Earlier this summer, we and 27 other Wharton MBA students bought a dairy cow. Then we gave that cow to Hakizinka Antoinette, a woman living in extreme poverty in Kabagayi, Rwanda. Perhaps we should explain.
In May, executive and full-time Wharton MBA students participated in a Global Modular Course (GMC) called Conflict, Leadership, and Change: Lessons from Rwanda. The class was led by Katherine Klein, the vice dean for social impact and Edward H. Bowman Professor of Management, and Eric Kacou, WG’04. They were assisted by second-year Lauder student Venkatesh Saha, C’02, ENG’02, and College sophomore and native Rwandan Remy Manzi, who provided invaluable perspective and context as we immersed ourselves within the local culture.
During the course, we had the opportunity to meet with President Paul Kagame, government ministers, local business people and farmers. We learned about the challenges Rwandans faced after the 1994 genocide, and how, more recently, Rwanda has emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.
We were astounded by the scope of the economic transformation we witnessed. Although Rwanda is landlocked and resource poor—with nearly 45 percent of Rwandans living below the international poverty line (defined by the World Bank as $1.25 per day)—the breadth and pace of change was palpable. Infrastructure is booming, public services have been restored and newly created wealth is shared. More than a million Rwandans have been lifted out of poverty in the past six years alone.
No program better exemplifies this renewal than Rwanda’s “One Cow per Poor Family,” or “Girinka,” program. By providing dairy cows to poor families, Girinka plays a key role in the government’s efforts to alleviate poverty; Rwandans have received more than 145,000 cows since the program launched in 2006. The milk staves off malnutrition, while the sale of surplus milk and crops provides a supplemental income stream, which can then pay for health care and school fees. This success sustains itself, as the recipients are required to gift their first-born female calf to another poor neighbor.
Originally Published September 10th, 2013 by Wharton Magazine