Aid agency Bóthar preparing to open creamery in Rwanda

Charity hopes Rwandan president Paul Kagame will officially open facility this autumn

Aid agency Bóthar is best known for sending heifers to developing countries but it has taken the next step in Rwanda with its plan to open a creamery in the western Rusizi district.

Aideen O'Leary, who is leading the project, said she expected the dairy would be operational by July and she hoped the Rwandan president Paul Kagame would be in a position to officially open it in the autumn.

The Rusizi community lives on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Bóthar plans to export the milk, known locally as “white-gold”, to Bukavu in the DRC. Ms O’Leary said the region had a shortage of quality dairy produce.

Some 1,352 cows, donated by Bóthar and fellow charities, will supply the creamery and Bóthar plans to build up capacity to 10,000 litres a day.


Farmers will get to keep about a litre of milk a day for their own use. Ms O’Leary said it was envisaged that the milk would also be sold locally when the creamery became established. “We are also looking at the Burundian market as the border is a mere 30 minutes from here. However, initially the DRC market is ready so that is our main focus.”

High quality
"There are so many Irish cows here and other high quality cows that have been donated from Holland, in particular, that the milk quality from the creamery is likely to be the best in Rwanda and perhaps all of Africa," she said.

“Another reason for the high quality is the weather here, which is perfect for dairy production. We have rain, water and plenty of feed so the milk and yogurt from this creamery will be highly sought after.”

She said the cows could each deliver an average of 20 litres each per day at the height of the milking season.

“When you consider that local cows only yield one litre or a little more, they have now got a real business on their hands that is going to make a massive difference to lives in this area.”

The creamery project will cost about €400,000 and Bóthar still needs to raise about €100,000 of this to complete the purchase and installation of machinery. The equipment was sourced by Bóthar’s dairy expert who will arrive in Rwanda within weeks to begin the installation process and train staff.

Under the agreement with the Rwandan ministry for agriculture, Bóthar will hold a 30 per cent share based on its investment in the project for two to three years. Then the shareholding will be bought by local farmers and investors, with Bóthar reinvesting the money in other projects.

'Massive excitement'
The Limerick-based charity has delivered in-calf dairy heifers to almost 450 Rwandan families over the past eight years.

Founder Peter Ireton said there was "massive excitement" in Rusizi over the creamery. "We have found over the years that recipient families treated the donation of a Bóthar heifer like they had just won the lottery so we can only imagine what this means to them. We never could have dreamed when we started out as an agency airlifting in-calf Irish heifers 22 years ago that one day we would be developing creameries."

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times