We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa, founder of the Cow Project in Masaka, Uganda, on January 20, 2021. Here is a brief history of the bishop and his impact on MPA. His example of compassion, determination, humility, and service are enduringly inspiring. May he rest in peace. May we live up to his legacy.
Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa was born on March 22, 1943 in Bulenga Village, Wakiso District, Uganda.
Named “Kaggwa,” meaning “the one born after the twins,” Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa was the youngest of twelve children. When he was young, he was always hungry and found it hard to concentrate to pray in church. He resolved that if he were ever able to make a difference, he would help his people overcome poverty and hunger. In this goal, he welcomed everyone who lived in the Masaka Diocese regardless of tribe or religion. “If you are hungry, you are my people,” he said.
Bishop Kaggwa was ordained priest on December 12, 1971. On 24 June 1995, he became coadjutor bishop to Bishop Adrian Kivumbi Ddungu. When Bishop Ddungu retired, the Pope named Kaggwa as the new bishop of Masaka Diocese.
Almost immediately, John Baptist Kaggwa began the Cow Project, starting with three cows from Heifer International and help from Bothar of Ireland.
Sister Toni Temporiti, CPPS, travelling with Sister Barbara Moore, CSJ, in 2008, met with Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa and learned about the Cow Project’s holistic approach to offering a hand up to subsistence farmers.
Farmers must have at least 2 acres of land. They train together in village groups, helping each other dig erosion ditches, set up raised vegetable beds, plant fruit trees, begin composting, and constructing handwashing stations, dishwashing stations, and proper latrines and showers. When a zero-grazing shed is complete, the family receives a pregnant cow. Immediately the family benefits from the waste of the cow for use as fertilizer for the crops. When the cow gives birth, she begins producing milk, usually 18-24 liters per day. This is enough for the family to consume, with extra to sell to the dairy at a fair price. This income, usually $2-5 USD per day, makes all the difference. The project places the earnings in a savings account where both husband and wife must co-sign to withdraw monies after 30 days. This has encouraged a culture of saving and communicating about the priorities for the family. The living loan is retired when the family passes on the first female cow to the next qualified farmer. Male cow offspring are sold early on for income. Subsequent female cow offspring may be kept to increase the family’s wealth or sold to the Cow Project to expand to the program.
MicroFinancing Partners in Africa (MPA) began partnering with the Cow Project in 2009. As of the end of 2020, MPA donors have funded 1,026 original cows and 690 pass-on cows. In addition, 1,705 other farmers have received cow project training.
This partnership has led to launching a breeding center to bring in-house the supply of high-quality female, pregnant cows.
Because of Bishop Kaggwa’s fierce dedication to his people, especially women, he invited MPA to work with a group of women especially close to his heart. These were women who have experienced obstetric fistula. In 2014, we began the Piglet Project for post-fistula women.
Since then, MPA has grown the piglet project to include SWAP (Safe Woman Alternative Project) table-lending groups, a Village Health Center Midwife Ultrasound Training Project, and a Group Income Project at each Village Health Center to support the cost of providing ultrasound services to pregnant women as well as offering microfinancing education and support to those visiting pregnant women. These four projects comprise MPA’s Safe Woman Program.
Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa visited Saint Louis in 2014 and 2016. While here, he was the guest of honor at MPA’s annual African Gala Dinner Auction, visited with volunteers, donors, and friends of MPA, and enjoyed the hospitality of the parishes of St. Simon the Apostle, Mary Queen of Peace, and Saint Elizabeth Mother of John the Baptist.
Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa retired in July 2019. He was succeeded by the new Bishop Serverus Jjumba who had served as Kaggwa’s Vicar General.
Following a brief but serious battle with COVID-19, Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa passed away on January 20, 2021.
Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa is featured in our video The Living Loan. Here is the link to this video.