Livestock, as one the 2020 vision implementation measures designed

and especially cattle, have historically played multiple roles both in economic
life and in socio-cultural traditions of Rwandan people. Cattle have been
valued not simply as a source of food (milk, blood and meat) and hides but also
as a visible form of wealth and a source of social prestige. Therefore, cattle
have a high potential for poverty reduction and welfare for rural people.

the various potential benefits and services that farm animals can provide, the
government of Rwanda implemented a program called “Girinka” (one cow per poor
family) for poverty alleviation. This program has been approved by the Rwandan
cabinet in 2006 as one the 2020 vision implementation measures designed to move
Rwanda to a middle income nation by the year 2020. The program was initiated as
a response to the high level of poverty and child malnutrition reported in
Rwanda in 2006 from the Demographic Health Survey carried out in 2005 (Rwanda
pedia,2013). The program aims also at promoting climate resilience among poor
rural families.

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Girinka program aims to improve the livelihoods of poor households by giving
them a dairy cow which for increased milk, meat and fertilizer production
(Rwandapedia, 2013). Specifically, the aim of the program is:

reduce poverty through the money from the sale of cow products

decrease malnutrition through milk consumption as child malnutrition is an
eminent concern

increase crop production by increased manure production used as fertilizers

protect soil through grass plantation: Beneficiaries are encouraged to plant
grasses for animal fodder on terraces to reduce soil erosion

promote social cohesion through the passing on the first calf to another

1.1.1.      Implementation

Rwanda agriculture board (RAB), the Girinka program is funded by Government of
Rwanda and its partners such as Line Ministries, local Non-Governmental
Organizations (NGOs) and international organizations (Heifer International,
Send a Cow, World Vision, etc.).The RAB is in charge of selection,
certification, and distribution of cows, their follow-up and the management of
both centralized budget and donations (Rwandapedia, 2013).

Girinka program provides local breeds (Ankole), cross breeds, Jersey and
Friesian breeds (Ntanyoma, 2010). Cows provided must be between 18 and 24
months old and weigh at least 250kg and free from brucellosis and contagious
bovine pleura-pneumonia (Rwandapedia, 2013).


beneficiaries of program receive the cow in two ways. They can get a cow as a
loan (Girinka y’inguzanyo) or as a donation (Girinka y’ingabirano). For the
Girinka y’inguzanyo, beneficiaries receive cows as loans from the Rwanda
National Bank without a mortgage. The beneficiaries must have a cow shed,
sufficient land for fodder cultivation and they must be able to care for the
cow. For Girinka y’ingabirano, the poor family receives a pregnant heifer and
when it calves, the first calf or the mother, depending on the district, is
given to the neighbor’s poor family who keeps it and gives the next calf or the
mother to the next poor neighbor and so on.

the selection of beneficiaries, all Village members facilitated by the Village
leader makes a list of poor households that should receive a cow. The list is
done in order of priority and it is given to the Cell and Sector leaders. When
Girinka cows get available, they start by households on the top of the list
(Rwandapedia, 2013). According to GoR, 2006, to be on the list, a beneficiary
must meet the following criteria:

already own a cow

a person of integrity in the community

considered as poor by their community and have less or no other source of

at least 0.25 – 0.75 hectares of land, of which a minimum of 0.20 ha is to be
devoted for fodder production; and those who have less than 0.25 hectares must
join to form common cow shed (Igikumba) for their cows.

to pass on the next heifer to another awaiting farmer

a cow shed prior to receiving the Girinka cow

poor beneficiaries are not able to care of the cow; the RAB provides drugs,
spray pumps and mineral salts to help them to care for the cow until it calves
(Rwandapedia, 2013). Moreover, beneficiaries in common cow sheds are given few
animal feeds during the dry season. They also give a land to grow grasses, but
each one is responsible for the feeding of his/her cow. Selected beneficiaries
are trained about cow practices before getting the cow. The training,
monitoring and evaluation are given by the RAB in partnership with local
government institutions (Rwandapedia, 2013). 
To minimize disease transmission through open grazing and also to maximize
manure collection, the program encourages zero-grazing (cut and curry) system (GoR 2009)..


the target of Girinka was to reach 257 000 beneficiaries by 2015, but this
target was revised upwards to 350 000 beneficiaries by 2017. Since its
implementation from 2006 to June 2016 a total of 248,566 cows had been
distributed to poor households all over the country, among which 39266 cows were given to Eastern province.

to the 2015 CFSVA findings, 80 percent of all households beneficiaries of the
program are food secure. According to Kayigema & Rugege, 2014, one cow per
poor family resulted in expanded land use, improved household nutrition and
food security. In fact, it was reported that in Bugesera district the average
area cultivated before receiving the cow is 1.39 hectares and 1.53 hectares
after receiving the cow, which in turn means crop intensification (Kayigema nad Rugege, 2014). The
respondents reported that there was an increase in crop production (92.5%),
eradication of child malnutrition (93.2%) and increase in savings (83.5%).
According to Smith et al (2013),
income generated from dairy products or the sale of the cow can also contribute
to resources needed for hiring labour for planting, weeding, harvesting or
increasing the area of land cultivated. S. K. Kim et al. 2013 reported that in
Ngoma district Kim et al. (2013) report that more than 90% of Girinka
beneficiaries use manure and attribute increased yields to enhanced soil
fertility which has resulted from the program. Changes in agricultural
practices resulting from the use of green fertiliser contributed to climate
change resilience, increased crop production and generated income for poor
rural women.

1.1.3.      Challenges
of Girinka

results indicate the vulnerability of the majority of the women interviewed to
water shortage stressors during extended periods of drought. They reported that
they spend a large part of their day collecting water and that this leaves them
with little time for other productive activities (Kayigema nad Rugege, 2014).

study reveals that while the government energy policy prioritizes biogas energy
production and the use of cow dung for biogas energy generation to reduce
deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere for climate
resilience, few respondents in the study could afford to buy bio digesters.
Direct benefits for women who are responsible for energy and the collection of
wood for their households are not yet being reaped and depend on affordable bio
digesters. The main problems reported by respondents were inadequate veterinary
services for care of the cow, the frequent search for water sources during
droughts and insufficient land to grow fodder.

Ngoma district, it was reported that although most farmers kept their cows
under cattle sheds (79%), many of these sheds are of poor quality construction
design and materials (e.g., inadequate interior spacing, absence of or
improvised roofing, etc.) (S. K. Kim et al. 2013). Clearly, it is
difficult to expect resource-poor farmers to build optimal cattle houses when
their basic housing needs are often not yet met (i.e., without proper roofing
or flooring)

A further problem
identified (0.8%) is corruption by the Ubudehe committee, the body responsible
for overseeing the propagation of the Girinka programme whereby beneficiaries
give a calf to a needy neighbor ((Kayigema nad Rugege, 2014). Insufficient or
no land for fodder cultivation (1.5%) and the difficulty of caring for calving
cows experienced by elderly beneficiaries (1.5%) were also cited as problems.