75 percent of the world’s poor make a living in rural areas and most people depend on agriculture for survival. The recently-implemented Sustainable Development Goals aim to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” by 2030.

Alleviating poverty in rural areas is the mission of Heifer International. The organization furthers agriculture by helping small-scale farms achieve empowerment and financial security.

When founder Dan West arrived in Spain to provide relief for refugees of the Spanish Civil War, he found families living off of a single cup of milk per day. West realized that in order for people to recover from the war, they needed more than a cup of milk. They needed the entire cow.

With the help of donors, Heifer International delivers livestock to rural areas, along with a team of volunteers to provide guidance and training. Animals such as cows, chickens and bees do double duty in the fight against global poverty because they provide both food and reliable income through agricultural products.

In less than 70 years, Heifer International has achieved widespread success. Participants give the first female offspring of their livestock to the next family in need, as well as share the training they received. Entire communities transform into thriving, self-sufficient farms within a few seasons.

Furthermore, reducing poverty in rural areas positively impacts education and women’s empowerment, which further reduces hunger. Educated farmers produce twice as many consumer goods as their non-educated counterparts, according to Farming First.

Likewise, if women had equal access to education and resources, malnutrition would decrease by as much as 17 percent.

With the holidays around the corner, now is the perfect time to donate in honor of a friend or loved one. In 2011, 79 percent of Americans reported that they would rather have a charitable donation in their name than receive a gift they probably won’t use. Why not consider donating a cow?

Sarah Prellwitz

Sources: World Bank, Farming First, Heifer, Red Cross
Photo: Flickr