columnBy Irene Nabusoba
Kampala — LOSING a husband was the worst thing that could have happened to Sarah Namusoke, a 35-year-old widow and mother of four in Jinja district. With nothing left for the survivors, all they could inherit were debts - in all aspects of life.
They ranged from unpaid school dues for the children, debts at shops, where they had continuously borrowed food items, to those incurred in burial arrangements.
"After burial, the children looked up to me and I had no idea of working to earn a living. My husband was the sole bread winner," Namukose says.
Consequently, the children dropped out of school and due to poor diet, they became malnourished.
Namukose became a reference for village healthcare teams teaching about hygiene, food security, good nutrition, and family planning in Budondo village in Butagaya sub-county.
Her attempt to join local support groups popularly known as niginas was futile because she had nothing to contribute to the 'merry-go-round' schemes.
However, it is lack of a proper source of survival that gave her chance to own an enterprising dairy-goat breeding when the Women Centre For Job Creation (WCFJC), a community-based development initiative was introduced in their village.
WCFJC is a promising organisation that supports women to start income generating activities or expand what they have using sustainable resources.
Since Namukose was evidently poor, everyone seconded her as a beneficiary when the project officials came looking for disadvantaged families to uplift standard.
However, this did not come so easily. One needed to have a pit-latrine, a granary, a local pantry (katindalo), vegetable garden, and uses energy-saving charcoal stoves, to get a goat.
Namukose had none these. "I struggled doing casual work for people like digging and fetching water for six months before I could qualify," she says.
"But there was another hurdle, I needed to access the support through a local women's group. There were many women, who also wanted to form a group in order to benefit from WCFJC," she adds.
From the one local goat WCFJC gave her three years ago, Namukose now owns five crossbreed goats. The centre would give each women group an exotic dairy breeding goat to mate for the women to get cross-breeds for better milk production.
"From my one local doe, I have made a fortune," she says. "My two-year-old baby, who was very malnourished when I joined this project is now healthy. I was advised to feed the baby with goat's milk," she discloses.
Namukose says she now sells the does and keeps the bucks when the goats produce, because she has no room for expansion.
"When they came for the routine checks, the field officer saw that not only was my baby very healthy, I had taken care of the goats very well. I was then made in charge of the group's exotic buck from which I earn money from mating fees from non-members. That is when I realised that keeping the bucks was profitable," she says beaming.
After sending three of her children back to school, Namukose plans to build a permanent house. Her colleague Afua Ngobi, has two of her seven children in university - the highest level of education the village has probably seen.
"I am no longer a regular at the LC courts over my goats eating people's crops," Ngobi says.
Well, they say that a candle loses nothing by lighting another. This is perhaps what Dorothy Tuma, a business consultant, probably envisaged when she founded WCFJC.
"I started by supporting a handful of women in salon and poultry business, a cooperation that has culminated into the construction of a local nursery and primary school," Tuma says.
"I was impressed by the women's response and decided to expand the initiative to include goat rearing. I approached my friends and various grant agencies for donations. I bought 72 local she-goats (does) and distributed them to very poor women in their groups as a starter pack," she discloses.
Tuma then distributed 100% exotic toggengburg (a breed of dairy goats) bucks (he-goats) to mate so they could yield 50% cross-breed goats with improved milk production. She purchased them from farmer associations in Mbale.
To build on this success, Tuma has now established the dairy goat breeding centre, which will not only be a training centre teaching best practices for zero-grazing exotic goats, but also put an end to costly trips to Mbale in search of exotic bucks.
The centre conducts on-spot training, teaching farmers how to spray, de-worm and how husbands can help their to wives participate in family income generating activities like goat keeping, poultry and piggery.
"We capitalise on simple innovations on a family basis. We enrolled 42 trainers with skills in goat management. We conduct two-day training for the farmers in entrepreneurial skills, sustainable animal rearing practices like planting fodder and shade construction using locally available materials," she says.
During the community training, Tuma says they advise people to observe hygiene, protect the environment and avoid domestic violence.
Tuma says her mission is to increase economic empowerment and improve the general welfare among low-income women in rural communities.
"This Dairy Goat Breeding centre is one step to the establishment of a goat milk processing facility in Butagaya," Tuma says.
At a cost of sh800,000 and sh400,000 each, Tuma purchased seven exotic bucks and five does respectively to help upgrade the community's local goats.
"The centre will retain five exotic does and one buck to continue producing purer goats, to be given to other groups.
The locals in the centre's neighbourhood can bring their native goats to mate to get 50% cross-breeds," she explains.
She says the other six bucks will be distributed to other women groups in other villages so that cross-breeding continues. There are six parishes (about 67 villages), with 1350 members organised in groups.
By working through the infrastructure of existing community groups, Tuma says WCFJC will transform struggling income generating projects into profit creating entities while creating more jobs within the communities.
"We insist that each individual, who receives a she-goat commits to return two she-goats to WCFJC within a period of 24 months. These animals are then passed on to other beneficiaries for project sustainability," she explains.
Tuma says they find dairy goat rearing to be a viable enterprise and useful both for food security and income generation. The goat's milk is highly nutritious and is recommended for babies, whose mothers are HIV-positive as well as for people taking ARVs.
"The milk is also easy to digest and it is excellent for people with lactose intolerance," she reveals.
However, Tuma says they are operating in only one sub-county because they do not have enough funds to expand to other areas, yet the demand is overwhelming.
She adds that with proper animal feeding practices, hygiene and cleanliness the animal health will improve thus productivity which they are yet to realise.
David Waisswa, the project veterinary officer, says the goats are very advantageous because they take a shorter time to grow.
"For local breeds to reach the age of mating, they have to be about 18 months, while the exotic breeds start mating at eight months."
Waisswa reveals that the profits are also higher because they do not only produce more milk only but goat milk is more expensive than the cow's.
"The goat's milk costs about sh1250, while the cow's costs about sh800," he adds.
However, the goats are reportedly very prone to poor hygiene conditions and are vulnerable to disease outbreaks like tick-borne diseases and worms. They also drink a lot of water yet the community faces water scarcity.
To counter this, WCFJC is partnering with the Jinja district water department to introduce boreholes in the area.