Link a través de Heifer

The mission of Heifer International, a development organization, is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth, through an approach whose distinctive hallmark is “Passing on the Gift.” The idea is that each family shares the training it receives and gives to another family the first female offspring of an animal donated to it, thus widening the impact of the original gift and allowing low-income families to become donors and active agents in improving their communities.

In Mesoamerica, Heifer works in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua; in the Caribbean, Haiti; and in South America, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru.

In the last 5 years, Heifer has broadened its programs and projects, which focused initially on sustainable production of livestock (including small species), to promote the inclusion of small-scale producers in value chains, so that rural families can boost their incomes and overcome poverty. Heifer´s strategies for promoting the economic empowerment of women and young people, building social capital, and strengthening rural grassroots organizations form the basis for its relationship with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

CIAT shares Heifer´s commitment to strengthening farmers´ links with markets and to this end, has developed the LINK Methodology, which helps build and improve inclusive commercial relationships between small-scale producers and buyers.

The Heifer, CIAT, and LINK connection

In 2013, Heifer began connecting some of its work in Nicaragua, which formed part of its Sustainable Agriculture and Livestock in Hillsides (GANASOL, its acronym in Spanish) project, with initiatives that CIAT was then developing in Central America.

Next, in September 2014, Heifer obtained funds from the Ford Foundation to carry out a regional project, called Rural Women on the Road to Prosperity, in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition to Heifer and Ford, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and local organizations also provided resources.  In this project, Heifer´s objective was to implement and test a prototype method for linking small-scale producers with markets.

The Heifer team in Central America began learning about LINK methodology, prompting it to cultivate a closer relationship with CIAT. As a result, Heifer decided to scale out the methodology globally, adopting it internally for use in designing new projects and promoting it with local partners to strengthen the connections of producer cooperatives and associations with local, national, and regional markets.

Today, Heifer has adopted and thoroughly institutionalized LINK as its methodology for developing more inclusive business models, which are a strategic area for Heifer and its theory of change. The organization has also provided extensive training in the use of LINK for its technical teams working in South America, Asia, and Africa.

The LINK Methodology

The LINK methodology is used to (1) evaluate the current status of a business model involving a seller (which can be a producers organization, whether an association, cooperative, or first, second, or third level informal group) and a buyer (an intermediary, retailer, or wholesaler); and (2) devise collaboratively – jointly seller and buyer– a more inclusive business model with small-scale producers, which results in measurable changes.

Intended primarily for actors – like Heifer – who play a facilitating role, LINK supports them throughout the innovation process with the use of four participatory tools.

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The LINK Methodology was developed as part of the New Business Models for Sustainable Trading Relationships Project, managed by the Sustainable Food Lab in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Rainforest Alliance (RA) with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) has supported further development of the toolkit with international NGOs in Latin America, including CRS, VECO and Heifer International.

The authors of this post:

Erika Eliana Mosquera

Erika Eliana Mosquera

Communications Analyst, Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area

Jhon Jairo Hurtado

Jhon Jairo Hurtado

Researcher, Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area

Natalia Gutiérrez

Natalia Gutiérrez

Communications Analyst, Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area

Mark Lundy

Mark Lundy

Theme Leader of Linking Farmers to Markets, Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area

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