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Goat development in Masvingo province, Zimbabwe: the farmers' perspective

C. Shumba

AGRITEX, P.O. Box 354, Masvingo, Zimbabwe

Summary of survey findings
Opportunities for goat production in the districts
The proposed strategy for goat development


A great deal of goat research has been conducted in Zimbabwe since the 1980's. There is, however, a need to link research to the farmers' needs and objectives. This paper focuses on the farmers' perspective with regard to goat development in Masvingo province.

Le développement de l'élevage caprin dans la province de Masvingo, au Zimbabwe: le point de vue des paysans


Les recherches sur les caprins effectuées au Zimbabwe depuis les années 80 sont légion. Il reste cependant que des liens doivent être établis entre la recherche d'une part et les besoins et les objectifs des paysans d'autre part. Cet article présente le point de vue des éleveurs sur le développement de l'élevage caprin dans la province du Masvingo.


Ngategize (1989) stresses the fact that, when making recommendations for interventions in small ruminant production, farmer goals and objectives have to be given serious consideration. What is the farmer trying to maximise or minimise in his production activities? Is it profitable to the farmer to adopt such innovations and interventions? Are they going to compete with existing farm or non-farm enterprises?

A social and financial cost-benefit analysis is necessary before implementing innovations. For example, apparent production constraints such as high mortality, long birth intervals and slow growth rate may not be as critical to the farmer as animal production scientists think. This explains why some technologically sound interventions and innovations may not be adopted in certain socio-economic and ecological circumstances. A multidisciplinary approach is necessary to understand fully the farmer's goals, objectives and his environment, and also to minimize disciplinary biases.

With this in mind, this study focused on current goat management practices and socio-economic aspects of goat production within the communal areas of Gutu and Zaka Districts of Masvingo Province. The survey was carried out in Natural Regions 3, 4 and 5, both in and out of grazing schemes. The objectives were: analysing production systems and constraints; assessing socio-economic effects and constraints; and analysing marketing trends, constraints and opportunities.

Information from farmers could indicate points of intervention for technological innovations and help in designing appropriate goat development strategies.


Informal and formal surveys were conducted at the same time. A sample size of 120 respondents per district was taken.

Summary of survey findings

The goat enterprise in communal areas has more opportunities than constraints. 27% of respondents had no problems at all with their goat enterprises. Common problems are given below.

Production constraints


The selective nature of feeding behaviour and their small size make goats difficult to herd even within grazing schemes that use fences. Goats move fast in a given grazing area or paddock, they jump over fences into rested paddocks or they stray into fields during the growing season. Fencing that can restrain cattle cannot necessarily restrain goats. This means that there must always be a person looking after them. During the cropping season this presents a labour constraint. Evidence of labour constraint can be seen in the restriction of goats to pens up to mid-afternoon during summer.

Kid mortality

Kid mortality was high at 33% compared to 18% at research stations. About 55 and 30% of this mortality was due to diseases and predation respectively. 30% of respondents had no disease problems, but 50% reported some problems. The commonest diseases mentioned by farmers included heartwater (a tick borne disease), pneumonia (caused by exposure to cold, wind and rain), foot rot (caused by muddy conditions in goat houses) and worms and infestation.

Housing and kraaling

15% of respondents had poor goat houses, which limited production. Such houses had no protection against wind, cold or rain, and muddy conditions prevailed during the rainy season. Lack of knowledge and financial resources were cited as causes for such poor goat houses. Housing improvement is required, especially in flooring.

Lack of knowledge

Extension staff and farmers have received no training in goat production, which is a serious constraint to production. Most of the production constraints mentioned above are attributed to lack of knowledge and poor managerial skills.

Socio-economic constraints

Goat marketing system

The viability of a goat enterprise depends not only on technical and biological efficiency, but also on a well organised marketing system.

At present, goat markets are characterised by poorly managed and unrealistic carcass grading and pricing systems, inadequate promotion of goat meat and an inadequate and inefficient transport system. These problems will have to be corrected if goat production is to be improved.

Attitudes to goats

The farmer regards cattle as being more important than goats. In the case of limited resources, cattle always take priority, putting goats at a disadvantage. This is not to say that goats are unimportant to the farmer, but the multipurpose uses of cattle vis-à-vis goats produce a bias in favour of cattle.

Opportunities for goat production in the districts

The environment

Masvingo Province lies in the semi-arid region of Zimbabwe and is basically a livestock area. The two districts surveyed lie in the low rainfall areas of the country where browsable species are abundant.

