Nelly Bassily | January 31, 2011
Farmers in southern Rwanda recently launched a health fund for their cows. Triphonie Mukagasimba is a member of the management committee that organizes the savings scheme. She says, “If a health care fund has worked for us, why not try it for cattle?”
Many farmers in Save, in the Gisagara region of Rwanda, received improved cross-bred dairy cows through the government’s One Cow per Poor Household Program, which began in 2006. This program aims to give good quality livestock to over 250,000 of the poorest households by 2020. The animals supply farming families with milk, meat and manure.
Six months ago, a group of farmers who had received cows started a joint savings scheme. Together, they save enough money to help them cover costs when their cows fall sick. Cattle deaths have dropped dramatically.
Mr. Kamanzi is a local farmer who raises cattle. According to him, cross-bred cows produce more milk, but are sick more often than local cows. He says, “It is difficult [for the cross-bred cows] to adapt to the climate and some farmers still do not know how to raise them.”
Seventy-six farmers launched the health care fund for cows. That number has since risen to over 100. They help and support each other to care for their animals. Mrs. Triphonie remarks, “Now the cows are treated quickly. Before, farmers gave them traditional medicines as they could not afford anything else. Some cows would die.” She says that the cost of caring for cows is high for a single producer.
Each farmer contributes 2000 Rwanda Francs (around three US dollars) per year. The farmers pay in several instalments during the year to allow the poorest to raise the money without too much difficulty. Mrs. Triphonie explains, “The contributions mean that the farmer is able to pay for medicine for his cow every time it is sick during the year.” Farmers who are not part of the savings groups pay five times more for medicines.
Nshimiyimana Théogène is the veterinary officer in Save. He confirms that in the past four months, only one cow out of 16 died of disease. Before the savings scheme, ten cows died over the same length of time. Mr. Habimana is a farmer from the same region. He says, “When a cow is sick, the farmer calls the vet directly, who treats the animal. The health care fund pays for the whole bill. Cows are not dying as before.”
The fund is managed by farmers themselves through a management committee. Farmers also share their experiences in preventing animal sickness. The members plan to open a veterinary pharmacy that will allow them to access drugs quickly and cheaply. Neighbouring districts plan to copy their initiative.