Indigenous Knowledge, Economic Empowerment and Entrepreneurship in Rwanda: The Girinka Approach
The Girinka (one-cow-per-poor-family) program was created in response to the extreme malnutrition that plagued more than half of the poorest citizens in the Republic of Rwanda prior to 2006. Rwanda’s traditional wealth creation and distribution system of cow-giving served as a platform for the creation of Girinka. The aim was to ensure milk supply for nutrition, and cow manure for increased crop productivity. Without meaning to, however, Girinka has succeeded in making entrepreneurs out of several previously malnourished citizens who have used proceeds from sale of cow milk and increased crop output to set up various businesses. Entrepreneurship can play a crucial role in offering an escape route out of poverty. International aid projects, NGOs and governments are beginning to include rural entrepreneurship as an economic empowerment strategy in poor countries. However, one challenge this approach faces is its propensity to be designed outside of rural areas. The end result is often a form of superimposition of external, ill-fitting, and therefore, unsustainable ideals on the cultural values and socio-economic realities of the rural poor. In the final analysis, the percentage of failure of such programs is high. The successes recorded by Girinka in Rwanda, therefore, demands further analysis. By depending on case studies - generated through observations and in-depth interviews - of successful Girinka generated entrepreneurial ventures, this paper attempts to establish the program as a unique, culturally rooted, poverty alleviation strategy. Girinka resonates, at the basic level, with the poorest of the poor and uneducated in Rwanda. The social-psychological proclivity to identify as wealthy according to community held beliefs can be said to be a major motivating factor in turning the poor in Rwanda into successful entrepreneurs.