1,000th Bóthar in-calf heifer departs for Rwanda

Pic: Sean Curtin (True Media)

Ireland’s generosity in the farming community and wider public towards Rwandan women widowed by the horrific genocide of the mid 1990s hit a milestone today as Bóthar despatched its 1,000th cow to the African nation.

Just three months after sending the largest ever airlift of animals in the world to the small nation in south-central Africa for its 25th anniversary, yesterday Bóthar launched its 2017 airlift programme as 25 in-calf Friesian heifers began their 7,000km journey.

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All twenty five cows despatched were brought to Roscrea Mart in Co. Tipperary from farms around the country and met there by Bóthar staff. Following the finalisation of paper-work, they were shipped to Amsterdam and loaded later at Schipol Airport for their overnight cargo flight.

Many of the donor farmers themselves also turned up to see off their animals and were welcomed to Roscrea on behalf of Bóthar by Tipperary’s All-Ireland winning senior hurling manager Michael Ryan.

It was a neat GAA double for Bóthar as three months ago, when it sent out a record airlift of animals to Rwanda for its 25th anniversary trip, Dublin’s two-in-a-row winning football manager Jim Gavin was on hand.

Speaking at Roscrea Mart, part-time farmer Michael Ryan said that he had huge admiration for the charity and its donors. “We live privileged lives here but there are people across the developing world who obviously don’t. The farmers who donate the cows, in particular, deserve huge credit as this is no small donation. In-calf heifers could fetch over €1,500 so that’s a very generous contribution.

“Similarly, people who donate to Bóthar make a very important contribution. And, of course, Bóthar itself as an organisation deserves huge credit for doing this year in year out, for over quarter of a century. Tipperary has a strong link in that the late TJ Maher was one of the founding members of Bóthar and it’s something for us to be very proud of as a county.”

In-calf heifers can expect royal treatment on arrival in Rwanda, a country where agriculture is the leading industry and the cow celebrated in song and dance.

Bóthar CEO Dave Moloney recalled the last visit he paid to the African country, “Last October when we arrived there the Rwandan Minister for Agriculture Gerardine Mukeshimana was on hand to welcome us, as well as a troupe of traditional dancers. It was an amazing experience and showed just how much Rwandans appreciate this gift from Irish people.

“We got out to the countryside to meet families who had received cows from us as many as seven years ago. It was heartening to see the difference this made to their lives. We met one woman who was living in a mud-hut and had just lost her husband and two of her five children back in 2009 when we met her first. We went back in each of the five years since to put the cow back in calf. This meant she was able to sell on each off-spring, except for the first born female which, under our agreement with recipient families, must be handed over free to another family.

“From the proceeds of the sale of the calves and the milk, she was able to build a really decent house and has put two of her three remaining three children through second and third level education. She has also used manure from the cow to grow a small banana plantation. It’s the type of outcome we have across Rwanda. You can still see the sadness in her but her life has become far less of a struggle thanks to a single Irish cow.”

Referring to today’s consignment, he said, “We were only able to do this thanks to the generosity of donors, farmers and members of the general public, not least across our Christmas campaign. It was our best Christmas in probably ten years and that means we will be able to send out more animals this year again. That’s going to mean more families having their lives transformed.

“We also transport our 1,000th cow from Ireland to Rwanda today and given that we go back out each year with AI straws to put the heifers back in calf, in reality there are now thousands of Irish animals in Rwanda, raising the breeding standard dramatically and changing people’s lives beyond belief. Our donors can be very proud of this and this, of course, could never have happened without them.”


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