A Buffalo Helps a Mom in Nepal Pay It Forward

Sabitra Guragain never thought she’d be giving a buffalo calf to her neighbor. In her small village in Nepal, many don’t have the income to support their own families, let alone others in the community. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world; half the population is unemployed, and only one in three women in Nepal is able to read.

Yet Sabitra overcame the odds and is now helping others in her community with help from Heifer International, an organization Gaiam and its customers support through Gaiam’s Thoughtful Tees program.

Entered into an arranged marriage as a young teen, Sabitra has four young children to feed. But illness and work shortages plagued the family, leaving them unable to afford milk.

Sabitra’s life changed when Heifer International sent representatives to her community to talk about its Women in Livestock Development program and New Light Women's Program. Through this and other initiatives, Heifer International is working to change the fact that in developing countries, women are responsible for producing 80 percent of the food, yet own less than 1 percent of the land and have little access to education or work skills to sustain their families. Heifer provides women and families in these countries with the keys to sustainable income and self-reliance.

Representatives from Heifer International helped Sabitra form a group of 15 women in her community. Each agreed to save 16 cents a month toward shelters and feed for a small herd of water buffalo. After they completed training in areas like livestock and development, they each trotted home a healthy buffalo milk cow. Each cow produces enough milk to sustain a family and provide surplus to sell to others in the community. Some will also bear young that can be sold for additional income.

Sabitra sells more than seven gallons of excess milk a day, helping to send her daughter to college and earning enough to build a new house for her family.

“The buffalo transformed my life,” says Sabitra. “Heifer International brought lasting changes in my entire community.”

The water buffalo also gave Sabitra a way to share Heifer International’s gift with others and empower more women and families in her village. In less than a year she paid it forward, giving her buffalo’s first calf to a neighbor and championing the building of a four-room school in her village to keep improving quality of life in this community for generations.


Gaiam’s Thoughtful Tees program, in effect from 2007–2009, benefited worthy nonprofit causes including Heifer International, Action Against Hunger, The Conservation Fund, Doctors Without Borders, Rebuilding Together, The Solar Living Institute, World Wildlife Federation and more. For each tee sold, Gaiam donated 10% of net sales to the designated nonprofit cause.

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