Dairy Farming Lifts Ruth from Extreme Poverty

Originally published on May 8, 2015.

Ruth Dusanbe’s confidence that she had the means to adopt the abandoned baby girl she recently found near her home stands in stark contrast to the struggles that followed the bittersweet birth of her first daughter on March 23, 2000. On that fateful day 15 years ago, she not only gained a daughter, but also lost her husband Gilbert due to illness.

With no access to land after her husband’s passing, Ruth could not afford to rent a house or sustainably feed her family. Despite the vulnerability of her situation throughout the next ten years, Ruth’s determination matched with support from her community and others allowed for her family to persevere. In 2001, she was offered ten square meters of land where she could cultivate crops for home consumption and build a small house. Village authorities also provided free primary and secondary education to her children. Ten years after her husband’s passing, Ruth acquired a cow from a Government of Rwanda initiative that donated cows to poor families. The arrival of the cow reignited her hope for a decent future.

As I rescued the baby, I thought to myself that my cow’s milk is enough to save and raise this abandoned little girl.

Ruth Dusanbe (RDCP II Client)

Two years later, the cow gave birth to its first calf. However, at only four liters of milk per day, yields were poor at best. In 2013, Ruth attended a Kicukiro Cooperative of Vets (COVETR) training on dairy farming practices, including appropriate cow feeding to increase milk production. This training, provided with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Rwanda Dairy Competitiveness Program II (RDCP II) and implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development, is part of a larger initiative to build capacity of Rwanda’s dairy value chain.

The training program also provided Ruth and other small-scale farmers in Mucuna and Desmodium legume seeds to plant, as feed for their cattle. Ruth diligently implemented the training and was impressed when her cow’s daily milk yield doubled. RDCP II and COTEVR staff regularly visit Ruth and the other trainees to assist them in implementing best dairy farming practices.

Ruth with her cow, who is producing 450% more milk now that Ruth has applied dairy farming best practices.
In 2013, RDCP II also arranged for artificial insemination of Ruth's cow, by service provider Nyagatare Agri-Input Company. As a result, in October 2014, Ruth’s cow calved again. Thanks to her continued adoption of best dairy farming practices, Ruth's cow is now producing 18 liters of milk per day. Ruth’s family now consumes 3 liters of milk a day and sells 15 liters per day to milk kiosks in Kicukiro Trading Center. The milk consumed in Ruth’s home is a valuable source of nutrition for her family.  

Every month, Ruth now earns 135,000 Rwandan francs (195 USD) from milk sales. She describes this as a dream come true!

In 2000, Ruth would not have had the capacity to raise her recently adopted daughter. Now, with financial stability and means to feed her family, she could give back to her community that supported her for so many years.  

“While heading to my kraal, I heard the sound of a baby crying in a deserted house surrounded by bushes. As I rescued the baby, I thought to myself that my cow’s milk is enough to save and raise this abandoned little girl,” Ruth narrates, smiling.

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