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Heifer, Elanco Forge the Road to Reducing Hunger in China


Roadwork is so commonplace in the United States that most of us view it as a hassle.

But participants on a recent Elanco-Heifer partnership trip to China learned what a momentous difference accessible roads can make. They saw how a road serves as a lifeline to an entire village.

And they traced this success back to its source: a gift of animals and training from Heifer International. By addressing hunger in a sustainable way, Heifer is creating stronger, sustainable villages full of possibilities now that they have resources.

A group of 15 people learned these and other lessons firsthand during a tour to China in June as part of the Elanco-Heifer partnership. Participants included personnel from Elanco technical, marketing, sales, and R&D, as well as swine veterinarians from Poland and Spain. During the trip, they experienced the challenges of global hunger and the success of the Heifer model. At each stop, the veterinarians provided advice and suggestions for improving swine health and management practices.

“It was humbling and inspirational,” said Jan Kropacz, who works for Elanco as Country Supervisor in Poland.“I saw indescribable conditions. But the people were determined—they simply want a better life for their families, like we all do. Through Heifer, we saw how to make that happen.”

The passing of the gift

Reaching one remote mountain village required riding a ferry and navigating roads in treacherous condition. Since 2010, when the villagers began raising pigs, they’ve implemented a bio-gas system to transform waste into fuel. They also began selling bamboo and green tea.

Through their growing commerce, the villagers hope to pave the road to the village and open access to more customers, many of whom refuse to trek up the rocky, and oftentimes muddy, mountain road.

While in this village of about 800 families, the Elanco team witnessed a “passing of the gift” ceremony. Passing of the gift is a core element of Heifer International. Heifer recipients pass offspring of an animal on to another person. Enabling Heifer recipients to become donors helps create a cycle of sustainability that builds esteem and develops a sense of community.

 “We didn’t speak the language, but words weren’t necessary. The appreciation of the recipient was apparent,” said Miguel-Angel Higuera, Co-director of Anprogapor, a swine producer board in Spain. “It was striking to realize that a few piglets ultimately can lead to roads, schools and flourishing businesses.”

A bridge to the future

Another village serves as a model for Heifer Projects in the region. This village has organized a cooperative to buy and sell pigs, which they raise using fermentation beds. These beds are made of crude fiber materials and biological additives. The beds absorb manure while also forming a natural barrier to defend against harmful organisms. Thus the beds help keep the pigs healthy while generating zero emissions.

Before the Heifer project, this village encountered serious access problems. A river often flooded, limiting access to and from the village. This prohibited villagers from working, and children from attending school. Through the success of the Heifer Project, the village was able to build a concrete bridge, connecting them to a promising future.

Protein once a year

The trip also highlighted the importance of community. Each project requires full commitments from families in the village, plus the cooperation of governments, community partners, Heifer and its sponsors.

The Elanco team saw how the Heifer model of teaching—rather than giving—creates sustainability and hope. Heifer and its partners bring training, education and resources to places they’re desperately needed, creating new opportunities.

Elanco and Heifer continue working in China through a separate project, supporting 800 families in Hebei Province with livestock, training and community development. It’s part of Elanco’s commitment to sustainably bring 100,000 families worldwide out of hunger.

“These projects require resources, patience, discipline—and mostly passion, which we saw in everyone we met,” said Ginger Pelger, Global Swine Marketing. Some villagers noted they can only afford meat, milk or eggs about once a year. “Seeing the lack of food—and the lack of ability to produce food—really magnifies the importance of what we do at Elanco, which is to help provide the world with safe, affordable, abundant food.”