Ikivuguto: Nourishing Communities for Centuries

Ikivuguto (fermented milk) is a popular dairy product in Rwanda. This iconic beverage has been nourishing communities for centuries.


Traditionally, cows are prized possessions symbolizing wealth. In today’s cash-driven economy, cattle ownership continues to upgrade standards of living. Beef and dairy products are common consumables. Horns, hoofs and hides are highly demanded products in the manufacturing industry.


Local communities have been using cow dung as manure for a long time. Lately, what could easily be discarded as waste has become a source of biogas and electricity. Imigongo entrepreneurs on the other hand, use it to make decorative pieces of art and preserve their cultural heritage. Imigongo art is a creative cultural practice originated from the cattle-rearing communities of the Eastern Province. Apart from occupying a prestigious position in the Rwandan culture, cows open up multiple streams of income for farmers.


Everything a cow produces turns into gold. However, milk’s symbolic and nutritional value transcends all of the above. Different trends and consumer preferences come and go but consumption of fresh milk and ikivuguto has stood the test of time. The milk-drinking culture is here to stay.


In his research paper titled, Kivuguto Traditional Fermented Milk and the Dairy Industry in Rwanda, Eugene Karenzi stated that consumption of milk was once a privilege enjoyed by a few rich families and cows played some sort of a divisive role in the society. However, Karenzi acknowledged efforts made by the government and its partners to fast track universal ownership of cows through the Girinka program.


The Girinka program was rolled out to ensure every poor family in the country owns a cow. The word Girinka (may you have a cow) is a popular greeting among Rwandans. It is an expression of best wishes. Moreover, a cow is considered the most precious gift among Rwandans.


The Girinka program was executed by the government in partnership with Line Ministries, Heifer International, Send a Cow, World Vision and a number of local NGOs. Furthermore, the Ministry of Agriculture has come up with strategies to improve capacity and organizational skills in the livestock subsector, with emphasis on dairy farming.


Today, there are different pasteurized ikivuguto brands in the market but Urugo ikivuguto stands out from the crowd. The dairy production unit at the Urugo Women’s Opportunity Center supports local farmers and offers a product of cultural significance and great nutritional value for consumers across the country.