CYRUS MWATHI lives in the fertile farming region near Nakuru in western Kenya. As is typical, his farm is small (two acres), his family is large (seven children), and his income, until recently, was the equivalent of less than $300 a year. Until two years ago, the farm produced only maize. Life was hard, especially for Mr. Mwathi's wife, who daily had to walk four kilometers (2 miles) each way to fetch a few gallons of water for her family.
Two years ago, the Mwathis received a loan - not of money, but of an in-calf heifer (pregnant cow), from a local development agency, Farming Systems Kenya.
The heifer was worth $600, but Mwathi paid only $150 for it, with the understanding that the cow's first heifer calf would be given to the agency as soon as it was a year old.
During the cow's first lactation, she produced 30 kilos (8 gallons) of milk per day. The family has been selling the milk ever since, and during the first year they managed to save about $1,000 from the profits.
One of the first things they did was to bring piped water to their home, at a cost of about $450.
They also bought a bicycle for $95, which their eldest son uses to collect fodder for the cow. The manure she produces goes to fertilize the Mwathis' maize crop, and as a result the yield is much higher than in previous years.