News

Son of Nepalese Farmers Heads American Livestock Donation Program, Tsunami Relief Project

Rebuilding the Indian Ocean communities destroyed by the December tsunami will take money, time… and livestock, which so many farmers in the region rely on for their livelihood. An organization based in Little Rock, Arkansas called Heifer International has earmarked 2 million dollars for programs to provide those animals, along with training and other support. Heading up this effort is Mahendra Lohani, a native of Nepal and Heifer's Program Director for Asia and the South Pacific.

Under the direction of its founder, an Indiana farmer named Dan West, Heifer's first project sent eighteen cows to needy families in Puerto Rico, along with trainers to teach them how to care for the animals. That was sixty years ago. Since then, the organization's principles have not changed, but - as Mahendra Lohani notes - the scale of its assistance has grown considerably.

"We have country offices in thirty-six countries at the moment, on all the five continents," he says.  "These country officers receive requests from grass-roots communities who wish to partner with Heifer. The Heifer country office responds to those requests, they do the screening process, and if they find that it is appropriate and technically and financially feasible, they provide the support.

The support continues to be primarily in the form of country-appropriate livestock and training. Heifer provides water buffalo to farmers in India, and llamas to peasants in the highlands of Bolivia and Peru. Throughout the world, it gives geese, pigs, chickens, rabbits, bees, sheep and, of course, heifers to people who will breed the animals and thus be able to sustain themselves, and help their neighbors, as well. Mr. Lohani says a guiding philosophy of his organization's assistance programs is "Pass the Gift."

"If Heifer provides any help to a family in need, then this help should be effective in increasing the nutrition and income of the family, and after some time the family should be willing to help another family that's in need," says Dr. Lohani. "So that the help that Heifer provides to the first family will not stop there, it will rather keep on multiplying. In theoretical terms, any assistance we provide to any family should keep on rolling to other needy families in and around the community."

Mahendra Lohani worked with Heifer International as a volunteer in Nepal for four years before becoming the program's director in that country in 1997. Two years ago he was offered the position of Asia-South Pacific Program Director, and moved with his family to Little Rock, in the southern state of Arkansas. The roots of Dr. Lohani's interest in livestock, agriculture, and the fate of needy farmers go deep.

"I was born in a small subsistence farm family in the mountains of Nepal, about six hours walking distance from the capital, Kathmandu--no road, at that time!" he says. "In order to go to my village from Kathmandu I had to pass a mountain that was about 7 thousand feet (2000 meters).  I lived in a family that had a couple of cows, one or two milking buffalos, eight to ten small goats and a few chickens. My childhood was spent just like any other children in the family, taking care of animals, bringing animals to grazing land."

Eventually young Mahendra was sent to school in Kathmandu. After graduation, he won a scholarship to study veterinary medicine in India, and continued his education in the Philippines, where he received a master's degree and a doctorate in veterinary medicine and agricultural economics. Returning to Nepal he worked for some years in a district veterinary hospital, providing veterinary and animal husbandry services to local farmers. In 1990 Mahendra Lohani was awarded a prestigious Hubert Humphrey scholarship for post-graduate study in the United States. He says he remembers his first impressions of this country vividly.

"Yes. It was really overwhelming," he recalls, laughing.  "Big cities. I was brought to Austin, Texas for cultural orientation, etcetera, and stayed for six months there. Wow!" He laughs again.  "The first thing that I found most difficult was the food. In Asia we're used to eating rice - Nepal, India, the Philippines, everywhere, it's rice and spicy food," says Mahendra Lohani. "Here there was no rice at all! So those were difficult times, a little bit. Another challenge was understanding the language, especially the southern accent in Texas. I was not used to that kind of English."

Although the fast-paced American lifestyle and the individualism of Americans also took some getting used to, Dr. Lohani says that he and his family are adjusting well to their new life in Little Rock. He says that for him, the biggest satisfaction of living in the United States is the ability to help farmers in more than one country, by working in the capacity of Director of Programs for Asia and South Pacific. Just now, in fact, he's on his way to the area hit by the deadly tsunami in December to assess what assistance Heifer International can provide.

"Our staff and our consultants are working with local grass-roots community organizations in the four hardest hit countries - Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India - as to what kind of support would be appropriate, specifically related to livestock and agriculture-related input in rehabilitation and settlement and future community development," says Mahendra Lohani.  "Our focus would be in delivering animals that are appropriate to the families that are affected, training them how to take care of those animals and get the best results and highest benefits. In addition we will teach them how to mobilize their local resources, including the savings and credit among themselves in the long run."

Dr. Lohani anticipates that Heifer International's project to help tsunami survivors will take three years to implement. After that there would be a two-year follow-up period, to assure that the gains and progress made remain sustainable after Heifer's trainers and staff pull out of the region.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs