The African Development Bank (AfDB) is supporting Rwanda’s government in its One Cow per Poor Family programme, which has drawn on national culture and tradition to respond to the high rate of childhood malnutrition and poverty in the country
The African Development Bank (AfDB) is supporting Rwanda’s government in its One Cow per Poor Family programme, which has drawn on national culture and tradition to respond to the high rate of childhood malnutrition and poverty in the country.
The premise is to provide a dairy cow to poor rural households and so add nutrition to the family diet, boost agricultural output through improved soil fertility, and generate income through the sale of dairy products.
Beneficiaries of the programme had to be considered by the local community to be poor, honest, and as never previously having owned a cow.
Another stipulation for acceptance into the programme was having enough land to raise feed for the cattle.
The animals also have to meet specific criterion in order to be donated; they must be healthy and free from bovine diseases like brucellosis and pleuropneumonia, aged over 18 months and therefore able to produce calves, and must come from good stock like the European breeds Friesian and Jersey.
The programme provides training to the recipients of cows, including the basics of cattle breeding and nutrition and the scientific testing of milk samples.
Housekeeping and management skills’ training was also integrated in the programme.
More than 180,000 households had received a cow according to an AfDB report published in 2015, with the prediction that 350,000 cows would be provided to poor families by 2017.
A third of these beneficiaries were women, in a deliberate choice by Rwandan authorities.
The long term moral and financial benefits have given stability to an otherwise precarious living.
The income resulting from joining the project has enabled struggling residents to get loans from local banks in order to improve or re-build their homes.
Furthermore, health officials say that in the last three years malnutrition in rural areas has significantly decreased, and agricultural production has seen improvement as cow manure is used to fertilise the cattle owners’ vegetable and cereal fields.
Milk production is also helping many families to be able to afford school fees and expand property.
Milk collection centres are part of the programme’s wider efforts to improve infrastructure, giving dairy farmers the opportunity to supply their excess milk to increasingly accessible centres that process, bottle and market the dairy products.
The IAKIB Cooperative in the Gicumbi Province can process 20,000 litres a day, whilst centres like the Manyagiro Milk Collection Centre provide pharmacy services to treat cattle.
Subsidised treatment costs farmers $5 and includes azotes to protect sperm and foodstuffs to help cows produce a better quality and quantity of milk.
A spinoff business has also developed from the thriving dairy industry: some entrepreneurial locals charge to collect milk from farmers and transport it to the dairy cooperative.