Heifer International has developed a set of essential principles called the Heifer Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development. All organizations and farmer groups are screened, monitored and evaluated according to these principles, and project plans made by the groups take these factors into consideration.


In the following paragraphs you can find a short description of our guiding principals.


 Heifer Cornerstones
 Passing on the Gift
Passing on the Gift embodies Heifer's philosophy of practical sharing and caring. Every family who receives an animal signs a contract to pass on the first female offspring to another family in need, and also agrees to pass on to others the training and skills that they have acquired. Many groups also choose to "pass back" an additional animal, or else a portion of sales income, to support their project.

Groups define their own needs, set goals, and plan appropriate strategies to achieve them. Heifer provides guidelines for planning the project (including the pass-on process), screening recipients, monitoring farmers' progress and conducting self-evaluations. Groups are responsible for submitting semi-annual monitoring reports to Heifer.

Sharing and Caring
Heifer believes that global problems can be solved if all people are committed to sharing what they have and caring about others. Though not easily measurable, this is one of our most important cornerstones. Sharing and caring also reflect our commitment to humane treatment of the animals in Heifer projects and our shared vision of justice for all people.

Sustainability and Self-reliance
Because Heifer funds projects for a limited time, project groups must plan to support themselves eventually. Heifer has found that self-reliance is most easily achieved when a group has varied activities and generates support from several sources.

Improved Animal Management
Feed, water, shelter, reproductive efficiency, and health care are the essential ingredients in successful livestock management. These must be available so that the livestock provided by Heifer can be kept healthy and productive. The animals should be a vital part of the farm activities without causing an extra burden on family members or the farm resources in general. The species and breed chosen must be appropriate for the area.

Nutrition and Income
Livestock contribute to human nutrition and well-being in two ways. Directly, they provide high quality protein and fiber and, indirectly, draft power for crops and transportation as well as manure for soil fertility. The livestock should have potential for profitability to provide income for education, health care, housing, and all emergencies. As living savings accounts, livestock also provide long-term economic security.

Gender and Family Focus
Gender refers to the socially-defined roles of men and women in each culture. Heifer's gender program encourages women and men to share in decision-making, ownership of the Heifer animals, labor, and the benefits of projects. Priority for funding is given to projects in which the whole family participates. On-farm employment strengthens rural families and communities by decreasing the need for migration to urban areas in search of employment. In addition to the gender program, Heifer's WiLD (Women in Livestock Development) program supports women's projects.

Genuine Need and Justice
Heifer is a partner to people who truly need an opportunity to improve the quality of their lives, and who can benefit from modest support. Group members develop their own criteria to determine who will receive animals and related inputs. The poorest in the community should be included in the group membership and receive priority for assistance. Families are eligible regardless of creed or ethnic heritage. Priority is given to groups that have traditionally been neglected.

Improving the Environment
The introduction of Heifer livestock should improve the environment by having a positive impact on one or more of the following: soil erosion, soil fertility, sanitation, forestation, biodiversity, pollution, wildlife, and watershed conditions. In addition, the livestock should not cause or worsen any environmental problems.

Full Participation
Heifer works with grassroots groups or intermediary organizations representing grassroots groups. A truly effective group has strong leadership and organization and is committed to involving all members in decision-making. Members of the group "own" the project, and the groups have control over all key decisions.

Training and Education
Groups decide their own training needs and local people are involved as trainers. Training includes formal sessions as well as informal (farm visits, demonstrations, model or promoter farmers) and is "hands-on" more than academic. In addition to training in livestock husbandry and care of the environment, groups have requested training in diverse topics such as food processing, marketing, group formation and human nutrition.

Spirituality is common to all people and groups, regardless of their religion or beliefs. Spirituality is expressed in values, beliefs about the value and meaning of life, a sense of connectedness to the earth, and a shared vision of the future. It often creates a strong bond among group members and gives them faith, hope and a sense of responsibility to work together for a better future.



 The 12 factors form the acronym Passing on the Gifts:


    P assing on the Gift                                                     G enuine Need and Justice
        A ccountability                                                               I mproving the Environment
            S haring and Caring                                                            F ull Participation
                S ustainability and Self-reliance             on the                        T raining and Education
                    I mproved Animal Management                                                    S pirituality
                        N utrition and Income
                            G ender and Family Focus