Last week we visited our porridge project at Rimwe and met the latest intake of malnourished children and their mothers. This particular project is in its early days and we would not expect to see any substantial improvements to the local area for several months. This week we have come to Rutonde to take the pulse of the project we started there over three years ago.
Although the project is based around a six-month feeding programme for children, the scope is somewhat wider. This is rural Rwanda. There is no employment, families have little but a mud house and the clothes they stand up in. We are trying to help these people build on what they have, to a point where they are able to sustain a modest and stable existence. The strategy is long-term but we are already seeing encouraging results.
Along with porridge for the children, the project gives goats to the most needy families. In rough terms, a goat is worth a month's wage for an unskilled worker. The goats are bred and as each generation of kids comes along, so also a relatively substantial lump of money which can be used to pay for family health insurance or perhaps even house repairs.
We also give a rabbit to each child on the project for their family. The rabbits are our most potent weapon in the battle against poverty. Compared to a goat, a mature rabbit is worth perhaps two to three days' wages. But they multiply significantly faster than goats and in compound interest terms provide a far better return. Within a few months a family can build up a stock of animals which provide valuable sources of protein and income. A booming hotel and catering industry in Kigali helps us. The hotels and supermarkets come out to the villages to buy the fresh meat.
With each batch of children which passes through the porridge project we are in effect making an injection of money into the local economy. We could simply hand out money to each family, but franc notes don't multiply by themselves. Rabbits do the job for us and we are hearing good stories. One woman was able to buy a pig with money she had saved. Another who we met this week had bought a goat which had produced two kids.
These are small beginnings but for families who previously had next to nothing they are making a big difference to these people's lives.