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SPRING 2024

HEIFER FOUNDATION

NEWSLETTER

A letter from Ardyth

DEAR FRIENDS,

As we embrace the fresh start of spring, individuals and families have already brought many resolutions to fruition, cultivating new ideas and dreaming big dreams — dreams free from hunger and poverty. At Heifer Foundation, some of these dreams include empowering women, helping them become agents of change in their own lives.

Investing in women globally is key to ending hunger and poverty, and it’s at the very center of our community development approach. When women have control over their assets and incomes, they reinvest in their families. We work with female farmers and entrepreneurs, equipping them with the tools and resources they need to make their families and businesses thrive.

We support savings and lending groups in the 19 countries where Heifer works. In self-help groups, women come together to learn new skills, expand their knowledge, and empower their overall confidence. These women-led collectives set up a central fund that members can borrow money from and grow their businesses. When the group meets, members deposit an agreed amount with the group’s treasurer — periodically borrowing money from the fund to scale up their business, start a new venture, or to cover the cost of an emergency.

Every day, we support families and communities all over the world — working to break the cycle of hunger and poverty once and for all. Thank you for continuing to make a difference in the fight against world hunger and poverty through supporting Heifer Foundation.

Yours For A Better World,

Ardyth Neill

 

woman wearing a blue hat and dress harvesting in a lush green landscape

IN JUNE 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 40 women from a Heifer Rwanda project formed a women’s group through which they could receive training, save money, sustain their livelihoods at a time of unprecedented need, and collaborate to help each other grow over the long term.

The women called their group Urumuri, the local Kinyarwanda word for “the light.”

Driven to improve their farms, the Urumuri women’s group established a Livestock Farmer Field School, where the women could receive additional practical training, like how to raise animals and cultivate fodder with the support of a demonstration plot and a Heifer-trained instructor. They also received training on cooperative management, gender and nutrition, and savings and credit.

To build on their new knowledge, the women started saving money together to address their immediate financial needs.

The group started with each member saving 20 cents each week, and then 50 cents. When the group’s savings accumulated to $300, they decided to start a business selling chicken feed.

The women bought 10 bags of feed to start, then increased to 15 bags and later to 25. When demand continued to grow, they pooled more of their money and took a loan from the government to place their first bulk order — 5 tons of feed. Then, they rented a store and hired someone to run sales. Today, the Urumuri group also raises and sells chickens to add to their collectively earned income.

The Urumuri women’s group has not only taught women how to collaboratively save money — it has also fostered a community for women to share their knowledge and experiences. Beyond the women’s economic gains, the group has become a source of strength, resilience and sisterhood, proving that when women join forces, they empower themselves and their communities. 

 

two women weigh and package poultry feed

“The good thing about working in the group is that it encourages you to work together,” said Dative Mujawamariya, a group member, livestock farmer and mother of three. “When you bring your efforts together, you can achieve a lot.”

10 women smiling while standing alongside a hill

STRENGTH DEFINES NEPAL’S RURAL LIFE. This statement rings especially true in Chhatre Deurali, where, historically, women have been put to the test by a deeply entrenched, patriarchal backdrop.

“Women in Nepal live in a very male-dominated society,” said Regeena Regmi, Heifer Nepal communications officer.

From birth, girls in Nepal learn a self-limiting narrative: they are less valuable than boys. This inhibits their dreams and clips the wings of their potential.

According to the World Bank, only 28.6 percent of Nepali women participated in the labor force in 2022.

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Despite laws designed to increase women’s political presence in recent years, they also have little representation in the higher ranks of Nepal’s political parties. Only 13.9 percent of senior and middle management positions in Nepal are held by women, placing it among countries ranking lowest in female leadership globally.

Both societal norms and women’s own self-doubt contribute to this cycle of inequality because limited beliefs persist about what women can do. Despite this, women living in Chhatre Deurali, like Shanti Tamang and her close-knit circle of “sisters,” are challenging the status quo.

Seven years ago, Shanti, a primary school teacher, made a life-altering decision. She traded in her classroom to lead a budding all-women agricultural cooperative. It was a risky move that offered her and her community a path to empowerment.

Today, Shanti manages the flourishing enterprise known as Chhatre Deurali Social Entrepreneur Women’s Cooperative. Established in 2012, the co-op started with just 11 self-help groups. The groups were lifelines for women, offering a financial safety net, agricultural know-how and a supportive community. These trainings are highly effective at the grassroots level because they break down mental barriers and shift the mindset of both genders, Regmi said. Post-training, women begin to find their voice, taking a more active role in politics. “We’ve seen more than 600 women from across our projects in Nepal participate in general elections, with a significant number of them winning seats,” she said.

As men begin to understand that gender issues impact not just individual households but the entire community, they take on domestic responsibilities and advocate for women in leadership roles, she explained.

“For women, they come to recognize their own self-worth and break their own glass ceilings,” Regmi said. The cooperative’s proper registration served as a watershed moment, legitimizing the cooperative and unlocking access to grants and local government support.

As of 2023, the Chhatre Deurali Social Entrepreneur Women’s Cooperative offers a diverse range of services that include savings, loans and agricultural assistance to 1,172 members.

