|Livestock Research for Rural Development 9 (1) 1997
Citation of this paper
Department of Animal Science,
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853
While goat-introduction projects are gaining in popularity, they are not always appropriate. This paper outlines some of the issues to consider when determining if a goat project is appropriate. Also, basic issues to consider when establishing and evaluating the success of a goat introduction project are covered. Examples from a project in Honduras are presented to illustrate some of the key points.
Key words: Goats, development
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, many development organizations and researchers (Winrock 1983) recognized the potentially important role of goats in agricultural development. One result of this increased interest in goats has been several goat distribution projects (ie: goat introduction projects). In most cases, the main purpose of the projects has been to increase the amount of milk consumed by children, and hence, to improve their nutritional status. However, goats can provide several other benefits to the farmers such as increased capital, manure for fertilizer, brush control, meat, and traction (Loosli 1984; Stanton 1982; Urquiza 1982). Information on how goat introduction projects are established and run is limited. Therefore, there is limited information to aid development organizations in determining if a goat introduction project is appropriate for a given situation.
The purpose of this paper is to outline some of the basic issues in establishing and evaluating the success of a goat introduction project. These issues are presented in part I. In part II, a goat introduction project in Honduras is analyzed, step-by-step. The data are based on an evaluation of the project conducted in 1995.
There are several factors that should be considered to determine if a goat introduction project is appropriate. A first crucial step is determining the goals of a goat project. The goals of the project should identify the expected benefits, outline how these benefits are to be obtained, and identify the target population. The potential beneficiaries should be included in this process. A list of relevant questions is set out in Exhibit 1.
The feasibility of the goals and the means of reaching these goals should be evaluated based on the resources and cultural attitudes of the target population. Particular attention should be paid to who has control over resources and how cultural attitudes may affect who has control over the goats and their products. For example, if the households need two goats to produce enough milk to improve child nutrition, the donor organization should consider if the target population has sufficient resources to feed two goats.
Attitudes toward goats and data on the resource base of the target population can be collected using several techniques. Interviews of potential beneficiaries and participatory techniques such as pair-wise ranking of animals, ranking of animal products, household resource and labor maps, and charts of animal and crop activities by gender can be used to determine cultural attitudes and access to resources (IIED 1994). These activities not only are valuable in determining the feasibility of a goat project, but also are useful in including the potential beneficiaries in the selection and planning of development projects.
If, through the collection of these data, it is found that the potential beneficiaries are skeptical about goats, then the donor organization should seriously consider if a goat introduction project is appropriate. Even if funding is available for goats and goat training, skepticism on the part of the beneficiaries will limit the success of the project. By working with the community members, the donor organization can determine which types of projects are most likely to meet the organization's and the community's goals.
There are three crucial components to establishing a goat introduction project. These include: obtaining the goats, determining who will receive goats, and determining the obligations of the beneficiaries of the program and the donor (development) organization.
One of the most important steps in establishing a goat introduction project is selecting animals, which can meet the goals of the project. This includes selecting healthy goats, buying meat, milk, or dual purpose breeds, and buying goats of the appropriate age. If possible, the organization should obtain the aid of someone who is knowledgeable about goat breeds, conformation, diseases, and the reputation of sellers in the area. This person could be a local goat farmer or a staff member knowledgeable about livestock. A list of relevant questions is presented in Exhibit 2.
Before buying goats, it is necessary to determine which breeds or crossbreeds will best meet the goals of the project. There are several sources of information on breeds and breed characteristics (eg: Colby et al 1972; Sinn 1983; Corcy 1991). No matter which breeds are being purchased, one should ask the seller of the goats about production histories. Also, before buying goats, it should be decided what age is most appropriate for distribution. If the potential beneficiaries are skeptical about owing goats and the donor organization decides to proceed with the project, it may be crucial to the success of the project that the beneficiaries have immediate results (Bunch 1982). That is, the goats should kid and produce milk shortly after distribution. If immediate results are not crucial to the success of the project, then purchasing younger goats may be desirable. Younger goats often are less expensive. Also, the beneficiaries can learn more about goat management with younger goats and be better prepared for kidding.
Selecting who will have first priority in receiving goats is dependent on the goals of the project and the defined target population. A verbal or written application process can be used to collect the information needed to determine if a household meets the target population criteria. Having the aid of someone who is knowledgeable about the community can be very helpful. Also, using techniques such as Grandin's (1988) or Guijt's (1992) wealth ranking methods can help in defining the criteria. Relevant questions are listed in Exhibit 3.
