Leonard Birahira has been connected to Heifer International in Gicumbi District for the last seven years, but only recently as a beneficiary of their projects. He’s been using his carpentry skills to help build stalls for farmers to keep their animals, a requirement for all Heifer beneficiaries, and just last month received his own dairy cow as part of Heifer’s projects in Rwanda. Dr. Dennis Karamuzi, the Director of Programs for Heifer Rwanda, told me that he’s looking forward to seeing this family in two years. Right now they live in a mud house, without electricity or running water, things the other Heifer beneficiaries we visited were able to get after they began raising cows and selling milk.
And Heifer’s work is now being recognized—and supported—by the Rwandan government. In 2008 the government instituted the One Cow Per Poor Household Program, which aims to give the 257,000 of the poorest households in the country training and support to raise milk for home consumption. But Heifer, says, Dr. Karamuzi, is also building an exit strategy by connecting farmers to cooperatives, which can organize and train farmers themselves.
For more on Heifer International’s work in Rwanda, please see the following links: Rwanda Sustainable Dairy Enterprise Development Project and Miracle Cows in Rwanda.