As the imGoats project enters its final six months, the whole team gathered in Udaipur, India from 2-6 July 2012 to participate in a Learning and Reflection Workshop on the activities completed so far and the work still remaining.
On day one of this week’s workshop, BAIF trustee and principal adviser, NG Hegde took time out to answer a few questions. He spoke about the role played by BAIF in imGoats, and his observations of the project so far
What is your role (and the role of BAIF) in the imGoats project?
I’ve been involved from the very beginning, from the stage of project conception. Earlier at BAIF we ran a goat development project in West Bengal, way back in 2005. This proved some success, and we saw the potential for wider implementation. However, we were not very happy with the marketing aspect. The farmers were still struggling to get a good price for their goats. With the imGoats project, I wanted to make sure, personally, that BAIF brought with us earlier experience from West Bengal so that, through interaction with ILRI, the new project would incorporate both our combined experiences and also solve some of our unsolved questions.
What have you observed over the past year and a half since the inception of imGoats? Any key milestones or significant lessons learned?
The project is moving in the right direction. It’s progressing well. Firstly, we were able to form very good groups; we were able to place good people, well trained staff; and bring together a great deal of international experience and technology. We also established producers hubs and innovation platforms, which we never had in earlier projects. We had no experience, but faith in the wisdom of ILRI, and so far we have been very happy. We’ve established good relations with the Animal Husbandry department of the Government, which helps interaction between officials and farmers and goat keepers.
We’ve also seen a change at the ‘middleman’ level (traders and butchers). Initially, farmers and goat keepers had no direct link with butchers and traders, and the traders had no sympathy for the farmers. So exploitation used to be there. But, gradually, the traders began to interact more with the goat keepers and were able to understand their plight, understand and appreciate the hard work of the farmers so are now open to help. In any business, establishing a dialogue and concern for each other is a good opening for the future. So, to that extent, we are extremely hopeful that in the future these people will have better bargaining power.
Thirdly, never before in Rajasthan had farmers the idea of weighing their goats before sale. Today, most of the goat keepers now weigh their goats well before selling, and now say to the traders “this is my price…” instead of the other way around. This is a tremendous empowerment and we realise that the message has reached them: that marketing of goats should be based on weight and not physical appearance.
So aside from the beneficiaries, what do you hope to see happen from the project team itself over the final six months?
Over the next six months we are going to complete any unfinished work, particularly documentation of the project. This includes process assessment as to which activities have contributed more to the beneficiaries, and which have not, and assessing the impact of the various activities. Based on this we will develop a document for good management practices in goat husbandry.
And finally, what could be used from this project in other similar future initiatives across India?
This project has given us a lot of confidence. Firstly to take in new ideas where the Goverment and donors are looking for a short-term opportunity in drought-affected areas, or in areas where agriculture cannot be a major source of livelihood. We have seen that in goat husbandry, the chances of success are more than 90% and the impact of the project can be seen in a short period of 18-24 months. We have also seen that with women (the majority of goat keepers are women in India), money goes into the right investments. When interviewed, we found that the women had either purchased land or invested in the education of their daughters. When the man has to spend money, his preference is still for boys to be educated, but a mother gives equal treatment to her daughters, something I find fascinating. These projects taken up in Jharkhand and Rajasthan will become a model for showing to other donors and farmers how goat husbandry can be a source of livelihood for the weaker sections of society, particularly women-headed families in the future.
We always consider goat keeping as an initial project for the landless. There are many goat keepers who have then purchased land and gone into agricultural production. So it is an opportunity for people who just can’t start with anything, to get started for a short period of one or two years then they can find alternative sources. If not anything, they can at least educate their children and put them into better opportunities.
The imGoats project seeks to investigate how best goat value chains can be used to increase food security and reduce poverty among smallholders in India and Mozambique. Funded by IFAD, the project is led by researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in collaboration with the BAIF Development Research Foundation in India and CARE International in Mozambique.