The initial goat project was supported by Friends from Olympia,
WA and the expanded project by the Goldman Sachs Social Entrepreneurship
A central principle of HROC (Healing and Rebuilding
Our Communities) is that the healing of the inner wounds of trauma
go hand in hand
with reconciliation and the building of relationships. The HROC trauma
healing workshops create space for both, but it is sometimes difficult
for participants to find ways of continuing to nurture and cultivate
these relationships outside of the workshops. Many HROC participants
have organized themselves and taken initiatives to deepen the healing
and reconciliation of their communities by, for example, visiting
perpetrators of violence in prison. In another instance, a group
of widows in Mutaho decided to meet regularly and to cultivate a
piece of land together. Eventually, these women wanted to nurture
their reconciled relationships even further – encouraging each
other not just to meet together, but also to cross the threshold
into each other’s homes. This is how the idea for the goat
exchange project was born.
With support from AGLI, each Tutsi woman
from the internally displaced persons’ camp was paired with
another Hutu woman who had remained in her community during the conflict,
effectively crossing ethnic boundaries. Each pair was given a pregnant
goat that they cared for together, often visiting each other’s
homes. After the goat gave birth, one woman kept the mother and the
other took the kid. The women were then paired with others, and the
cycle continues. This initiative was so successful in deepening relationships
across boundaries and in raising the confidence and quality of life
of the women that HROC decided to replicate the project in other
From January 2009 to December 2010, Goldman Sac’s
social entrepreneurship program and AGLI supported the initiation
of fifteen additional groups.
These groups have now distributed the first generation of goats,
have been re-paired and are looking forward to the multiplication
of their efforts. Each of these groups is taking ownership of the
project and it is clear that it has allowed them to continue the
relationship building they began in the HROC workshop and that the
goats have helped improve their lives.
The process of the goat-exchange has not been problem-free, but in
facing challenges each of the groups have made the project their
own. In one community, there was an uproar during the distribution
over who would get the biggest, healthiest looking goat until one
of the facilitators devised a system through which they would be
distributed randomly. In another community, the members decided
to contribute a regular membership fee to make the group more sustainable,
making exceptions for those participants who could not afford to
pay; such as allowing them to pay after their harvest. In many
groups the death of a goat or a kid caused lively discussions.
Although these were difficult conversations, they allowed the groups
to set up their own rules and guidelines for how the project would
continue to function. They also effectively created a forum where
members were asked to handle conflict constructively, ultimately
strengthening relationships and group cohesion. Some of the groups,
significantly in Mutaho, have also started to become involved in
the communal administration; learning about and promoting the project.
Thus the project has also become a way for the community to make
themselves heard wherever decisions are being made.
When the kids are old enough to be exchanged, the groups gather together,
bringing the kids along. They sing, pray and talk about their experiences
of the project while sharing soda and mandazis (a kind of donut).
Afterward, each member of a pair who kept the goat in his or her
home, ceremoniously hands over the kid to the partner, often with
a heartfelt speech, the naming of the kid and a hug. Each of these
aspects of the process opens a space for the strengthening of relationships
and it is clear the groups are actively seizing the opportunity
to continue the work of reconciliation.
Many of the participants
shared how they have met together regularly with their partner
during the project, visiting each other’s
homes, sharing drinks and cooperating to take care of the goat. For
example, in Gwisabu a set of partners met together in the internally
displaced camp to ensure that their sick goat got the right treatment.
They managed to nurse the goat back to health and were proud of the
way they had worked together. In Mutaho, a Tutsi man from the internally
displaced camp was paired with a Hutu woman from the community. They
talked about how they had chosen to name their goat urukundo (meaning “love”)
and how they visited each other often. In another community, Ryarunyinya,
one woman in the project died. The group decided that her daughter
would take her place in the project. Beyond just including her, the
partner she was assigned to worked to ensure that extra resources
were made available to her. This is a powerful demonstration of the
opportunity for relationship-building brought about through the goat-exchange
The goat, urukundo, “love” with its owners.