Wednesday, 1 February 2006

More about goats

It was before Christmas that I first wrote to OXFAM about their programme to create herds of goats across Africa, as a solution to poverty. Since writing my blogs on this issue, I have had lots of people confirm my negative views on this, as anyone with even scant knowledge about environmental degradation in Africa, is aware that goats are one of the main causes.

Unfortunately OXFAM have been unable to come up with a spokesperson who can justify their activities. Despite reminders, the best I got was a message that some one would contact me in about three weeks time.

An issue I did not mention in my earlier blogs, is that very often animals such as goats and camels (also being 'sold' as Christmas gifts) are frequently used as status symbols, not as sources of food. Goat keepers often try to accumulate large herds, which are then used for trading, bride-money etc.

But the big issue is still what do goats feed on? They either feed on foodstuffs that could have been eaten by humans, or they graze (and usually over-graze)on what is left of the natural vegetation. And it is this latter which is the problem. As far as I am concerned, until OXFAM, and the other charities involved can answer these criticisms, we should consider goats a threat to the environment, and discourage any increase in their populations, which are already unsustainable in many parts of Africa.


  1. Don't know if you've seen these:

    Getting your goat - Guardian investigation into whether giving a goat works. Largely positive.

    Meagre food for babies first and elderly last, as villages empty of life - Not specifically about giving goats as a charity gift, but contains some interesting observations, such as:

    "The people of Terbadeen were herders and subsistence farmers, whose wealth was tied up in their cattle and goats. When drought and locusts destroyed the pasture land, the animals wasted away."

    "The villagers tried to sell their surviving livestock, but no one would pay a high price for a skinny, starving goat or cow."

    Don't Send a Cow, Save a Cow, This Christmas - About the unsustainability of sending livestock, as well as the animal welfare issues involved:

    "Supplying cows and goats to impoverished people with limited resources just adds to their burden. All farmed animals require proper nourishment, yet surely it is not sensible to devote agricultural resources to feeding animals when they could be used to feed people."

  2. It's a real shame that individuals requesting feedback on the provision of livestock, in particular goats, as a solution to poverty are not receiving satisfactory answers.

    Send a Cow has reacted strongly to suggestions in the recent Times article that discusses how the gifts of goats to poverty-stricken farmers in the world?s poorest countries present a threat to the environment.

    The charity maintains that, on the contrary, properly managed goats can actually help to restore exhausted soil and protect local environments.

    Like most of the livestock distributed by Send a Cow to farmers in Africa, the goats the charity gives are zero-grazed, living in light, airy, spacious shelters, with a balanced natural diet of grass, legumes and other vegetation being brought to them. They are able to exercise in an adjacent paddock. They pose no threat to the environment.

    ?On a recent visit to Uganda I saw the benefits, to both farmers and their environment, of goats reared in this way,? said Pat Simmons, the charity?s Communications Manager. ?I met one farmer, Regina, who received two goats from us in September 2002. She zero-grazes them, and makes compost from their manure.

    "She has used that compost on her land, and has put into practice the natural, sustainable farming techniques she learned on her preparatory training from Send a Cow. As a result, she has tripled her harvests of groundnuts and beans and is able to grow bananas, a crop she could never grow before on her land.?

    ?Zero-grazing is one of the best techniques taught to us,? said another Ugandan farmer, Eserada. ?We expect that now there will be no more animals roaming around ruining crops and the land. Even our neighbours are copying us, as they have seen the benefit to our land.?

    The goats given by Send a Cow represent long-term solutions to the problems of poverty and environmental degradation.

    Send a Cow was founded by farmers, practical people who know that livestock rearing is a challenging task requiring knowledge and skill. Send a Cow provides only the best quality livestock and supports farmers by providing extensive training in animal husbandry and natural sustainable farming practices. Send a Cow understands that providing such support is the only way that farmers will be able to work their way out of poverty in a way that is beneficial to all - people, animals and their environment.