Greetings from Nepal!
Currently I am in Kathmandu, and almost halfway through a three-week trip visiting Heifer’s work in India, Nepal, Thailand and Cambodia. My days have been packed with meetings and project visits – I am energized by the people and their stories!
As there is so much to tell, and I’ve only spent one day so far in Nepal, I’ll update you on my time in India.
Until now, I had not had the opportunity to visit our work in India. It was a pleasure meeting all of our India staff! I am traveling with Dr. Mahendra Lohani, Vice President of Asia/South Pacific program and Avni Malhotra, Country Representative. The range of partnership opportunities is incredibly diverse here. We met with other NGOs, foundations, and government ministry representatives. There is a vast knowledge of development focused on animal husbandry that can contribute to Heifer’s work.
We visited two project sites in Bikaner, a remote and desert like area. The first project involved about 250 original families. The project is 18 months old and is a classic Heifer project with goats as the livestock component. The results have been impressive – home gardens, rain harvesting systems and livestock training. Our next visit was deep in the desert to a project that has just begun. The women’s groups have started saving and are participating in Cornerstone Training. Even though these women have lived in the same village they hardly knew one another because religion and caste kept them separated. Now, because of the project, they meet, eat together, work together, share their family stories and, ask their husbands to share the household work! Prior to my arrival, the women spoke on camera about the changes they have seen experienced. Can you believe these transformations have taken place in just three months? This is the first time I have met a group in its early stages and we had a very open dialogue and exchange on a range of issues from alcohol abuse to maternal health (too many die in childbirth) to water availability. You can feel that these women are committed to the process and are hopeful about the future. Being with these women was so inspiring because they recognized the need for changes in their lives. I promised to return in two years if they achieved certain goals they set for themselves – I’m looking forward to that!
In traveling through India, it is very apparent that the Indian political and economic conditions are truly unique with vast disparities in income and wealth. The government is quite active in development and they are increasing their attention to the rural sector. During our visit we have already met with several local state legislators and other officials. They are very interested in collaboration given the demonstrable success of our approach. Integration and partnership with government at the national and state level will be key to scaling our efforts as strategically desired. In our various meetings with different ministries, they were very interested in our work in scaling up our impact, women’s empowerment, social capital, community building, and Passing on the Gift.
Our Heifer India staff is well connected and arranged for meetings with many NGOs such as GALVmed, Elanco, and Digital Green. We explored many subjects, including the issue of poultry and the economic value to small holder farmers (each chicken could potentially increase their income by $150) and technical and communication platforms and systems, Relationships such as these will be beneficial as we move forward.
We ended our time in India with a small reception with NGOs, mostly Indian. We discussed a variety of issues centered on the role of INGOs five to 10 years from now. I know that Heifer is taking steps in the right direction; there is much to learn and much to do!
All in all, my trip to India was a true eye-opening experience. It allowed me to re-calibrate many beliefs and views. I learned a lot. Heifer's future in India is in good hands – the needs are huge and the opportunity to do superb, values-led and impactful work is there for the doing.
And now, my work begins in Nepal. More to come soon!