A Co Westmeath farmer has expressed pride at the legacy of his late father’s generosity after travelling 6,500 miles to be reunited with a cow donated by him to a destitute African family a decade ago.
Colm Doyle from Moate travelled to the heart of Rwanda in central/eastern Africa to see first-hand how a cow donated by his late father Jimmy 11 years ago had transformed the lives of a Rwanda family.
The cow is just one of an impressive and ever growing herd of cows sent since the mid-noughties by a local group in Moate through aid agency Bóthar to impoverished families in Rwanda, other parts of Africa and eastern European.
The cows have had a transformational effect on the lives of an estimated 1,000 plus families as the aid agency returns each year to re-impregnate the cows, with a deal struck with each recipient family that they must pass on the first born female calf to a neighbour.
Prior to being given a heifer, each family undergoes a six month programme of training in animal husbandry, water-harvesting and basic horticulture practices.
The Moate Bóthar group started off 15 years ago by raising funds through the local national school to send out just one goat but, a decade and a half later, they are sending on average 50 cows and up to 80 goats each year. In one year alone they sent out 115 in-calf heifers.
And, having returned from Rwanda, where he saw with his own eyes the impact the donations have made, Colm Doyle said his late father would, indeed, have been proud.
“It was quite an experience, seeing the heifer and all she’s done here after her nine or 10 years. She’s had nine calves, five female and four male. Her first female calf would have been passed on so there’s another family obviously somewhere down the road who are benefitting from the initial gift as well. That heifer, too, would have most likely had a female calf and that would have been passed on. So the gift keeps on giving,” he said.
He was also hugely reassured by the condition the cow is in after ten years in Rwanda.
“It’s obvious that the farmer is really treating her well. She’s in fantastic condition. She’s 12 years old at this stage, in fine fettle and there’s no reason why she can’t continue.
“You couldn’t but be content and happy that you gave the donation and it has to make you want to do more in the future. I think my father would be very proud.”
The Rwandan farmer spoke of his delight at being able to meet the son of an Irish farmer who had transformed his family’s life.
Speaking through an interpreter, he said it was the “greatest gift ever”.
“When the cow came in 2008 the first thing for us was the milk for consumption and the second thing was I could buy a motorcycle to transport milk. The third thing was I could buy land. I even had money for the school fees for the children,” said Mpayimana Johanna.
When I look at my cow I am very happy because the cow is healthy and even has more milk. It’s the greatest gift ever. No one could understand what this has done for my family and I am so thankful to the people who gave us this gift,” he added.
For further information on Bóthar, go to www.bothar.ie