Originally published on November 7, 2014.
The Rwandan culture has for many centuries kept the tradition that dairy farming is an activity reserved for men, evidenced by the long-term dominance of the sector by males. However, things are steadily taking a different shape as various stakeholders are working towards embracing gender integration in various socio-economic and political spheres.
In February, 2013, the Rwanda Dairy Competitiveness Program II (RDCP II)
– funded and implemented by the United States Agency for International Development and Land O'Lakes Inc. respectively – facilitated a training program on cattle management, milk quality management, business and cooperative development, and gender mainstreaming. Of the 499 farmers trained, 215 were females directly involved in dairy farming, a milestone worth noting.
Mrs. Agnes Muziga, a 57-year-old woman widowed during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, cuts a perfect example of the trainees who have adopted the best dairy farming practices. As a result of the RDCP training and her unbendable efforts to implement what she learned, her socio-economic status has progressively improved.
Agnes, a mother to four children, owns two cows and one calf. She is a beneficiary of the government’s initiative aimed at helping the poor – the "one cow per family" program. Prior to the training on dairy best practices, her cow was producing seven liters of milk per day. Now, her cow produces 13 liters a day – an 86% improvement in three months.
“After the training, I embarked on adopting the best dairy farming practices such as zero grazing and artificial insemination and have started seeing significant results” said Agnes, who is now able to sell 10 liters and save three liters a day for her family’s consumption. She attributed the increased volumes of milk to her improved understanding of the importance of proper cattle feeding and health management.
The increased milk production has enabled her to hire a herdsman for her cows, and she has broken the Rwandan tradition by taking a direct involvement in caring for her cows. “If the herdsman is absent, I won’t leave my cows unattended. I will feed my cows, clean the kraal and milk my cows myself. I appeal to other women to emulate the same and to break the tradition that dairy farming is reserved for men,” she added.
Whilst mobilizing her neighbors to form a dairy cooperative to be registered, in the Kicukiro District, she encourages her fellow widows and other women to be self-confident and be able to use what they have to improve their families’ wellbeing and prospectus.