Goats help power the engine of recovery for women in northeastern Nigeria

Goats help power the engine of recovery for women in northeastern Nigeria


The Kanyi, a local name for Sahel breed of goat, admired for its delicate legs and striking hair often reddish brown, has long been the dominant breed among the women herders of the Lake Chad Basin. However, due to a nine-year long insurgency, particularly in northeastern Nigeria, goat ownership has declined along with crop production among livestock owners and farmers. As part of a mission to invigorate goat herding among cash-strapped and food-insecure women, FAO is distributing more than 57 000 Kanyi goats to about 14 500 families in 2018.

About 40 000 goats have already been distributed to 10 100 households across the IDP camps and host communities in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States thanks to funding from the Governments of Germany, Ireland, Sweden and the United States of America. More than 17 000 additional goats will be distributed to about 4 400 households until December 2018 under Norway and EU-funded projects to restore livelihoods in the northeast.

“FAO’s livestock programme is geared to helping women to better access economic opportunities and begin the recovery process”, said Suffyan Koroma, FAO Representative in Nigeria. “We expect that these goat distributions will have a significant impact on households given the productive potential of the mostly female goats distributed. What begins as three female goats and a male, can after a period of one year, transform into a herd of ten, improving the lives of families as a result”, he shared. Households were given a ratio of three females to one male, maximizing the herd’s chances of multiplying. Each female goat will kid about 2 to 3 times per year.

The animals will also help boost the production of milk, consumed traditionally by children and lactating women, and after herds are established, meat for domestic consumption and marketing. FAO is targeting internally displaced women, residents of host communities and women who have recently returned to their original communities for the distributions. Prior to the insurgency, close to 80 percent of Borno’s residents and the northeast at large, farmed or reared livestock as their main source of food and income. Now many rely almost exclusively on food assistance.

Rebuilding livelihoods

Tens of thousands of people live in the Borno State-run Government Science Secondary School (GSSS) IDP camp for families uprooted by the armed conflict. Entire communities, including their traditional leaders called Bulumas have migrated here. Now files of new residents, mostly women and their children unable to find housing, sleep on the bare earth meters from the camp gate and are subject to the ningli, the heavy rains of the wet season.

Hamamatsu Umar, mother of four, has been at GSSS for the last six months. She is one of 600 women who received a starter herd at the camp in Bama in July 2018. “These goats, if Allah wills it, is a security to me if any of my children become sick and I quickly need money for medication,” she said.

For Falmata Sabsuwa, mother of three, the goats will help her buy shoes for her children and pay their school fees. Her family has been in GSSS for the last two months after moving from the nearby General Hospital IDP Camp. “I wanted to start keeping animals again but I didn’t know where I would find the first naira to buy even one. It (the goats) will bring a very good profit for me and my family.” This is the first time Sabsuwa has had an opportunity to re-start her herd.

Buluma Shettima, who leads a small community called Busuwwa and whose entire village of 60 people recently moved to the camp, called the distributions gult2 maro mowonjimba, a Kanuri expression for ‘too good to be described by words’. “The goats are helping our people to start over”, he shared.

Among women, goats are the most widely held ruminant livestock in northeastern Nigeria. Livestock in general contributes significantly to economic life in the region and are crucial to sustaining rural livelihoods in the northern areas of the country at large. The region is estimated to house more than 70 percent of the country’s sheep and goats. In addition to being a major source of meat and milk, animals like oxen, provide essential services during land preparation for farming and are a major source of transport.

In 2018, crop and livestock production will likely rise as the region has, in recent months, seen an increase in access to land for farming and grazing in areas no longer under the control of armed groups. However, much of the traditional areas for these livelihood activities have been designated ‘no go’ areas when they extend beyond military checkpoints, affecting production systems.

So far, about 1.5 million people have returned, according to the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix published in June 2018. These returnees, as well as persons still displaced, require immediate support to break the cycle of food assistance and resume their livelihoods. To meet the immediate livestock-related and other needs of agriculture-based households in 2018, FAO has appealed for USD 31.5 million, of which only 17.6 million has been received so far.