HORN OF AFRICA — At night, a bamboo partition is the only thing separating a family of five from the three goats living with them in the mud-brick hut.
But the close quarters aren’t the only way the goats have become a part of the family’s daily life.
Before the goats moved in, the widowed mother of four did not have enough food to take care of her family. Some days they only had one meal of bread. Then the local government chose the family to receive help from an aid organization that partners with Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization.
“With the goats we now have milk and we can buy vegetables,” the mother said. “We eat better, now that we have goats.”
The Southern Baptist field partner who directs the project launched it with a grant from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund.
“We wanted to help. We knew we wanted to work a project with something that either walked on the ground or was planted in the ground,” the project director said. “We went to several of the counties and they gave us project ideas.”
The director partners with local governments to find the families in greatest need. Many times, the process leads them to widows and families struggling to feed small children because they do not have enough farmland to provide food for themselves each year.
The project provides goats in hopes of offering short-term help with long-term benefits that ultimately will teach people how to improve their lives with what resources they have.
The project farm was built in a rural area to house about 70 goats. The director buys the goats, tests them for disease, vaccinates the healthy ones and gives them to women in rural areas in dire need. The local government looks for families who do not have milk to feed young children.
Each family is given three goats — two females and one male.
“We give the goats to the women, making them responsible for the goats’ care,” the project director said, noting that the women are especially good at managing the money and putting the needs of their children first.
“After two years, the women can have about seven kids born to the goats,” the director said. “After the program ends, they are free to sell them for extra income, or trade them for other livestock or use them for meat.”
During the first two years, the project director provides immunizations and medicines for the goats. The women keep any baby goats born, but they are not allowed to slaughter any of the goats for meat during those first two years.
The director and a national worker teach the women how to care for the goats. The women are organized into groups of 12 to support each other and learn together as they raise their new livestock.
Training in child health care, female health and nutrition also is provided. These workshops yield opportunities to build relationships with the women and encourage them to save money earned from selling goat’s milk. Once a group of 12 has saved about $40, the local organization contributes $20, allowing the women to buy a significant amount of grain, which they will sell when the price rises. When they divide the profits, they’ll each have some much-needed cash.
In three years, 252 goats have helped 84 families in five communities.
“The ladies’ lives and behavior are changing,” the project director said. “They are looking after each other. When one gets sick or has problems, they go take care of her, even if they are not of the same family.”
Projects like this are possible only because Southern Baptists care about people in need — and give generously to their World Hunger Fund, said Abraham Shepherd, who directs Baptist Global Response work in the Horn of Africa.
“The World Hunger Fund enables us to care for the widows, to bring a smile to their faces, to provide for a better future for their children,” Shepherd said. “In many societies, women are marginalized and neglected, but collectively Southern Baptists, through our generous giving, can make the difference — one goat at a time, one widow at a time.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Lynn is a field partner with Baptist Global Response.)