and project design, recognizing that the fulfillment of the mission begins with good project design. Heifer will also document, publish and disseminate evidence of the impact of our work, to demonstrate the power of the Heifer Model, articulate its position on issues affecting vulnerable and marginalized populations and to influence pro-poor policy.