The program (Girinka means ‘can you have a cow’ in the local language) is one of the development projects that has garnered Mr. Kagame’s support nationwide, although it does not tolerate any dissent and represses its rivals.
As milk production increased in this landlocked country, the number of people who moved to urban areas for education and employment increased. Thus were born the milk bars, which allowed farmers to sell their surplus milk and let customers drink in large quantities to remember their home. Most of the milk bars are in Kigali, the most populous city in the country, with 1.2 million people.
Steven Muvunyi grew up with nine siblings in Rubavu district in the west of the country. After moving to Kigali to attend university, he said he missed being in the countryside, milking cows and drinking unlimited milk.
“I come to milk bars and I am overwhelmed by the nostalgia of my childhood,” he said one evening in late September, drinking from a large cup of hot and fresh milk in downtown Kigali.
As he sat at the bar, Mr Muvunyi, 29, who works in Rwanda’s fledgling tech sector, showed photos of his 2-year-old son watching him while he drank a glass of milk on the farm of his parents. He feared, he said, that children growing up in cities might not be as connected to the country’s dairy culture, given easy access to pasteurized milk in supermarkets now.
“I want to teach my children the value of milk and cows early on,” he said.