Heifer Foundation approach and examples of success in the Baltic States
Photo: Latvian Blue Cow, the only blue colored cow breed in the world, Latvian national heritage.
Heifer Foundation is an international charitable organization with head office in Arkansas, founded 65 years ago by the American farmer Dan Vest. They had visited Spain during its civil War in 1930, where he issued a glass of milk to the hungry children. He realized that these children needed a cow, not the milk itself. So, it all started.
The Heifer Foundation aims to eradicate poverty and hunger, and currently it offers livestock and training in 128 countries. Each family receiving livestock undertakes to give the first offspring of that animal to another family who is in the same need. The Baltic States Branch of Heifer opened 10 years ago, has its head office in Vilnius, and smaller offices in the neighboring countries of Latvia and Estonia.
Last year, Heifer carried out 30 projects in Lithuania, but in all Baltic countries together, 50 projects. The projects include all livestock-Holstein cows and Zemaitija horses, pigs, rabbits, chickens, earthworms and bees.
Rural areas represent more than 80% of the European Union's territory and are home to around 25% of the EU population. In some EU countries, there is a double risk of experiencing poverty in rural areas than for urban populations, but most of the poverty studies have not so far addressed the problems inherent to these regions. The fight against poverty and social exclusion in rural areas goes hand in hand with better access to various opportunities and services, including schools, doctors, transport and even shops. To achieve this, a new and coordinated approach to social and regional policies is needed, and for the development of agriculture.
Importance for the preservation of the culture and environment of EU countries is the preservation of traditional farming, as well as the increase in the number of small farms, in the opposite trend to shrink and increase the number of large holdings. Small farms with traditional farming are an excellent complement to local tourism products and can be managed in territory of natural reserve and national parks because they are environmentally friendly. Small farms are very important for a sustainable national economy as they provide more employment than large, modernized farms.
The ability to process land and to grow farmed animals can be of vital importance to humans when it comes to critical conditions. Unfortunately, nowadays, with increasing urbanization, people are moving away from nature and lose the ability to grow food. The Heifer Foundation also includes educating the public on agriculture and practical training in gardening and livestock.
With the increasing societal desire to use ecological food as well as the urban greening trend, agriculture can gradually return to people's lives, as in the recent past. Own milk and eggs, self-grown tomatoes, potatoes, self-baked bread – a reality and a great alternative to fighting poverty!
Author: Aija Lokenbaha, LatConsul