If verbal applications are accepted, is it clearly defined who is responsible for submitting the application?
Who will accept applications?
Are the people responsible for accepting the applications readily available to the community members?
Do community members feel comfortable approaching the people in charge of the applications?
Who will determine if a household qualifies for the project?
How will the application be evaluated?
Obligations fall under two categories; those of the donor organization and those of the beneficiaries. The donor organization should consider what guarantees they will make regarding the health of the animals distributed, what kind of training will be provided to the goat owners, and the types of follow-up services to be provided. Several obligations may be asked of the beneficiaries. These obligations may be used to ensure that the beneficiaries are interested in the project and are willing to put effort into the success of the project. For example, if no obligations are required, the beneficiary may take the free goat and sell it, effectively ending the project. While obligations such as building a goat house may ensure that the beneficiaries are willing to put resources into the project, the obligations should be within the resource means of the target population. For example, requiring that all beneficiaries plant a particular type of grass as a feed resource may not be possible for a target population that has little land. Questions regarding beneficiary and donor organization obligations are presented in Exhibit 4.
The management techniques need to meet two basic requirements. First, they need to be compatible with the resource base and cultural attitudes of the households. Information on the resource base and attitudes should have been obtained when the feasibility of the project was determined. The second requirement is that they need to be oriented toward the goals of the project. If the goal of the project is milk production, then management may include recommended weaning ages for kids and encouraging milking twice a day. These techniques could increase kid mortality, so they would not be desirable if a goal is to sell meat or kids. Sources for management techniques are listed in the references. A list of relevant questions regarding management selection is presented in Exhibit 5.
Evaluating the project should be an on-going process. In addition, comprehensive project evaluation time periods should be scheduled at the outset. There are several types of evaluations that can be conducted. The key issues are that the evaluation must be based on the goals of the project and that the beneficiaries' are included in the process. Some questions to consider during the evaluation process are listed in Exhibit 6.
There are three main ways in which the goals may not be met: the target population may not be receiving the goats, the benefits are not being reached, and the benefits are not being reached through the desired method. If any of these goals are not being achieved, the donor organization should reconsider the goals, the beneficiary selection process, the obligations required, and the management techniques.
In some cases, while the project may not meet the goals, the project may still provide important benefits to the households. New management techniques and further livestock training may be needed to increase these benefits. By having the beneficiaries direct the evaluation process, it is more likely that these other benefits will be identified. Also, the beneficiaries may be better able to identify means of improving production that are within their resource base.
The project in Honduras was started at the initiative of both the development organization and the women in the community. The women approached the organization with their concern about child malnutrition and requested assistance in combating the problem. A few families in the community already had goats, and the women believed that goat milk would help their children. The final decision to start a goat introduction project, therefore, was not a top-down decision of the development organization. Also, while only a few families (6 out of 41) had experience with goats or cattle, there was some basic knowledge of animal production in the community.
The development organization in Honduras had two explicit goals in establishing the goat introduction project. These goals were: 1) to combat child malnutrition and target children under the age of five; and 2) to assist the poorest people in the community. The project was closely tied with other health and nutrition programs provided by the development organization.
In the part of Honduras where this project was established, goat milk was not considered a saleable product, but it was socially acceptable to drink goat milk. In most cases, goat milk was produced solely for household consumption or as gifts to neighbors. Therefore, there was little concern that the milk would be sold. However, if the goal of the project had been to provide the women with a means to generate income, the goat project may not have been appropriate. First, goat milk could not be readily sold, and second, selling kids and meat was generally in the control of the men in the community.
In this community, the land was the property of the men and half of the families had less than 2.0 hectares. However, the men allowed the women to use the land and neighbors and relatives were willing to allow goat owners to tether the goats along trails and collect tree foliage for feed.
The development organization decided that goats of a variety of ages and reproductive stages would best meet the project needs. They did not make any requirements regarding breeds, and they did not have anyone available to assist in selecting goats for purchase.
