When Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes to Rwanda for the first-ever Prime Minister-level visit on Monday, he will have an interesting gift for his hosts — 200 cows, all sourced locally in the small, land-locked east African country. Modi will travel to Rweru model village in Rwanda’s eastern province and gift the cows as India’s contribution to Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s flagship “Girinka” programme. Officials said the cattle will be sourced locally since they are adapted to the natural surroundings of the region.
Girinka is the Rwandan government’s “one cow for one poor family” programme, launched in 2006. The government claims the scheme has benefitted nearly 3.5 lakh families so far. The social protection scheme is personally overseen by Kagame — as part of the programme, the poorest families are gifted dairy cows by the government and the first female calf born of that cow is gifted to the neighbour, aimed at promoting brotherhood and solidarity in the community.
Ministry of External Affairs’ Secretary (Economic Relations) T S Tirumurti, who worked on the specifics of the Rwanda visit, called this an “important element” of the PM’s programme. The word Girinka can be translated as “have a cow” and describes a centuries-old cultural practice in Rwanda, whereby a cow was gifted by one person to another, either as a sign of respect or as marriage dowry.
Modi, who will also visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial, will express India’s gratitude to the Rwandan people, and acknowledge that during the genocide of 1994, no Indian was killed or injured. “The gifting of cows is not just an economic contribution, but also an expression of India’s gratitude to Rwanda for treating Indian community well,” an official said.