Zambia: How small animal rearing is giving hope to hungry families

Published: 16 June 2016 8:30 CET

By Bruce Mulenga, Zambia Red Cross Society

For many farmers in Zambia, the time to harvest their crops has arrived. However, the majority of peasant farmers living in the valleys have little to harvest from their fields this year, due to poor rains received in most parts of the country during the last rainy season. For these farmers, the threat of hunger is becoming a reality. Those with no income to search out alternative sources of food are slowly becoming more vulnerable.

Priscah Njobvu, 29, is a peasant farmer who lives in the Zambezi River Basin, and whose livelihood has been disturbed by a poor harvest. Her household has no income in order to try and find another source of livelihoods to escape the pending hunger. “On my own, I have no capacity to start any other livelihood venture. My initial capital was used to procure maize seeds which I planted, but because of poor rains, I have not been able to harvest anything,” says Priscah. “I have lost all the initial capital I had.”

Her circumstances have led Priscah to being identified to take part in the Building Resilience for African Communities (BRACES) project which distributes goats and chickens to recipients. Like many others taking part in the project, Priscah received training in small animal rearing which equipped her with skills to manage small animals. “When I joined the BRACES project, I was trained in small animal management. I was then given two goats and two chickens to start rearing,” says Priscah, who now knows the measures to take when her goats and chickens get sick, and how to keep both the goat and chicken houses clean to avoid diseases.

Furthermore, she and several other people involved in the project have been linked to the government’s extension services in order to access frequent extension assistance whenever they require it. “I am able to keep my animals very well because every time I have a complicated problem I consult the agriculture extension officer who visits us frequently,” says Priscah.

The multiplying effect

Priscah’s goats and chickens have now started multiplying. Today, she has four goats. She hopes to have 6 goats by the end of the year and 30 chickens in the next 4 months. She hopes to start selling her animals, especially the chickens, to earn income to buy food for her family in the next coming months. “I hope to start selling my animals in the next three months to earn income and support my family,” says Priscah.

Priscah believes that small animal rearing is a good alternative source of livelihoods for her family because the initiative does not rely on weather conditions which have become so persistently unpredictable. “Animal rearing is the best livelihoods here in Sikuzu because the activity does not depend on rain. Rains are unpredictable here in Sikuzu. I find hope of ending hunger in my household by rearing these small animals,” says Priscah. “It is the best alternative to crop cultivation in this area with persistent poor rainfall.”

The BRACES project is distributing two goats per identified household. In order to enhance good goat production, improved billy goats have also been introduced into the area to improve the breed. “I am encouraged to rear goats because the Zambia Red Cross Society has introduced billy goats which are helping to produce goats that are bigger than the local ones. I am sure that when the kids of these billy goats grow, they will help me fetch more money than the local ones which are small,” says Priscah.

So far, 500 people have been provided with small animals for rearing as an alternative livelihoods to crop cultivation. It is expected that small animal rearing will build resilience towards perennial effects of drought, which people living along the Zambezi River face.

The BRACES project is implemented in Kazungula and Mwandi districts and is supported by the American Red Cross.


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