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LETTERS: Goat farming can help tackle food insecurity

by kenya-tribune


Goat rearing is popular in many parts of the country. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Frequency in drought occurrence and climate change have constrained both agricultural and livestock production sectors exposing many households to food insecurity yearly.

Livestock keeping is mainly practised under the extensive production system where traditional farming methods are given preference thus leading to low productivity and returns. Factors contributing to low productivity include inadequate pastures and water in the event of drought stress, livestock disease outbreaks, rearing of low productive indigenous breeds, poor animal husbandry, decrease in land sizes and ineffective extension services.

In areas with no meaningful cash crop in support to livelihoods, livestock farming is the alternate source of income. In central region for example, most farmers are into dairy cattle farming for milk production. With an average daily production of five litres on average per animal, a farmer can earn about Sh3,000 monthly. However, there is an emerging stream in goat milk following continued effort in promoting dairy goat farming in the region, not forgetting camel milk in northern frontier.

Change of preference towards dairy goats rearing has been occasioned by declining land sizes that are inadequate for cattle rearing. Further, dairy goats farming is less labour intensive. Its milk is believed to be of high nutritional value and has high digestibility and buffering properties against ailments thus making it more suitable for infants and recuperating persons. Again, a dairy goat has an average milk production of three litres daily and fetches better prices that triple that of a cow. Also, goat manure is believed to have higher quality value relative to cow manure. Over time, goat rearing is becoming increasingly popular in many parts.

However, goat milk marketing aspect has not taken root and the little marketing done is at farm gate level as there lacks linkage to the outside markets in the sector value chain. About 97 percent of goat milk is consumed at household level while a good chunk is diverted to supplement calves feeding as farmers endeavour to maximise on incomes from cow milk. For this reason, efforts towards value addition support should be put in place.

By so doing, shelf life will be lengthen, portability will be enhanced thus making market penetration to far flung outlet easier. Enhanced intervention will greatly boost food security and eventually enhance incomes of resource poor households through income scale ups. In the long run, the sector will contribute towards poverty reduction strategy and lessen drought impacts in ASALs.

Notably existence of farmers’ cooperative with elaborate structures on milk collection, processing and value addition has been key in uplifting farmer’s welfare.

However, lack of a dedicated stream for goat milk disadvantages majority of the producers and further denies would be consumer’s access to goat milk at their popular outlets.

By supporting goat milk value chain and better its processing, value addition, packaging and marketing prospects as is the case with cow milk, inject new genes to address inbreeding, provide affordable feed supplements etcetera will uplift and enhance resilience building amongst community members doing dairy goats thus provide a reliable alternative to livelihood diversification to majority poor.

Kiragu Kariuki, public policy and administration expert, Nyeri.

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