When you think of Heifer Project you may think of the catalogue you get in the mail every Christmas...it's your opportunity to donate pigs, heifer cows, chickens and ducks to help change the lives of poor farmers worldwide. For the rest of this week we will be visiting Heifer project sites to learn first hand by observing projects supported by Heifer. For over 65 years the focus of the work by Heifer project has been to improve food security for hungry families. In addition having animals generates disposable income that can support education and medical care of family members. Some families generate income to improve their homes with a waterproof roof or a cement floor.
Heifer continues to support these goals that have benefitted so many...but in addition Heifer has grown in its awareness of other community wide needs that need to be addressed. It is as though Heifer continues to mature and seek to provide better support to groups seeking to have a better life as the economic systems of the world become ever more complex.
Development of co-operative marketing systems empower local farmers, fisherman, and herdsmen to speak with a stronger economic voice and to receive a more just profit from their work. Often the awareness of new systems is already in place...and all that is needed is guidance and support to make the new system a reality.
There is a wide gap in Ecuador between the 5% upper financial class and the large group living in poverty. (The urban rich have 177x more income that the 80% of the population that falls into the rural poor group. There are also differences in availability of benefits to the poor in urban and rural settings. . There are some government programs designed to help everyone - for example bottled propane gas is available to all at a highly subsidized price. The price of gasoline is subsidized at a bargain price. But the root causes of poverty has not been resolved.
Ecuador has within its borders vast oil riches and minerals...unfortunately these riches are often below rain forest. The rain forest benefits all mankind as a gas exchange mechanism, but no countries are coming forward to buy the forest at a rate equal to the wealth underground. The current government has the attitude that as long as one child must live in poverty or go without education or food,the priority is to sell the oil and minerals ...and forget the rainforest..this is one of the great conundrums facing Ecuador. They overlook that the rainforest is a non renewable resource ...and once gone from the planet...it is gone...
The current government had a 90 % approval rating in the last election...so they are in a position to develop policies as they see most benefiting the people.
There is also a conflict of interests between family farms and the displacement of camposinos that occurs when large "factory farms" are created.