Farmers around the world rely on livestock to provide a stable source of nutrition and income for their families.
By supporting infrastructure development and training local animal health service providers, Heifer ensures these farmers have the resources they need to keep their animals healthy and well.
This World Veterinary Day, April 29, we’re acknowledging the vital work of animal health care providers across the globe by shining a light on a few of those from our projects who have made a huge impact on their communities.
Kellyn Castro, 25, lives on 22 acres in Olancho, Honduras with her husband, Franklin, and 8-month-old son, Ian. With the help of her grandmother, Rosa, they run a mixed farm that raises cows, bees, corn, beans and coffee.
Prior to Heifer’s support, the farmers in Kellyn's village traveled hours on foot to secure essential supplies and medical care for their animals. But through a Heifer Honduras program, Kellyn and other community leaders were trained in proper cow management, disease control, reproduction, diet and supplements so they could help farmers improve the welfare of their animals and ensure a steadier source of income.
“Before Heifer we didn't know things like working properly with cows, cattle deficiencies,” said Kellyn. “Now with Heifer we know about diseases cattle get, how to treat it, how to treat deficiencies.”
As a result, her family and community have seen improvements in cattle health and an increase in milk production, from 6 liters of milk per cow to 10.
In the Rungwe district of Tanzania, 35-year-old Joseph Josephat, a father of three with a degree in animal husbandry, is making a difference. With Heifer’s help, Joseph has established a shop to supply local farmers with the training, food, medications and minerals needed to keep their livestock healthy. He doesn’t shy away from going the extra mile, even making emergency visits in the middle of the night to assist with a sick or birthing cow.
Through his hands-on approach and expertise, Joseph has become well known in his community, and has plans to expand his shop into a clinic that can offer everything from comprehensive veterinary services to his own formulation of feed containing essential minerals to enhance livestock nutrition.
“Right now, I can earn a daily income to help my children attend school, and I live a good life,” Joseph shared. “The day I met Heifer, I only had a motorcycle, but now I have a shop and my car there. And at the end of the day, the breeders trust me due to the quality of my work, and that's what I'm proud of.”
When COVID took the world by storm, Kusu Maya Malla, a 40-year-old mother and goat farmer in the hilly region of Parbat, Nepal, heard about Heifer’s digital training to become an animal health care provider and decided to forge a new path for herself.
For farmers in remote areas, especially women farmers, online training provides a level of opportunity that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Equipped with a tablet, livestock medications, a microscope and other supplies from Heifer, Kusu was able to complete the digital course on her own time — often at the end of the day after her farm and household duties were finished.
Now, as a certified animal health care provider in her community, Kusu delivers critical veterinary services to a region of 600 farming families and earns income to pay for her daughter’s education and purchase healthier goats for her own farm.
“People know me as a fine vet technician with a successful goat farm,” said Kusu. “This is what brings satisfaction, that I can help my family and my community with the skills that I have learnt.”
In the eastern district of Thakurmunda, Odisha in India, a fierce monsoon season regularly forces farmers to look for creative solutions to support their families when food and resources are staggeringly scarce.
During these periods of instability, many women turn to rearing goats and poultry, but insufficient shelter, poor breeding practices and lack of health services lead to high animal mortality, small herd sizes and continued financial distress.
Determined to rewrite the narrative, Sebati Manika signed up for a Heifer training to become an animal health service provider, equipping her with tools to provide farmers with vaccination and deworming services, proper nutrition for their poultry and training on biosecurity practices to improve the sanitary conditions of their coops and farms.
“Earlier people did not know what to do in [the] face of a disease outbreak,” Sebati shared. “It happened frequently and rearers had to bear losses. Today, they know vaccination can protect their birds and bring them income.”
As people have become more aware of the benefits of the health services Sebati offers, the demand for her business has increased, enabling her to earn money for herself while supporting growth and progress throughout her community.
Christine Okode is a woman accustomed to wearing many hats. In Kisumu County, Kenya, she supports her family by operating a poultry farm, maintaining a large homestead garden and running an agrovet business which supplies local poultry farmers with vaccinations, medications and feed.
As a young girl, Christine’s family raised chickens, but it wasn’t until she completed college and discovered Heifer and Cargill's Hatching Hope Kenya program that she glimpsed a path to make a viable living with poultry production and secure a stable source of income and nutrition for her three boys.
Through her training to become an extension worker, Christine learned about the importance of properly preparing feed, vaccinating birds and biosecurity on poultry farms. Later, she passed this knowledge on to other producers in her community and, in 2009, she established her own agrovet shop, where farmers can easily access essential items and services to support their birds and businesses.
“It is a lot of work and it requires time,” she said. “But one thing I would like to encourage … begin with what you have. Work towards it and you will achieve it.”
In an area of Rwanda where the closest dairy processing center is accessed by a two hour bicycle ride, and veterinary services and medicines are sparse, a local milk collection center, CEPTL, has created new avenues for growth.
With Heifer’s support, CEPTL expanded its services, becoming a one-stop shop for farmers to access extension services, purchase feeds, find veterinary supplies and medicines and even buy groceries — mostly on credit, paid through milk.
According to Pierre Celestin Mbonaruza, president of CEPTL, “When members don’t have cash but they need medicine for their animals, they come to CEPTL’s agrovet pharmacy and get the medicine and pay when they have sold milk."
The impact of the center on the local farming community has not gone unnoticed. Local dairy farmer Gustave Mbonigaba goes so far as to say everything he has achieved is because of CEPTL.
“Without dairy production, I would be doing unprofitable farming activities just for food with nothing left for sale,” he said. “I would be living a miserable life.”
Instead, Gustave has been able to keep his family nourished, send his children to school, build a new house and acquire additional land where he can grow fodder for his animals.