Ninety-five vulnerable households in Nyaruguru District have so far received cows donated by a benevolent livestock farmer in the area to help improve their livelihoods.
Jean Damascene Gasinzigwa, a survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, says he started the compassionate act in the post-Genocide period, starting with disadvantaged survivors.
“Before the Genocide I had forty cows which were all looted. Afterwards, I reorganised and managed to restock. Shortly after, I started donating to other survivors, particulary the most vulnerable,” he said.
“My intention was to help them revive and try to rebuild their families regardless of the atrocities they had endured.”
He said he derives his gesture from the belief that happiness is not derived from what people get, but from what they give.
“My neighbours kept approaching me asking for cows. I gave out without discrimination because what mattered to me was to help people improve their livelihoods,” he said.
Complementing Girinka programme
The 66-year-old says, besides giving cows to poor families as a cultural norm, he was inspired by the one-cow-per-family (Girinka) programme.
The Girinka programme was initiated by the Government in 2006 to help address poverty and childhood malnutrition.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, more than 203,000 households have hitherto benefited from the Girinka programme nationwide.
The target is 350,000 households by 2017.
“There are some people who needed milk for their children and fertilisers for crops. I chose to supplement this noble initiative by the government,” he added.
Currently, Gasinzigwa has over fifty cows.
Antoine Bisizi, the Nyaruguru vice-mayor in charge of Finance and Economic Development, told The New Times that the district has awarded Gasinzigwa a certificate of recognition for his kind gestures.
“Culturally, a cow is a symbol of unity and solidarity. This man’s actions demonstrate the best of humanity, he is worth emulating. We encourage others to learn from him to do things that will help uplift people’s living standards,” Bisizi said.
Emmanuel Ndindabahizi, a father of three from Kibeho Sector, was given a cow in 2012 by Gasinzigwa.
He says that he was very poor back then but the donation has since transformed his life and that of his family. He said he will soon start to donate cows to needy neighbours.
He says, besides having daily milk for his family, he managed to improve his farming from 30 kilogrammes of beans to 100 kilogrammes per season, thanks to fertilisers from the cow he received.
“I pay health insurance for my family; we’ve kicked out malnutrition in my family. I bought farmland, constructed a house and relocated from a high risk zone. I plan to buy a motorbike to use in my daily business,” said Ndindabahizi.