It was a bright and sunny day in November when Send a Cow went to meet the Abazimyamuriro group from Mwaro, Burundi...

The group were about to receive cows after a year of working hard on their farms through training in sustainable farming and animal management.

As we were stopped about two miles from the village to wait for some colleagues to join us, I got out of the car and in the distance I could hear drumming. There was a man on the side of the road and I asked what the drumming was for.

'There’s an organisation giving out cows today!'

Clearly the news of the event had spread far among the village and community.

The cows had arrived in Muramba village late the night before and the group had organised a safe place for them to stay with fodder and water. I spoke to one woman who said that though the cows didn’t arrive until midnight, the excitement was palpable in the village and many people were out on the streets.

Before the ceremony started, Send a Cow Burundi, along with the government leadership including the Governor of Mwaro Province, visited some of the group’s farms. The Governor was impressed by the work of Send a Cow, having seen great achievements in the brief time we have been working there.

We looked at kitchen gardens, tip taps, sheds, a tree nursery and energy saving stoves. He was also surprised by the quality and type of sheds the farmers had constructed. They are very different from the local ones; the cement floors help the farmers to catch manure and urine from livestock and maximise on the potential from the cow.

The ceremony started with drumming, Burundi is famous for its drumming troupes and they often accompany important community events. I was most impressed by the group’s knowledge of the Send a Cow cornerstones, which they recited to the community perfectly and which they had also converted into poetry to be performed for everyone attending the event.

The group used a lotto system for distributing the cows, the numbers of each ear tag were written on a piece of paper and they were all spread across the ground, fortunately it wasn’t very windy! All twenty one group members went up in turn to find out which cow was theirs.

Of course, because of the significance of the event, there were speeches from district officials. They highlighted the significance of cows, as well as talking about the importance of integrating agriculture, livestock and social development.

In my speech, I tried to impress upon the group that what we were doing was providing a seed. The seeds of knowledge and skills, the seed of livestock and… seeds! My point was that Send a Cow are working alongside the farmers to provide the initial inputs to make a change, the farmers now have the skills to nourish this and to spread the benefits among the communities, fulfilling Send a Cow’s passing on the gift cornerstone.

Andre, Send a Cow's Country Director for Burundi & Rwanda

In an unusual turn of events, three of the cows gave birth to calves on the same day as placement. Send a Cow tries to place in-calf heifers so there is a guarantee of milk, as well as the guarantee of a calf to pass on. However, the cows aren’t usually so far along in their pregnancies. Fortunately, all three calves were healthy and the owners are excited about the prospect of passing them on already.

One woman expressed her joy on the day:

“I am very impressed, I was expecting to just get one cow, but now I have a cow, a calf to pass on, and milk. Before Send a Cow, I didn’t think I could care for a cow but now I am confident that I will be able to.”

Another said that across four generations none of her family had had a cow before.

Two weeks ago, Send a Cow also placed goats in Bujumbura Rural. Generosa, one of the women said:

“I am excited about the income I am sure I will get from rearing these goats.”

Send a Cow Burundi placed 60 local goats and 3 improved bucks with 20 families.

These ceremonies were Send a Cow Burundi’s first livestock placements and both were a huge success. We’ve already witnessed big changes in the lives of the beneficiaries, which bodes well for the future of the programme in the hungriest country in the world (Global Hunger Index 2014).

Andre Nsengiyumva, Country Director, Rwanda/Burundi