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Urban goat-keeping

The benefits and challenges of keeping goats in a local community

Available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish

Rural smallholder farmers, like Lorenzo Rodas Ischalon from Peru, rely on livestock for their livelihoods. Photo: Paul Brigham/Tearfund

From: Livestock – Footsteps 89

The importance of livestock and how to treat and manage animals well

Wool from goats can be a source of income. It can be spun into yarn and knitted into warm clothing. Photo: Moses Kamau Wanjiru

Wool from goats can be a source of income. It can be spun into yarn and knitted into warm clothing. Photo: Moses Kamau Wanjiru

Our goat-keeping project was based in Nairobi’s informal settlements of Korogocho, Kibera, Kariobangi and Kawangware. The most important benefits of keeping goats were the milk and the manure they produced. Droppings were used as manure for organic farming especially ‘gardens in sacks’ which are common amongst the slum dwellers of Nairobi. Some of the manure was also used in local biogas projects.

The goats were kept in simple pens or shelters. Most were made from off-cuts of timber and mud. These materials were chosen because they were easily available, accessible and cheap. They were mostly fed on fodder eg Napier grass (native to tropical grasslands in Africa), household vegetable waste, pasture grass on idle public land, crop residues from local markets and other urban farmers.

There are varied reasons why people chose to engage in goat-keeping:

  • Goats are a good source of milk and a good way of investing and saving money. They are readily available assets and help families to survive during times of crisis.
  • They are scavengers and have an ability to survive on household food waste.
  • They are good for people who do not have a lot of money to start with. Investing in goats is not too risky as they cost less than larger animals.
  • It is easier to find feed for small animals like goats, especially in the informal settlements where there is limited space and pasture land. However it is still important to give them enough space, vary their location if possible and regularly clean areas where they are kept.
  • Goats mature quickly and have a high rate of reproduction.
  • Goats are tough and resilient to many parasites and diseases, making them easy to manage (unlike cows, which are highly sensitive).
  • Goat-keeping offers a suitable opportunity for people to improve their skills through participating in training and extension activities.
Goats are suitable for rearing in informal settlements because they do not need large pastures to graze in. Photo: Moses Kamau Wanjiru

Goats are suitable for rearing in informal settlements because they do not need large pastures to graze in. Photo: Moses Kamau Wanjiru

There are challenges to keeping goats in the city:

  • Goat theft.
  • Lack of capital to start up the project and lack of credit available.
  • Poor availability of training in animal management.
  • Lack of favourable city council laws governing urban agriculture, especially livestock rearing in the city.
  • Inappropriate waste management, leading to environmental and public health dangers.
  • Lack of water. In slum areas, water has to be bought from outside. Because of the high cost, this often means that other water sources (which might be contaminated) are accessed for both livestock and human consumption.
  • Poor animal health due to both bad management and the high cost of veterinary services and drug treatment. People often turn to drug stockists for advice or use traditional remedies.

Keeping goats in informal settlements has had positive effects on the community by improving household security through regular milk supply for the family, by providing income from selling excess milk and by using the goats as collateral for loans from other project participants during times of crisis. The participants gained new skills and learned to support each other. Manure from the goats helped the families to engage in productive ‘garden in a sack’ farming and in small gardens around their houses. This ensured a continuous supply of vegetables, enough for the home as well as a surplus for selling.

To find out more about this project, please contact [email protected]

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