The Heifer International Model of Sustainable Adult Education

The Heifer International Model of Sustainable Adult Education

Carrie J. Boden McGill (University of Arkansas at Little Rock, USA) and Lauren Merritt (University of Arkansas at Little Rock, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2181-7.ch012
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Heifer International, an organization devoted to ending hunger and poverty through sustainable development, has worked throughout the world by giving “living loans” of gifts of livestock and training while empowering individuals and communities to turn lives of hunger and poverty into self-reliance and hope. To train a country’s population is to increase that country’s “human capital,” and educating the population while expanding the human capital is a necessity in order for developing countries to benefit from globalization. The Heifer model of adult sustainable education demonstrates the importance of education and training for people of the developing world, and not only can this model be adopted in developing countries for emerging “learning societies,” but it may be used to inform policies and practices in the developed world as well.
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Heifer International was founded by Dan West, a Midwestern farmer and Church of the Brethren relief worker during the Spanish Civil War. During his service, West was forced to decide who would receive rations and who would not—literally, who would live and who would die. He concluded, “these children don’t need a cup, they need a cow” (Our History, 2010). When West returned home, he formed Heifers for Relief, an organization that provided families with livestock and training so they “could be spared the indignity of depending on others to feed their children” (Our History, 2010). The first shipment of 17 heifers arrived in Puerto Rico in 1944; these animals provided nourishment to malnourished children who had never before tasted milk. West chose heifers because the young cows who had not yet given birth could be used for a source of milk and their offspring could be donated to another family in need. The organization, now known as Heifer International, has continued with the simple idea of giving families a source of food rather than short-term relief.

Heifer International is devoted to eliminating hunger and poverty through sustainable development. Hunger and poverty occur worldwide because of a multitude of unfavorable economic and environmental conditions, and as a result, food and resources are scarce among many communities. The concept of sustainable development implies that, unless effective measures are taken to prevent deterioration of our communities (Mammino, 2011) and the larger world, it may be difficult for future generations to survive. The primary goal of Heifer International is to work with communities to become self-reliant and to end poverty and hunger around the world. The crux of Heifer's mission is working in partnership with community groups (T. Montgomery, personal communication, November 8, 2011), and since it began the organization has helped 15.5 million families in more than 125 countries move toward greater self-reliance (Heifer International, 2011). Honoring its core values, Heifer International is continually evolving into a stronger, more coherent and unified organization committed to providing a deep and profound sustainable impact though all of its programs and projects (Heifer International, 2011).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Taking Social Action: The belief that participation in educational programming will result in either caring for the earth, responsible consumption, encouraging others to take action and modify behaviors, and volunteering or donating.

Institutional Assets: Allow communities develop technical skills to manage their resources, sustain projects, and build community leadership.

Nutritional Assets: Involve effective utilization of food to increase food access in the community and to meet the nutritional needs of community members.

Social Assets: Include building and sharing of community knowledge, educational opportunities, gender equity, and family income.

Global Education: Educational process and activities that are generally designed for youth and young adults to foster skills, values, and active participation in order to initiate change in making the world a more sustainable environment.

Experiential Learning: Engaging in activities and experiences where the participant gains knowledge by actively participating and reflecting on the learning experience.

Field-Based Training: Informal/non-formal training that takes place in real-world contexts and environments and prepares participants to solve problems and situations that will likely occur.

Environmental Assets: Groups work together to improve the environment and manage resources to lessen environmental degradation.

Sustainability: Involves the responsibility to manage resources (environmental, economic, etc.) in order to preserve these resources in communities and regions around the world.

Sustainable Education: Training and educating individuals on sustainable practices and development.

Social Justice-Based Training: The training of individuals and/or communities to evoke individual, societal, and cultural changes in eliminating oppression.

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