Collaborating for Good: Heifer International
May 31, 2017

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“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” That wise old adage has gained wide new relevance in the surprising, inspiring, ever-expanding work of Heifer International.

Founded during the Spanish Civil War, Heifer International’s mission coalesced around a simple question: Wouldn’t it be better to provide starving refugees with a cow rather than meager daily rations of powdered milk? Answering endless iterations of that single essential question remains the defining focus of Heifer International to this day.

A revolution in self-sufficiency

It may all have started with cows (hence the organization’s name), but Heifer International has evolved far beyond its singular beginnings. Over the past seven decades, Heifer has helped 30 million families in 125 countries rise above hunger and poverty to self-sufficiency and hope. They’ve done it with an astonishing array of livestock, resources and programs targeted to the unique geographic, economic and social circumstances of each community they serve.

In impoverished, isolated villages high in the Andes, Heifer Peru is helping local farmers establish sustainable businesses breeding and selling indigenous guinea pigs, a food staple in Andean culture for thousands of years. Communities in Bolivia are raising alpacas provided by Heifer and selling artisan products produced from the animals’ highly prized wool.

Across the world in Vietnam, locals are working with Heifer to farm frogs and cultivate dragon fruit, both traditional delicacies. In the Amazon, precious acai berries are being sustainably harvested and processed into valuable pulp at a community processing plant outfitted by Heifer. In the Yucatan, local agro-ecologists are reviving the ancient Mayan art of raising stingless bees for medicinal honey. And in Kenya, milk from Heifer camels is boosting both the physical health and social status of marginalized Masai women.

The ripple effect

The central Heifer tenet of “passing on the gift” ensures that the ripple effect of providing one family in one community with the means to lift themselves out of poverty will eventually extend around the world.

Here’s how it works. A woman in Nepal receives a cow from Heifer International. From the very first day, ready access to a supply of fresh milk improves nutrition and food security for her previously malnourished family. Soon the surplus milk from her cow generates new income she can invest in education, health care and improved living conditions. Manure from the animal boosts the productivity of the family’s crops – and fuels an innovative biogas stove that frees up many hours that were once spent scavenging for wood. When the cow has its first calf, that new animal is passed along to another family in the village, beginning the life-changing cycle all over again.

Training and support from Heifer provide participants with critical skills in animal husbandry, financial management and business development, which in turn lead to new opportunities and burgeoning confidence. Newly empowered families are encouraged to form groups to share their knowledge and increase their effectiveness in the marketplace. That cooperation in turn forges enduring bonds and builds resilient communities – in ever-expanding circles of influence and prosperity.

A future free of poverty

All over the world, Heifer cows, sheep, goats, water buffalo, llamas, pigs, rabbits, fish fingerlings, bees, ducks, geese and chicks are transforming lives, stabilizing families and strengthening communities. As the ripples from these programs continue to expand and converge, many millions of people now living in extreme poverty will find themselves in possession of the tools they need to achieve self-sufficiency and self-respect. That’s a future worth working toward.

To find out more about how you can participate in Heifer International’s practical, proven approach to ending hunger and poverty, please visit

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