Why an Irish Farmer Followed a Cow to Rwanda, and What He Learned There
This 12-year-old heifer is part of something special.
Ten years ago, the father of Irish farmer Colm Doyle donated a female cow to an impoverished family in Rwanda through the charity Bóthar.
Now, in memory of his late father, Doyle traveled over 6,500 miles to see firsthand what sort of impact the donation has had.
It turns out the single cow has changed the lives of its new family, and their community at large.
“We’ve been telling people for years this difference,” Doyle said in a video about his trip. “So personally I want to see it for myself.”
Doyle traveled with Bóthar to Rwanda in order to speak with the family who received his father’s cow during the first few years of the organization’s work.
Bóthar’s website describes their work as using “livestock in development aid.” By donating animals like cows, goats, sheep, chicken, camels, and bees to families in poverty, the aid organization provides a long-term means of income. In addition to the donation of animals, Bóthar requires recipients to undergo training in animal husbandry to ensure they will get the most benefit from their new animal.
In Rwanda, the heifer donated by Doyle’s father has been providing a steady stream of income for its new family in the form of milk. Mpayimana Johana, who received the cow decades ago, says it has changed his family’s lives.
“When the cow came in 2008 the first thing for us was the milk for consumption, then we had milk to sell,” he said. “The money has helped us build [a] new house.”
Additionally, money from milk sales allowed Johana to buy means of transportation, and pay the fees to send his children to school. Each year members from Bóthar return to impregnate the heifer in order to stimulate milk production, and birth more animals who can provide further value to its family.
An added benefit of Bóthar’s comes from the company’s stipulation that the first born female animal must be donated to a neighbor, thereby spreading the benefits of livestock to another family.
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For the past 15 years Bóthar has sent livestock to various parts of Africa, Asia, Central America, and Eastern Europe. The company has grown substantially over the last decade and a half to provide up to 50 cows and 80 goats to families in these regions every year.
Considering the impact a single heifer has had on Johana and his family, the sustainable model of development Bóthar pursues is creating real opportunities to escape poverty for people all over the world.
For Doyle, whose father was at one point the chairman of the organization, seeing for himself the good that came from their donation affirmed the legacy his father began.
“You couldn’t but be content and happy that you gave the donation and it has to make you want to do more in the future,” he said. “I think my father would be very proud.”