Spotlight on Heifer International

Dan West was a farmer from America’s heartland when a church mission called him to the front lines of the Spanish Civil War. There he served war-weary refugees. Each were given a cup of milk per day, an amount West considered woefully inadequate. His solution was not more milk. It was more cows. In 1944, he founded Heifers for Relief, which proceeded to later become Heifer International. The organization seeks to end world hunger and poverty, one cow, sheep, goat and duck at a time.

The bulk of Heifer services is manifest through livestock. Donors can access an online catalogue of animals and purchase one for a family in need.

In many parts of the world, cattle provide a steady source of milk as well as a steady source of income through the selling of the excess. Sheep’s wool is spun into wool for clothing; the extra is sold. Water buffalo provide both milk and power by pulling plows to till soil. Yet Heifer International does not deal exclusively with large animals; they also have ducks, rabbits, fish and honeybees for purchase.

All animals come to families on two conditions. The first is that the family “pass on the gift.” The first female offspring of a family’s Heifer International livestock must be given to a neighboring family. Entire communities have been enriched this way. Heifer has touched over 20.7 million families. In fact, some Heifer animals can be traced back 22 generations.

The second condition is that the families receive animal-care training. Not all families aided by Heifer International are farmers, so they are taught to build pens and grow fodder, everything essential for the well-being of their animal.

While the organization is best known for its animal catalogue, it is involved in a wide variety of projects. For example, Heifer teaches communities sustainable farming practices and water conservation. Women are thus empowered to use their skills to become self-sufficient within their own communities.

Heifer International recently marked its 70th anniversary battling poverty and hunger. According to President and CEO Pierre Ferrari, “We know that smallholder farmers are the solution. We are proud of Heifer’s success, but there is still much to do.”

Olivia Kostreva

Sources: Heifer International 2, Heifer International 3, Charity Navigator
Photo: Heifer International Flickr