How a Dairy Cow Saved This Family Farm

Written by
FH staff writer
Published on
November 29, 2021 at 4:13:00 PM PST November 29, 2021 at 4:13:00 PM PSTth, November 29, 2021 at 4:13:00 PM PST
A dairy cow improves family nutrition with fresh milk and raises their income with the sale of dairy products and calves. Cow manure is used to fertilize gardens and multiply harvests!

Like most of his peers in rural Burundi, Celestin tried to support his family with smallholder farming. Every rainy season, Celestin and his wife, Patricie, faithfully planted local crops on their family plot, hoping for a harvest that would feed their large family. Sadly, it was never enough. Through generations of erosion and serial monocropping (planting the same one thing over and over), the soil on their hilly land had grown barren and couldn’t support their family.

Weak from perpetual hunger, 12-year-old Aaron and three of his siblings dropped out of school. Instead, they spent their mornings begging in the local market or neighbourhood to survive.

“While I was begging, some of the people would mock me and ask why I begged while my parents and I are able bodied. This situation hurt me a lot and I could not imagine how we are going to overcome it,” Aaron shared.

Celestin and Patricie, too, had to look beyond farming for income. They began working as day labourers, accepting whatever jobs they could find and being paid in coins or food.

“We felt bad and wondered whether we were created in the image of God, like others,” Celestin remembers. “We isolated ourselves from other people. Our children could not play with others thinking that they were hated, and so they always stayed at home.”

When FH Burundi moved into their village, they asked the local leaders which families needed the most help first. Celestin’s family, classified as “vulnerable” - always barely on the edge of survival, easily tipped toward starvation by the slightest shock - made the list.

FH began hosting workshops on how to take care of livestock, and how to make them help take care of you! Celestin attended the training and then received his very own dairy cow. From that moment onward, their lives began to take a turn for the better.

By using their new cow’s manure as fertilizer, Celestin and Patricie improved the quality of the soil in their field. The result? Their harvests tripled! 

This increase in food production has meant every family member now has enough to eat. No longer driven by gnawing hunger to the streets to beg, Aaron and his siblings are back in school. Drinking milk everyday has further strengthened the family.

“My family’s life has improved dramatically! Now the children, and the family in general, are in good health,” Celestin beams.

He and his wife no longer have to rely on the luck of getting a day’s labour from a stranger. They now have the dignity and security of working on their own farm every day. 

Greater harvests have also meant Celestin has produce to sell in the market to earn an income. He joined a Savings and Loans group called Tugwanyubukene - “let us fight against poverty” - and quickly became a leader. In this group, he and Patricie can start to invest and grow a bit of savings as well as take out low-interest loans to grow their farming into a better business.

Thanks to a dairy cow (and the FH supporters who provided it!), Celestin’s family is on a brand new trajectory toward a brighter, hope-filled future.