341,065 (97.4%) poor families received cows under Girinka – One Cow per Poor Family Programme last year against the target of 350,000 cows that the cow-stocking scheme targeted to distribute among needy households, then.
Girinka Programme was initiated in 2006 by President Paul Kagame, as one of the home-grown initiatives existing within the national social protection initiatives after realising that a big number of children under five years were malnourished.
It is based on a model that a cow brings nutrition, sustenance and employment, providing a stable income for a family and is a source of soil nutrients via manure to assist small farming.
The programme is acclaimed by beneficiaries and implementers for transforming rural livelihoods and achieving poverty alleviation in Rwanda.
A poor family receives a heifer raises it and when she gives birth, the first female calf is given to another poor family and the process continues.
Marie Benjamine Mukakaziga, 50, mother of two, was leading a miserable life before getting a cow through Girinka.
Now she has five cows, and sells between 20 and 30 litres of milk per day from her three adult cows. A litre goes for Rwf200. She testified that Girinka had changed her life for the better.
“If it was not for Girinka, I would be suffering from malnutrition. But now, thanks to it, I and my children have enough improved nutrition,” Mukakaziga said revealing that she had also bought about five hectares of land and built a house worthover Rw5 million.
The Chairman of Rwanda Civil Society Platform, Jean Léonard Sekanyange, said that the set target might not be achieved as one wishes due to various probable reasons, citing cows that died because the weather was not suitable to some cow, or lack of veterinary services.
However, he said, such issues occurred during the early stages of the scheme, observing that, they were later addressed.
“The Girinka impact is 100 positive,” he said.
“It contributed to the welfare of needy families, and transformed their lives financially as it helped them get out of poverty,” he said.
The Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Gérardine Mukeshimana, said told Sunday Times that economic impacts of the progranne include an increase in milk production; supporting Rwanda to start the school milk program (One Cup of Milk per Child Programme); improved livelihood of beneficiaries.
“It has created employment to the population; improved agriculture production. Individual farmers have been able to take loans to engage in development. [It also] improved environment protection (planting of grass and trees for fodder),” she said.
In addition, she said, it achieved social impact as it contributed to improvement in the social welfare of receiving families, and fostered social cohesion among Rwandans.
Talking about the challenges that the programme implementation faced, Minister Mukeshimana cited there were many needy households compared to the capacity of the program (high demand, and low capacity of some beneficiaries to look after the cows.