‘The Bothar cow gave hope, income and security’

Bothar, the Irish charity much loved by the farming community, has said that its recovery took another step forward in 2018 as it reached more of the world’s poorest people than it has in any year over the past decade, giving hope of a future to many.

“It was a great year for us but, moreover, the people we seek to reach. It’s been our best year since the downturn and while it’s stating the obvious, it’s important to state it – it simply doesn’t happen without the public and certainly without the farming community,” said Bothar’s chief operating officer Niamh Mulqueen.

Across its operations in Rwanda, Tanzania, Romania and Kosovo, Bothar distributed another 225 in-calf heifers during the year. Given that it operates a system where the first-born female calf must be passed on, the number of families reached by the agency with its 2018 herd is likely to be over 300.

AI Straws

Where the numbers get really interesting, Niamh said, is when you look at the number of AI straws it sent out to these nations.

“We sent out 20,000 AI straws to these countries for Irish and native cows as well, so that’s potential for thousands of more calves to be born to impoverished families.

“We also airlifted 100 kid goats,” said the chief operating officer. “Probably the most remarkable airlift of the year came in October when we sent four pedigree bulls from Dovea Genetics.

The Rwandan government was so impressed with the quality of heifers we have been sending out and their yield over the years that they paid for four bulls to be exported from Ireland for their state breeding programme.

Rwanda was a major focus for the organisation and over recent weeks it got massive social media reach across its #TommyinRwanda programme, a four-part series that documented the trip a number of months back by singer Tommy Fleming to Rwanda.

The series ended with Tommy recording a song ‘Give a Little Bit’ with teenagers from a school there, a song that can be downloaded on iTunes and other recognised sites.

Bothar has lifted thousands of families from poverty with the gift of in-calf Irish dairy heifers and other food and income producing animals since it began operations in Rwanda over two decades ago. It was this work, offering hope for a brighter future, that attracted the Sligo native’s attention.

I come from a farming background as my parents were small dairy farmers, so it’s in my DNA. When I looked more into what Bothar does, I thought my parents would just have loved this idea; so, I was only too delighted to travel out, see the projects and record the song.

 “We got out into the heart of Rwanda to meet families whose daily lives are about survival. We met with genocide widows and saw first-hand how the gift of Irish cows to them has transformed their lives.

 “One woman, for example, had five of her nine children and her husband murdered. You would wonder how someone could go on after that and when we arrived the smiles and tears just flowed. It was as if we were representing a country that had given her family the winning lotto ticket,” Tommy said.

Photo: Sean Curtin True Media

“The cow she got from Bothar gave her hope, an income and security. She was able to raise what was left of her family and subsequently her grandchildren from this single cow, as every year since Bothar went back and put the cow back in calf. The gift kept giving and is still giving today.”

Niamh Mulqueen thanked the public for their support this Christmas, saying it gave poverty-stricken families hope.

“We have had a huge response to Tommy’s campaign and we really can’t thank him enough. He was really taken by the difference a cow can make to a family. They can literally transform their lives, giving them a daily source of nutrition for the first time in their lives.

We have worked in Rwanda for 22 years and it’s a huge part of what we do. Next year is going to be a big year for us as it’s the 25th anniversary of the genocide.

“The world turned its back on Rwanda 25 years ago as the fastest killing spree in the history of the world took hold. We have a lot of making up still to do there and a lot of our focus will be on Rwanda next year for sure.”

Donations for Bothar’s Christmas appeal range from €10 for a guinea fowl to €1,800 for an in-calf Irish dairy heifer and right up to €25,000 for a Bothar Ark, enough to purchase animals to look after 85 families.

For more information on Bothar, see: www.bothar.ie.