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Of red goats and agricultural development policy

I recently watched a video of a Nigerian politician speaking in Hausa language, talking about subsistence farming of red goats as one of his agricultural ideas…

I recently watched a video of a Nigerian politician speaking in Hausa language, talking about subsistence farming of red goats as one of his agricultural ideas for wealth creation if elected as governor. This was fascinating to me because it was not the first time I came across the concept of red goats from a Nigerian politician or government official.

The first time I heard someone talking about red goats was when a former Minister of Agriculture who had just been appointed invited me to join a think tank he was forming to hit the ground running in his new office. I was shocked to discover how prominent the red goats were in the minister’s plans for Nigeria. In any case, whether in a ministerial brainstorming session or a televised debate for political office, here is how I wish they talk about their beloved red goats.

First of all, as an elected official or an appointed cabinet member, it’s always better to talk about your policy since it is what you are elected or appointed to formulate and execute. Agricultural development policy refers to a  government’s plan and actions aimed at improving the agricultural sector, including farming practices, access to resources and markets and the overall well-being of farmers. It may include initiatives to modernise agriculture, increase productivity and income, promote sustainable farming practices and provide support for farmers in the form of loans, subsidies, and other programmes. The goal is to boost the agricultural industry and make it more profitable and efficient, which can in turn drive economic growth and improve the standard of living for people in rural areas.

An agricultural development policy involving the Sokoto Red Goat or the Kalahari Red Goat is not a bad one and could actually be transformational for livestock farmers, including rural poor families. The discussions around this policy should include the following initiatives that should have been the focus of both politicians and ministers.

I would certainly not be so fixated on goats alone, but if I were them I would first of all describe how my proposed policy will involve the breeding and genetic improvement programmes around the animals. This is in order to encourage and support farmers to improve the genetic quality of their goats through selective breeding and other techniques. This initiative can be followed closely by health and husbandry management trainings aimed at offering training and support for farmers to improve their goat health management practices, including vaccination and parasite control programmes.

An important initiative under this policy is marketing and product development, as both individuals harped on a ready market for red goats. This initiative will involve developing marketing strategies to promote the unique qualities and value of the goats and their meat, hides and other products as well as encourage the development of new products and value-added products.

In addition to the market angle, access to finance must be equally catered for. The policy must entail how loans and other financial assistance to farmers can be provided to help them improve and expand their red goat operations. Finance must also be sought to fund and support research to improve animal health and productivity, as well as to develop new technologies and management practices.

Lastly, this policy must also involve an initiative on quality assurance and traceability. How do we develop and implement quality assurance and traceability programmes to help ensure the consistent quality and safety of the  goat products? Also  how do we offer training and other support to help farmers build their capacity to manage and grow their goat operations, including business planning and management skills.

These initiatives should be aimed at improving the overall competitiveness and sustainability of the livestock industry, and increasing the income and well-being of farmers who raise these goats. By promoting the unique qualities of the specific red goat breed and improving their production and marketing, this policy aims to create new opportunities and markets for this valuable animal and its products.

I genuinely think the politician and former minister in my story had good intentions. I think it is a benign, even if naïve attempt at rural economic policy that was quite poorly imagined and terribly delivered. If you absolutely had to make goats the centre of your plan for agricultural development, you could at least try explaining it in the context of a well thought agricultural development policy.

However, if we are being honest, in this age of advanced technology and innovation and with the progress recorded in agricultural transformation globally,  even the mere mention of  red goats as a major point of any agenda just sounds outright ridiculous.

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