Socio-economic advantages

Leaving aside the investment needs and risks of goat rearing compared with cattle, the socio-economic advantages of goat production include: high profitability and fast turnover due to earlier maturity and shorter generation interval; suitable meat quantities for rural families; easy salability (unlike cattle which are regarded as capital); and a highly popular and acceptable meat among different peoples and religions.

Managerial advantages

Apart from herding problems, goats are not difficult animals to manage. Very few respondents reported management problems. Family labour can adequately manage goats except during the growing season when labour demands are high.

Biological advantages

These include: versatility and ability to adapt to various ecological environments; high resistance to disease and dehydration; and complementarily of goats with cattle, resulting in efficient resource utilization as goats use those resources which cattle do not.

The proposed strategy for goat development

From the survey findings a goat development strategy for Masvingo Province can be proposed. The major feature of the strategy is the proposal that the different facets of goat development work should be integrated through research, extension training, production and marketing techniques.

If any of these areas is overlooked in the overall goat development strategy, problems can be expected even before a project begins. Each element in the proposed strategy will be looked at in turn.


With on-station research information as the guideline, more on-farm adaptive research is necessary. On-farm adaptive research is essential because it assesses the interrelationships between cattle and goats within the context of the communal farming system. Such research should take into account the limited grazing resources available; the prevailing land tenure system; and the financial status and management systems in the communal set-up. Specific areas for adaptive research include: determining goat and cattle populations in relation to available grazing resources; determining differences between vegetation types; analysing vegetation composition in different natural regions or areas to assess the availability of palatable species for goats; and determining the extent to which goats control bush in the grazing system of a communal area.

Palatable browse species for goats are location specific, and research on them cannot be done on-station as findings will be limited to that locality. Carrying capacities and stocking rates are also location-specific. Variations occur even within one natural region due to climatic, soil and topographic factors. Research institutions should give guidelines for the assessment of carrying capacity, stocking rates and available browse for goats in conjunction with on-farm adaptive research.


Devendra (1982) observed that the goat has for a long time been considered a veld degrader and neglected in both research and extension institutions. This bias against goats, coupled with the low priority goats are given and other negative attitudes, has resulted in goat development being allocated limited financial resources. Agricultural institutions have concentrated their training on beef and dairy development. Such attitudes should change and more personnel should be trained specifically in goat management at both higher and lower levels. The training of extension staff is a sure way to have communal area farmers realise and exploit the potential of goat production. Extension staff should be trained at the worker, officer and specialist levels. Once staff are trained, dissemination of information to farmers should be the next step. Farmer training programmes, the provision of reading material and demonstration units for goat management practices can all be used to educate the farmers.

Goat production

Goat production should move from an extensive (low production level) system to a semi-intensive (higher production level) system, but at costs which are within the reach of farmers. This part of the strategy should incorporate improved nutrition, better kid management and housing, reduced disease, reduced predation and better breed selection from within existing local stocks.


The viability of goat production depends not only on technical and biological efficiency, but also on market factors (Mutetwe, 1987). The goat market is a neglected area and limits goat development in communal areas. Blackie (1982) suggests that an effective marketing system for goats (and sheep) would likely increase communal area meat production and peasant incomes and improve veld (range) conditions more than would a substantial rise in the price of beef.

The marketing policy should therefore be to improve prices, improve transport facilities for live goats from communal areas and design goat meat promotion and advertising techniques.


Farmers in different localities have different needs and objectives relating to goat production. Within the two districts surveyed there are variations in the environment, in the availability of grazing area resources and in browse species. Herd sizes vary from 8-10 head and goats are kept mainly for home consumption. Such variations mean that it is difficult to make blanket recommendations about goats. This also highlights the need for baseline surveys before implementing goat projects in communal areas. The important thing is that any goat development strategy designed should address the farmers' needs and problems directly.


Blackie M J. 1982. A time to listen: A perspective on agriculture policy in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe Agricultural Journal 79(5):151-156.

Devendra C and Mcleroy G B. 1982. Goat and sheep production in the tropics. Longman, Harlow, UK. 271 pp.

Mutetwa C. 1987. Developing a marketing strategy for poultry in Masvingo Province-Zimbabwe. Msc thesis (unpublished).

Ngategize P K. 1989. Constraint identification and analysis in African small ruminant systems. In: Wilson R T and Azeb Melaku (eds), African small ruminant research and development. Proceedings of a conference held at Bamenda, Cameroon, 18-25 January 1989. ILCA (International Livestock Centre for Africa), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. pp. 7-22.

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