Girinka Program: One Cow Per Poor Family

Girinka Program is a Home Grown Solution that emerged from the 2006 National Umushyikirano Council (NUC) as a pro-poor program to help poor families improving their welfare. The program is inspired by the Rwandan Culture. Girinka goes back in the annals of Rwandan history 17th century as a social protection measure especially in favor of children instituted by the King Mibambwe. The concept of Girinka was first introduced by King Mibambwe Gisanura (+ 1660), who decreed that “no Rwandan child was ever to lack daily milk again while others had plenty”.  Since then, Rwandans have given cattle to one another, or milk to those in need. Girinka program was revived by President Paul Kagame who in 2006 initiated the program after seeing the extent of malnutrition and stunting among Rwandan children. 






Families Impacted

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Food Security Level

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Milk Production Growth


litres in 2010

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litres in 2016

Since its inception in 2006, Girinka program has been implemented in all 30 districts by the Government of Rwanda, Private sector, Civil Society Organisations, and Non Government Institutions through giving cows to poor family to support them improve their socio- economic welfare. All along the implementation process, Girinka program has proven to be a veritable success despite some challenges encountered. Latest figures from the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) show that Girinka initiative has so far provided cows to over 259,087 families while the target is 350,000 families by 2017 and this implies a gap of about 100,000 cows that have to be provided.

We attended a meeting, during which people who would be given cows were selected; then they decided that, I, Kabunoni, should be given a cow; besides, my husband had become disabled and could not get out of the house anymore. 


The cow I was given made me progress; I was able to pay for the entire schooling of my child, to build a house, it allowed me to have enough fertilizer for my fields, and therefore to have a high production, milk that I gave to the people who cultivated the earth for me, now I can buy clothes for myself, whereas I was really disadvantaged before.


Low agriculture productivity and arable land distribution is a major challenge in Rwanda. The obvious consequences is that a substantial number of rural families who subsist on agriculture have less than 1ha, and where there is no use of fertilizers and most of that land is not arable which will cause land degradation, poverty and low household income. In the vision 2020, Rwanda intends to move from a low level income country to a middle level economy by 2020. The Girinka program is one of the strategies towards these objectives. Its aim is to give to every poor family one cow that will help the poor families to increase their crop production by using manure, increase their income and their nutrition at the household level and country wide.

The Girinka Program was set up for Rwandans of the first and second categories, and this is organized at the village level. The Girinka Program brought positive changes to the citizens. Those who were given cows moved from one level to the next one, as their life course changed. Among people who were in the first category when they were given cows, some have now reached the third one. 


In terms of gratitude from the breeder who has been given a cow, they must give the firstborn calf to another Rwandan who is on the list of their sector, as recognition.


Some felt lonely, but now they can approach their cows and communicate with them, when the cows moo, they feel good.

I joined the Girinka Program in 2006 during the identification and selection of the most disadvantaged people; this was done at the village level, then I was given a calf. It was a little calf when I received it; I raised it, took good care of it, it gave birth to a calf, a beautiful white-brown coloured calf, later on, I gave it to someone else as recognition, the latter’s cow also gave birth, then he gave the calf to another person too, who in turn gave a calf to someone else, which means that my cow has grand-kids, great-grandkids. 


I made a lot of progress thanks to my cows; I built a house, sanded it, cemented it, the harvest was good thanks to the fertilizer, I had a high production and sold some crops and fertilizer, and therefore paid the schooling of my daughter, and all that was achieved thanks to these cows.


I’m thankful to Paul Kagame who saved us from poverty, by giving us cows, which allowed us to have body butter; now we look good, our children drink milk. I, personally, decided to give a cow to Kagame, I do not know if he heard about that, he will probably come; a good deed deserves another.

A rigorous but ground-minding and flexible implementation strategy

The programme was embedded, as an implementation measure, in the key poverty reduction initiatives of the country: EDPRS, Vision 2020 as well as Integrated Development Programme. The programme’s impact is enabled by key principles that guide its implementation framework.

Social Impact


Girinka program also contributes to improve food security and has health outcomes. According to the 2015 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerable analysis findings, 80% of all households are food secure and 20% are food insecure.

Economic Impact


The number of cows distributed in the framework of Girinka program contributed to increase milk production by 89% from 372,619 liters in 2010 to 706,030 liters in 2016

Governance Impact


The way citizens of a given locality (umudugudu) sit together with their leaders and decide on who should be the Girinka beneficiaries, indicates Citizens’ participation in government political and socio-economic programs.

Learn more about the Girinka Program​

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