FEG Trust has identified two internal weaknesses preventing farmers from commercialising the Zimbabwean goats. The first one is the mind-set of society towards goats. Many believe that a goat is an emergent animal only needed to deal with emergences. For instance, if a child is expelled from school for not paying fees, parents with goats quickly sell a goat to come out of the situation. Others view a goat as purely a cultural animal which is called for when a married couple is expecting their first child, (kusungira). Goat makes good food at funerals and weddings. Some unscrupulous people practising witchcraft cast evil spells on goats as well as avenging spirits. Not many people have entertained the idea that a goat can be commercialised like broilers and pigs without losing its semi-organic status.
The second impediment is that farmers have a belief that goats do not need much help in terms of pests, diseases and housing. They believe goats have a way of protecting themselves. Some farmers do not dose their goats or dip them. They believe that goats are a problem animal and during the summer season when they are busy in the fields tendering their crops, they tithe the goats to trees without space to forage and select what to browse. Tithing also prevent goats from mating properly, preventing the herd from growing.
These two perceptions have prevented the growth of the goat industry. The goat population in Zimbabwe at 4.7 million according to the 2012 livestock survey is much lower considering that some African countries such as Nigeria has over 50 million goats. There is need to improve how the generality of Zimbabweans perceive goats. Commercialisation of the goat will be significant in availing animal protein to marginalised families. Goats can be a tool to alleviate poverty in these marginalised rural communities considering that most Zimbabwean rural areas are in ecological regions 3 to 5 where commercialisation of most crops without irrigation is not possible. On the other hand, goats are very resilient and can be commercialised even in very harsh climatic conditions. Niger is among the top ten world goat producers despite the fact that it is mostly a desert country.
It follows that the major reasons why Zimbabwe is not commercialising her goats in not a challenge coming from the ecology, but its seated deep in our mind frames. As a country, we should invest in the undoing of the negative value systems preventing the country from reaping benefits of commercialising this prolific browser, the goat.
FEG Trust has developed a two pronged training program to improve the attitude of society towards got commercialisation. The first part is looking at the benefits of keeping goats and look at how other countries are benefitting from goat commercialisation. This training also focusses on developing value chain management capabilities among farmers. Lack of value chain engagement capabilities have sandwiched farmers where suppliers of inputs such as fertilisers and chemicals dictate the prices of their products to the farmers. When the farmers in turn sell their produce, it is the buyer who dictates the price to the farmers.
The second part of the training focuses on animal husbandry. In this area FEG Trust relies more on abundant expertise provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation already in communities. The Veterinary officers help in sustaining the health of goats and control of notorious diseases such as pulpy kidney. They also train farmers on correct use of drugs in order to maintain the goat as a semi-organic protein. The Livestock officers on the ground train farmers on all areas of animal husbandry. This symbiotic relationship with the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation have helped the resource strained FEG Trust to reach out to thousands of goat farmers. The WhatsApp platform is one big lecture room. FEG Trust has over twenty chat groups in which experts from Livestock and Veterinary Department officials deliver strategic training programs to the benefit of thousands of goat farmers cheaply.
Regarding FEG Trust standalone training programs, resources to expedite the training programs have hampered the targeted growth of the goat breeding stock. Despite this resource strain FEG Trust has carried out trainings at cluster level in Harare, Bulawayo and Masvingo in 2016. During the same period to this day FEG Trust has trained goat farmers at ward level in some of the following areas; Makonde, Zvimba, Mbire, Mazowe, Gwanda, Chiredzi, Chivi, Buhera, Chimanimani and Rushinga. Resources permitting it is the desire of FEG Trust to cover all the 60 goat producing districts of Zimbabwe.
The reason why FEG Trust is targeting training the whole country is to achieve critical national momentum required for commercialisation. FEG Trust wants the farmers from all parts of the country to increase their goat stock, a critical step in the commercialisation process. The goat farmer membership is expected to grow from the current 3000 farmers to 15000 goat farmers with a stock of female breeders not less than 25 goats per farmer by the end of 2017.