For the families that MCC works with around the world, the bleating of a goat or the clucking of a chicken is the sound of opportunity. A new herd or flock can be a source of affordable nourishment, a walking savings account to help cover emergencies like medical bills or one more way that farmers can eke out a living even on small pieces of land. Experience some of the ways animals are changing lives through MCC’s work.
Income and even savings
Chickens provide a ready source of eggs and meat and can be sold to boost family income. In Pichilín, Colombia, MCC partner Sembrandopaz, with support from MCC and the U.S.-based organization Growing Hope Worldwide (formerly Foods Resource Bank), helps farmers experiment with a variety of approaches, from kitchen gardens to organic pesticides. Through the project, Olida Rosa Feria Tovar received a loan she used to buy chickens. “Before, I had never really had a lot of chickens,” Tovar says. “I knew through Sembrandopaz it was something I could do. I saw that it could really help me and my family.” She uses the income from selling chickens to buy other food, plants or items she needs for the house. But it’s also allowed her to put aside savings, increasing her family’s ability to withstand an emergency or explore new ventures later.
Nutrition for a nomadic life
In Ethiopia’s Afar region, the pastoralists who have lived on this rugged land for generations rely on the milk and meat that livestock like goats, sheep and camels provide. But increasingly severe droughts since 2010 turned traditional grazing lands into useless stubble. First the cattle, ill-suited to arid regions, died. The herds of camels, sheep and goats dwindled.
MCC’s partner, Afar Pastoralist Development Association, estimates that between 2015 and 2016 alone, more than 500,000 animals died of starvation and illness. In response, MCC provided some 4,700 goats to help rebuild herds. Since then, MCC has supported a variety of efforts to help families continue to support their herds, including emergency water projects and emergency veterinary treatment and vaccinations for more than 100,000 animals. (Did the camel in the background catch your eye? In addition to providing milk, camels also serve as moving vans, transporting families’ belongings as they move to seek better grazing grounds for their animals.)
Pork, peace and young people
In rural Uganda, pigs such as this one are part of an effort to create new opportunities for peace. After years of conflict and violence in the country, ethnic divisions remain strong. A large youth population, combined with few opportunities for employment or training, make the situation more unstable.
In response, an MCC-supported peace project, Living With Shalom, is giving youth such as Fred Ayesiga a chance to learn new farming techniques and entrepreneurial skills while interacting with and learning about other ethnic groups in Uganda. Through the project, Ayesiga received a loan to begin raising pigs. He has paid back the loan and continues to grow his farm. In addition to providing for daily needs, the profits are helping his brother, sister and wife begin to build their careers and paying school fees for his older sister’s children.
Passing on the benefits
In Vietnam, raising cows provides new opportunity for income for families affected by Agent Orange, including Lê Ma. nh Châu and his wife Trân Thi Phu’o’c. They were among the first 20 families to receive a cow in 2015 through the program. Over the course of three years, the project provided cows to 120 families. Those families give their first-born calf to another family — doubling the impact of the program. After donating the first calf, families can choose to sell the cow to start another business or to breed the cow again and sell the offspring or start a small herd.
From Zimbabwe to Vietnam to the Gaza Strip, MCC is helping people hop into the rabbit business. And it’s an enterprise that can multiply quickly. In Phu Tho Province, Vietnam, for instance, families receive a starter herd of five female rabbits and one male, as well as training in rabbit care. Within a few months, one woman, Ha Thi Chung, had quadrupled her herd. A year later, she had 60 rabbits, including these, and had sold enough to earn some $500.
The sheep and the goats
In Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, where many families struggle to make ends meet and resources are stretched by an influx of Syrian refugees, sheep and goats are prized for their milk, which can be sold or made into products like yogurt. In 2014, MCC began supporting a project to provide sheep and goats, helping establish flocks like this.