Cow keeping in Rwanda

Funding required: $76,700

This project will help: 64 families

Estimated completion date: January 2024

Country: Rwanda

Executive summary

Compassion International defines poverty as, “Life without the opportunity to meet basic needs for things such as food and clean water.” This description, coupled with the World Bank’s definition as earning less than $1.90 per day, accurately portrays the lives of most of Compassion’s beneficiary children growing up in poverty in eastern Rwanda. Without a stable income, their caregivers feel hopeless to ever be able to provide for their children’s essential needs, including health care and shelter.

Parents can’t even grow food for their children since the soil is infertile due to over-cultivation and a lack of available fertilizer. The low agricultural output causes insufficient food supply and malnutrition among the children as their bodies struggle to grow and develop. The most common reason children miss Compassion program days and school is because of extreme hunger.

Compassion-supported children can attend school because our church partners cover their school fees, but their unsupported siblings are at risk of dropping out early. Church partners also cover health insurance for each beneficiary, but the coverage is not valid until the entire family has paid. Without a reliable income, it’s impossible for caregivers to pay the mandatory insurance fees for the remaining family members. Families in Rwanda need urgent intervention to improve their household livelihoods so children can grow up healthy and strong, with dependable access to nutritious food and medical care.

This intervention will provide 64 caregivers from four church partners in eastern Rwanda with a cow and training on cow rearing to reduce extreme poverty and increase food security. Cow rearing will address three pressing issues: food security, income-generation activities and producing organic manure to benefit agricultural activities. Families can drink nutritious cow milk and any extra milk can be sold to purchase other necessities, like health insurance. Caregivers can use the cow manure on crops to improve their agricultural yield, thus providing their families with produce and grains to prepare balanced meals and combat childhood malnutrition and stunting. A single dairy cow can transform families, lifting them out of poverty as they work together and enjoy the rewards of a reliable source of income and improved livelihoods.

Did you know?

Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. Food security is a major issue, with 38.2 per cent of the population living below the poverty line, and 35 per cent of young children experiencing stunting.



In 2006, President Kagame of Rwanda initiated a Girinka program in response to the alarmingly high rate of malnutrition in children under age five. The government’s aim was to accelerate poverty reduction and integrate livestock and crop farming using the sustainable approach of providing dairy cows to impoverished households.

By investing in rural livelihoods, children gain a more nutritious and balanced diet from the fresh milk, while parents increase agricultural output through better soil fertility and gain income by commercializing dairy products. Each time a cow gives birth, the firstborn female calf will be given to the next waiting Compassion beneficiary family. Any firstborn male calf will be sold to buy a female calf for the next beneficiary. This pass-it-on practice, locally known as kuzitura, creates unity and friendships between givers and receivers. Any future calves born will stay with the original owner so they can use them to lift their families out of extreme poverty. The Girinka approach has proven highly successful for vulnerable families, enabling them to access to improved nutrition, shelter and loans, strengthening social cohesion and creating sustainable employment.

The need

Extreme household poverty and unreliable income contribute to severe food insecurity for impoverished children growing up in eastern Rwanda. Four local church partners in Jomba, Gakenke, Rugote and ADEPR Gacaca in eastern Rwanda want to tap into the continued success of the sustainable solution of cow rearing to address the household livelihoods of 64 beneficiary children.

With your generous investment, we can ensure 64 beneficiary families have enough food to eat by providing them with reliable, sustainable income generation through cow rearing. Sixteen families from each Compassion centre will be selected based on their poverty level, readiness to care for a cow and ability to construct an animal shed. Caregivers will be trained in cow rearing skills and will receive follow-up support. As they put their new farming skills into practice, caregivers will be able to combat the rampant malnutrition facing their children, while also addressing their families’ other daily needs.

What your gift will do

Your generosity will supply 64 caregivers with the following:

  • Caregiver mobilization
  • Purchase of 64 cows (one dairy cow per family)
  • Cow rearing training for caregivers
  • Cow shed construction
  • Professional consultation
  • Unskilled labour
  • Cow feed


  • Local contribution: US$14,367.07
  • Handling of funds: Compassion Rwanda will work with church and centre leaders to ensure this intervention stays within budget.
  • Follow-up: Church leaders and Compassion staff will partner with local government to procure the cows. Veterinarians will ensure the cows are healthy before they are distributed. Centre staff and local leaders will follow up with families to ensure their living conditions have improved.

No less than 80 per cent of your donation will be used for program activities and a maximum of 20 per cent for fundraising and administration. If we exceed our funding goal for the initiative shown, the remaining funds will be used to fund other programs where the need is greatest.