opinionBy Nchimunya Muganya
Livestock Is Among Other Important Sectors of the Economy which Government Has Been Increasing Its Investments to Enhance Its Growth.
Interestingly, some sections of the sector have over the years not been reviewed to assess how much they could contribute to sector growth and national development.
One such section of the sector which has over the years received little concentration is the rearing of small ruminant animals like goats, in diversified farming under the name goat farming.
Rearing of small ruminants has been given the infamous name of 'poor man's cow', yet this sub-sector has huge economic potential attached to it.
Seemingly small goat farming has the potential to grow faster just like any other sector but of course, that would only happen with increased investment.
Goats though require low initial investments as compared to other livestock, it's a well known fact that Zambia exports most of its goat products to the Democratic Republic of Congo market with more than 146, 000 being exported yearly.
These animals have wide adaptability to suit varied climatic conditions.
Thus, development of small ruminants in an integrated manner holds great potential for generating employment and enhancing rural prosperity.
Despite the industry being faced with a number of challenges including inadequate expertise in processing, goat rearing has vast potential of contributing to not less than 40 per cent as source of income to the rural population.
There is no doubt that the industry has shown potential for growth to contribute significantly to national development and can be used as a poverty alleviation venture among rural household.
Goat farming is a diversified business.
Goats produce dairy products and they also make good meat.
Goats can also be bred for selling and there is need to further explore these avenues.
Interestingly Heifer International has shown willingness to set up a goat processing plant to enhance processing technology and value addition in the sector.
Goats may be regarded as the most valuable animal since it can be maintained at low cost with high returns and that the importance of the small ruminants increased due to their economic return.
It is obvious that enhanced process would help the sector capture the international market thus increasing the country's export power and foreign earnings.
Processing would help local farmers widen their market, improve product quality and technical know-how.
Livestock and agro-processing sectors offer an opportunity for Zambian farmers to engage in profitable business.
The processing plant would enhance productivity and also create job opportunities for many locals.
It's worth noting that the move would surely support growth of the industry thus helping farmers realise meaningful profits.
Goat is the only livestock species that lives on ecology where grazing material is virtually not available and survive on available hard shrubs under diverse harsh environments is low fertility area.
Attaching more importance to rearing of small ruminants is important as Brenda Mvula of J Block of Kanakantapa resettlement scheme in Chongwe Districts says.
Goat business has transformed her family from almost nothing to riches.
She says goat rearing had changed her family's life style in the sense that it opened up many doors for economic diversification in different sectors despite all being in the same sector (livestock).
Ms Mvula notes that she started goat rearing in 2009 and since then she has managed to tap the growing potential in the market.
She says since then, she has been considering the livestock sector as one sector which could change living standards of a household in a shortest period of time.
She notes with happiness that the most important and unique feature of the sector is that it was not seasonal and that at any time, a farmer was able to reap.
Ms Mvula notes that goat is probably the only animal which is bred for multiple purposes, such as, milk, meat, hide, manure and hair.
"It is very interesting to be in goat farming because I have realised more than I expected, you may wish to know that from the past three years, I have managed to take my children to school, also most importantly I have diversified into rearing of other livestock," she said.
It is clear that goats provide a considerable source of income and occupation to a sizeable rural population,
Ms Mvula said she decided to go into goat rearing because it was the cheapest and more profitable business because of fewer investments in terms of labour, supplementary feeding and most importantly veterinary medicines.
She says there has been increasing demand of goat meat on both the local and regional markets.
A specific focus on improved system of goat production and post-harvest technology can further increase the current level of employment and alleviate poverty in the country.
She said goat farming has great potential in Zambia and that, rearing under stall-fed conditions is one of such rural enterprises that can be done on a commercial scale with the twin objective of employment generation and income creation.
She however said the only thing which needs to be enhanced is the marketing system and that, there should be a mechanism to regulate the export of goats.
She says the challenge remains that of lack of ample facility for processing and at times, that of pricing especially to random buyers.
"We need a proper market where we can be selling our goats and realise good profits unlike the situation now where same business people buy from farmers at a lower price," she said.
Ms Mvula says for a long time now, goats are generally reared by the poor households of the rural population.
Therefore, availability of either slaughtering facilities that would enhance value addition which would with no doubt create more employment opportunities for locals.
She says a goat is a multi functional animal and plays a significant role in the economy and nutrition of small and marginal farmers in the country.
Goat rearing is an enterprise which has been practiced by a large section of the population in rural areas.
She however said for others, goats were kept as a source of additional income and as insurance against disaster.
Government has always encouraged value addition on products to be exported in a bid to increase foreign earnings.
But such challenges are almost coming to an end as stakeholders have shown interest in taping the potential processing sector.
Plans to set up a goat processing plant by Heifer International has come at the right time when the country is in the processing of enhancing value addition.
The move would boost value addition and increasing productivity among small-scale farmers in Zambia.
This follows the growing demand of chevon (goat meat) and its products from local and regional markets.
Heifer International country Director James Kasongo said his organisation had seen the growing potential of goats and as a kind of livestock which could contribute significantly to the growth of the sector and the economy as a whole.
"Plans are underway for us with our cooperating partners to facilitate construction of a goat processing plant and that would help our farmers increase their production levels, thus promoting the spirit of value addition among entrepreneurs," he said.
Mr Kasongo said the move to construct a processing plant was arrived at after a comprehensive survey which showed Zambia was not meeting the local demand for goat products and that, the demand was growing very fast and currently stood at 70 per cent.
He said most goats were being exported to the Congolese market and on average, Zambia was exporting about 400 goats on a daily basis hence reducing the availability of goats in the country for there was nore placement.
"If you go in most super markets across Zambia, you will not find any goat products, this is because there is no company which is processing goat products on a larger scale and this is so because the availability of goat in the country was slowly reducing following the growing demand from the regional market," he said.
Zambia is not able to meet the demand for goats and its products but it is worth noting that more than K140 million was being pumped back into the country's economy in daily exports through the Kasumbalesa Border.
He said last year, Heifer through its livestock restocking programme gave more than 10 thousand goats to about 860 families in Eastern and Copperbelt provinces.
Mr Kasongo said this year his organisation would distribute fewer animals to its members following the scarcity of goats on the local market.