Uganda: Cow Project

Rosemary is a widow. She maintains a household that includes her elderly mother, 8 grandchildren, and 3 orphans. All of her children have died, and so she is raising the young ones. Rosemary’s farm includes a beautiful patch of pineapples, which she believes are the best tasting in Masaka. When Rosemary met Sister Toni, she said, “I am blessed and grateful that MPA has remembered me. But my prayer is that MPA not only remember me, because I know that there are many other widows in this area who are in need. Please remember them with your generosity, too.” Read on for more information on The Cow Project’s approach to microfinancing.

In the summer of 2008, MPA’s Director and Founder Sr. Toni Temporiti had the privilege of meeting with Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa, who initially began the Cow Project in his Diocese of Masaka in 1993 because of his own experience of poverty as a child. Through the diocese organization Caritas MADDO (which stands for Masaka Diocese Development Organization), families join the program in village groups and receive training to prepare for a cow. The participating families prepare their farms (typically one acre or smaller) to maximize the crop output by digging contour trenching to divert potentially devastating flash floods during the rainy season, by building raised vegetable beds, by employing astute plant management techniques to allow different crops to be planted closely together, and by utilizing composting to help their crops thrive.

The project requires that the families invest in their farms by building a zero-grazing shed for the cow, planting sufficient grass to feed a cow, and implementing sanitation requirements for the family and the cow, to keep the cow in top health. Once all eligibility requirements are met, the family is granted a living loan of a pregnant cow, valued at $800. Once the calf is born, a cow gives around 20 liters of milk a day. The family uses about two liters for their own nutritional needs and sells the remainder to the Caritas MADDO Dairy, which provides the family a small but steady income. The loan is paid back by raising the calf for 9 to 12 months, and then passing along that calf to another family that is trained and ready.

As an additional living loan, the family may pass along a future calf in exchange for installing a biofuel system on their farm. The biofuel made from the waste products of the cow and produces clean and Earth-friendly methane which is used for cooking and lighting. The remains from the bio-fuel are then used for fertilizer for the banana trees, which are the main food in Uganda. Biofuel saves time and money, especially for the women who tend to be the ones preparing meals. Firewood, which is scarce, can take 1 to 2 hours daily to gather, and adds another 45 to 60 minutes of time to cooking any meal.

Although the Cow Project is self-sustaining, there are still 2,000 families trained and waiting for a cow to begin their journey out of poverty! Purchase a cow and be an integral part of this transformative process helping the rural poor in Uganda.

PEOPLE WHO INSPIRE US

Immaculata
Immaculata Nakabazzi lives on a small farm in Masaka, Uganda. She has been a widow for ten years, and in addition to her own six children, she cares for two small orphans and offers room and board in exchange for chores to a 17 year old orphan who suffers from epilepsy.

Since joining the Cow Project under Caritas MADDO, Immaculata has transformed her farm. There are neat, raised vegetable beds that protect the crops from the wash of rain during the rainy season. There is a seedling nursery to nurture young plants. Her banana plants are cultivated with so that each plant has only a “baby, mother, and grandmother” stalk, to maximize the banana output.

She has installed manual hand-washing stations, and a dish-drying station, all from available materials and in accordance with the program’s requirement to maintain sanitation standards to keep the cow healthy. The shed for the cow is sturdy and designed to offer the cow some room to roam within the shed, a hopper for the grasses for the cow to eat, and a raised platform for the newly born bull. Immaculata’s cow is now producing milk, and the day we visited would be the first day she would bring milk to the collection center to credit her account.

Immaculata’s generous spirit was evident. She shared sugar cane, passion fruit, and jack fruit with us as she explained how the agricultural techniques have boosted the productivity of her farm–she can feed her family. With the modest income the milk will add, Immaculata sees even more benefits. The family reserves 2 liters for their own nutrition, and the remainder goes to the collection center. Since the newborn is a bull, Immaculata will be encouraged to sell the animal. Bulls eat a lot and aren’t worth much more as they get full size.

When her cow gives birth to a female calf, that calf will be passed on to another neighbor in the program who has completed the training and whose farm is ready to care for a cow. This “passing-on” is the repayment of the living loan.

Esther
Esther has retired as a midwife and was one of the first women farmers to enroll in the Cow Project. She prepared her farm, received her first cow, and passed along the first female calf to the next family. As time has gone by, Esther has arranged for subsequent artificial inseminations, and has traded in another cow to install the biofuel system at her farm. This system has been an extraordinary time saver—she no longer has to collect or use firewood, which is scarce, and she is able to use a light inside the home. With the efficiencies the cows and the biofuel has provided, Esther’s farm is one of the most productive, and she has bolstered her income enough to be able to improve her home with new windows and a new roof.

Miriam Lubega
Miriam and her husband Ali joined the Cow Project and began to undertake the various improvements to their farm, as was directed by the training provided. However, they fell away from it for various reasons. During this time, the farm became less and less productive, and they came on even harder times. Their nine sons were unable to stay in school, because they could no longer afford the fees. The family resolved to give the Cow Project another try, and working together they completed their preparations in three months. In gratitude to the Cow Project, Miriam has constructed some of the raised vegetable beds in shapes that spelled out “Caritas ♥” to signify that Caritas MADDO (the Cow Project training team) would always be in the Lubega family’s heart. Miriam, Ali, and her family are Muslim in faith, evidence that the Cow Project is available to all in the Masaka area, regardless of tribe, religion, or other affiliation. They are a peaceful and joyous family.