Cow rearing in Rwanda

Giving families in Rwanda the gift of cows, so they can overcome poverty and thrive!

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The Need

Rwanda is a small country in Central Africa with grassy uplands and beautiful mountains. Here, 74.5 per cent of land is used for agriculture, yet 49 per cent of children in Rwanda suffer from malnutrition. While many families in Rwanda have access to agricultural land, they cannot afford to purchase and raise livestock. These families struggle to provide food for their children, let alone purchasing cattle or finding funding to send them to school. Unable to concentrate due to their hunger pains, children often drop out of school and try to find work to help their families.

Compassion staff know that owning even a single cow can have a significant positive impact on families. Through the sale of livestock products like milk, parents would have the opportunity to earn a steady living and break the cycle of poverty. Families could also sell the manure from cows or use it for their own crops. Organic fertilizer boosts crop production, so families could improve their agricultural yield. They would also be able to afford nourishing food for their children, which will help prevent malnutrition.

Providing families with a cow is also a gift that provides for entire communities too. Through Rwandan tradition, when cows give birth, families give the first female calf to another family in need. The second family will repeat this process, and so on. A single cow can help change countless lives for many years to come.

Our Response

With your support, 26 families living in poverty in the Eastern and Southern provinces of Rwanda received a cow. Families living in extreme poverty were selected from across four frontline church partners. These families had the land needed to raise livestock but did not yet own any animals. Each family participated by building a cowshed to house their new cow. Our local partners helped train each family on modern ways of animal farming and showed them how to use cow rearing to improve their living conditions.

Local church leaders made partnerships with government veterinary officials to ensure that the cows gifted to families met the standards provided by the local leadership. Before each family received their gift, veterinary officials thoroughly examined the cows to confirm they were healthy and pregnant.

After the cows were gifted to their new families, the pass-on practice of kuziturirana was immediately implemented. That is, when some of the distributed cows gave birth, one calf was given to the next selected Compassion participant that missed the first opportunity to participate. This pass-on practice ensured that this intervention is used to bless many more families.

In partnership with local leadership, follow-ups on the families and their gifted cows have taken place. Cow rearing has been a great success for the participating families. Out of the original 26 cows, more than two-thirds gave birth to healthy calves and the others are still gestating. A few are being followed up by veterinary officers to determine the cause of conception delays. When the calves turned 12 months old they were given to new families and to families that had lost their cows during birth.

During the initial cow-rearing training phase, veterinary officials worked with entire families to empower each member to participate in cow rearing. Together with their caregivers, children happily participate in taking the cows out for grazing, fetching water for the cows to drink and cleaning cowsheds. Thanks to your support, children and families learned important agricultural skills, gained access to fresh milk and now have a source of stable income.


Fertilizer: Families dedicated time to collecting and stocking cow manure for future use. Some of the manure is sold to community members and some is used to fertilize their own crops.

Bountiful harvests: Adding organic manure to fields and crops has improved soil quality and increased crop production. Many families have experienced a bountiful harvest of maize, beans, sorghum and bananas.

Gifting ceremonies: Calves were gifted to participants who missed out on the first round of cow distribution and to two primary families whose cows had died while giving birth. Church leadership and local authorities officiated the pass-on ceremony.

An important gift: Cow keeping is a practice deeply rooted in the culture of Rwandans. Getting a cow is a life-changing event that can help families break the cycle of poverty.

Your Gift Provides...

• Cows for 26 families in Rwanda (one cow per family)
• Training for caregivers on modern animal-rearing techniques
• Animal feed
• Cow-barn construction
• Professional consultation and labour
• Follow-up and reporting

Jolie, a Compassion-assisted beneficiary at RW0624

ReportA message from those your gift helped

Life before this intervention was not good at all. I had never kept a cow and I did not even have any skills in animal keeping. I had no hope for a better future. I would also get little harvest from my farm because manure was expensive and the place where it was sold is 5 kilometres from my house. Milk was also so expensive on the market because of the high demand. I couldn’t afford it; the children took black tea and sometimes took porridge.

This intervention has changed my life and the lives of many other families that received cows. We are all working together to ensure that we effectively implement the cow keeping activity. We are able to get milk for all family members and manure for our land. My life is now occupied by cow rearing. Every day, I think about cows! Where to get the feeds? How to clean the kraal [cowshed]? When to milk the cow? My life is now busy. Cow keeping is now my full-time job and my future is bright.

