In 1959, three years before independence from Belgium, the Hutus, the majority ethnic group, overthrew the ruling Tutsi king. Over the next several years, thousands of Tutsis were killed, and some 150,000 were driven into exile into neighboring countries. The children of these exiles later formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, and began a civil war in 1990. The war, along with several political and economic upheavals, exacerbated ethnic tensions culminating in April 1994 with the genocide of roughly 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime and ended the killing in July 1994, but approximately 2 million Hutu refugees— many fearing Tutsi retribution—fled to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire).
Since then, most of the refugees have returned to Rwanda. Despite substantial international assistance and political reforms—including Rwanda’s first local elections in March 1999—the country continues to struggle to boost investment and agricultural output and to foster reconciliation.
Historically, the primary economic activities in Rwanda have been agriculture and livestock management. Rwanda has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.
Heifer's Work in Rwanda
Heifer International Rwanda was established in 2000 with a grant from USAID working in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources. Program implementation did not begin until May 2001 due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, suspending work with livestock until the outbreak was cleared. During this period, farmers were being trained in sustainable agricultural practices, which included the zero grazing system of farming, terracing of hillsides and planting of fodder trees for animal feeds and nitrogen fixation to improve soil fertility.
Currently, Heifer Rwanda is implementing International Fund for Agricultural Development and African Development Bank funded projects through collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources. Heifer Rwanda is also working with Partners In Health (PIH) where Heifer Rwanda distributes goats and training, while PIH provides medical treatment for those suffering with HIV/AIDS and TB to project participant families.
Key Services Heifer Provides:
sustainable agricultural production: Water harvesting and organic vegetable and mushroom gardens
Post-harvest management and processing: Storage and chilling plants
market development: enterprise development; strengthening farming institutions; new farming techniques and linking to the private sector
Technology: Biogas energy saving stoves
Nutrition: Food security; agroecology
See where Heifer is working around the world to end hunger.
Dr. Roger Natzke, former Chairman of the Heifer International Board, recently contacted us regarding his love for the Heifer Project. Over the years, Natzke has had the opportunity to visit Heifer projects in various countries including Rwanda and Nicaragua; to not only share his expertise in Dairy Science, but also to witness how families have lifted themselves out of poverty with the help of Heifer's Hub model. Natzke shares, "I am intimately familiar with the Heifer model designed to alleviate hunger and poverty. Providing poor people, especially women, with an animal gives them a sense of self worth, a means to provide for their family, and finally, a means to support another needy neighbor by passing on the gift." To continue reading about Dr. Natzke's letter and to see more photos, please click the title of the story!
Devota has used money from milk sales to send her children to school and diversify her farm by investing in ducks.
Rwanda is a beautiful country that’s best known for the apocalypse of its genocide in 1994 and the nation is still defined by it. To survive, Rwanda has had to simultaneously remember and honor that past and move beyond it.
Eighteen and a half years ago, Heifer International project participant Constance Bangire was working as a primary school teacher in the town of Masoro, east of Kigali, teaching second grade.