Originally published on December 27, 2013.
A 76-year old dairy farmer, Arron Bihozagara, wanted to grow his business to provide a better life for his grandchildren. He knew additional income would help pay for their education and allow him to hire a few more people to help out on the farm.
In January 2013, he attended a three-day educational workshop in Southern Rwanda’s Nyanza District. Delivered by Rwanda Dairy Competiveness Program II (RDCP II)—a project funded by USAID and implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development—not only did the event increase Arron’s knowledge about feeding practices, it provided him one pound of Mucuna seeds. In March of the same year, he planted the seeds on a small piece of land measuring less than 180 square yards.
Three months later, in June, he harvested thirteen pounds of Mucuna seed. From this harvest, he distributed five pounds to fellow farmers in community and planted the remaining eight pounds on a larger field measuring more than 700 square yards . By November, he harvested more than 50 pounds of Mucuna seed. So far, he has sold almost seven pounds of his latest harvest, and he intends to plant the remainder on an even bigger field.
Dairy farmer Arron Bihozagara shows off his Mucuna seeds.
In addition to multiplying his Mucuna seed, Arron has tremendously improved the health of his three cattle by feeding them elephant grass mixed with Mucuna forage—a practice he learned during RDCP II trainings. Previously, when Arron only fed his cows elephant grass, they produced two gallons of milk per day. With the newly-adopted feeding methods, his cows now yield almost four gallons per day, which is an increase of nearly 50 percent.
What does Arron do with all this milk? Along with his grandchildren, he consumes one quart a day, a delicious nutritional benefit! Arron sells the remaining amount, which earns him approximately $104 USD per month ($3.50/day), which boosts him further above the conventional international poverty threshold of one US dollar a day. Previously, he earned $70 USD per month.
“Dairy farming contributes greatly towards my two grand children’s primary school education fees and needs,” says Arron. He beams an award-winning smile as he walks through his farming projects. “I am also able to pay my cattle keeper and other casual workers in the fields of crops and Mucuna.”
In two seasons of cultivation—in just six short months—the loving, 76-year-old grandfather multiplied the initial one pound of seeds into 50 pounds. He hopes the local service providers maintain regular visits and continue providing advisory services in cattle management.