Gift of Animals Can Help Lift Families Out of Poverty

By Boaz Wadel

The story of Lawrence and his family in Zambia shows how access to basic resources, like agricultural training and farm animals, can help lift an entire family out of poverty. This Thanksgiving, consider honoring a loved one by giving a gift from the World Vision Gift Catalog to help a family in need.

Lawrence Muungo lost all of his cattle when drought hit his village in southern Zambia in 1995.

"It was painful," he says. "I felt as if I had lost the entire family. According to our culture, life lies in the cattle. This is the source of everything one needs - be it clothes, food, health, and education for our children. Living without cattle is as good as if you are dead."

In the years that followed, Zambia's dry spell continued, and Lawrence, a farmer, struggled to provide for his family. He couldn't produce enough food for them, and without any source of income, he wasn't able to send his children to school.

"I foresaw how hard life was going to be for me and my children without the animals," he says. "The pain was too much. I didn't even know where to start from."

But while Lawrence struggled, he noticed that some of his neighbors began finding a way through the crisis.

"I used to admire those [who] were able to produce something to eat despite the unfavorable rainfall pattern," he says. "They were practicing conservation farming using the potholing methods, which they said World Vision had trained them in to survive."

He wanted to learn these techniques to provide for his family, and World Vision selected Lawrence for conservation farming training. As part of the program, he also received two cows, which were given through the World Vision Gift Catalog. The organization taught him how to care for the livestock and protect them from disease.

As a result of the cattle, the family's income grew, and Lawrence had more opportunities to improve his family's wellbeing. "I never had a garden before but started it after receiving cattle from World Vision," he says. "I was able to invest in vegetable production, too. Now my children have good health - not only because of good food they eat, but because I am able to afford to take them to the clinic when they fall ill."

With the money Lawrence has made from his two cows, he purchased two more. The extra animals help him cultivate his fields and provide more resources for his wife and six children.

"Cattle mean everything to us. I am getting a lot of benefits from the animals," Lawrence says. "Our nutrition is catered for through the milk and vegetables we are getting from the garden. We have sufficient food all the time, and my children now have a privilege to be in school because I am now able to pay their school fees."

"Just as the Bible says, 'I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty, you gave me water,' this is exactly what [World Vision] has done to me," Lawrence says of the donors who made his cows possible through the World Vision Gift Catalog.

"You saved me when you gave me the cows and trained me...and now I am able to stand on my own again because I am able to take my children to school and I have plenty of food."

World Vision initially distributed 200 cattle to the entire community, and through training, breeding, proper care, and purchasing additional animals, Lawrence's community now has more than 1,250 cattle.

He says, "My appeal to donors is that they should not end here but continue to help others out there, who I know are as desperate as I was, because their communities are as vulnerable as ours was."

Ways you can help

This Thanksgiving season, World Vision's Gift Catalog offers more than 100 ways you can honor a loved one and provide life-changing help and hope to a child, family, or even an entire community.

Help provide the gift of a cow to a family like Lawrence's. Cows provide a family with milk so children get much-needed nutrients that are crucial to their development, and the surplus milk can also be sold to help boost a family's income.

Give the gift of tools, training, and seeds. To support their families, farmers in developing countries like Lawrence must get the best possible crop yields. Your gift provides families with things like hoes, harvesting equipment, fertilizer, and irrigation kits, plus training in improved farming methods and fast-growing, drought-resistant seeds.

© 2013 World Vision