By Pauline Mbukwa:
Lucy Adam, 39, from Kamange Village, Traditional Authority Maganga in Salima, largely relied on qualified veterinary officers to treat her goats every time they got sick.
It was a costly arrangement that compelled her to dig deeper into her pockets. That was the experience of countless farmers in her location.
Today, she and other small-scale farmers in Tembwe Extension Planning Area (EPA) in Salima are able to treat their goats on their own.
“We are able to determine that a goat is sick and are able to treat it. Our goats are now healthier than before. Previously, we did not pay attention to some little things which are critical to the survival of the animals,” Adam says.
Goats are common livestock in the country, providing income for farmers and a source of proteins.
They are also proving suitable substitutes for crop-based food systems as changes in climatic conditions continue to affect production.
Goats also act as a buffer against economic shocks.
According to Eluness Masebo, project coordinator for Self Help Africa, an international charity that promotes and implements long-term rural development projects in Africa, farmers should only treat goats that are sick.
“At first, once farmers noticed that one goat was sick, they would call the veterinary officer to treat all of their goats. That is what we are discouraging; only the goats that are sick should be treated to save costs,” Masebo says.
Research states that targeted selective treatment reduces drug costs while the yield remains the same.
Self Help Africa and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) are working with farmers to ensure they use plant-based solutions to integrated livestock disease control, nutrition and environmental sustainability.
“We are encouraging farmers to use both plant-based treatment and drugs so that they can save costs. These are plants being studied,” Masebo says.
Principal Investigator in the project, Andrew Safalaoh, says although an analysis of laboratory results is yet to be concluded, there is an indication that locally available plants have the potential to be used for treatment while simultaneously being used as feed supplements.
“The results so far show that plant-based treatments using locally available bioactive plants as feed supplements help in reducing reliance on chemical treatments to maintain goat health and productivity. As such, use of drugs may not be required.
“However, we are still analysing the data with our project partners in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Botswana,” Safalaoh says.
Self Help Africa is also working with the Ministry of Agriculture through master trainers in piloting the project in five EPAs in Salima namely Tembwe, Katelera, Chipoka, Chiluwa and Chinguluwe.
Among others, the project is advocating the use of plant-based treatment for goats’ diseases. The treatments have already been tested and proven in Botswana.
A master trainer in Chiluwa EPA Kondwani Iman hails farmers participating in the projecting, saying apart from keeping goats, they also collectively grow crops to supplement their household food and income.
Another master trainer, for Tembwe EPA in Salima, Rahim Mtcheka, is happy that the targeted farmers have become like experts in assessing the health of their goats after being trained in processes of checking signs of diseases.
“The project, at the end, will contribute to improved health and production of goats. Farmers are gaining skills in properly feeding and treating the livestock,” Mtcheka says.
The aim of the project is to increase livestock production among smallholder farmers through the application of targeted selected treatment methodology to identify gastrointestinal worms and parasites.
It is envisaged that the methodology will improve identification of the worms in goats, providing an early chance to treat affected goats in good time.
“This will reduce deaths of goats among smallholder farmers. The project is currently reaching a total of over 150 farmers with over 300 goats in Salima,” a note on the one-year project says, adding it is expected to be scaled up in Thyolo and Karonga next year.