THE IMPACT OF THE GOAT FOUNDATION
In a trading outpost, three kilometers from the village of Majajani, in Kilifi County, South Eastern Kenya, Mzee Bakari, a wiry dark gentleman of indeterminate age, sits perched on a traditional stool outside his house. His home previously consisted of an extension where he operated a booming, albeit extortionate wholesale business. If perchance a stranger stopped to inquire concerning the reversal of his fortunes, the old man would always, with what had become a customary sigh of self-pity, blame ‘new’ and ‘modern’ ways. Modernity had encroached on his ancestral community and done away with the traditional ways that everyone knew and understood.
The socio-economic changes sweeping across villages and rural communities once visited by The Goat Foundation have been unprecedented, and according to Dominic, a community leader from Kisii town in Western Kenya, akin to a social revolution.
The donation of a pair of goats to widows and orphans in far-flung areas across the country opened societies to the potential of women, and widows in particular. Communities bore witness to the improved livelihoods and general well-being of widows, who once empowered by the initial investment of two goats, chose to apply the bargaining power that came with it towards wealth generation.
HEALTH, NUTRITION & EDUCATION
The families of widows who received these donations acquired food security and a chance for a balanced nutritional diet. The milk taken from goats was a crucial source of protein when consumed. The manure from goats was spread around vegetable gardens and this led to increased crop yields. The variety and resilience in food availability acted as insurance against starvation and hunger.
Due to proper and regular feeding habits, children became healthier and were less susceptible to common infections. Healthy households implied that money that could have been spent on seeking treatment was saved or invested. Children were now able to attend school regularly, as absence due to prevented illnesses was reduced.
As mentioned earlier, families of widows started attending school regularly and were not sent home for lack of school fees. The family could now afford to sell their farm produce to pay school fees, with the knowledge that milk from goats could be harnessed to supplement their diet.
School attendance brought new standards of hygiene, safety awareness and government recognition. In Kenya, it is illegal for a school-going child to be employed as a labourer, married off or subjected to any form of exploitation. This guaranteed legal protection to the children of widows.
The Goat Foundation has noted the uptick in commerce and vocational activities in some villages. It follows that before these donations were made, traditional players in the market were familiar with each other’s needs and trading became routine and even unprofitable. The sudden infusion of new capital and market for goods and services revived industries that had sat idle for years. Basket making, weaving mats, fishing and a host of local industries sprung up to compete with one another.
It is for this reason that Mzee Bakari, at the onset of this piece, was caught outside his dilapidated home lamenting the arrival of new ideas. His shop had exploited a previous monopoly to sell goods at exorbitant prices, and when more traders arrived at the market, prices of goods went down and Mzee Bakari was forced to close his shop. This in the end benefited the rest of the community who were now able to access more goods at cheaper prices.
These donations are also able to help widows and their families mitigate the socio-economic impact of climate change in their lives. Goats are a hardy breed and can survive drought conditions. By practicing climate smart agriculture, during bountiful rains, the crops will do well and during drought, the goats would thrive, so families were cushioned against these two extremities.
In a community whose reliance on cultivated land was reduced by a fraction, there was less land cleared for agriculture and more trees planted. The practice of goat husbandry in these communities, therefore, meant that the impact of natural disasters such as floods was reduced as vegetation cover protected the soil from being washed away during heavy rains.
A crucial and demonstrable impact of empowering widows through the donation of goats was the protection of children from exploitation. Families no longer required their young ones to work for food. Children could now spend their time at school or playing. As widows became empowered and acquired a say in the community, they were now able to protect their daughters against gender-based violence, female genital mutilation and early marriages.
Sexual exploitation that was visited upon needy girls especially young widows and daughters of widows was eliminated as they now had the economic means to fend for themselves. This had the impact of reducing HIV transmission, child trafficking, unwanted pregnancies, and school drop-out cases.
EQUITY & EQUALITY
Perhaps the most cited achievement was the elimination of the inequitable gender power relations. Economically empowered widows acquired a voice and were included in decision-making in discussions that affected the community. Loan disbursement, land rights, and inheritance rights got advocated for by community activists. By elevating widows from a whispered and shunned demographic to a celebrated group of achievers, The Goat Foundation allowed women and widows to access land ownership and resources. Widows were now able to contest for the property of their departed husbands.
These attainments not only had the universal effect of eliminating extreme poverty, violence, and health risks, but they also advanced the cause of women towards education, training and awareness about their human rights.
With the increased legal literacy, these widows are now able to confront long-standing exclusionary ideals born out of patriarchal customary and religious norms.
During a peace and reconciliation process in Kisii County, Western Kenya, neighbouring communities sat to negotiate compensation and deterrence against future atrocities. Among the items on the agenda, was the payment of restitution to widows whose husbands had been killed during a raid conducted by a neighbouring community. The notion that the welfare of widows was discussed in a traditional ceremony long reserved for male community elders was a game-changing event that resonated throughout the Abagusi community.
The Goat Foundation has not sat on its laurels with a congratulatory grin of satisfaction. In future, they envisage a partnership with donors, Cause champions, Corporates and Businesses in endeavours across the African continent and the world.
TO AFRICA & BEYOND
Among their idealized aspirations, are peace-building initiatives in war-torn regions where they would engage the wives and widows of frontline soldiers to offer humanitarian, psycho-social and legal aid whenever applicable.
The Goat Foundation targets slum-dwelling communities in urban areas of Africa, South America, India and Western Europe. With an eye for family welfare, The Goat Foundation expects to nominate a goat-equivalent donation to single mothers, widows and orphans living in impoverished sections of cities in these regions. The Goat Foundation hopes that by offering a gesture of kindness through alternative means of securing livelihoods, they would mitigate the lure towards gang membership, petty crime, drug addiction, prostitution and street violence.
In the meantime, as the winds of change blow across the sunbaked landscapes of rural Kenya, it is hoped that Mzee Bakari would shift his allegiance from the outdated customary norm of female domination.