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Seven ways goats can fight poverty in rural Africa

Low maintenance and adaptable. Goats are fantastic animals that can help farmers escape poverty, build resilience to climate change and empower women in rural communities.

Here are seven ways goats can transform lives in eastern Africa:

1. Goats provide a vital source of income for farmers in eastern Africa, who can sell their milk, meat, cheese, butter and hides for profits. Often managed by women, the income received from goats ensures female farmers can afford various domestic expenses, such as their children’s school fees and medical costs.

Goats are also a useful source of financial security as they can be easily and quickly sold for cash to meet other family needs.

Goats mean food, they are money as well: this one brings my family money that means I can pay for medical expenses or buy clothes.

Beka, South Omo, Ethiopia

 

2. Goats are small and easy to care for. They are relatively low-maintenance livestock and do not require much up-front investment or land compared to larger animals. This means goat ownership is suitable for women, who often have less access to land and financial resources than men. Goats can be cared for close to home for those juggling domestic responsibilities.

3. Although they are small, goats are tough and hardy animals. They offer an excellent alternative source of income that is reliable year-round and can build farmers’ resilience to climate change.

The climate in eastern Africa can be harsh and unpredictable and it’s sometimes impossible for farmers to grow enough crops to feed their children. But goats are well-adapted to arid landscapes and can thrive in variable temperatures during food and water shortages.

 

4. Goats can help build more secure futures for whole communities. As part of our Livestock for Livelihoods project, funded by UK aid from the UK government and Jersey Overseas Aid, Farm Africa set up a revolving goat scheme where women in South Omo, Ethiopia and Karamoja, Uganda received does and once that doe reproduced, the first two or three goat kids were passed on to other vulnerable women in their community. This created a cycle of improved prosperity and helped more women build better futures for their children.

I am joyful to have goats. It used to be only men in my family who owned animals. The project has enabled me to send two of my daughters to school. I hope my daughters will have a different life to mine. I didn’t go to school myself.

Longoli Paska, a female farmer from Karamoja, Uganda

 

5. Goats can contribute to farmers’ other sources of food and income as their manure can be used to fertilise crops.

 

6. Goats’ milk can provide most of the essential nutrients and energy required by growing children. Food insecurity is a major challenge in many rural communities in eastern Africa, which can lead to malnutrition and stunting in children, so access to a rich source of protein such as goats’ milk can improve families’ diets.

My nine-month old twin girls have been drinking the goats’ milk for three months now. They love the goats’ milk. They will be able to get enough milk from me and the goats, which means they will be able to grow up strong and healthy.

Lokii Regina, Karamoja, Uganda

 

7. Goats have short reproduction cycles of only five months and often produce twins, allowing for plenty of opportunity for breeding, and particularly rebuilding population numbers if they drop after a drought. As the goats breed, farmers can sell the kids and see their income grow.

For me, it’s like a dream to have my own goats. I am just so happy. There is hope for the future. Now I have goats, I know that tomorrow I will be able to have something better.

Longole, Karamoja, Uganda

 

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Photos: Chris de Bode / Panos Pictures for Farm Africa