NYARUGURU - Vincent Rurangwa is a happy man. As president of a local farmer’s cooperative, he has seen his members take big strides out of the vicious cycle of poverty they were previously trapped in. He now considers himself to be part of the success story shining through this region.
It all started in 2008 as part of the One-Cow-Per-Family initiative, when Rurangwa was one of the first 50 beneficiaries of this scheme. He has since never looked back.
“The circle of poverty had trapped my family. I could not afford to cultivate my half hectare piece of land because it was not productive at all. I only survived by providing manual labour to sustain my family,” says the father of four.
But things changed for the better for Rurangwa and his fellow cooperative members with support from this new initiative.
“We were well prepared to benefit from all that the initiative brought with it. With support from the Ministry of Local Government through the Communal Development Fund, PAFOR and the Multi-sector investment group (MIG), we were able to terrace our steep plots of land to protect boost our farm incomes,” he said.
“The cows provided the much needed animal manure which we applied on our farms and production has since been impressive,” Rurangwa added.
The cooperative members from Ngoma sector are able keep animals and work on their farms (terraces) which has seen their production increasing ten fold.
“We always agree on a particular crop to cultivate every season. In the previous seasons, we have planted potatoes, maize and beans and have registered bumper harvests,” he said.
According to Rurangwa, the cows produce between 4-6 litres of milk daily. The milk is collected and sold at the nearby Rwanda-Burundi border.
“We only sell the milk we get in the morning, what we get in the evening is consumed locally within the households,” he said.
With proceeds from the milk and farm produce, Rurangwa, like the rest of his cooperative members, can provide for his family and manage to save for the future.
“I get pleasure in seeing my family well taken care of, my children can now go to school and all my family members have medical insurance,” said an excited Rurangwa.
Farmers in the cooperative have also embarked on a collective initiative for taking care of the cows for the purposes of accessing best practises.
The cooperative also mobilises members to settle within Imidugudu (community settlements) where they are able to access social services more easily.
“Now that members have some disposable income, buying construction materials will be easy,” he says.
Rurangwa hopes to expand his half hectare of land as his income increases but his sole preoccupation is seeing his children go through school.
“It is exciting to see my children go to school, I will do everything to support them. They are the sole reason I am working so hard,” he said.
Last Thursday, Rurangwa and his colleagues who received cows in 2008 in turn passed on the calves to the other 34 residents in a move which is meant to ensure that all families will eventually benefit from the initiative.
It was all excitement for Clementine Niyitegeka as she received her cow. “I have been waiting for this moment for so long. I have prepared well to receive this cow, I have seen the benefits it has brought to my colleagues and I believe it won’t be any different for me,” she said.
According to Dr Theogene Rutagwenda, the director general of the Rwanda Animal Resources Development Authority (RARDA), One Cow-Per-Family initiative has greatly helped in stemming rural poverty.
“This area in known for barren soils but with the application of animal manure and terracing, food production has gone up and the famine that characterised this area is now a thing of the past,” Rutagwenda said.
Land terracing has also provided a solution to the cow diseases like black quarter (locally known as Ubutaka) which had ravaged the area leading to loss of animal and human life.
“The disease is caused by the clostridium chauvei bacteria that reside in the soil. When soil is washed away down to the valleys, the concentration of these bacteria is shifted downstream.
This proves fatal for animals that graze in these areas and people who eat meat from these animals,” he said.
The RARDA director added that terracing has controlled soil erosion hence keeping the bacteria concentration to less harmful levels.
The district has since 2006 given out over 3,000 cows which have boosted food production on the over 28,000 hectares of consolidated land that has so far being reclaimed.