Terry S. Wollen, DVM
Dr. Terry Wollen serves Heifer International as the Director of Livestock Advocacy. In this capacity, he analyzes local food systems in the international arena, develops messaging and identifies strategies for improving them in a sustainable and equitable way. Dr. Wollen’s background is in food animal medicine and production. His experience includes the Army Veterinary Corps; large animal veterinary practice in dairy, beef and equine medicine in Idaho; and 20 years in research and development with the Bayer Corporation, Animal Health Division. He has worked in international development programs directly as Head of Mission for the United Methodist Committee On Relief in Armenia and with Heifer International in Asia before returning to the US at the Heifer International World Headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Heifer International is a nonprofit, humanitarian organization dedicated to ending hunger and poverty and caring for the earth. We pursue this mission by providing livestock, trees, seeds and training in environmentally sound agriculture to help struggling families build sustainable futures. Heifer’s gifts of “living loans” offer milk, eggs, meat, wool, draft power and other benefits that afford improved nutrition, health education and income for resource—poor families.
Over the years, Heifer developed a set of guiding principles called the “Cornerstones” for just and sustainable development. Recipients agree to pass on the gift of one or more of the animals’ offspring and training to another in need. In this manner, an endless cycle of transformation is set in motion as recipients become equal partners in ending hunger and poverty. Since 1944, this common-sense approach to sustainable development has enabled Heifer to partner with 10.5 million families in more than 125 countries to improve their quality of life.
Heifer International began its work during the final days of World War II, restocking animals for families who lost their farm livelihoods to war in Western Europe and the Pacific. At that time, Heifers for Relief sent ship loads of cattle, sheep, goats, hogs, horses, donkeys and other farm animals to be provided one animal from one family in the US to one family in the re-building country. From that early beginning, the organization continued its work in other geographical areas to assist families living in hunger and poverty and soon changed the name to Heifer Project International. This change signified the understanding that to make lasting change in the lives of the poor, the approach needed to change from the simple provision of livestock to sustainable community development, helping people to help themselves. The impact of each initial gift is multiplied as recipients agree to “pass on the gift” by giving one or more offspring to another family in need.
A second lesson has come from the International Fund for Agricultural Development, World Bank and DANIDA, which published a paper in 2004 called Livestock Development and the Poor. From their experiences, they relate, It is a formidable challenge for most providers to deliver livestock services that meet the requirements of poor livestock keepers. Providers are accustomed to focusing on raising production, rather than on enhancing equity.
The poor often do not have leadership roles or respect (equity) in their communities and from this have difficulty getting a foothold in making progress out of their life situations. This report instructs that “providers”, or those of us who have wealth and position and who want to share it with other livestock keepers, must think beyond simply providing improvements in production with their animals, which is too often our primary approach to development. Other assets must be worked on within the community group. First, people must have Human and Social Assets, which basically means that there must be strong grass-roots community groups to which the families can belong and from which they can operate.
Second, there must be Productive Assets and Technology that allow equitable access to productive natural resources that are affordable and available within the reach of our project participants. Equitable access to resources leads to regenerative Natural Resource Management which in turn builds the resource base. In most areas where Heifer works, there are usually no private veterinarians to provide routine preventive services, treatment or surveillance against major livestock diseases. To address this, a system of community-based animal health care has been developed. These community animal health workers receive training from our staff, the country’s veterinary colleges, ministries of livestock and other project partners involved in animal agriculture. And third, there must be Financial Assets and Markets, such as village banking practices and micro-credit.
Heifer works this model with initial development of strong community groups, who learn first about local technologies that work in their region, their climate and the types of animals that grow best in that area. Then, financial assets are developed with small-scale group banking and micro-credit programs. We have learned that when we begin to work with people “where they are” then we can make the most lasting and sustainable progress out of poverty.
Heifer International encourages development of integrated farms because they make maximum use of the land while preserving it for future growing seasons. Impoverished people often make short-term choices based solely on their desperate need for food. Many farmers have no alternative to cutting trees for firewood or putting animals on overgrazed land. In such situations raising animals in Zero Grazing systems where the food is brought to the animals can provide advantages, It protects the animals from predators, disease and theft, prevents further environmental damage and collects manure for compost. The compost provides organic fertilizer which improves soil tilth and increases crop production.
Many of our projects use contour planting and terracing systems because they establish flat spaces for growing crops, prevent erosion and encourage biodiversity of crops.
Planting trees enables their roots to send rainwater underground, retarding runoff and replenishing streams and springs which in turn can be used for irrigation. We find that keeping bees works well in the integrated approach, pollinating crops and providing honey which can be sold. Over the years, there have been many lessons learned about creating lasting change in our project communities and many have benefited.
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