The organization had several potential sources of goats. In southern Honduras there were several goat farmers and large numbers of inexpensive goats could be readily purchased. While the breeds and disease history were uncertain for these goats, they tended to be well adapted to the environment. Southern Honduras is several hours away from the project site. At the Escuela Agrícola Panamericana at Zamorano, it was possible to buy limited numbers of purebred and crossbred goats. These goats were twice as expensive as goats from southern Honduras. These goats had been tested for diseases and their production history was known. However, these goats are managed under an intensive system, and therefore, may not be well adapted to the environment. Zamorano is about half the distance from the project site than is southern Honduras. A third source of goats was in the communities within an hour's drive of where the project was established. These goats, like those from southern Honduras were of unknown breed, disease, and production histories. Also, only a few goats were available for purchase at any one time. However, they were inexpensive compared to the goats at Zamorano and the transportation requirements were less.
The organization decided to purchase several goats from southern Honduras and then supplement them with goats purchased locally. While critical numbers in the community were reached early in the project, there were several trade-offs in reaching this goal. During the evaluation of the project it was found that: several does had very small teats, several of the goats were polled (naturally did not have horns), and the main breeding buck had caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE). Many goats have very small teats in their first lactation. However, if they do not enlarge, then the goats can be difficult to milk. The gene for hermaphroditism is associated with the gene for polledness and can lead to infertility in bucks. CAE is a crippling disease in goats that can shorten the productive life of the animals. It can be transmitted among goats living in close quarters and from does to suckling kids through the milk. All of these problems could affect the long-term success of the project. Also, the first two problems, small teat size and polled goats, could have been easily prevented if more attention had been paid to the goats purchased.
The organization was flexible in the application and selection process. The formal process required each family soliciting a goat to fill out a brief application form to be submitted to the community organization. A teacher was available on occasion to assist the applicants with filling out the form. In actual practice, however, many solicitations were verbal, and frequently were submitted directly by the family or by others on their behalf to the donor organization. Many people felt more comfortable with this informal process. However, many people were unaware of the informal process.
The organization staff, which largely consisted of members or relatives of the community, evaluated the applications to determine if the family qualified for the program. The evaluation procedure included weighing the children under five to determine if their weight for age was below acceptable standards; collecting information about the number of children in the house; and collecting some basic information about the family's resources. No standards were set regarding household resources.
The obligations of the donor organization and the beneficiary were outlined in a form signed by the beneficiary. The beneficiary had to repay the donor organization with the first female offspring and build a goat house. The beneficiary also was encouraged to plant grasses for the goats and participate in complementary projects such as vegetable gardens. The beneficiary was not allowed to sell the doe.
The donor organization provided limited follow-up services. These services varied and included: assistance with sick animals, providing bucks for breeding, occasional treatments for parasites, and providing veterinary supplies at cost when available. In addition, if the distributed doe did not conceive, the organization replaced the doe. The donor organization had no set policies for dealing with does that died or for other forms of repayment.
The donor organization did not have anyone on staff trained in goat management and did not offer training classes to the beneficiaries. Therefore, there was no one available to answer questions regarding nutrition, health, and reproduction. For this reason, problems with the main breeding buck were not identified by the project staff and mastitis infections, cuts, and illnesses went untreated. Also, because of a lack of trained personnel, there was no one available to identify feed alternatives that were within the resource base of the beneficiaries. All of these factors led to low production levels and high mortality levels.
The management techniques were based on those used by community members who owned goats before the project started. The basic strategy was to let the goats browse (in a pasture or they were tethered) for part of the day and to cut-and-carry feeds one to two times per day. Households offered feeds such as corn and sugarcane on occasion. The does were milked once a day and kids were allowed to suckle until the doe weaned them. Goats were bred when the donor organization provided a buck or, if the household had the money to pay for the service, by bucks that belonged to other households. Goats were dewormed when the donor organization had anthelmintics.
The donor organization did not have a project evaluation strategy or a mechanism of obtaining feedback from the beneficiaries. Therefore, the organization was not responsive to the beneficiaries' needs for more information regarding goat management. The evaluation of the project that was conducted was part of a master's thesis research. While the organization was agreeable to the evaluation, they did not actively participate.
The data for the evaluation were collected through observation, using participatory techniques, measuring production and health parameters of the goats, and by interviewing staff members of the donor organization. When the project was evaluated, it was found that the donor organization fell short of meeting both of its goals.
There are several possible explanations why the project was not reaching the poorest households (the target population) in the community. One possible explanation is that the donor organization did not clearly define what was meant by "poorest." However, at the time the project was reviewed, only one application had been rejected. Therefore, it is possible that the poorest people were not reached because of the application process. Many of the households that had goats were relatives of the organization's staff. It is possible, therefore, that households not related to the staff did not feel comfortable asking for a goat. Another explanation has to do with the beneficiary obligations. It may not have been possible for the poorest households to build goat houses or plant grasses.
