Thankfully, we live in a world where there are numerous nonprofit organizations that work to tackle many of our problems. Heifer Project International is one that focuses on providing people with the resources they need to support themselves and their families.

Corporations and big businesses do not necessarily invest in some of the causes that impact our world and daily life in a negative way. Nor do the requisite resources get allocated by our governments to treat these issues.

Red Cross, Food for the Poor, and many others help to fight poverty, world hunger, climate change impact, and any number of other environmental, social, and economic causes.

There are also organizations that tackle agricultural issues to help people use our natural resources more responsibly -- one such is the Heifer Project International.

What is Heifer Project International?

The organization’s motto is “Working with communities to end world hunger and poverty and care for the Earth.” They have been carrying out their mandate for over 70 years.

How did it all start?

The founder belonged to the Church of the Brethren in the American Midwest. He was not only a farmer but an aid worker during the Spanish Civil War.

child drinking a glass of milk

Dan West wanted to alleviate the suffering he saw around him, in whatever way he could. But rather than attempt to give a man a fish, he wanted to teach him how to fish. Rather than give people cups of milk, he wanted them to own and raise a cow to produce that milk.

Hence, he formed the Heifer Project International. Its aim was to basically equip those same people he helped to help themselves and others around them.

What is their mission?

With all that they do, Heifer has one main mission. This is to put a stop to world hunger and poverty and doing so in a sustainable way that takes care of our planet at the same time.

hands holding a wooden plate

Their approach involves utilizing sustainable agriculture community development projects.

They take into account certain resources like trees, seeds, and livestock plus training the people who get and use these resources. Eventually, they become self-sustaining.

The training teaches them how to develop their agriculture in a way that is environmentally sound, and they learn how to care properly for the animals they receive.

Focus areas of training

This program has successfully managed to keep to this mandate since 1944. In that time, it has impacted the lives of over 70 million people or 13 million families.

woman teaching

Other areas of training include, but is not limited to:

  • Literacy
  • Strategic planning
  • Sharing and caring
  • Gender equity
  • Community development

These targets are not achieved overnight. So, the organization does not leave in a few months. Generally, they are in a community for many years.

These communities have to show repeated signs of being independent and viable. The Heifer International organization looks for them to grow in the areas of self-reliance, income, and nutrition.

Once this is achieved, they consider that Heifer Project to be successful.

And finally, the participating families in the initial stages must endeavor to help others in similar ways as they too have been helped. For example, sharing one of their animals and teaching the new family how to care for and use it to become self-reliant as well.

In so doing, the success and prosperity trickle down from one community to the next.

How Does Heifer Project International Empower Families?

They focus on three main ways to empower families. They do so by:

  • Empowering women
  • Helping farmers
  • Training people

Heifer Project International assists women to become competent leaders. They do this by giving them access to education and entrepreneurship opportunities.

stack of hands

They also aid farmers in selling their goods and products, by showing them which markets to tap into. Herein, the farmers benefit from existing economic systems, and the community by and large is helped.

Also, Heifer Project International educates people on how to make use of conservational agricultural techniques. They are also trained to use their new knowledge to support their communities, as well as launch and maintain a successful business.

Heifer Project International's Rating

Charity Navigator recently rated Heifer Project International with three out of four stars. The organization received 78.60 points out of 100 for their use of financial resources and 97.00 out of 100 for their transparency and accountability.

Heifer Project International's financial data

All tax-exempt organizations, nonexempt charitable trusts, and section 527 political organizations must file a Form 990 or 990EZ with the IRS.

Heifer Project International’s most recent IRS Form 990 or 990EZ available is for 2017. We extracted the following financial data from their most recent publicly available tax return for the fiscal year ending June 2017. This financial statement can give you a clearer picture of how they use their resources.