With cow keeping, our future is brighter. We are able to take milk every day as a family, which was not the case before the intervention. Cow keeping is contributing to our better health. We can sell some of the milk for an income that is used to meet our daily basic needs. From the time we received the cow, we have been getting organic manure for our land for improved crop production. This is good news for our entire family and our life will never be the same.

This intervention has taught me a number of lessons. I have learned about cow keeping. It’s a skill I never had before this intervention. We were invited to the church and trained in cow keeping. I have also learned how to build a kraal [cowshed] by myself. Through cow keeping, we are now appreciative of the power of working together and learning from one another. I thank God for this intervention because it has changed the life of my family.

I am so grateful for the support we received. This intervention has changed the living conditions of my family and many other families. Some families have already started climbing the social status through the national social classification as a result of the cow keeping intervention. This intervention will have a far-reaching impact. May the Almighty God bless you abundantly!

Jolie, a Compassion-assisted beneficiary at RW0624
Reporting person's photo

ReportThank you for your generosity

With your help, 26 families in Rwanda have been gifted with a cow. Caregivers and children have been trained in modern agricultural practices needed to safely raise and support livestock. They have also received training and information needed to use their cows to help improve their finances, soil quality and nutrition.

Children who suffer from malnutrition are more likely to die from common infections, more likely to have longer-lasting and severe illnesses and experience delays in recovery. Sadly, malnutrition accounts for almost half of all deaths in children aged 5 and younger. Your support has helped many families improve nutrition for their children, by providing them with fresh milk as well as a more bountiful harvest of higher-quality crops.

Because of the pass-on tradition of kuziturirana, this special gift benefits not only the initial families who received a cow. As more and more of the provided cows mature and give birth, more families within these communities will receive the gift of a cow in Rwanda’s pass-on tradition. Caregivers and children who understand modern agricultural techniques will now be able to share their knowledge with others in their communities and will continue to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.

Caregivers have learned that they need to have targets as they gain assets. Some plan to increase the number of cows or expand to different livestock as they grow their animal rearing farms while others plan to purchase more land to further develop their crop growing enterprises. The caregivers have organized themselves ino small groups so they can monitor each other’s progress and offer support. The church partners have seen that when caregivers are supported in pursuing their interests, they can accomplish their goals with great zeal. Churches have also developed strong relationships with local leaders, who now consider the local churches partners in economic community development. Churches have also been able to use their contact with families to share the gospel and they look forward to seeing many people accept Jesus as their Saviour.

The gift of a single cow truly is a life-changing gift to the 26 families in Rwanda who received one. With nutritious milk, fertilizer to increase crop yields and sources of income, families are already lifting themselves out of poverty. Thanks to Rwanda’s pass-on tradition, your gift will continue to help the families that received it as well as countless others in their communities. Thank you!

Floriane, Centre director at RW0624

ReportA message from a centre director

A lot has changed for the beneficiaries since they received cows. Families have learnt a lot about cow keeping. Milk is readily available for members of the families, and it has been added to the daily meal for the family members. As a result, their condition is improving. Cow keeping can also be labour intensive. Family members have learnt how to take care of cows by providing the required feeds and medication. They were all given one cow and the cows they were given have also given birth to calves. This activity has greatly transformed the lives of the beneficiaries by giving them hope for a better future.

To successfully implement this intervention, as a church, we have had to partner with different stakeholders. We have worked with the government agencies to examine cows before they are distributed to the families. They have also helped in the follow-ups on the conditions of the cows in the families of Compassion-supported children. The church is now considered by the government as a major partner in the effort to provide for community development. As a church, we greatly celebrate the families that have been transformed by this intervention. Better families means a better church and a better community.

The impact of this intervention is clearly visible within the community. Cow keeping has brought forth testimonies from families of Compassion-supported children. This has made it easy for us to minister to beneficiaries. The benefits of this intervention will be rotational—those who received the cows are expected to give the first calf to their neighbour as a way of promoting unity, friendship and accountability within the beneficiaries. The church also hopes to make use of this approach during the ministry to the beneficiaries. I therefore hope many people will give their lives to Christ as a result of this intervention and the trend has already begun.

This activity has had a far-reaching impact on the lives of the beneficiaries. Families that almost had nothing, now have two cows to look after. They have milk to serve their children, manure to improve their crop production and neighbours as friends since this activity will benefit more people than projected. We are so thankful to God for those who made this intervention possible. The lives of the beneficiaries and the community have been transformed. God bless them.

Floriane, Centre director at RW0624