On March 15, two days before Holi, the Nepali festival of colors, all offices and services shut down and not a single person on the street will be dry. Everyone will be covered in color. The whole village will come together to feast on luxurious food and play with the different hues of the countryside.
For goat farmers, festivals like Holi are a great opportunity to sell their livestock. And because of all the Nepali festivals every year, the opportunity presents itself often.
However, Nepal is short on goats.
In 2011 and 2012 Nepal imported 412,000 live goats from the neighboring country India. While 50 percent of the households raise an average of 3.3 goats, the supply is still short of demand. To help bridge this gap, Heifer Nepal has implemented its signature project, “Strengthening Smallholders Enterprises of Livestock Value Chain for Poverty Reduction and Economic Growth in Nepal (SLVC)” that aims to reduce live goat imports by 30 percent and milk by 10 percent. They’ll do this by involving 138,000 smallholder farmers in 28 Nepali districts through value-chain enterprises of goat and dairy. Not only will imports decrease, but more importantly, families will have increased access, increased income and increased nutrition.
One village development committee (VDC) that Heifer works with is in Ladhavir, in the eastern part of the country. Ladhavir is isolated from the major markets due to a lack of general infrastructure. The most prominent economic activity in this area is small-scale livestock raising, agriculture at a subsistence level (mostly because of dry land and lack of irrigation facilities) or foreign employment, mostly as industrious labors.
In February 2013, when Heifer Nepal launched the SLVC project, a subproject was built in to serve Ladhavhir. The project is set to cover the entire VDC through 47 Self-Help groups (SHGs), seven original groups that Heifer is helping to form and then those seven groups will help form 40 new SHGs. That is what we like to call exponentially Passing on the Gift®.
Goats will do the trick.
Nandamaya Budathoki, one woman in the project, has sold 10 goats since last April earning her 81,850 rupees, or about $818USD. She shares that, “I used to sell the goats only after they reached the age of two or three years. That was a big mistake since the goats tend to gain their maximum weight within a year. I never gave them the right amount of feed so their productivity was low. My income from goats has increased by about NPR 50,000 since joining Heifer’s project.”
She has invested this new income back into her budding enterprise and is constructing a bio-gas unit which uses goat’s manure along with other bio-mass products as a source of energy. She’s also improving her goat sheds and getting a water collection tank to use the waste water from her kitchen in her vegetable garden.
Through technical trainings such as “Improved Animal Management” and “Fodder/Forage Management” farmers like Nandamaya learn modern farming methods and livestock rearing techniques that are simple yet highly effective.
Farmers in Nepal have been rearing goats for generations but have not been able to reap maximum profits from them since they normally use traditional methods. This often includes myths and superstitious beliefs. While honoring certain time tested practices, Heifer’s trainings provide important lessons to the farmers, helping them to break the myths and modernize.
Nandamaya was a victim of this. She tells us that newly born goats were never fed colostrum, the thick milk produced by a mother during first few hours or days after delivery, because people were afraid that the baby goats would choke. But the colostrum is high in antibodies protecting the kids from infections and diseases.
In Ladhavir most of the farmers are now maintaining household record cards that track the productivity of each female goat. Information like the weight of kids at three and five months of age, kidding rate and kidding intervals are analyzed to select the best of the lot for selective breeding. A weighing machine has been provided to each group which is circulated among all members to record the goats’ weight. The community facilitators or CAVEs help the farmers decide which goats to hold for breeding and which ones to castrate and sell off for profit.
Dr. Keshav Sah, one of Heifer Nepal’s senior program managers of animal well-being says, “We are encouraging farmers to enter the records without the help from Heifer or partner staff so that they can continue with the system even after the project phases out.”
In the long term, the vision for the Ladhavir VDC is to develop the community as a goat resource center, to keep the good, quality goats in the region. Ladhavir will be known as the “go to place” for good quality goats all over Nepal.
To build on the healthy goat production, Heifer will soon begin implementing and supporting a Social Entrepreneur Women’s Cooperative in the VDC. Through that cooperative, farmers can sell the goats directly to traders which will help them to earn a fair share for their produce and expand their market access. Such organized marketing will help develop infrastructure in the village and bring more opportunities to the local youths.
Goats and the women who raise them are helping to change the future of Ladhavir.