How is Heifer empowering small-scale farmers?
Heifer International: Empowering Small-Scale farmers
Since 1944, Heifer International has worked to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth. In that time, we've help 20.7 million households--or 105.1 million people--in more than 125 countries attain sustainable livelihoods. Our work with smallholder farmers--the majority of whom are women--promotes agroecological productivity, achieves food and financial security, and protects biodiversity and the environment. To this end, Heifer invests in community-owned interventions: building the capacity of community members, providing necessary training to increase knowledge, as well as ensuring appropriate technology, farming capital and other agricultural resources. From its long-term engagement with communities worldwide, Heifer has created a unique approach to sustainable development. Nothing better exemplifies the lasting effect of our work than what we call "Passing on the Gift" (TM), in which families who receive resources from Heifer programs--such as livestock, seeds or training--pass on the same resources and support to other families in need in their community.
Social Capital Development
Heifer programs are rooted in a unique set of values called the 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development. These values help mobilize and organize communities, strengthening the capacity of new and existing associations, networks and self-help groups to address their development challenges. We facilitate community connections and partnerships with strong local organizations, empowering them to negotiate with local authorities and the private sector. Communities are organized around these shared values that have at their heart a commitment to justice and self-reliance, and respect and support for the role of women.
Women's Empowerment and Gender Equity
Heifer helps women form groups and develop leadership skills, facilitating their social and economic empowerment by providing access to productive resources and services, markets and marketing support, and skills for managing the value chain for their products. We help women build assets and income, and gain the knowledge and confidence to thrive in the formal market sector. Our work with men focuses on broadening their understanding of, and support for, women's roles, needs and rights. As such, gender equity and full participation are at the center of our work with communities since their shared resources and capabilities are harnessed for their own development.
Heifer International invests in local capacity by forming partnerships with local Non Governmental Organizations and community groups to implement programs. Each partner receives training and mentoring in organizational leadership and management, governance, business development, accountability and service delivery, in addition to project-specific technical topics. Through Heifer's investment, partners are better equipped to support communities and engage with international organizations. This strategy is more labor-intensive than direct implementation, but it multiplies the impact and sustainability of programs by leaving healthy structures able to continue the work independently. As an added benefit, Heifer's programs often receive strong support from local government. In Vietnam, for example, external funding is matched dollar for dollar by local authorities. Our internal structure is consistent with this approach, as well. Fourteen former Heifer branch offices have graduated to become independent, self-governing organizations.
In 2013 nearly 80,000 families received pass-on gifts of animals, training and mentoring. Passing on the Gift (TM) enhances sustainability and creates and continuously expanding network of dignity and self-reliance.
Core Technical Competencies
Income and Asset Building - Heifer International works with farmers to ensure they have the tools and resources to produce more, higher-quality products. We facilitate access to financial services that allow them to invest in value-added processing and appropriate technologies. Then, we work to connect them to markets and value chains to increase their incomes. Essentially, farmers are given training that helps them to manage their farms as businesses.
Livestock Production and Management - Livestock plays a central role in Heifer's work, both as a strategy for alleviating poverty and achieving food security and proper nutrition. We train and support farmers in all aspects of improved animal husbandry and veterinary care, and increased animal production through improved feeding, housing, breed selection and artificial insemination. Farmers learn and adopt appropriate and improved technologies through training and farmer field schools. Often, community members use these new skills to find careers as community animal health workers, input suppliers and traders.
Food Security and Nutrition - Heifer trains and supports smallholder farmers to diversify production, improve food and nutrition security and reduce livelihood risks. Farmers learn crop-livestock integration methods to increase food production and reduce competition for natural resources. These integrative technologies are of significant value for the poor and vulnerable, to whom our programs provide appropriate physical inputs--such as seeds, livestock, farm tools and equipment--as well as education in nutrition, hygiene and the use of local foods.
Environment and Climate Change - Agroecological practices underpin Heifer's approach to good environmental stewardship as it promotes diverse, resilient livelihood strategies able to respond and adapt to a changing climate. Training in sustainable agricultural techniques--zero grazing, improved husbandry, improved water and waste management and renewable energy systems--allow communities to manage their natural resources, building a healthier, more stable and bio-diverse environment.
Supporting Civil Society: In 2013 Heifer partnered with 430 local NGOs, CSOs and community organizations to deliver project services, building their capacity and facilitating access to resources.
Local Ownership - Heifer recruits nearly all field staff from the project countries they represent, increasing local capacity. This ensures Heifer's development approach is tailored to specific local cultures and conditions to ensure sustainability.
Reputation and Reliability - Heifer International's programs are supported by a network of more than 400,000 committed individuals, businesses and organizations. Our donors' generosity has allowed us to establish and maintain country offices with decades of experience. This broad support and knowledge serves as leverage for institutional support from bi- and multilateral agencies, foundations, and corporations to exponentially multiply and expand program impact.
Social Justice - Our focus on building social capital is more than just a means of broadening program impacts. Communities identify their most important social values and make them the cornerstones of their program design. In this way Heifer harnesses the power and vitality of local cultures, ensuring that traditional leadership structures are fully committed to the program's success. The result is increased sustainability and improved performance. Communities that achieve internal equity and justice--through their own efforts--become empowered to advocate for favorable policies and access their rights.
Enterprise Resource Management and Accountability - Heifer's Enterprise Resource Planning, Program Planning and Management Information System, and Global Impact Monitoring System ensure accountability, maximize program efficiency and track progress against a common set of indicators. This allows us to quantify the impact of country-specific variables and innovations, and rapidly share learning within the global Heifer community. Heifer strives to be a learning organization, continually adapting and adjusting to achieve operational excellence. We are equally committed to excellence at the employee level. Performance planning, monitoring and evaluation are conducted annually in every Heifer office worldwide.
Passing on the Gift (TM) is a highly cost-effective model for achieving sustainable outcomes. We have seen communities that are celebrating their 9th, 10th, even 13th generation of Passing on the Gift (TM). This practice has been adopted worldwide by hundreds of Heifer International's local partner organizations.
Heifer International was established in 1944. It become a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 1953. Heifer's organizational headquarters is in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA, with national offices located in more than 30 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. Principal officer is Pierre Ferrari, President and CEO.