Know about Rwanda’s ‘1 cow for 1 poor family’ program before media gives it ‘Hindutva’ spin

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a 5-day visit to 3 African nations. His first stop will be Rwanda where he will gift 200 cows to help the Girinka program which aims at providing 1 cow per poor family. While there would be many things in PM’s agenda, one can expect media to focus on cows and try to spin the gesture of donating cows as a propagation of Hindutva agenda.

If you are curious about why is Cow relevant in a country where 43% population is Roman Catholic, then you should read on.

Rwanda saw a major genocide in the year 1994 which accounted for about a million killings in a short span of 100 days. Rwanda’s economy suffered heavily during the 1994 genocide. This caused a large drop in GDP and destroyed the country’s ability to attract private and external investment.

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In the year 2006, as part of efforts to reconstruct Rwanda, the Government of Rwanda turned towards homegrown solutions. One of them is the Girinka program also known as ‘One Cow per Poor Family’.

Since it’s inception, the Girinka program has contributed to an increase in agricultural production in Rwanda – especially milk production and products, reduced malnutrition and increased incomes [pdf]. The word Girinka can be translated as ‘have a cow’ and describes a centuries-old cultural practice in Rwanda whereby a cow was given by one person to another, either as a sign of respect and gratitude or as dowry (ah, there is another idea for media to spin).

The target of this program was to provide at least 1 cow to each poor family. This will ensure the nutrition of the family members as well as a stable mean of income for the household. As part of this program, milk production, as well as consumption, has increased significantly. A country which was crippled with internal instability 24 years ago, this is an important achievement.

While the usual suspects would love to take digs at the Prime Minister for his gesture, a response to one such tweet by a citizen of Rwanda makes the importance of the Girinka project extremely evident.

Rwanda has taken big strides towards improving prosperity in recent times. Rwanda has seen immense improvement over the last decade and was recently named the most improved country in the 2016 Legatum Prosperity Report.

Rwanda is famous for another achievement. They are aiming to be a complete plastic free nation by the year, 2020. In the year 2006 Rwanda became the first country to ban plastic bags, something which India is still struggling to enforce. With strict enforcement and creative ways of discouraging plastic use, Rwanda’s capital Kigali has become one of the cleanest cities in the world.

Be it food related independence or the will to become a plastic-free country, India can learn a lot from a nation which is barely the size of the Indian capital, New Delhi. When the Prime Minister goes there hopefully he will bring in some knowledge on how to go about tackling these issues. While our media will surely ignore them for they cannot think beyond the word ‘Cow’, we as citizens can take notes and implement a few of them in our lives.


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