The word Girinka can be translated as ‘may you have a cow’ and describes a centuries old cultural practice in Rwanda whereby a cow was given by one person to another, either as a sign of respect and gratitude or as a marriage dowry.

As part of efforts to reconstruct Rwanda and nurture a shared national identity, the Government of Rwanda drew on aspects of Rwandan culture and traditional practices to enrich and adapt its development programs to the country’s needs and context. The result is a set of Home Grown Solutions - culturally owned practices translated into sustainable development programs. One of these Home Grown Solutions is the One Cow per Poor Family program also known as Girinka.

Girinka was initiated in response to the alarmingly high rate of childhood malnutrition and as a way to accelerate poverty reduction and integrate livestock and crop farming. The program is based on the premise that providing a dairy cow to poor households helps to improve their livelihood as a result of a more nutritious and balanced diet from milk, increased agricultural output through better soil fertility as well as greater incomes by commercialising dairy products.

Since its introduction in 2006, more than 198,000 beneficiaries have received cows. Girinka has contributed to an increase in agricultural production in Rwanda - especially milk products which have helped reduce malnutrition and increase incomes. The program aims to provide 350,000 cows to poor families by 2017.