Starting with modest, initial monthly savings of just 10 to 100 Nepalese rupees, less than $1 USD, from each of its members, the women have significantly grown their cooperative’s capital fund. It now stands at an impressive 70 million Nepalese rupees (about $526,439 USD), of which 69 million has been invested in various businesses, ranging from goat farming to vegetable production.

The cooperative can lend its members money for children’s education and women-led businesses, as well as help them in emergencies. Repayment is flexible and can be made in installments. This unity extends far beyond financial matters, manifesting in social capital and a strong sense of community.

Financial Access

A Must for Flourishing Farms

While the farmers Heifer serves begin their journey with gifts of animals, seedlings and education, their farms grow over time, eventually requiring financial investment to flourish. Always by our farmers’ sides, Heifer builds partnerships to get smallholder farmers and their cooperatives the financing they need.

Shots from overhead show a table covered with money and paperwork as the Las Joyas women’s self-savings group meets.

FINANCIAL INCLUSION can be a force of global empowerment and equalization. However, the barriers are endless — maybe they’ve never been taught to read, and they can’t sign their name. They didn’t have the right collateral. They couldn’t prove their income. Maybe being a woman, a farmer or a member of the wrong tribe or social class impacted the decision.

Around the world, 1.4 billion adults are unbanked, 55% of those adults being women. Financial institutions often don’t serve rural areas, and agriculture is considered a risky investment, so farmers are frequently unable to access financial services and credit.

In low-income countries, entrenched patriarchal norms often impede women’s access to financial resources, as societal expectations and traditional gender roles may limit their ability to work or control their finances. The lack of access to education and financial literacy, plus legal and institutional challenges, creates even more barriers for women.

As Heifer supports farmers on their journey to a sustainable living income, we’re committed to helping break this paradigm. We do it within the framework of Sustainable Locally Led Development to ensure farmers’ real needs are met and that they’re respected and served by local institutions. This guarantees they’re more financially included long-term.

“Farming communities need to be able to build secure savings and access credit for timely investments in their farming businesses so that they can thrive and also be more resilient to the shocks when they come.”

— Surita Sandosham, Heifer International President and CEO

How Heifer Works

To Provide Financial Inclusion

HEIFER INTERNATIONAL has 80 years of experience helping farming families secure their financial futures. We do this by helping self-help groups and cooperatives create savings and lending programs, as well as by helping farmers secure credits and loans.

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SELF-HELP GROUPS AND COOPERATIVES Through self-help groups and cooperatives, members can pool their savings and resources to invest in their businesses and provide loans to members. A self-help group is a community-based peer association made up of 15-25 members who often share common interests, goals and challenges.

CREDITS AND LOANS It is essential to have working capital in any business, especially farming, in which land, livestock and farming equipment can be expensive. Heifer International provides access to credit and investment in a variety of ways.

Impact Investing: Our impact investing arm, Heifer Impact Capital, provides affordable finance to farmers and cooperatives through various investment products.

Facilitating Formal Lending: To unlock financing for smallholder farmers in Nepal, Heifer International has linked local banks and financial institutions with agricultural cooperatives.

Partnerships: Through a partnership with Hatching Hope Mexico, a Heifer International and Cargill initiative, El Buen Socio extended credit to poultry farmers.

Financial inclusion offers many pathways for individuals and communities to lift themselves up. Heifer is committed to expanding opportunities and identifying tools that increase financial inclusion for farmers and shape a world that is more inclusive, equitable and prosperous.

Marzan Khatun

Marzan Khatun takes credit money from Bank Asia’s agent’s office in Darusha village, Rajshahi.

“When I became a member of my self-help group, I got the opportunity to save money,” shared Marzan Khatun, a smallholder farmer and a member of a self-help group in Bangladesh. “Earlier I neither had the opportunity, nor the platform.”

FREEDOM THROUGH

FINANCIAL INCLUSION!

Heifer boasts a long history of supporting women farmers and entrepreneurs as they learn the skills necessary to become leaders in their families, businesses and communities. When women have control over their assets and incomes, they reinvest in their families. Through self-help groups, access to savings and loans, connections to banks and more, we ensure women have the access to the financial services they need to expand their enterprises and lift themselves out of poverty once and for all.

HELP FARMERS ACHIEVE SUCCESS BY ADDING HEIFER…

… To your will or estate plans

… As a beneficiary to your retirement plan assets

… In a charitable trust

… To a donor-advised fund

For more information, contact Debbie McCullough at 501.907.4922 or debbie.mccullough@heiferfoundation.org.

BUILD A RESILIENT FUTURE

If we learned anything over the past year, it’s that you never know what the future holds. However, having a plan in place makes you resilient. Now is a great time to establish your plan and help create a better future. And when you set up a donation to Heifer as part of your estate, you create long-term impact that will support and strengthen communities for generations.

Create a better future by adding Heifer…

  • to your will or estate plans
  • as a beneficiary to your retirement
    plan assets
  • in a charitable trust
  • to a donor-advised fund

Request Your Free Guides!

For more information, contact Debbie McCullough at 501.907.4922 or debbie.mccullough@heiferfoundation.org.