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Two weeks ago, I got a rare opportunity to volunteer for a full day with Send A Cow Rwanda. I had a scheduled trip to do an assignment in Uganda, and Green Micro-finance, which has a working relationship with Send A Cow in Rwanda arranged for me to make the trip, meeting my airline flight from Entebbe to Kigali and back to Entebbe. Green Micro-finance works to merge the environmental and microfinance sectors. They develop environmentally sustainable programs in partnership with local microfinance institutions and non-government organizations. Green Micro-finance working with the Executive Director of Send A Cow Rwanda, James Pimundu, worked out the details for a seamless trip. James already had a scheduled meeting in Nairobi which meant that I did not see him. But he left his wonderful staff that I worked with and traveled with me to the field to capture some of the many amazing development stories in which Send A Cow has been involved. Angelique and Laurent, both senior employees of Send A Cow in Rwanda were involved in the details of the mission.

Without rambling much about myself, my this and my that, I would like to quickly talk about the work of Send A Cow in Rwanda. First, it is important to understand that 10 hours is not sufficient to capture exhaustively the magnitude of the impact that Send A Cow is having on the ground in Rwanda. However, it is also better to have something than having nothing at all. I do take photos better than I write and so I will let the photos do their own taking. But for some useless details, the photo may not speak or the interpreter may miss the message. For example, you would be keen to know that we visited four families, all of which have received a cow from Send A Cow – Rwanda. The concept of Sending A Cow is very simple and multi-edged sword, if there is such a thing. The whole idea is to promote development of family based businesses through agricultural practices that in turn not only generate income, but also ensure food security, better agricultural science and community building. At Send A Cow, they help farmers to access seeds, cows, goats and poultry; to use land more effectively and efficiently; they train the small farmers on business and marketing skills, better hygiene and sanitation, improved nutrition, green energy solutions, and ultimately, all these are pathways out of poverty.

For example, if a cow is given to a home, that translates into food for the home through milk. Milk is a very nutritious product for children. Some families receive up about 20 liters of milk from a single cow every day. They drink some, share some with poor neighbors and sell the rest for an income. The compost manure from the cow is used to improve crop productivity. Very tiny plots of land have been made into highly productive gardens for vegetables that are eaten at home, while others get sold. Manure can also be used for creating green energy, also called biogas energy. This is used for both cooking meals and lighting the home. One of the families said that since they got their biogas installed 2 years ago, they have not used charcoal or fuelwood; not once. This family owns two cows. Deforestation is the single largest threat to environmental degradation in Africa. Albeit initial installation costs for biogas can be high for the rural people, combined benefits and the long terms savings have no price tag. Send A Cow helps its clients to attain these installations, and so does the government of Rwanda, in very highly subsidized deals. As you know, the Rwanda Government instituted the One Cow Per Family Program, of which, Send A Cow is also partner. And for this particular program, the government says of the aim of its ‘One Cow Per Poor Family’ policy is to provide every poor family in the country with good quality, suitable livestock – not just cows – by 2020.” The One Cow Per Family program is partly attributed the drastic decline in poverty levels, cutting it by 12% in just the last 6 years, according to the LA Times.

Send A Cow has been doing this kind of work since the 1980’s starting in Uganda. Every family that receives a cow is supposed to pass on the gift of a first born female cow to another person. And that’s how everyone pays it forward.

 

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