I remember thinking how ‘neat’ it was to help others have farm animals, like my family did, and that those animals would help them have more food to eat.
Years later in 2008, I began working for Elanco Animal Health, and I learned about our signature non-profit, Heifer International, a not-for-profit which aims to eliminate hunger and enhance smallholder farmer income through livestock ownership.
I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Zambia with several colleagues in October 2016 to see the work of Heifer International first-hand and to understand the positive impact we can all have to overcome hunger and poverty.
In our time there, we helped families who were new to the charity build pens in preparation for their animals, and prepare the day’s only meal of Chibwabwa. The dish is made from pumpkin leaves boiled in water with a little raw peanut flour – a meal that would soon be enriched by the family’s new arrivals.
We also worked with families in Kalulushi, Zambia who had received goats four years earlier. They had more food to eat, could afford school tuition for their young children and were optimistic about their future.
Jeremy and Twice Chela, a couple living in Kamisenga, Zambia also benefited. Jeremy told me: “We now have milk to drink every day! We can eat nshima in the morning! We can eat nshima in the afternoon! We can eat nshima at night!”
Nshima is a bland porridge made from coarse maize or corn meal. While this is still far from a luxurious diet, it is so much better than having a single daily meal of chibwabwa!
Heifer International not only impacts individual families, it transforms communities through the practice of ‘Passing on the Gift’, which requires every family who receives an animal to give the first female offspring to another family.
We met a family who had prospered after receiving a heifer ten years earlier. They had small solar panels to generate electricity and wells on their farm providing fresh, clean water to irrigate crops and improve yields. Many were currently milking three cows with plans to milk six in the near future, made possible by new care and feeding practices.
Beyond eliminating poverty and providing food security, Heifer International is helping to restore a sense of self-worth to people’s lives.
I now have a better sense of my personal ‘why’. I realize that my professional work with Elanco is a small but important part of all our efforts to produce enough food for the 10 billion people expected to be living on the planet by 2050.1
That’s why I’m excited to be visiting Kenya on a Heifer International field visit in July 2019 (accompanied this time by my daughter) and to help support Elanco’s East Africa Growth Accelerator (EAGA) project. I’m looking forward to building synergies between Heifer, Elanco and my church’s efforts in Tanzania to improve agricultural productivity and food security.
Over the past ten years, Elanco and Heifer International have worked together to break the cycle of hunger in 160,000 families across the world – let’s see how many more we can reach over the next decade.
You can read more about Vinton’s experiences in Zambia and Tanzania on the blog he wrote during his trip in 2016: https://onecowatatime.wordpress.com/ If you’d like to learn more about his trip to Kenya this summer, subscribe to his blog or follow him on Twitter @vintonesmith