One Cow, One Family: Program Evaluation in Rwanda
There isn’t just one job trajectory for students in the Department of Behavioral Science and Community Health; the department prepares students for all different kinds of real-world challenges. Kelsea LeBeau is a second year MPH student in the Social and Behavioral Sciences concentration, and she recently took a 10-day trip to Rwanda for a research project.
Back on September 12, Kelsea, along with Dr. Kathleen Colverson, PhD from the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF IFAS), flew to Kigali; this African city is home to about 600,000 people, and is the capital of Rwanda. Despite this project being her first international trip, Kelsea didn’t experience the kind of culture shock described by others. She and Dr. Colverson stayed in the capital, which allowed them to “…get accumulated with the culture and learn about what’s going on, not be in a very isolated area.”
Kelsea’s mission was to evaluate a government program called the “One Cow per Poor Family.” With this government program, poor households were identified and then given a cow, some of
which were even pregnant. This program had two goals: (1) Improve the household’s income by allowing the family to sell the various byproducts of the cow, like the milk and manure, and (2) improve the family’s overall nutrition through the cow’s milk and various crops that could be grown using resources from the cow. “[In Rwanda], they’re eating to be full, but they’re not eating for nutrition,” Kelsea mentioned, “they eat a lot of carb-related foods.”
This government program has been going on for ten years in Rwanda, but it has never been evaluated; Kelsea told us how there was no baseline or follow-up data ever collected on this program, and the government “…sees some success stories, or they see it’s working in some places, and so they’re like ‘Yeah it’s working,’ but how do you know that?” Kelsea also highlighted how program evaluation should be more important in global health and international programs.
Kelsea and Dr. Colverson also wanted to evaluate a claim made by the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in this program; they said that while they saw household income rise, nutrition was not impacted. The two interviewed government organizations, NGOs, and even some farmers in Rwanda. “We looked at it from a gendered perspective to see if there were any gendered nuances. . .and what those roles play in actual consumption of milk and animal-source foods,” Kelsea said.
During the trip, skills from Dr. George Hack’s Research Methods course, PHC6700, helped Kelsea the most. “His class has been most beneficial because we were doing qualitative research and we were interviewing people. Now we are having to go transcribe and look at the data, which we learned to do in his class.” Throughout the trip to Rwanda, Kelsea took on a coordinator role, helping to set up interviews with community members in Rwanda, and scribing the interviews to ensure that all the information was accurately recorded.
Kelsea said that while she always had an interest in global health, this trip solidified the idea of global health as a career. “My biggest takeaway is this is something that I can see myself doing and I really enjoy this work.” For students interested in opportunities like this, Kelsea recommends reaching out to faculty and staff that are involved in your interests. “Go find somebody and talk to them, just go ask…Go talk to someone and ask ‘How can I get involved?’”
At the moment, Kelsea is writing up a paper about the trip, with hopes to publish the results. She also said that another main goal of this project is to send this information and recommendations back to the organizations in Rwanda to improve the program outcomes.
Congratulations to Kelsea for a successful trip overseas, and we are excited to see what she accomplishes next in our program!