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Changing age-old traditions is difficult, but the results can make it all worthwhile. Just ask the residents of eastern Guatemala, who've found that switching from one kind of animal to another has made a huge difference in their lives.
In this drought-stricken land, women and girls are responsible for the household while men and boys work in the fields. One of these duties — providing enough water for their families and animals — has required them to make up to 10 trips a day to the nearest faucet while balancing 20-pound jugs on their heads. With chores like these, it's no wonder most young girls would quit school by the 6th grade.
To help reduce the time these women and girls spend gathering water, Heifer has been sending goats to Guatemalan families for almost 20 years. Why goats instead of cows? A dairy cow can drink as much as 18 gallons of water a day, while a goat usually just needs one. And goats reproduce faster, need less food, and adapt better to the rocky highlands of eastern Guatemala. Once the Guatemalan farmers were "sold" on raising goats instead of the cows they'd always had, their children could reduce the time they spent gathering water, and increase the time they spent in school.
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And thanks to Heifer's work with these farmers, they've become self-reliant enough to recently acquire legal status as a Farmer Organization, and are turning their attention to other environmental concerns.
"Right now, the group is very involved in a reforestation project in seven communities," said Jonathan Guzman, a Heifer field technician.
So simply by trading one animal for another — and old customs for new ones — these communities are learning what it means to be agriculturally and educationally sustainable, making this particular Heifer project a true success.