Dan West, an American Farmer, was serving as a relief worker in Spain during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s. Frustrated with being forced to decide how to allocate a limited amount of food aid upon his return to the United States, he founded Heifers for Relief, an organization dedicated to providing a permanent solution to hunger.
Today the organization is known as Heifer International and has been giving gifts of sheep, rabbits, honeybees, pigs, llamas, water buffalo, chicks, ducks, goats, geese and trees as well as heifers for 70 years.
The concept is simple, “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; you have fed him for a lifetime.” Or as West would say, “Not a cup, but a cow.”
Instead of bags of grain Heifer International gives families livestock. The benefit of these animals goes far beyond food. Animals such as cows, goats, water buffalo and camels not only serve as a continual source of milk they also provide labor and fertilizer for farming. The resulting crops provide additional food as well as a source of income. Chickens, ducks and geese provide eggs, a reliable source of protein, and extra eggs can be sold to pay for school, clothes and medicine.
Heifer International works to ensure that the gift of each animal will eventually help an entire community become self-sustaining. Each participating family receives an education in animal care and husbandry and is required to donate female offspring to a neighboring family who has undergone Heifer’s training. In time, that neighbor will pass along one of the offspring of its animal, and so on making a single gift multiply far beyond the original investment.
The organization purchases the animals in the country they are destined for. This puts money into the local economy, reduces transportation costs and promotes better health for the animals because they are already accustomed to the local climate, food and diseases.
Donors may purchase “shares” of a gift or pay for an entire animal at Heifer Internationals online gift catalog. The listed price includes the purchase price of the animal, as well as the cost of its veterinary care, transport and the recipient family’s training in animal husbandry, sustainable agriculture techniques and business practices.
Heifer Internationals is not simply fighting world hunger, through their innovative approach they have been affecting a solution.