In Rwanda, a cow is a symbol of wealth, pride, gratitude and good health. The more cows you have, the richer you are considered.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on Monday embarked upon a three-nation tour to Rwanda, Uganda & South Africa. The visit to the East African countries Rwanda and Uganda does not only hold a strategic importance but also is historic given the fact that it is for the first time an Indian Prime Minister is visiting the countries. However, apart from the strategic relationship development, the PM’s visit invited curious eyeballs because of the gift India gave to its Rwandan counterpart. Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted 200 cows.
The Girinka Programme is helping transform the lives of people across rural Rwanda.
— Chowkidar Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 24, 2018
You might wonder in the digital age why did Modi choose to gift cows? The reason being Girinka scheme launched by the Rwandan government.
This scheme was launched by Rwandan President Paul Kagame in 2006 to address the problem of high child malnutrition rates. This programme was launched nationwide on the principle that poor households can improve their standard of living if they are provided cows. Providing cows to poor households had three goals: One is to address the malnutrition issue, second is to use the cattle as an organic manure in agricultural activities and third to create a source of income by commercialising dairy products.
— Paul Kagame (@PaulKagame) July 23, 2018
Under this programme, a three months’ pregnant cow is given to a poor family. However, there are certain criteria laid out by the government of Rwanda to be eligible for this programme. The selected beneficiaries then are given training on basic animal husbandry knowledge and practices. On the completion of this training, the beneficiaries are handed over cows and a start-up package which is free of cost. The government also provides basic drug accompaniments for up to one year.
Pass a Cow:
“Pass a Cow” is a sub-section of the Girinka Scheme. As per the initiative the first calf born should be gifted to a neighbour to promote brotherhood. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Rwanda, the Girinka programme has already distributed over 203,000 cows to poor rural families. However, the official number only includes direct beneficiaries of the cow and excludes the recipients of the ‘pass on a cow’ initiative. Thus, the original number of beneficiaries can be much bigger than the official one.
Importance of Cow in Rwandan Culture:
Girinka simply means: ‘may you have a cow’. However, traditionally, in the Rwandan culture, it has a deeper meaning. In Rwanda, a cow is a symbol of wealth, pride, gratitude and good health. In Rwanda, the more cows you have, the richer you are considered and more respected you are in society. Cows are even offered as dowry at weddings and symbolise friendship. Additionally, the ownership of a cow means securing a status in the society.
India, which is still fighting to eradicate poverty completely even after 70 years of independence, can also think of an initiative like this to improve the standard of living of the BPL families in the rural areas.