Percentage of donations spent on services

  • Total donations and grants: $110,289,116
  • Spent on services and grants: $87,191,209
  • Percentage of donations toward grants and services: 79.05 Percent

Percentage of revenue spent on fundraising

  • Total revenue: $112,522,166
  • Fundraising expenses: $21,601,349
  • Paid to professional fundraisers: $3,693,923
  • Percentage of total revenue spent on fundraising: 19.19 percent

Administrative and overhead costs

  • Overhead expenses: $6,184,966
  • Property assets: $48,327,088
  • Investment assets: $264,865
  • Paid to officers/directors: $2,916,728
  • Highest paid officer/director: CEO $407,573
  • Percentage of total revenue spent on officers/directors salaries:  2.59 percent

Heifer Project International Builds a Solid Social and Economic Foundation

These programs developed by the organization are actually a number of purposefully related projects. They unite with a long-standing assurance. And they allow small-scale farmers to accomplish source of revenue which is environmentally, economically, and socially viable.

cows in the field

Since these projects are designed to deal with certain needs of a region, they can differ in terms of their geographic scope and scale.

The programs can span a community or an entire nation. Or they can encompass people across country borders.

The spotlight is on scalability. This permits the organization to attain the most long-lasting and maximum impact possible.

There is a strict methodology that all projects within the organization follow. It helps them to accomplish their set goals. One of which is to combine their smaller projects to attend to major, regional challenges.

East Africa dairy development in Africa

This program is based in a number of African countries. These include South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. All are located in Eastern Africa.

Heifer Project International aims to help over 350,000 families use goats to change their livelihood. The project lasts for 10 years from 2014 to 2024.


It is intended to gain the support of various organizations, including other international NGOs, bilateral and multilateral organizations, people from the private sector, and certainly the government as well.

The name of the project is the Southern Africa Goat Value Chain Program.

It is intended to develop the income security and food source of local producers of ruminants (whether cattle, goats, sheep, giraffes, yaks, deer, or antelope) in Southern Africa using incorporated methods, which will develop market access, efficiency, and production.

Pacha Camelid Program in South America

This is another Heifer Project International program. However, it is based in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. It uses locally preferred animals such as alpacas and llamas.

It aims to help over 96,000 families between 2014 and 2024.

The project will solicit partnership and support from ministries of agriculture and local municipalities.

Vicuña production, llama, and alpaca are all essential when it comes to maintaining some sort of livelihood in the Andean region. Local artisans and farmers rely on them heavily.

a collage photo of llamas

However, with time and climate change, great obstacles cause adverse effects to their way of life.

What the PACHA program intends on doing is to utilize sustainable farming frameworks that work and match farmers with reliable market access. In this way, they can sell what they produce. They can also use this money to develop their business and provide for their families as well.

So, they are not stuck on simply surviving. They can all start to thrive, as well.

Empowering women farmers in Nepal

Goat and dairy are the emphases of this program in Nepal. They are the key to help the participating families to climb successfully out of poverty.

The aim of the project is to help over 500,000 families between 2012 and 2023.

In this project, they seek to gain the support of various organizations, including local stakeholders and local governments.

women milking a goat

Their goal is that after this program is launched, families who participate will no longer be at the mercy of poverty. They will have nutrition security, improved livelihoods, and strong economic growth.

This Heifer Project International project will provide an extra 900,000 meat goats every year.

In turn, every day, this will supply over 100,000 liters of milk, which will be sold. The import rate of goats should be reduced by 50 percent and so is the import rate of dairy by 25 percent.

Families will see an increase in their earning potential from $970 to $2,800 annually. Later, it is intended that this figure will grow to over $4,000 for at least 45 percent of the families.

The Worldwide Effect of the Heifer Project

This organization touches almost every continent on the planet. They have a network of people and a plethora of programs that endeavor to help people have a better life.

They also operate at home in the United States as well as in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and in North and South America.

Heifer Project International has set goals and targets and has initiatives that are already working through to 2024. For more information or to donate to and help further the work of this charitable organization, visit their website at They are eager to provide you with all the necessary statistics, history, and future workup of all their programs.

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