Cow keeping

Funding required: $102,860

This project will help: 75 families from five Compassion centres

Completion date: January 2025

Country: Rwanda

Executive summary

Compassion defines poverty as life without the opportunity to meet basic survival needs including food and clean water. Sadly, this is the reality for many Compassion-assisted children and their families in Rwanda, whose caregivers typically earn far less than the World Banks’s US$1.90 per day definition of poverty. The government of Rwanda classifies its citizens into four socio-economic categories known as “Ubudehe,” with the first category being most impoverished and the fourth being the wealthiest. Compassion beneficiaries are drawn from the first and second categories. With no stable income, caregivers are unable to provide for their children’s basic needs including food, shelter, education and health care.

The Rwandan government introduced a “Girinka Munyarwanda” one-cow-per-family-in-need program based on the premise that giving a cow to a family in need can substantially improve their nutrition status and income. The program has been very successful in helping alleviate extreme poverty, especially in rural communities that depend heavily on agriculture to survive. Families receive the nutritional benefits of the milk and dairy products from the cow and can use the organic manure to improve their crop yield. They can substantially improve their income by selling dairy products and crops in their communities, enabling them to pay for their children’s school fees, health care services and other basic needs. The benefits of this initiative are intended to be self-replicating: in a tradition knows as “kwitura,” after a cow gives birth, the family gives the first female calf to another household in need.

Compassion has been partnering with the Rwandan government to implement this proven method in a four-phase initiative to reach 300 of the most vulnerable families we serve. This intervention will be the third phase of our Girinka initiative and will provide cows for 75 high-risk families from churches in the communities of Ruramba, Maheresho, Runyombi, Muzenga and Gahombo in Rwanda’s southern province. In the months to come, we expect that families receiving a cow will see significant improvements in their nutrition and income. This will greatly improve children’s overall quality of life and enable them to stay in school, so they can look to the future with hope.

Did you know?

Most Rwandan workers—approximately 75.3 per cent—are employed in agriculture. Common products include bananas, sweet potatoes, cassava, potatoes, plantains, beans, maize, gourds and milk. However, despite its fertile ecosystem, Rwandan industry has been hampered by political instability in neighbouring countries, energy shortages and inadequate transportation systems.



In response to an alarmingly high rate of malnutrition in children under the age of five, in 2006 President Paul Kagame initiated a program known as “Girinka Munyarwanda,” which provides a dairy cow to the most deprived families, either through government loan programs or partnerships with non-government organizations and private citizens. The one-cow-per-family-in-need program is based on the premise that giving a cow to an impoverished family can substantially improve their nutrition status and income and thus alleviate the impacts of extreme poverty in vulnerable communities. Families can both consume and sell fresh dairy products from the cow and use the manure to fertilize their crops. When a cow gives birth, the owners are required to give the first calf to another family in poverty. Since its implementation in 2006 the program has impacted thousands of families, transforming communities across the country.

Five of our church partners in the southern province have identified 75 highly vulnerable families who would benefit from having a cow. Our partners have noticed children’s frequent absenteeism from school and Compassion centre activities, which they largely attribute to the effects of hunger and malnutrition. There is an urgent need to provide these children and their families with a sustainable way to improve their quality of life. Compassion Rwanda wants to tap into the continued success of the Girinka program, recognizing the sustainability of this initiative and its proven track record of reducing extreme poverty.

The need

Compassion Rwanda is committed to setting children free from poverty by providing their families with a sustainable way to support themselves. The Rwandan government’s cow-keeping initiative is a proven way of accomplishing this goal and has been implemented by our frontline church partners across the country with great success.

This third phase of Compassion’s Girinka initiative will allow five of our partners in the southern province to provide cows for 75 highly vulnerable families. Caregivers will be trained in up-to-date methods of cow-rearing, including how to feed the animals properly and monitor their health. Churches will partner with local government leaders to procure the cows, and a veterinary expert will perform blood tests and measurements on each animal prior to distribution to ensure that the quality standards of the Girinka program are met. Participating families will be responsible for constructing a cow shed on their property and planting grass for the cows to eat before the animals are distributed. Social workers from the Compassion centres will work alongside local leaders to follow up with each family and monitor their progress. As a key part of the sustainability of this initiative, families will pass on their cow’s first female calf to another family in need in a tradition known as “kwitura.” If the calf is male, they may sell it and use the funds to buy a female calf to give to the next beneficiary. This pass-on system will continue so that many families benefit from this intervention.

What your gift will do

Your gift will provide a dairy cow each for 75 families in Rwanda:

  • Cow-keeping training for caregivers
  • 75 cows (15 cows each for 5 participating churches)
  • Veterinary consultation
  • Follow-up and reporting


  • Local contribution:$16,362.95
  • Handling of funds: Compassion Rwanda will distribute funds to the five participating churches and ensure that this intervention remains within budget.
  • Monitoring and follow-up: Church staff and social workers will partner with local leaders to procure the cows and monitor each family’s progress. Over time, churches will ensure that the “kwitura” (pass-on) system continues until every Compassion-assisted family in their community owns at least one cow. Then, the system will continue to include families from the community.

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.