After so many years struggling to get off her feet, Mary Nkerenke has finally made it. A few years ago, Nkerenke could hardly afford meeting her two son’s school fees and her domestic necessities.
“I had no hope of my boys continuing with studies,” she says.
In 2007, by what she termed as sheer luck, Nkerenke was selected by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to be among the 50 beneficiaries of the government cattle stocking programme of One Cow per Family, commonly known as ‘Girinka’, in the Sectors of Rukira and Murama in the Ngoma district.
“It was sort of a dream to me. I could not imagine being chosen among the few beneficiaries from all the poor women in these sectors. I can only say it was luck,” she narrates.
Nkerenke received the cow at a time when she needed it most and at a time she least expected it. During that time, she was engaged in subsistence farming but it could hardly guarantee her food security. Since getting a cow however, Nkerenke’s life has changed.
“At my present state I cannot consider my self being among the poor,” she speaks with a smile. She says the cow which has now delivered a calf gives her enough manure which she applies in her gardens leading to increased food production.
“My farm land is too small, but with the use of manure I can harvest enough for me and my children and surplus is normally for sale,” she says.
The family now enjoys plenty of milk they could not afford before. She sells some milk to get extra incomes that can be used for other family developmental activities.
In addition, she is among the few families that use biogas for cooking in the sector. She no longer struggles to look for firewood which she says used to be part of her worries in the past.
For the first time in her life, she opened a savings bank account where she keeps her money. She also secured Rwf.200,000 bank loan which she added to her income streams to enable her install biogas in her home.
Nkerenke saves between Rwf50, 000 and Rwf80,000 monthly.
Meeting school necessities for her 18 and 15- year old sons who are in senior five and three respectively, is no longer her worry.
“Why then shouldn’t I consider my self blessed since I can even communicate with others on a mobile phone which I had never thought of owning before,” she wonders.
“I have heard of many women out there who have shunned livestock farming saying they cannot afford looking after them. To know how beneficial something is needs a try first. I have seen how important a cow is even if it is one and I pity those who think it cannot help them out of their problems. They should know that commitment, hard work and patience pays.”
Nkerenke is also a member of Girinka Cooperative Society in the sector unit. The society has opened a veterinary drug shop with support from LWF. It also offers livestock extension services.
Meanwhile, Rukira Sector has so far received about 450 cows from various Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s), as part of the Girinka program.