b"good life BETTER TOGETHERHeifer CEO Surita Sandosham, secondJoining a self-help group is the first step in a from right, and Heifer's senior director ofjourney that gives farmers like Bimala access programs for cooperative development into the training, opportunity, inputs andInspiration and creativity are not Asia, Neena Joshi, right, with participants of a Heifer Nepal project that aims to closesupport from their peers and communityoften associated with development the living income gap for 65,200 families. that are critical to their ability to take on theinterventions, but they are the engines principles of accountability to themselves and their groupa cornerstone of ourthat drive change in our world.development model. Heifer currently supports more than 250 cooperatives across 44 districts of Nepal, with more than 300,000 women actively engaged in our programming. These women have coalesced to form a national apex organization that connects members The Genius to markets and local leaders so their interests are represented in policy negotiations. In Ecuador, our Future of Food project is PHOTO BY SUR A J SHAH changing the food system by supportingPHOTO BY MATEO BARRIGA SALof Our Group farmersmany of them womento boostSurita Sandosham with production of nutritious, sustainably grown food; build their processing capability; and encourage market linkages that can support farmers, producers and processors to earn aMarianita de Jess Mndez, a member of the By Surita Sandosham, president and CEO sustainable living income.Association of Agroecological It is our belief that there is a genius withinProducers of Azuay and an all such groups that is more than capable ofagroecological producer.A Z AR PHOTO BY SUR A J SHAHIN THE PAST FEW MONTHS, I HAVE VISITED SEVERALThrough the self-help groups and cooperatives wetackling even the most challenging of our Heifer International country programs to get tosupport, we are creating a space for women and otherproblems. But it must be nurtured.know our staff, partners, the experts who support ourvulnerable groups to confide in each other, share theirWhen I visited the district of Santa Elena, programs and the farmers we serve. It has been a time ofstruggles and their dreams and come together to build aEcuador, I hand-rolled traditional palo santo, learning and discovery and an opportunity to deepen mypositive and bright future for themselves and theiror holy wood, incense alongside women understanding of the systemic challenges farmerschildren. farmers and participated in a ceremony of worldwide facefrom food insecurity to lack of access toInspiration and creativity are not often associated withgratitude before we harvested vegetables inputs and markets or social inequality underpinned bydevelopment interventions, but they are the engines thatthat are a source of food and income for the cultural and gender biases.drive change in our world. Heifers methodologiescooperative members.It has been incredible to discover the meaningfulsupport communities to negotiate their circumstances onDuring this visit, I also met with difference our work has made in harsh environments.their own terms and find opportunities that may not beproducers and cooperatives who turn local Our common mission of a world free of poverty andapparent to outsiders or even experts. ingredients into products that are well-hunger while caring for the Earth aligns us with a deeperI have been humbled by the ingenuity, bravery andreceived by local and international markets. and more meaningful purpose. Heifer championsgenius I have seen firsthand from farmers and producersFrom sausages to fruit juice, these groups are community mobilization as a powerful tool to buildwho have taken Heifer training and used the supportmaking the most of what is around them strength and encourage resilience. During my visits withoffered to build success despite significant adversity.and creating change from the inside out. farmers and producers over the last few months, I haveFor instance, in Nepal I met Bimala Bogati, secretary ofWe know it is not possible to achieve our seen the agency created by individuals coming togetherthe Bajureli self-help group comprised of 25 women. Shegoals without a primary focus on womenBimala Bogati, left, secretary of the to share their stories and vulnerabilities and build strongand her group participate in the Nepal Governmentand without a focus on food security andBajureli self-help group, shows Surita social connections so they can take advantage of thePartnership for Economic Growth, a project that aims tofarming. Itll take courage and commitment,Sandosham, center, and Neena Joshi, right, some of the goats she keeps. genius of the group. support 65,200 families to close the living income gap.but this hard work has already begun.n8| SUMMER 2023 HEIFER.ORG |9"