Foodie Fix

The Significance & Evolution of Ikivuguto

It is year 2050 and Skyler, born in Kigali, is now residing in Wellington, New Zealand, where she is a manager in one of the biggest law firms. She is a successful career woman, and deeply in tune with her identity as a Rwandan.

Although she loves her “Muberinka” surname and says it in this cute tone with a little accent, she barely understands the significance it holds to her grandmother, who she is named after. Skyler and her parents relocated to New Zealand when she was a toddler and she is now 35 years old.

Last summer, she met a gentleman and they are set for a wedding by winter this year; she is exhilarated to introduce him to her culture and heritage so they plan a trip to Rwanda to visit ‘Mama mukuru’ (Grandma), who stays in the Eastern Province.

Mrs Muberinka Daphroza is 102 years and is still perfectly healthy: she speaks with a smooth voice with big pauses, due to her age.

As they chit-chat, the old woman goes in her special room and comes out with a drink to offer to the couple. It is ikivuguto (natural yogurt), in a beautiful icyansi.

Icyansi’ is a clean, wooden vessel in which milk is left to ferment, with a straw-woven lid called ‘umutemeri’/ (photo courtesy Twitter)

The couple looks at each other with a clearly confused look, and mama mukuru notices.

With a smile, she politely picks her icyansi as well and takes a sip to elaborate the right way to hold and drink from it. Skyler and her husband are both in awe of the art of drinking something they had drank all their lives, in small bottles labeled yogurt, but now treated with such respect.

With a beam so bright on her face, the grandma starts narrating the story of her youth.

“You see, my daughter, cows (inka) were of great value when I was growing up; the more cows you possessed the wealthier you were seen in the community, and the more respect you got.

My parents named me ‘Muberinka‘ for they wished that I would possess herds of cows, and I find it pleasurable that you were named after me as well, for that’s my desire for you. 

These cows provided us thousands of liters of milk on a daily basis, and young girls and mothers spent their days purifying this milk into yogurt, ghee and other products 

With no refrigerators like we have now, it was important for milk to be turned into yogurt for preservation purposes.

Yogurt was held in high esteem and was reserved for husbands and special visitors; once the yogurt was a few days old, it was turned into amacunda, a fermented drink given to children and women.

Yogurt was also a precious gift to be taken when visiting friends and families far away, which is why we still use it in the ‘Gutwikurura‘ (after-wedding) ceremony, as sign of respect and good-wishes for the newlyweds.”


Although the story above is a prediction of the evolution of Rwandan culture in coming years among millennials, we still see similarities in our generation where we have little knowledge, and perhaps not even curious to know in-depth, about such cultural traditions. 

With that said, there have been many changes in traditional Rwandan yogurt production, due to the current lifestyle which does not permit the majority of people to be cattle-keepers.

We can, however, still enjoy this delicacy that is not only significant to our heritage, but also has enormous healthy benefits, including:

Healthy benefits of yogurt 
  • Builds Immunity 
  • Aids weight-loss
  • Good for bone density
  • Rich in important nutrients 
  • Assists in digestion 
  • Benefits heart health
  • Prevents yeast infections 
  • Boosts the metabolism 
  • Healthy alternative to Mayonnaise

Simple Yogurt Recipe 

Step 1: Choose your preferred milk (recommended with a high-fat content)

Step 2: Heat the milk.

Step 3: Cool the milk to 45 degrees, which is slightly above your body temperature.

Step 4: Skim off the top cream, and add a culture (Imvuzo) which can be bought from any dairy store around town, or scooped from your favorite natural packed yogurt. Stir to incorporate into the milk.

Step 5: Incubate the yogurt in a container with a tight lid in a warm place, preferably overnight.

Step 6: Refrigerate to finish up the setting. Once it sets, discard excess whey (water) and mix with a whisk.

Note: For thicker consistency like Greek Yogurt, strain the yogurt with a cheese cloth, or put in a chinois and strain for at least 2 hours.

Include your favorite fruits for more flavor, serve with cereal, incorporate in smoothies, use as a salad dressing or in its natural form as a drink.

Enjoy!! 


One comment

  1. What a lovely surprise! I was wondering if some of my mainstay foods would be available in Kigali, and voila, your article about ‘yogurt’ appeared in The Weekender! Another ‘Rwandan’ experience to look forward to when I arrive in early January 2020!

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