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Goats and the environment

Are goats an environmental hazard?

It is often claimed that goats are a hazard to the environment. However this is only true where there is overgrazing. Where the main activity is all year round crop growing, the goats are generally kept tethered and do not get the opportunity to damage trees or to overgraze. This applies to much of southern Uganda, and particularly to the areas where we are concentrating our efforts, because these are the very areas where there is a shortage of milk and the dairy goats are most needed.


Hills

The hills of southern Uganda are some of the most densely populated parts. This is because the land is fertile and the rainfall is reliable. Consequently they are the most intensively farmed areas, and there is a need to maximise the productivity of the land. To maintain productivity in the long-term, it is essential to plant lines of trees and grass as erosion control.  But because this takes up land, there is a temptation for farmers to use all the land for growing crops. However, if there are goats to feed, then this provides an extra incentive to plant the necessary erosion control.

Tree seedlings

Our sister project, JOY Youth Training Centre, has been active in encouraging the setting up of small scale tree nurseries producing a wide variety of tree seedlings. We have already started to promote the use of these trees in the goat breeding projects.

The trees grown include nitrogen-fixing shrubs which improve soil fertility, fruit trees and timber trees. All of the types used can also be used to feed goats, and in fact result in a more nutritious and better balanced diet than when only grass and crop residues are used.

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Soil quality

When erosion control is practiced (see above), it prevents the fertile topsoil from being washed away. It also reduces runoff of rainwater, so that more soaks into the soil where the crops are.

If the trees planted are nitrogen fixing, then they provide a high-protein feed for the goats, as well as directly fertilising the soil.

The dung from the goats contains water-retaining organic matter and nitrogen, both of which are needed by tropical soils. The urine is also a valuable source of nitrogen.  

JOY Youth Training Centre trainees with tree seedlings they grew Intensively farmed hills in Kabarole, needing erosion control Calliandra used for erosion control and goat fodder