In most of the countries where Heifer works, women and girls are marginalized and disadvantaged, yet forced to bear most the responsibility for their families’ animals and crops. From Ghana to Guatemala, women struggle, mostly without help, to keep themselves and their families alive. While women produce 80 percent of the developing world’s food, they own less than 1 percent of the world’s land and make up 70 percent of the poor. This formidable situation necessitates mainstreaming strategies to bring about gender equity among the communities in which Heifer works.
In 1988, Heifer began Women in Livestock Development (WiLD), an initiative with the following three purposes: (i) to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and methods for women and resources for those women who are working with limited resources in livestock development; (ii) to address gender equity issues in small-scale livestock agriculture; and (iii) to enable women to care for themselves, their families, the earth, and each other.
Since then, WiLD has become popular among women and men in communities where Heifer works all over the world. The WiLD awards were instituted to honor individuals or project groups who have shown outstanding results in their livestock development initiatives and who promote gender equity and women’s empowerment in their work and life.
WiLD rewards those women and men who are making a difference in their lives and the lives of their families and communities with which we work. Every year Heifer recognizes the achievement of those women and their supporters through three types of WiLD awards-Grassroots Achievement, Meritorious, and Staff/Volunteer awards. The WiLD Awards program is sponsored by the Heifer International Foundation.
The 2010 WiLD Award winners include:
Award Category 1: Grassroots Achievements
Huruma Mhapa of Tanzania was selected as a winner. Since receiving an in-calf heifer and completing the pass-on requirements, Huruma Mhapa, with assistance from her husband, Festo, has embarked on a mission of improving her family’s income and nutrition. When Huruma and her family moved from living in a mud bricks house thatched with grass to a modern house in 2004, it was their dairy cows that gave the family income to build the modern house. These animals have given me, my family and our neighbors, our health, hope and new life and they deserve to live in a modern brick house,” asserts Huruma. The couple, through the selling of fresh milk, livestock, hay, silage, leucanea leaf meal and other farm products, have managed to construct a modern brick animal shed worth Tshs. 9 millions (US $9,000). Huruma translated her training in pasture preservation into meaningful action. Together with her husband Huruma practiced hay baling and drying and packaging leaves for sale. Last season Huruma managed to sell Tshs. 1,140,000 (US $1,140) worth of bales and grasses. The family also earns Tshs. 250,000 (US $250) per annum from sales of pasture seeds and packed leaves. Huruma is the only successful farmer around who has managed to make silage, a succulent fodder used during periods of feed scarcity. Though the making of silage can be expensive and complicated, Huruma invented a silage preparation method involving cheap and locally-abundant materials. “I have been sharing my experience with my neighborsâ€¦and they have also started practicing integrated farming,” said Huruma. Farmers and livestock experts, government officials, and university researchers come to learn about the achievements of Huruma and her family. Huruma and Festo are continuing diversifying their farm while adding quality to their products. Huruma’s future plan is to start a small-scale business of milk-processed products. “We are also planning to establish a fruit/tree nursery for our own use and to be supplied to other villagers at lower cost, said Huruma. The family has also earmarked their newly bought 4 acre farm to be planted with 200 trees of various species for firewood and conserving the environment.
Phy Thol of Cambodia was selected as a winner. Before Phy Thol started working with Heifer, her family was one of the poorest in the village and they often did not have enough food on the table. To feed her five children, Phy Thol had to sell her labor in exchange for food, while her husband gambled, drank alcohol, and provoked domestic violence. In 2007, when the Heifer project was introduced in her village, she joined a women’s group, from where she was selected by the group members as one of the leaders. Phy Thol and her group received cornerstones and leadership training from Heifer Cambodia to enable them to lead their group. With Heifer’s support, Phy Thol developed her integrated farming system and was able to convince her husband to give up gambling and drinking alcohol and join her in this good cause. Thol’s family uses their Heifer cow with their purchased ox to plow land, reducing the cost and time of rice production. From the five chickens provided by Heifer, Phy Thol now has a flock of over 60 chickens providing monthly income. With simple techniques gained from training, Thol started raising healthy pigs. Three years after joining the Heifer project, her family could save enough money to buy an additional 0.75 hectare of land on which they currently produce rice for the family consumption and also some surplus for sale. With an increased income from her farm, she now is able to invest in her children’s education. Phy Thol continued in her leadership; leading a newly formed cooperative, while assisting in forming another new self-help group in her village. She attributes her election to lead the cooperative to her experience with Heifer. Her farm became a place for educating not only agriculture and farming techniques, but also building a family harmony. She became a well respected woman by community members, local authorities and other NGOs who invite her to provide trainings on poultry management and improvement of land quality.
