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    Farmer groups help dairy goat farmers realise fortunes

    Lucy Wairimu a once job­less middle aged woman who lived on handouts is now a proud owner of over ten goats that sup­ply her with over 30 litres of milk daily fetch­ing her some Sh2,000.

    Lucy is among thou­sands of farm­ers who have be­ne­fit­ted from The Na­tional Ag­ri­cul­ture and Live­stock Ex­ten­sion Pro­gramme.
    The idea is that farm­ers with mu­tual in­terests form groups and then ask for sup­port and aid them­selves, for ex­ample, re­gard­ing the best meth­ods for dif­fer­ent forms of ag­ri­cul­ture and live­stock rear­ing. Small-scale farm­ers are thereby en­abled to be­come more ef­fi­cient and get bet­ter re­turns on their products.

     "We had to col­lect water from far away. The first thing I did with the money from the sales was to in­stall run­ning water. I car­ried on. Then I sold an­other goat and ar­ranged so that we could build a lat­rine," Lucy said with pride.

    High walls sur­round the little plot where maize and ba­nana plants sway high between the pump­kin and bean crops. There, three cows and many chick­ens share their space with goats and a house of cor­rug­ated metal, wooden planks and earthen floors. Then the crown­ing glor­ies of the house: the tap with run­ning water, the com­post­ing toi­let in its own struc­ture right by the en­trance, and nearby is the con­struc­tion site of the fam­ily's new house.

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    From hav­ing spent two to three hours daily fetch­ing water, Lucy and her fam­ily have time to spend on things that can provide in­come. In­stead of using a hole in the ground lined with plastic as a toi­let, they can now close the door be­hind them, while re­du­cing pol­lu­tion in the ground and the spread of dis­eases.

    Lucy leans her head against the goat's stom­ach and holds a jar un­der­neath the teats while she milks. She gets ap­prox­im­ately three to four litres a day. She keeps a litre for the fam­ily and sells sev­eral litres every day. The daugh­ter Milka takes the milk from her mother to warm it on the stove for the grand­chil­dren. Be­cause even though all of Lucy's chil­dren are grown up now there are, ex­cept Milka and her daugh­ter, an­other five grand­chil­dren liv­ing at the farm since their par­ents died.

    Three years ago Lucy re­ceived in­form­a­tion about meet­ings for all those in­ter­ested in be­com­ing goat farm­ers. Lucy, who did not have a job, thought it soun­ded in­ter­est­ing and went to a meet­ing the fol­low­ing Monday. An ag­ri­cul­tural ex­pert told them about all the ad­vant­ages of goat rear­ing.

      "At the next meet­ing, Mar­tin came again and told us how we should feed the goats. A cow eats 75 kilos, which feeds six goats. He also told us that a litre of goat's milk sells for Sh100 while cow's milk only fetches Sh30.  "We de­cided to start a group and to­gether save money to buy goats," Lucy re­membered.

    Now Lucy is con­sid­er­ing giv­ing up the three cows and in­stead ex­pand­ing the goat rear­ing since this gives greater re­turns in terms of in­come and im­proved health. "When I star­ted rear­ing goats I had high blood pres­sure. When I slowly star­ted drink­ing goat's milk I be­came a lot bet­ter. My chil­dren are really healthy. They do not get any dis­eases, neither mal­aria nor any­thing else. Goat's milk has been good for our health."

    The time is just past eight in the morn­ing and a small group of men and women are start­ing to gather in a circle in the shade at Lucy's. They sit down on the light blue plastic chairs and, when they run out, people sit down on hay bales and wood pal­lets. The milk goat farm­ers meet once a month and dis­cuss everything re­lated to goat farm­ing. They save money to­gether in order to buy goats, bor­row male goats for breed­ing and ne­go­ti­ate prices for goats and goat's milk.

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    Mar­tin Ng´ang´a is re­spons­ible for this area within the Na­tional Ag­ri­cul­ture and Live­stock Ex­ten­sion Pro­gramme, NALEP, as one of their 7, 000 ag­ri­cul­tural ex­perts around the coun­try. The idea is that farm­ers with mu­tual in­terests form groups and then ask for sup­port and aid them­selves, for ex­ample, re­gard­ing the best meth­ods for dif­fer­ent forms of ag­ri­cul­ture and live­stock rear­ing. Small-scale farm­ers are thereby en­abled to be­come more ef­fi­cient and get bet­ter re­turns on their products.

    Mar­tin Ng´ang´a says that this group re­quests what they want to learn and are man­aging the work them­selves. He is at the meet­ing at Lucy's and Moses', one of the coun­try's 20, 000 farmer groups within NALEP. This com­mit­ment and the strength in being able to bring change is the back­bone of the goat farm­ers' suc­cess. To­gether they have man­aged to make poverty more bear­able for mil­lions of fam­il­ies.

     "I am really glad for this group. It has given me strength. Without the group we would not have been as healthy as we are today."

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