By Kundai Marunya

THERE is a raging debate on social media on the country’s recent ‘obsession’ with goat farming, especially coming from the position that almost every household in rural areas breeds goats.

Goats have always been a part of Zimbabwe’s rural set-up, mostly to be used as meat at social gatherings, while also important in cultural activities, be it roora/lobola, funeral or memorial ceremonies.

They are used in traditional spiritual rites as well as payment at traditional courts.

The importance of goats can never be overstated; which raises questions of the recent excitement and interest in goat farming.

A week ago, social media was awash with news that President Emmerson Mnangagwa was going to donate 35 000 he-goats under the Presidential Goat Pass-on Scheme.

According to the announcement made by the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, under the scheme, each village would be allocated one buck, each electronically tagged for monitoring purposes to ensure transparency and accountability. 

In addition to the bucks, every one of the country’s 1,8 million rural households would receive a she-goat as part of the programme.

This would cost the Treasury millions of dollars; something that triggered concerns from naysayers, who were quick to dismiss the noble initiative.

A rough estimate puts the initiative’s cost at over US$23 million, presuming each goat costs an estimated US$150.

What’s new about goat farming? 

Is this not another unrealistic get-rich-quick scheme being peddled by breeders to cash in on their excess stock at high prices?

These are some of the questions flying around; especially now that we have breeds such as Boer, Saanen, Nubian, Kalahari Red goats which cost US$400 or more when the normal prices for the traditional breeds around the country are as little as US$20, going up to US$50 depending on location.

These are important and pertinent questions considering that we have seen the trend of overpricing livestock over a high demand speculation in the past — a case in point being that of quails (zvihuta). 

Says Masimba Biriwasha, who has been in goat farming and meat processing for over five years: “The local market in its totality is up to a quarter of a billion and globally, the goat market in its totality is US$20 billion.” 

Biriwasha is the brains behind Goat Orders, a company that has been processing and selling goat meat in Harare.

His products include sausages, mince and burger patties, all processed from goat meat.

Biriwasha is of the notion that goat farming is not as easy as it is often touted.

“I set up a goat meat shop at White House, Kuwadzana,” said Biriwasha.

“The model involved bringing high-quality goat meat to the market while working with smallholder goat producers, but it collapsed.

“I failed dramatically. I am currently fine-tuning my model. Goat farming is a long-term business. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme as it’s been made to look. You have to be very patient. 

“Numbers also matter. You have to have a love for goats and not just see them as dollar signs.” 

Tatenda Mashozhera, the proprietor of Mash Goats, which is into breeding high-end goats, echoed Biriwasha’s views on the need for the love of animals as a must-requirement for the successful  goat farmer.

“I was drawn to goat farming by my love for animals and influence from my social circles,” said Mashozhera.

“I also wanted to contribute to the economic development of Zimbabwe as a Zimbabwean in the Diaspora.”

Mashozhera, who recently authored a book, ‘Goat Farming in Africa With Mash Goats’, said his willingness to learn was the greatest investment he made into his venture.

“My start-up investment was humility, willing to learn and stay away from city life,” said the Namibian-based farmer.

“The Land Reform and Resettlement Programme by our beloved Government was, however, the main catalyst.”

Mashozhera is a beneficiary of land reform in Dema, under Seke Rural District Council.

He is heavily involved in goat breeding, while offering support to those venturing into goat farming, some of whom buy their breeding stock from Mash Goats.

“Goat farming is highly profitable as the rate of return on investment is unbelievable,” he said.

“It also accommodates all income classes. One just needs to be patient, consistent and honest towards his/her vision.

“The demand is unmanageably high. I’m doing over 50 sales every six weeks.

“All my sales are local, even though I am currently based in Namibia.”

Mashozhera believes business can double, or even triple if he manages to get sufficient capital investment.

“Our sales can grow to even over 100 per six weeks if we get enough capital investment,” he said.

“These are local markets which we target most as we plan to grow the local herd of pure breeds and high-value cross breeds.”

Mashozhera plans to engage Government, as he complements its efforts in goat farming, to grow awareness in different areas across the country.

“My vision is to engage the Government of Zimbabwe and start local awareness and engagements at district level through conferences, building up to a countrywide goat indaba involving international goat farmers,” he said.

“Above all, I want to get my book introduced in schools and tertiary institutions.”

Government has been showing intent in promoting goat farming in the country through various initiatives, prominent being the Presidential Goat Pass-on Scheme launched last year.

Under the scheme, thousands of goats have already been donated in different areas across the country.

To improve the quality of goat breeds, President Mnangagwa also commissioned a National Goat Genetic Improvement Centre at Bindura University of Science and Technology. The centre is a goat semen processing biotechnology laboratory designed to produce the best breeds suited for Zimbabwe.

Other organisations have also been working in support of the Government’s vision to improve local breeds.

Recently, villagers from three wards in Gwanda District were trained in commercial goat farming in an initiative by the Edward Ndlovu Memorial Trust, after which they received 19 Matabele goats and Kalahari buck kids.

They are expected to pass on breeders to fellow villagers in the coming year.

Though most farmers are focusing on meat-producing goats, some have gone a step further to produce goat milk.

For those in meat production, Saanen is the preferred breed, which can be milked twice a day, producing an average of two litres.

The milk is in high demand locally. 

It is processed into cheese and high-end soap and cosmetic products.

“There is a lot in the goat that needs to be maximised. We are just scratching the surface,” said Biriwasha.

There are definitely rich pickings in goat farming, but there is need for research and continued investments in goat farming and processing.

“All I can say is, the most important thing in goat farming is getting started as its more of on-the-job training, but you can never go wrong,” said Mashozhera.


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