5 ways animals help reduce global poverty

By Chris Coxon

October 22, 2018

5 ways animals help reduce global poverty

Tonight, one in eight people around the world will go to bed hungry. Here at Heifer, we believe livestock has a really important role to play in ending global hunger and poverty. Here are 5 reasons why.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out this report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Sharmila Shakya, 38, used revolving fund money from Heifer to invest in 250 chickens. The profit from her chickens is allowing her to fund the education of her two children, ages 14 and 17.

Animals provide nutritious food.

In poor countries, many people — especially women and girls — have few high nutrient foods like pulses, milk, meat or eggs in their diets. With animal proteins, people can get the nutrients they need quicker and with smaller amounts of food. That’s what makes them especially important in areas of high malnutrition. 

Isabel Sambanae drinking out of a milk packet at school in Tanzania. Heifer works with dairy farmers who are providing milk for school children in the East African country.

They generate income.

Livestock products can be used in many different ways. Chicken eggs can be collected and sold. Milk from cows and goats can be turned into yogurt and cheese. And of course, animals can be used for their meat. With the right training and access to markets, all of these products can be sold, providing money for health care and sending kids to school.

Hasina Begum, 27, holding two of her family's goat kids at their farm in Bangladesh.

They help empower women in rural communities.

More than half the world’s farmers are women, but because they live in highly patriarchal countries and communities, they often don’t have control over the land they farm. In many communities, looking after chickens, goats or other animals is seen as ‘women’s work’, because men don’t think it’s worth the effort. But in reality, it can often be highly profitable. With their own incomes, women can have a say in decision-making processes in their homes and communities. Research shows that women reinvest up to 90% of their earnings back into their households. That’s money spent on nutrition, food, healthcare, school, and income-generating activities that helps break the cycle of poverty. 

Zaina Muyabo, 49, warms up a meal for her children using a burner that runs on biogas from their cow manure digester.

They increase access to renewable energy.

Animals produce waste — lots of it! In many of the communities where we work, people don’t have access to energy. They often cook using wood fires but chopping down trees can be bad for the environment. Animal waste can be used to make biogas which can fuel stoves, giving communities a renewable source of energy.

Guillermina Castro tends to one of her pigs on her family’s 40 acres. Her farm, dusty and sun-scorched, is producing more thanks to her livestock's manure, which she composts, fertilizing the soil further and helping it to hold moisture.

They make communities more resilient to climate change.

As water levels continue to rise and shifting rain patterns cause floods and droughts around the world, farmers are losing their crops. In most parts of the world, farmers can only grow two crops per year. Animals can provide a quick source of income to get families through an emergency period.