The Cattle on a Thousand Hills

April 22, 2014 • Bolivia

A dairy cattle program in the Bolivian highlands helps lead a woman to faith in Christ while also providing the means for her to care for her children

Delfina Copa spent most of her time and energy on mere survival when she was growing up. Born in a region of the Bolivian highlands where nearly 98 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, she lacked opportunities to attend school, develop friendships, and participate in fun activities.

Her daily struggle continued into adulthood. After getting married, Delfina and her husband shared the workload at their farm. But when her husband passed away, Delfina became the sole provider for her three children.

If life was hard before, it now seemed a nightmare.

In an effort to make her work more manageable, Delfina decided to reduce the farm’s production mix and focus her energy on raising dairy cattle. Nonetheless, it still proved to be a challenge.

Simple activities such as collecting water for her cattle could take up most of the day. The nearest water source was five kilometers away, and Delfina spent hours traveling back and forth. To make things worse, her neighbor became increasingly hostile due to his fear that Delfina would deplete his only water source.

The dairy cattle program provided a way out of extreme poverty for Delfina and her children.

The dairy cattle program provided a way out of extreme poverty for Delfina and her children.

Delfina’s children had dreams of escaping their present reality. But the way things were going, it seemed their hopes would never materialize. Delfina barely made enough to survive, much less provide her children with a proper education.

Then, Delfina heard that Samaritan’s Purse was interested in working with dairy farmers in her community to form a producers’ association.

Our animals and agriculture program in Bolivia reaches out to struggling farmers with physical and spiritual help. They are given animals and technical assistance. They also have an opportunity to hear the Gospel message from our evangelism team and an invitation to accept Christ as their Savior.

Since Delfina was already raising dairy cattle, the opportunity piqued her interest. She began attending all the training sessions. She was eager to learn and apply new concepts, and quickly became one of the most outstanding participants in the program.

A new well became a much-needed water source close at hand.

A new well became a much-needed water source close at hand.

She began farming and feeding her cattle improved forage crops (oats, barley, and alfalfa) using the seed provided by Samaritan’s Purse. Her cattle soon began producing more milk than ever. Shortly after, she followed the advice of Samaritan’s Purse technical staff and exchanged all her native cows (which produced less than three liters of milk a day) for Holsteins (which produced up to 10).

Over several years, Samaritan’s Purse continued to help Delfina, allowing her to increase production while saving time and effort. A new well alleviated the water source issue. Delfina also received a stable where she could keep her cattle during the night.

In the Bolivian highlands, temperatures often drop below freezing. Statistics indicate that the mortality rate among newborn calves is influenced significantly by the climate. With a stable, cattle are kept warm through the cold winter nights and mortality rates drop, ensuring the continuous production of milk over longer periods of time.

Delfina experienced another major life change at a training session one day when she decided to receive Christ as her Savior. Since then, she has been growing in her faith and is sharing what she learns with her children.

“Before I felt lonely, but now I know that God is always with me,” she said.

The shed helps the cattle survive the cold winter nights.

The shed helps the cattle survive the cold winter nights.

Today, Delfina has four Holstein cows, three calves, and one bull. Three of her cows are currently in production and provide an average of eight liters of milk each day. She is then able to produce and sell seven blocks of cheese, earning over $15 (105 bolivianos) a day. In a month she can now make up to $450—a significant increase in a country where the minimum wage is less than $150 a month.

Even better, Delfina is able to help her children pursue their life-long dreams. Her daughter, who never would have been able to afford higher education on her mother’s previous income, is currently enrolled in a university program, giving her hope of a brighter future.

Delfina is very encouraged by the way things have turned out. She no longer has to struggle just to survive, and she feels blessed to be a part in building a better future for her children.

“I thank Samaritan’s Purse for teaching me how to raise dairy cattle, and for building me a stable and a well,” she said. “I want to continue to grow spiritually and economically and raise more cows. This will allow me to send my other children to school.”