Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday gifted 200 cows to villagers in Rwanda who do not yet own a cow. The cows have been gifted under the Rwandan Government's Girinka Programme. The event to mark the handing over of cows was held at Rweru Model Village, in the presence of Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Appreciating the Girinka Programme and President Paul Kagame's initiative, Prime Minister Modi said that people in India would also be pleasantly surprised to see that cows are being given importance as a means of economic empowerment in villages in faraway Rwanda. PM Modi also spoke about the similarity in the rural life of the two countries and hoped that the Girinka Programme will help transform villages in Rwanda.
The word Girinka means ‘may you have a cow’ and describes a centuries-old cultural practice in Rwanda where cows were given to each other as a sign of respect and gratitude.
Girinka was initiated by President Paul Kagame in response to the alarmingly high rate of childhood malnutrition and as a way to accelerate poverty reduction and integrate livestock and crop farming. The program is based on the premise that providing a dairy cow to poor Girinka Programme transforms livelihoods, reconciles communities improving agricultural productivity through the use of manure as fertilisers which would lead to improving soil quality and reducing erosion through the planting of grasses and trees.
Since its introduction in 2006, many people have received cows through the Girinka program. By June 2016, a total of 248,566 cows had been distributed to poor households.
The program has contributed to an increase in agricultural production in Rwanda - especially milk production and products, reduced malnutrition and increased incomes.
The program is also aimed at promoting unity and reconciliation among Rwandans based on the cultural principle that if a cow is given from one person to another, it establishes trust and respect between the giver and beneficiary.
The program also follows a certain criteria in choosing who the beneficiaries should be. Very poor vulnerable families that don’t own a cow but do have land that can be used to grow grass for feeding the cows are among those who get the animal. The beneficiary should be in position to construct an animal shed or willing to join others in community to construct a communal cow shed to be jointly used with the rest.