Central Eastern Europe
Lasma Kronberga from Latvia was selected as a winner. When Heifer International project came to Veclaicene, Latvia, Lasma Kronberga was just divorced with a new born baby, which brought the number her children to four. She was in a very difficult situation as she didn’t have income to support her and her family. It was like a lottery for Lasma, when she found out about Heifer project coming to her village. After joining and receiving 10 goats she got her hope back and began living. Soon after that Lasma joined the leadership of her group with great energy and enthusiasm. Full participation – not only wives, but also husbands need to work together is Lasma’s motto. Organizing different trainings, discussion and brainstorming sessions on their own development are some of the initiatives Lasma is known for in her community. In the spring of 2008, Lasma submitted a new project idea and with the assistance from a regional NGO, she started a handicraft class in a local school. Now wool from Heifer sheep is used in the handicraft class to make wool blankets (for local, regional and Scandinavian markets) and highly-demanded traditional Sauna hats. With Lasma’s leadership 10 out of 15 project families became organic farmers who can charge more for their products. Thanks to Heifer that it came to our small village and [that] local families elected me as a leader! Otherwise I am scared to think what could [have] happened to me â€“ alone with 4 children; usually the only way out of difficulties in country side is hard drinking. But my way out of difficulties was hard work with Heifer’s ideas in our local village! Lasma is very creative – she is a source of many great ideas for local parish development. She encourages project families and other communities to actively work to reduce poverty. Just recently Lasma returned back from Brussels (Belgium) where she represented Latvia in a European Union Conference on People Experienced Living in Poverty. After three years with Heifer International, she has become a strong leader and advocate for the poor at several forums.
Maria Piedad Guaman Sagney from Ecuador was selected as a winner. Through years of incorporating various agro-ecological practices on her land, recovering and conserving ancestral seeds and diversifying her animals, always with a generous sense of care and respect for all living beings, Piedad has made her home and land into a center for sharing knowledge. Youth from the community, as well as people from other communities, visit her farm constantly. During those visits, Piedad shares her life story, what she has learned, her experience and the seeds she has recovered and produced. She is one of the creators and participants in the Solidary Trade Fair of the Guamote producers. She sells milk, eggs, quinoa, wheat, broad beans and peas, at the fair, all of which she produces on her farm. She promotes reciprocity by exchanging products with other producers in a spirit of solidarity. Once the fair is ended, she is able to purchase items that improve the quality of life of her children, particularly clothing and materials for school. Piedad’s husband, Pedro supported her in finishing high school and in participating in Agro-ecology Promoter training with Heifer. Three times a week, Piedad visits families in the community to distribute seeds, examine guinea pigs and listen to her fellow community members. Piedad demonstrates, through her actions and work that it is possible to raise your voice and be heard when proposals are made from outside their community that are a threat to their land and their health. “These opportunities with Heifer have given me a lot. I gained the courage to say and do what I thought, what I feel and what I dream for my family and for my communityâ€¦I decided that if anyone can do something for the community, it’s all of us and, at the same time, each one of us…
Award Category 2: Meritorious Award
Vo Be Hien from Vietnam was selected as a winner. Working with Heifer Viet Nam since 1993, Vo Be Hien has the desire to serve as many impoverished farmers as possible. While working with Heifer, Vo Be Hien with his Project Management Committee has made several initiatives that help improve the quality of their projects and the lives of several households. For instance, he sought to enhance farmers’ empowerment by providing them with micro-credit, trainings, and skills to set targets to fulfill their genuine needs. Vo Be Hien believes in the critical role of women in the family wellbeing and creates opportunity for women to learn how to manage family finance, take care of their family and farm, and the value of educating their children. By doing so, he has gotten more than 200 local women involved in farming projects. His model family inspires other Self-Help Group (SHG) members. Prior to Heifer’s involvement, many local men used to drink and ignore their duties as husbands and fathers. Advised by Vo Be Hien, they changed; now, they have jobs to raise cows and swine so they no longer have time for drinking and gambling. They have become responsible husbands who share work with their wives and good fathers who take care of their children. Vo Be Hien encourages the men group to talk, discuss, and share what they have learned from meetings and trainings with their wives, so that the knowledge and skills gained are passed on and there won’t be a gap in the absence of the male members; as a result, wives began to represent their husbands in the male self-help groups. By this method, women have developed more self-confidence and empowered to express themselves in the presence of male community members. In 2010, he worked with community facilitators to hold celebrations of International Women’s Day in three villages in order to generate awareness and enhance the role of women in families and communities. Vo Be Hein continues to be a male role model for gender equity and women’s empowerment in his community.
Award Category 3: Staff/Volunteer Award
Martha A.P. Venegas from Ecuador was selected as a winner. Martha’s entire professional life has been devoted to working with small-scale women and men farmers; she devotes her time and energy to supporting their efforts, developing their capacity and skills and encouraging them to improve their living conditions. Of the few women who entered local college of veterinary medicine, Martha was one of only two who completed the program; and she continues to work professionally in the male-dominated field. Over her 15 years of work with Heifer, Martha has been instrumental in promoting and supporting the empowerment of small-scale farming women and families. Thanks to her, over 300 women have improved their animal management skills. Since owning and caring for a cow has traditionally been exclusively male’s activity, cow ownership has raised women’s profile in the community in addition to economic independence. Another area that Martha has worked in persistently has been that of promoting the raising of alpacas in the inter-Andean region of Ecuador. She has trained women and men, as well as girls and boys, not only in alpaca management, but also in fiber processing. Martha also trained about 50 women as livestock promoters, who work within their own organizations as promoters and replicators of knowledge and skills. All Heifer Ecuador’s counterpart organizations in the central mountain region were trained by Martha; she has fully internalized Heifer cornerstones indeed.