A Midwestern farmer named Dan West was ladling out milk to youngsters on a Church of the Brethren relief mission when he realized, “these children don’t need a cup, they need a cow.” The Christian nonprofit that grew out of this idea shipped its first group of 17 heifers to Puerto Rico in 1944. The idea of giving malnourished and poor people long-term sources of food and economic means to support themselves, instead of just short-term relief, caught on.
Today, Heifer International ships not only cows but goats, chickens, pigs, llamas, fish, honeybees, seeds, irrigation pumps, and more, plus extensive agricultural training and husbandry instruction. This helps poor farmers both to feed themselves and to produce food products (and animal offspring) they can sell to support themselves. “The goal of every Heifer project is to help families achieve self-reliance,” the group reports. “We do this by providing them the tools they need to sustain themselves.”
All of this is funded almost exclusively by thousands of small donors. In 2014 Heifer International raised $102 million in contributions. This allows the group to operate in 30 countries, where every year it helps about 2 million families become producers. Since the group’s founding it has assisted 23 million poor families in Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
- Heifer International, heifer.org