There are about 20 million goats in Ethiopia. Most are managed by pastoralists in the lowlands, but they are also widely kept on small farms in the highlands of the south, east and arid north of the country. In the highlands it is often the very poorest members of society that keep goats, for milk and cash. Surprisingly, little effort has been made to develop goat production. Indeed, in Ethiopia, goats are commonly but innaccurately blamed for the environmental degradation caused by people.
FARM Africa started the Dairy Goat Development Project in Ethiopia in 1988 with funding from the Overseas Development Administration (ODA). The goal of the project is to increase the income and nutrition of families in the highlands by improving the productivity of goats managed by women. Intensified goat production fits well into the existing farming system and culture. Women are the project focus because they traditionally look after goats. Though women have been neglected in the development process in Ethiopia, they are responsive to new ideas, responsible in implemention and ensure that benefits reach the whole family.
FARM Africa is implementing the project in a collaborative way. With a small staff, FARM Africa works through the Ministry of Agriculture and international and national non-governmental organizations. Breeding flocks have been established at a university and an agricultural college. In this way, the project attempts to maximize the impact of limited resources, and initiate goat production activities in several key institutions to reinforce the sustainability of the project.
There is a chronic shortage of livestock feed in the highlands so women must plant forage crops before they receive goats. Forage strategies used so far include backyard trees, grass strips and forage strips on the edges of fields or intercropped with maize or sorghum.
Once the goats are allocated, women are trained in forage development, health care and general goat management. Extension staff are trained to use a simple education package of flip charts and notes. Once the participant's management techniques have improved sufficiently, she may also receive a crossbred goat (Anglo-Nubian x local) which has a much higher milk production capacity than the local breed. Women are obtaining 1.0 to 2.5 liters per day from the crossbred goats, and have observed fast-growing kids. Some women have started selling milk and are earning the equivalent of the average daily wage.
Each goat group selects two women to be trained as paravets. The women attend a 5-to 7-day training course in their village. The training focuses on practical skills and confidence building. The women learn to examine a sick goat, use anthelmintics and acaricides, dress wounds, trim feet and castrate. They are also trained to keep simple pictorial records.
At the end of the course there is a small ceremony where trainees receive a basic veterinary kit and a backpack sprayer. They also receive a certificate and publicly commit themselves to serving the women's goat group. For every treatment they give, the paravets charge a small mark-up on the price of the drug as an incentive.
The paravet program is supervised by the local Ministry veterinary officer to whom difficult cases are referred. A follow-up course is organized after three months to allow feedback and trouble-shooting. On the whole the paravets have performed very well, though a few have dropped out due to family problems or pregnancy. Most return after a short period.
The project now works with 1,200 families in four regions of Ethiopia. In addition to the direct benefits of milk and money, women are gaining confidence in their abilities to manage their own affairs and not only help each other, but also help new families. The FARM Africa Dairy Goat Development Project has shown what can be done through simple technology and local organizations to improve the welfare of some of the poorest people in Ethiopia.
Dr. Christie Peacock
The Old Manor
Ubley, Near Bristol
Avon, BS18 6 PJ, UK