Goats for a better life

Chris Simoens
11 April 2019
Veterinarians without Borders (VWB) does not only provide goats to vulnerable farming families in Burundi, but also teaches them about animal care, soil management, hygiene, nutrition, family planning and much more. Because only a holistic approach really helps. 

Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world. No less than 23 percent of the population is extremely poor, 37 percent is poor. About 4.7 million people - 40 percent of all Burundians - regularly experience problems to eat a sufficient and balanced diet.

The poor are mostly farmers who live in rural areas with a high population density. As a result, these families have only a small piece of land that is often not very fertile. Moreover, they do not have sufficient resources to buy quality seeds or fertilisers, so that the soil becomes even more impoverished. A vicious circle.


More than goats

In 2016, the Burundian government decided to regionalise agricultural policy with the aim to increase productivity, but this proved insufficient to break the vicious circle of poverty and food insecurity. That is why Veterinarians without Borders (VWB), together with local partners, is giving an extra boost to a number of farmer families from the poor province of Ngozi. So far, 1126 vulnerable families have each received four goats. Goats are a source of protein and provide manure to fertilise the land.

But to improve food security in a truly sustainable way, VWB also focuses on many other aspects. The NGO provides goat pens, three months of free follow-up by veterinarians, a vegetable garden, quality seeds and forage crops to feed the cattle. The farmers are taught how to take care of their goats and how to compost manure and protect the soil better.


All these elements - health, food, education... - allow the families to escape poverty permanently.

They also receive tips for a balanced diet, better hygiene and family planning, and on how to save money and join a health insurance. Since the selected families live in the margins of society and cannot go to school, the farmers also learn to read and write. All these elements - health, food, education... - allow the families to escape poverty permanently.



The project also contains a solidarity component. In the course of the first year, a family that has been helped is supposed to pass on two goats to another family following kidding.

The approach works. The farmers involved were able to sell goats and they clearly got more out of their land. As a result, they had more food at their disposal and their income increased considerably. More than 80 percent have expanded their activities. Some bought new farmland, while others started to breed pigs, cows or chickens or to grow vegetables. Some even took out a loan to set up a small business.

In the future, VWB hopes to expand its project to 3100 families in six municipalities.


A man takes the temperature of a goat while three children are watching.
© Tim Dirven/DZG
Burundi Livestock
Back Economy
About the same theme - Article 7 /13 For the Dignity of Peasant Farmers