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Farmers shift to goat farming to withstand climate change

Galla Goat rearing in kenya

Farm­ers in Nyando, West­ern Kenya are shift­ing from maize farm­ing and or­din­ary live­stock keep­ing to cli­mate smart ag­ri­cul­ture that helps them adapt to the chan­ging cli­mate.

The rough and dusty road leads us to John Obuom’s homestead in Kowalla vil­lage Nyakach dis­trict, Kisumu County. Obuom has taken up rear­ing of gala goats and Red Mas­aai sheep which he cross­breeds with in­di­gen­ous breeds. The gala goats ma­ture faster and fetch him more money to buy food for his fam­ily. A ma­ture gala goat costs between Sh 5,000 to Sh 8,000 while a local one costs Sh 2,500 to Sh 3,000.

” I have a small but di­verse farm which I plant ve­get­ables, legumes and keep sheep, goats and chicken to boost my fam­ily’s food sup­ply and nu­tri­tion. I used to keep live­stock without much plan­ning but now I have more than 10 goats both the small East African in­di­gen­ous goats and the up­graded grades which are cross breed of gala goats. This is my latest ven­ture and many farm­ers have be­nefited through the passing on the gift ini­ti­at­ive,” said Obuom.

The ini­ti­at­ive was es­tab­lished by the CGIAR Re­search Pro­gramme on Cli­mate Change, Ag­ri­cul­ture and Food Se­cur­ity (CCAFS) in part­ner­ship with World Neigh­bours where a farmer is given a gala goat to cross­breed with the small East African in­di­gen­ous one and then they fol­low up by giv­ing a six month to one year kid to a neigh­bour for pur­poses of cross­breed­ing.

Jared Akuku, World Neigh­bours, pro­gramme as­so­ci­ate says the passing on the gift mech­an­ism en­sures that every­one in the vil­lage be­ne­fits and that no one is left out. “Up­grad­ing takes between six months to two years after which the goats are ma­ture and ready for sale. The price of a ma­ture up­graded goat com­pared to that of an in­di­gen­ous is in­com­par­able and this helps in im­prov­ing their live­li­hoods and also gives them money to buy food,” says Akuku. George Nandi, a live­stock ex­ten­sion of­ficer in Lower Nyakach di­vi­sion says for a long time there has been a lot of in-breed­ing between the local breeds and this res­ults to smal­ler sized goats that do not fetch the farmer good mar­ket prices.

“The in­tro­duc­tion of the gala goats from Ru­mur­uti di­vi­sion in Laikipia County seeks to pro­duce bet­ter breeds that can adapt well to the en­vir­on­ment and easy to man­age while the farmer earns a good in­come,” says Nandi. For a long time farm­ers in Nyando have kept live­stock for im­port­ant ce­re­mon­ies such as wed­dings, fu­ner­als or pay­ing dowry and for some little milk for home con­sump­tion. However, this is slowly chan­ging as they are now tak­ing up live­stock keep­ing for in­come gen­er­a­tion through zero graz­ing of goats and sheep for both meat and milk.

Be­sides the gala goat, Obuom also keeps the Ger­man Alpine goats for milk. He has two goats that provide him with at least six litres of milk daily and loc­ally, one litre of goat milk costs Sh 100. Ac­cord­ing to re­search, goat milk com­pares fa­vour­ably in nu­trit­ive value with cow’s milk. It con­tains smal­ler fat glob­ules and as a con­sequence is easier to di­gest and does not re­quire ho­mo­gen­isa­tion.

It is used ex­tens­ively in mak­ing cheeses. Goat milk ca­sein and goat milk fat are more eas­ily di­ges­ted than that from cow milk. Goat milk is val­ued for the eld­erly, sick, ba­bies, chil­dren with al­ler­gies, pa­tients with ul­cers and even pre­ferred for rais­ing orphan foals and pup­pie.

In arid and semi arid areas milk from goats and sheep still play a major role es­pe­cially in child nu­tri­tion. Goat milk is higher in Vit A, Niacin, Choline and in­os­itol than cow milk but is lower in Vit B6, B12, C and caroten­oids.
“I hope the re­search team will put more ef­fort to en­sure that this cli­mate smart ag­ri­cul­ture pro­ject will be a suc­cess that can be bor­rowed in other re­gions to ad­dress food in­sec­ur­ity and cli­mate risks that hit farm­ers in Kenya,” Nandi added.

The pro­ject is tar­get­ing at least 20 farm­ers per vil­lage in the four vil­lages in the area that in­clude Obiju, Kamango, Kobiero and Kam­wana. The lack of em­ploy­ment pro­moted Obuom to en­gage in smart farm­ing where he has im­proved his land man­age­ment through tree cover, water har­vest­ing and plant­ing fruit trees such as paw­paws which he in­ter­crops with to­ma­toes and local ve­get­ables.

” I star­ted with 500 paw­paw trees now I am plan­ning to make it 1,000 in a quarter acre land. I used to plant maize and it was some­times dis­ap­point­ing due to the un­pre­dict­able rains. I have real­ised that fruit trees are much prof­it­able than cer­eals,” says Obuom. One paw­paw can cost Sh 50 in the local mar­ket and he gets about Sh 6,000 a month.

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