An initiative promoting dairy goat production is empowering rural women, alleviating poverty, and strengthening livelihoods within some of Afghanistan’s poorest communities. Targeting 1350 poor women in Baghlan and Nangrahar provinces, the project has facilitated access to over 1500 healthy goats, delivered training, and provided technical support to raise productivity and generate positive impacts on incomes and general wellbeing.
Participating women are already reaping the benefits: milk production has increased by 15-30%, and assessments suggest that over the coming year the value of gross benefits – approximately 1.1 million USD – will grow to six times the initial investment.
This success is partly attributed to the fact that the initial women targeted already had some goat raising experience, owned goats, or required technical assistance. However, a novel feature of the initiative – a ‘Pass on the Gift’ policy which encourages participants to pass on a one yearling goat to another female villager – will help to extend the initiative’s benefits more widely and promote social integration. So far, 400 goats have been distributed in this way and the policy has attracted significant support from village elders, community leaders, and local community development councils.
Other aspects of the initiative include the provision of vaccinations and health services for local goat populations. Over 40,000 small ruminants have been de-wormed and vaccinated against Foot and Mouth Disease, Anthrax, and Enterotaxaemia, leading to a significant fall in mortality and abortion rates. Recognizing the close relationship between effective health care and productivity, communities have begun to pay for health services, raising the potential of their long-term sustainability.
Moreover, in order to address fodder shortages, the project is introducing a drought-tolerant perennial shrub – Atriplex – which lavishly grows on marginal lands. Double purpose legumes and forage species like sorghum and multi-purpose trees such as Mulberry are also being introduced.
Acknowledging the positive benefits of the initiative, Mr. Abdul Ahmad Khan, a community leader in Sherum Village, Nagrahar province, told project representatives: “Interventions such as the provision of goats, inputs, services, and trainings have improved the production of milk and value added products, and brought a positive change in the attitude of communities and the economic status of women and entire families.”
The initiative is a collaborative effort implemented alongside local, national and international partners: Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL); the UN’s FAO; the Dutch Committee for Afghanistan; the Ministry of Women Affairs; the Afghan Veterinary Association; SERVE-Afghanistan; District Administration Authorities; and local communities. It is funded by IFAD through MAIL.
For more information on ICARDA’s work in Afghanistan contact Javed Rizvi: