Gifts in action

When animals help families build a better future

In the North Shewa zone of Ethiopia, Yeshi Senyi proudly shows of her flock of sheep, started with the help of a local Oxfam partner. By building their own small herds, families can increase their incomes. Photo: Eva-Lotta Jansson/Oxfam America

Four-legged creatures can serve as a financial backbone for people in poor communities.

Who doesn’t love a good animal story—especially when it’s about the deep connection between four-legged creatures and the two-legged humans who depend on them? In a nutshell, that’s what Oxfam’s work with livestock is all about: the essential role cows and pigs, sheep and goats play in ensuring the well-being of the families who own them.

In many communities around the world, ruminants and other animals, bristly or feathered, serve as the financial backbone for poor families, helping them feed their children, pay for doctor bills, and cover school fees. That’s why, when disaster strikes, Oxfam’s emergency responses often include support for this vital household asset. Sometimes, that means providing veterinary care so herds can stay strong. It can also mean ensuring that livestock has food to eat and water to drink. And it can even mean replacing animals swept away by storms.

Without their animals, many families would slip deeper into poverty. They wouldn’t have milk or eggs to sell in the market. There would be no breeding of kids or lambs, calves or piglets for later sale. And there would be no meat or dairy products to bolster family diets.

So when Oxfam is considering ways it can help people help themselves, animals are often at the heart of those projects. They are the means of making a living, and hold the promise of a better future for families.

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