Local communities in Kenya are adapting to climate change through different approaches to mitigate its harmful effects demonstrated most visibly through frequent cycles of drought.
In Tharaka Nithi County, communities are reshaping their adaptation strategy by embracing a unique breed of goats, the Galla that is more resilient to the changing conditions.
It is also commonly referred to as the Boran or Somali goat. This breed has two main sub-types, the Degyir and Degun. The goats are docile and easy to handle unlike their jumpy cousins, the East African Goat.
According to Dr. Simon Topisia, Veterinary officer, Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies, they have a programme aimed at empowering rural farmers in the county.
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“The Galla goat is a strong breed of goat that has a reputation for surviving droughts thanks to its higher resistance to opportunistic diseases that eliminate ordinary goats due to weakening body immune system. Compared to ordinary goats living among the communities in Kenya, the Galla breed boasts a higher yield of milk,” says Dr Topisia.
The Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies (Kendat) collaborated with the locals and national governments to empower the rural farmers.
“As you all know that goats are highly valued among the communities living around the arid and semi-arid regions since they are their source of livelihood. We aim at boosting climate adaptation among the arid and semi-arid communities by empowering them to embrace the Galla goat breed, which has a high yield return compared to other breeds. When droughts wipe out these animals, the communities are devastated. Therefore, a resistant breed that produces a higher yield of milk and has a bigger body mass for meat production means once they propagate the whole community will begin to weather the drought crisis,” comments Eston Murithi, Kendat, CEO.
Murithi says the farmers have been organized into self-help groups where they are sensitized on the value of their goats. The groups are made up of 26 members in which 16 are women.
Daniel Njeru is the chairman of the Kamarandi self-help group, “We have been trained on goat breeding techniques such as fodder banking where we ensure that our goats have feed during the dry season. Our members each have at least 20 - 60 goats that they breed at home and they have a continuous source of income that enables them to care for their families.”
Since the inception of the group in 2015, they have been able to transform their lives as narrated by Jane Gacheri, Treasurer of the group.
“Initially when we were practicing small-scale farming we were not reaping much and we had the struggle to pay school fees for our children. But when I joined this group I was offered a loan in form of a Galla goat which I bred and today I have 12 goats which make me earn between Sh20,000 - 40,000 by selling their products to the community. This was something that I could not make when I was practicing farming,” she recalls.
Her sentiments are affirmed by Moses Rubane, a member of the self-help group who recently praised the Galla goats project during an interview with Standard Digital.
“The Galla goats mature into adults at around six months, half-a-year sooner than the local breeds. That means faster reproductive cycles. More breeding and fast maturity mean more goats, and more goats mean more money. That's why the goats "fetch three times the price" of local breeds at the market. I can now comfortably pay school fees for my children from the sale of the goats,” says Rubane.
He added that more money means families are not going hungry. The goats, along with other climate-smart farming activities, have brought more food to the table to these rural farmers within the county.
A recent survey done by the World Bank Group in arid and semi-arid regions in Kenya reveals that of 139 households found that 81 percent suffered up to two ‘hunger months’ a year, with families eating just one or even no meals a day.
That number has now dropped to 23 percent with the introduction of Galla goat among communities in these regions.
James Mathenge, is a Livestock Expert from the National Government who is based in Marimanti Sheep and Goat station within the county.
“The partnership in the training of the locals on the importance of goat rearing has transformed the lives of many households in this county. We trained them on efficient management of the Galla goat, including exposure tours to visit communities that have had success with the goat variety and a joint inspection and treatment of the goats, “comments Mathenge.