By Mary Hearty

The devastating impacts of climate change particularly recurrent droughts and heat stress have increased the chances of livestock keepers losing their herds as a result of inadequate water and suitable forage. In turn, this has led to high levels of poverty and malnutrition.

However, amidst the drought being experienced in the dry lands of Ethiopia’s South Omo zone and Uganda’s Karamoja sub-region, Farm Africa, a non-governmental organization, is improving the economic and nutritional status of women.

Through a project known as Livestock for Livelihoods, the organization has supported 10,350 women with goats.

The two arid areas are mostly inhabited by pastoralists who commonly rear goats for meat. This is because of the lack of suitable fodder, particularly in the dry season, and poor access to veterinary and breeding services which limits milk production.

“The approach that we used is called the ‘Revolving Goat Scheme’, where we give goats to a certain percentage of the beneficiaries we are targeting, and once these goats give birth to the first batch of goats, the young ones are given to the next target beneficiaries,” Dr Diana Onyango, a veterinary doctor and technical manager of livestock and rangelands at Farm Africa explained.

Dr. Diana Onyango at the meeting

To enhance productivity, the women have also been educated on how to take care of the goats including disease identification and ensuring they get enough food, and the right supplements. “We trained community health workers available within the community to give medical attention to the goats when needed,” she stated.

As a result, Dr. Onyango said the program has increased these women’s income ranging from 23-30% due to their engagement in profitable goat-based enterprises such as goat fattening and breeding, leather tanning as well as selling of milk, and other value addition activities. She also said the scheme strengthened their social ties.

In terms of boosting the nutritional status of their households, Dr. Onyango said they encouraged the women to make some milk available to the children especially those under five years to increase their protein intake. Whereas the surplus milk is sold so that they can buy other foods to increase dietary diversity.

Dr. Onyango was speaking during a meeting held in Nairobi where the organization was showcasing its work in supporting smallholder farmers to withstand drought in Kenya and the East African region.

The Food Security and Nutrition Working Group(FSNWG) predicts that extreme food insecurity caused by drought resulting from persistent depressed rains is expected to affect up to 26 million people across the Eastern Horn of Africa by February 2023, should the October to December rains fail.