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AAH_kenya_22_0125 (1)
September 01, 2022

The Galla Goat: an unlikely solution to the climate crisis

topic: Climate action
by: Lucas Matete
org: Action Against Hunger

With unprecedented drought impacting the Horn of Africa, the dire consequences of the climate crisis are painfully clear and impossible to ignore. Livestock are dying in droves and millions of people have been displaced in search of soil where crops or fodder might grow.

Inflation and the conflict in Ukraine have further raised food and fuel prices, compounding an already historic disaster that is leaving nearly 20 million people in the region on the brink of extreme hunger

In Kapkitony, a village in northwestern Kenya, an innovative group of women have found a way to adapt. The key to their success? A little-known breed of goat. 

Meet The "supergoat"

Galla goats are a hardy, heat-tolerant breed, which allows them to thrive even as more than three million traditional livestock have died around them. Originally introduced to Kenya by CGIAR scientists seeking to improve global food security and then brought to a mother-to-mother support group in Kapkitony by Action Against Hunger, these "supergoats" are three times the size of the typical East Africa goat, breed more quickly and produce more milk.

Galla goats even outperform cows, a traditional form of livestock. They require less feed and water than cows, are less expensive to maintain, do not require specialised housing and emit less methane. Plus, unlike other types of livestock, they eat wild brush, which is still prevalent in the region, even with extreme drought conditions. 

Goat milk is nutritionally rich, with high levels of Vitamin A, protein, calcium and phosphorus, providing a critical solution to the hunger crisis that is impacting so many. This year alone, nearly 755,000 children under the age of five in Kenya will likely suffer from acute malnutrition and require treatment, making hunger prevention efforts all the more urgent. 

A rare example of climate adaptation

When the women of Kapkitony eventually breed enough goats to sell in the marketplace (they need at least 100 to meet the minimum requirements to become a breeding centre, which will take just one more year), they stand to make more than double the price (between $50-$100) per goat compared to the regular East African goat, which sell for approximately $20-$40.

This would mean that these entrepreneurs could not only feed their families with the milk from the goats, but earn extra money to buy other food and necessities, and even afford to send their children to school. 

On top of it all, the manure produced by Galla goats offers an alternative to traditional fertilizers, which are currently soaring in price, making it unattainable for most farmers. As Russia provides 15 percent of the world’s fertilizers, the price has reached an all-time high since the war in Ukraine began, rising by more than double from their levels a year ago.

The Galla goat manure is free from chemicals, making it more sustainable for the environment and better for human health.

While other farmers struggle to grow crops, the mothers in Kapkitony are utilising the goat manure to successfully cultivate beans, maize and vegetables. The success of the Galla goats project is a rare example of climate adaptation and community resilience amid mounting hardship. 

Furthermore, as they become economically self-sufficient, the mothers of Kapkitony defy gender roles ingrained in their communities, gain more agency, autonomy and self-determination  - even without a formal education.

"Before, we were just like normal women in the village," said Rosalyn, the primary goat-keeper. "We didn’t have knowledge of how we can expand our minds to even start a business. We are now thinking in terms of empowering ourselves as women."

The Galla goats in Kapkitony address the immediate issue of food insecurity in this Kenyan village, lay the foundation for future economic growth, and do so all while providing a path to climate adaptation. It is a good example of incremental innovation that has a real impact.

This program in Kapkitony can serve as a model for other communities across the world, assuming we keep a few things in mind: Programs should be guided and led by the people most impacted; be tailored to the local environment; and address the consequences of political and economic stressors, such as high fertilizer prices resulting from the conflict in Ukraine.

If more women are given the opportunity to build livelihoods that are climate resilient, we can make progress in addressing the greatest challenges of our time, including increased drought, rising hunger and gender inequality. 

Lucas Matete is a Food Security and Livelihood Assistant for West Pokot County, Kenya,  Action Against Hunger.

Image by Peter Caton for Action Against Hunger, Kenya. 

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