Dairy goat intervention building the resilience of resource poor women

The overall goal of BENEFIT-REALISE “Improved dairy goat intervention to improve the livelihoods of rural women” in Ahferom Woreda, 200km North West of Mekelle, Tigray region is to build asset of vulnerable Female Headed Households (FHHs) towards resilience. In addition to generating income, the intervention aims to improve nutritional status of the households and improve the capacity of the women in livestock management. For a woman like Azeb Abera, a 46 year-old mother of 3, the last three months activities have restored her hope for better changes to come.

Azeb lives with her six year old son high up on the rugged, terraced mountainside. Since her husband death, she has been forced to rent her less than 0.25ha land to those who are capable to cultivate the farm land in terms of resource (capital, seed and oxen) and farm labor. She said “I have to rent out my farm land with an agreement to get 50% of the crop produced – teff, barley or wheat. But that is not enough, so I also depended on the government PSNP (Productive Safety Net Programme) support. I used to own few goats and sheep, but had to sell them to make ends meet.”

Goat restocking is a complex intervention for various reasons. Nevertheless, if done right, its potential for improving the livelihood of women farmers within a short period of time has been proven; one of them by BENEFIT-CASCAPE programme (REALISE partner).

Following the long tradition of goat rearing in the area, the programme, through its implementing partner Mekelle University (MU) introduced a new breed with a greater genetic potential for milk and can adapt to the dry climate and pasture. In December 2018, two breeding female goats and one male goat were given to 20 FHHs selected in consultation with Woreda and kebele Bureau of Agriculture (BoA) officials. This was followed by a training on goat reproduction, management and health.

It is easy to see the strong bond formed between Azeb and her goats. As they follow her around her yard, she proudly showed us her pink folder that holds relevant information about each one of them. She said “Here you find information on each of my goats – when they were born, information on their health, vaccination, spray etc… I take all the necessary steps to protect them and make sure I properly follow the training provided.” Much to her delight, in just three months the two pregnant goats gave birth to three kids – increasing her goat family from three to six.

To prevent diseases and ensure success of the intervention basic animal health service is given due attention. “As you can see the goats were vaccinated twice for minimal price and we have learned how to recognize when the goats are not well. We get support from animal science experts regularly. We now know the value of spraying to protect them from parasites. If we get the right equipment we can even do it ourselves and not depend on the experts to come by.”

For Ahferom Woreda women the current major concern is related to feed. The women mostly use sorghum and maize stover to feed their goats. “I finished last season’s crop residues, and since there is no rain, getting feed until the rainy season is becoming a challenge.” said Azeb. In response to this, the programme has already secured forage seed nearby research center and plan to conduct close follow-up to ensure availability of feed until the rainy season.

What is next? “Based on our agreement I am giving away the 2nd round off-springs to another woman in need.” said Azeb. “What I want is to increase the number of goats I have, sell what I can and get a cow. I can sell the male off springs for a minimum of 3500birr each. And if I sell enough I can buy a cow” she added with a smile.

Another concern is related to effect of cross breeding with local breed, leading to dilution of the improved dairy breed introduced. Accordingly, the programme has implemented some breeding strategies to maintain the pure breed including using only cut and carry to feed the goats and keeping them in their yards as much as possible. But as the women fiercely protect their improved female goats, cross breeding of female local goats with the improved male goat is happening to improve productivity of local breeds in terms of milk and meat In addition, the selling of any goat (male goats) is facilitated by the Kebele administration not only to control cross breeding and sustain begait goats’ genetic trait but also to facilitate access to market within the community. Even though these might address the immediate concerns, long term strategies that involve the community and government is needed to address complex issues related to cross breeding,

The benefit of the dairy goats in terms of providing goat milk to the family towards nutrition is still early to tell. But at this early stage the women have high hopes for what to come as their number of goats (assets) grows in number.

The BENEFIT-REALISE programme aims to contribute to sustainable livelihoods through the introduction of improved farming practices, innovations and social experiments to strengthen the current Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) in Ethiopia.

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