The straight goods on goats

goat in pen UgandaIt seems that a goat is not just a goat. By far the most popular choices in our Best.Gift.Ever symbolic gift catalogue are the livestock gifts – and in particular, giving goats and chickens. While they are favourites for donors wanting to make a difference in the life of a child or a community, we know there are questions about the value and potential negative impact of these gifts. So we thought we’d take a moment to give you the straight goods right from the goat’s mouth, so to speak, and why we believe these gifts continue to make such an important difference!

MYTH #1 Goats are primarily used for their milk.

family with goatsThe value of goats (and cows) is sometimes questioned based on the assumption that their primary value is for the milk they produce. Quite correctly, people raise the issue of high lactose-intolerance levels among Africans. In fact, goat meat is a staple in both East and West African diets. Goats are primarily used for their meat, not for their milk (at least, not in Canadian Feed The Children’s programs).

MYTH #2 Goats are inefficient as sources of protein.

Debre Sina sheep woman and boy .25 It’s true that calorie for calorie, it takes more food, more water and more land to raise a healthy goat than it does to raise a healthy lentil. But animal protein is also a more complete protein. For children who are undernourished and for whom poverty leads to extreme deficits in dietary diversity, the quality of the protein is almost as critical as the quantity.

The other thing that goats produce is other goats. Quickly. Relatively easily. Maybe not as fast as the proverbial bunny, but fast enough that women – who are prevented from owning land in many of these communities and are often unable to grow and sell enough produce to feed their children – can create a simple set-up in their yard and raise a couple of chickens for eggs to eat and to sell. And then, often, earn enough to trade up for a goat or two – which can be reared and then traded up for a cow and for many other options as the family income grows. asrat tola in her kitchen garden .25

Asrat Tola (right, in purple), a beneficiary in one of CFTC’s local partner-run Self-Help Groups in Ethiopia, is a real-life example of how a starter chicken turned into a thriving home-based garden (she also has sheep, not pictured here) that has lifted an entire family out of poverty – and inspired many others to follow the same path. Read more about her story and others like her in The Multiplier Effect in Ethiopia.

MYTH #3 The conditions in which goats (and other livestock) are kept are inhumane.

This is a tough one to answer because goats are definitely raised for their meat; there’s no getting around that. But consider this: the goats and chickens that CFTC distributes go to small family farms and individual families. These are not huge herds of animals, and they are a world away from the kind of “factory farms” that feed so many of us here in North America.goat vaccination uganda

The goats that Canadian Feed The Children’s local partners distribute are part of agricultural training and livelihoods programs that offer broad-based support. They are distributed through Self-Help Groups and Village Savings and Loans Associations – microfinance programs that teach women effective animal care, raising, and breeding techniques as part of overall literacy and numeracy, business and marketing knowledge.

Community agricultural agents (pictured at right during a routine vaccination program) work with women and men to ensure that they have what they need to feed, house and sell their livestock. No one benefits if the recipient of the goat doesn’t know how to grow her herd into a sustainable source of family income.

MYTH #4 You’re not really sending a goat when you send a goat.

small ruminants EDA Ethiopia .25Well, actually this one is true. They are hard to put a stamp on, for one thing. 🙂 The goat you’ve bought doesn’t get put in the cargo hold on Air Canada and shipped one way from Toronto or Halifax or Winnipeg to Woliso District, Ethiopia; Sang, Ghana; or Entebbe, Uganda. Best practice development does not support shipping any kind of product or good from HERE to THERE because that’s not only cost prohibitive and inefficient, but most importantly: it prevents local, sustainable economic development from happening. That’s the last thing we want to do.

The symbolic gift of livestock that you select from the Best.Gift.Ever catalogue is sourced and distributed through CFTC’s local partners in communities that are running agricultural income generation programs. In our case, that means goats, chickens, sheep and pigs in Ethiopia, Ghana and Uganda.

MYTH #5 But what about the caveat on many organizations’ web sites that just because you’ve chosen a specific item, that might not be what your funds are used for?

Every item in our catalogue is a REAL item that is given to REAL people in REAL communities. Those goats really exist, and they are really distributed in the communities in which CFTC works.

That said, it is true that while we do our very best to predict how many goats will be “ordered” from the catalogue each year and make sure that is the same number of goats that are used in our programs, it’s not a perfect science. There could be a downturn in goat popularity, and fruit trees could go through the roof. Or, there could be a situation such as the one we had this year: we wanted to introduce a new gift (bees), which are part of a new agricultural program. We had no experience to know whether bees would get great buzz or fizzle out altogether! And if the former, we know we have only a small program (right now) that is distributing bees.

So the chance of us “selling” more bees than we have to distribute is a case where we must do the responsible thing and let people know that we might need to use the excess funds raised for something else. If we have to do that, we always use the funds for a similar type of product – livestock of a different sort, or other agricultural products, for example.

The Final Word on Symbolic Gifts
In the end, the fact is that the children, women and men we serve in our communities benefit from everything in the catalogue. Everything is needed. Everything is real. Everything helps.

If you bought a goat … or some chickens … or a gift of pre- or post-natal care … or school supplies … or anything else from the catalogue, you’ve helped a child. We guarantee it. And, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Gifts from the Best.Gift.Ever catalogue are available all year long, for any occasion. Why not browse today?