The best part of any Heifer project is when project participants pass on their skills, knowledge, resources and animals to others in order to expand a network of hope, dignity and self-reliance in their communities.
At a Passing on the Gift® ceremony in Zambia’s Mazabuka District of Southern Province on October 22, 70 draft heifers were passed on to new families under the Women Empowerment through Animal Traction (WEAT) project.
The WEAT project, funded by the United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) and Heifer Zambia, aims to empower women with trainings on improved animal management, use of draft power, conservation farming and Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development.
Speaking at the ceremony, Deputy Minister of Gender Dorothy Kazunga said her ministry was committed to promoting women’s leadership and female empowerment in Zambia and had designed various programs targeted at empowering women and youth.
“The ministry is in the process of establishing the women empowerment bank to help women have easy access to affordable financial services,” she said.
She said the Passing on the Gift approach was the best and most sustainable way of empowering an exponential amount of families, and is therefore encouraging all stakeholders to also implement it.
Kazunga added that the government valued Heifer Zambia and UNWFP’s partnership, as the two organizations were working tirelessly in empowering rural communities and implementing the government’s policy of ending hunger and poverty, especially in households headed by women.
Heifer Zambia Country Director James Kasongo said the concept of Passing on the Gift, which was developed by Heifer International, has been key in the development of rural communities. He has since appealed to all project participants to continue practicing the approach even after fulfilling their commitment in order to help more families.
“In 2001, Heifer Zambia, with support from the German government, provided 22 heifers and two bulls to Hanjalika Draught Cattle Cooperative. To date—with the use of Passing on the Gift—that number has increased from 24 to over 300,” he said.
UNWFP representative Simon Cammelbeeck said women in Zambia need to be empowered. They face a lot of challenges, including lack of productive resources and limited income, which strain their ability to care for their families.
Like the deputy minister, he emphasized the need for all stakeholders to practice Heifer's Passing on the Gift approach in order to transform many families and communities in the long run.
Annie Chini, a project participant representative, said project participants have been passing on their gifts from the bottom of their hearts so that the entire communities can benefit.
“Instead of sticking to the draft cattle we received, we have been buying pigs, goats, chickens and kitchen utensils as cooperatives and pass on to others who do not have them within our community. This has brought unity in our communities,” Chini said.
She said project participants were grateful to the two organizations for starting a chain reaction of change by helping the communities at a time when they desperately needed it.
Story and Photos courtesy of Heifer Zambia