The Sunday News
GOATS are regarded as highly adaptable to arid conditions and are now widely promoted as one of the means of adapting to the increasing droughts due to climate change.
In addition, they are together with indigenous chickens being promoted as a way of improving livelihoods of resource poor smallholder farmers.
Goat production is currently being promoted at a global scale by the International Goat Association in addition to other organisations. In Zimbabwe goat production has been extensively promoted by the Government research and extension departments, universities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and farmer associations.
Recently goat production has been receiving special attention from various stakeholders with organisations such as ZimTrade offering to help producers export goat meat to lucrative markets such as Angola and the Middle East.
However, exporting to such markets requires large numbers of goats which the current production levels are unable to meet.
According to the Cold Storage Company the country needs to export meat from at least 1 500 goats per week to meet the demand in the United Arab Emirates, Uganda and Angola with Angola alone requiring 25 tonnes per week.
Thus, in order to meet the export requirements, in addition to improving the livelihoods of the resource poor farmers increased efforts in promoting goat production are needed and there is also a need to improve on quality.
The average number of goats owned by smallholder farmers remains low with most households owning less than 10 animals.
A number of constraints to increased goat production have been identified which include high predation (particularly by jackals), high kid mortality due to poor nutrition and high disease prevalence and general lack of expertise.
Thus, for smallholder farmers to increase flock size to an average of 100 animals to meet sustained demand for exporting goat meat these and other challenges have to be addressed.
There is also the issue of quality, we need to upgrade the indigenous goats by bringing the new blood of either the Kalahari or the Boer goat so that in terms of weight, growth rate, feed convention efficiency they are far better than those that are purely indigenous, meaning therefore, that if you are raising goats that are purely indigenous versus the other one who has already upgraded you are likely to be running a bit slower than the other one because at the same age the upgraded goats will attain a higher carcass than the indigenous ones.
I am not satisfied with the way our communal farmers are marketing their goats or the real value they are getting from their goats as products.
You will agree with me that most of these farmers who are in the communal areas who are the actual custodians of the population of goats are the poorest, meaning that they are not deriving the satisfaction that they should be deriving from their product.
However, work done in the Nhwali area in Gwanda District, Matabeleland South Province has shown that linking smallholder farmers to markets and companies that supply feed and drugs can lead to increased goat care and hence increased flock sizes.
In addition, promotion of goat breeds which yield higher carcasses (such as Boer goats) can result in improved revenue for the farmers which act as a catalyst to improve goat production.
These encouraging results have been achieved during the subsistence of NGO supported programmes and the tendency with most donor supported programmes is that the success achieved is not replicated once the project funding comes to an end.
It is therefore imperative that other developmental models be pursued to complement and prolong the commendable work done by NGOs.
While Government research, extension and veterinary departments offer invaluable services to farmers their work needs to be complemented by farmer initiated programmes.
A number of farmer organisations are registered in Zimbabwe and are doing commendable advocacy work.