The lack of a clear definition of the target population and the lack of criteria for selecting households caused some inconsistencies in the selection process. For example, the only application that was rejected came from a very poor household. However, this household invested a large portion of their resources in the health of their children. When the application was evaluated, it was found that the young children were not malnourished. Another household that received a goat, was one of the wealthiest households in the community. This household owned over 12 cows (over half of the households did not own livestock except for horses and chickens). This household, however, had a malnourished child. A more rigorous application process could prevent inconsistencies like this from occurring.
The other goal, improving child malnutrition through increasing milk consumption, fell short for several reasons. These reasons included low milk production, which was insufficient to provide adequate amounts for all of the children under the age of five in a household, consumption patterns within households, and the fact that some households stopped buying milk when the goats produced.
The donor organization, when establishing the project, did not consider how many goats would be needed to meet the milk consumption needs of the children. Given the low production levels of the goats (due largely to management problems), more than one goat would have been needed to produce sufficient amounts of milk. It should be noted that most of the households had more than one child under the age of five. However, even if all of the milk from one goat was given to one child, the quantity produced still might not have met the nutritional requirements of the child.
Some of the households during the evaluation, when asked if they would like more goats, said no. The primary reason given was a lack of resources. Therefore, more goats may not be a feasible means of increasing the available quantity of milk. Also, in many of the households the milk was consumed by all of the children, regardless of age, and by the adults. Education could change this distribution pattern to some extent. However given the local culture, it may be difficult to convince a mother that something that is good for some of the children is not as beneficial for the other children.
One method of increasing the amount of available milk would be to improve the management techniques. Given the lack of trained personnel at the donor organization, this would require outside assistance. Changes in the management practices, such as increasing the control of parasites, decreasing health problems (eg: mastitis), and improving the diets of the goats could potentially increase milk production. However, any changes to the management system would have to be evaluated based on the resources of the goat owners.
While the project was not fully successful in meeting its goals, the goat owners were receiving several benefits from the goats that could, indirectly, improve child nutrition. For example, during the time period of the evaluation, corn crops were being lost in the field because of continuous rains. When there were a few sunny days, there was a rush to bring in the corn. Some of the households with goat kids, sold the kids to hire help or to rent horses to expedite the harvest. This could increase the total amount of corn available to the families, hence improving nutrition. Goat kids also were sold or slaughtered during the "hungry months" (the months before the corn harvests, when many families had run out of food). The money generated from the goat sales during this time period was used to purchase food for the family.
Since these benefits of goat ownership may impact child nutrition as much as the consumption of milk, the donor organization may wish to consider promoting management techniques that maximize kid production versus those that maximize milk production. That is, they may wish to purchase goats with high twinning rates and encourage breeding the does as soon as possible after kidding.
To have a successful project, it is necessary to know if the project is appropriate for a given situation. That is, can it meet the program objectives of the development organization, and is it within the resource base of the potential beneficiaries. By investing the time in planning the project, it is possible to avoid many problems such as sick or low producing goats, low application responses from the target population, and abandonment of the project by the beneficiaries. Also, thorough project planning, evaluations, and a willingness to reassess the project goals and distribution methods, can lead to a more successful project that can continue without the aid of the development organization.
A question continually raised during the review of this paper has been: How can one really get the farmers involved in the project and evaluation? The approach in this paper frequently appears to be top-down. However, farmer involvement is crucial to the success of a project. I believe that the problem with goat introduction projects often stems from the fact that these projects have become popular with development organizations as a means to combat child nutrition problems. That is, it is so firmly believed that goat introduction projects can be beneficial that little attention is given to the appropriateness of the project for a particular community. It is for this reason that it is essential that the farmers (men and women) conduct their own needs assessments, select projects, and evaluate the progress of the projects. The development organization may need additional qualitative data not obtained during farmer-led needs assessments and evaluations to meet the requirements of funding agencies. However, these data also can be obtained from and by the farmers. Farmer participation should not be used to service the needs of the development organization. It should be used to empower the farmers and the community to continue their own development.
This paper would never have been completed without the support of Abigail Willmer, M.P.S. candidate, Cornell University, Professors Alice Pell and Max Pfeffer and the financial aid of the Cornell Institute for International Food and Agriculture Development.
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Received 15 January 1997