March 10, 2005
It is hard to believe that one ornery animal can transform lives, but we saw what a goat can do, over and over again in Balaka and Chingale. We drove and then walked to a home in Yonamu Village. The head of the household was a woman. Her husband, who was quite old, was sitting under a bush nearby. She explained that he was chronically ill and unable to work. The Blantyre Synod Projects office had sold her, at nominal cost, several goats. These goats are special boar goats and are larger than the common goats that you see. She fed them and cared for them and they reproduced into quite a herd. She had a hut built for them which is above the ground about 4 feet. She sweeps up the goat droppings and composts them with other organic materials and uses it as fertilizer on her crops. She told us in an excited stream of Chichewa that it has really helped her crops, and eliminated the need for expensive chemical fertilizers.
The best part of having goats, she said, was the fact that she was able to sell some of them, and reap a huge profit. With the proceeds of the sale she was able to bank about $100, which is a large sum of money, and buy iron sheets (a new roof) for her home. She used some of the money to buy food for the family (there are 8 people living in the small structure,) and pay school fees for the children. She said that she never could have imagined that she would be able to do all of those things. She was rapturous about the goats!
Later in the day, at Salifu Village, we were shown the results of the Livestock Restocking program of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). During the drought of 2003, all of the people in that region were forced to sell all of their animals to buy food. There were no animals left. So PDA gave beneficiaries two ewes, and one billy goat for the community. (Others received four chickens each.) The first two kids born to each set of ewes were given to the next lot of beneficiaries in the village. After that, villagers can keep subsequent kids. Twenty goats were given out less than a year ago, and we were shown a group of 39 goats, including one just 7 days old! The villagers were so excited that they were literally dancing for us. They had a set of drums and were singing and leaping with joy.
Of course, when we all sat down, one of the older women complained. Part of the PDA’s strategy is to go from disaster assistance to recovery and restoration. Now that the villagers are back on their feet, they are being asked to pay a small sum of money for each additional goat. The woman did not like this, but Gertrude quickly explained to her the reasoning behind the action. Her explanation must have been good, because the woman enthusiastically joined the next round of dancing.
Goats seem to be temperamental and stubborn animals, but to these villagers they are a lifeline.