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"HEART OF AFRICA"
Burundi Goat Rehabilitation Project

Alliance Burundaise pour la Coopération et le Développement &
Austrian Help Program

burundigoats@yahoo.com
http://burundigoats.tripod.com

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The Daily Round

 

Many people have asked about goats in Africa and about our day-to-day activities, so let us share with you a little anecdotal information on conditions here and what we are doing.

 

For the last several years,  we have been living, literally, in the middle of a war-zone in Central Africa where, for example, during our farmer training we are sometimes accompanied by military guards - and not long ago were awakened first to an exchange of AK-47 automatic fire close by...

 

Military guard during medical treatment upcountry

. . . and then later, by a couple of large hippopotami (probable male) who were having a loud, LOUD turf war just on the other side of our compound [about 30 feet away from sleeping quarters] - hippo are fiercely territorial in their night-time grazing habits, during which time they leave the waters of Lake Tanganyika to spend much of the night grazing along the shore banks.
 

Hippo on an island  in the Rusizi river, a few kilometres from the Project compound.  The Rusizi and its wetlands are an important wildlife reserve and contain 100s of species of migrating birds as well as aquatic and land animals.

A peace accord was signed in 2003 between the government and most rebel groups, and while our security conditions have greatly improved and while there is growing optimism for the future, there are also many complex issues that will to be addressed in order to secure a lasting peace.

 

Goat drenching by project farmer

Here is what we're doing.  Burundi's brutal civil war, followed by  a decade of ongoing raids, has not only resulted in 100,000s of persons killed, made refugees, or homeless – it has also devastated the livestock sector:  from 20%-98% of all livestock in the country have been stolen, killed, or died due to disease, malnutrition, etc.  Remaining livestock suffer from a number of problems, including malnutrition, inbreeding, disease, excessive parasite burdens, anemia, infertility, miscarriages, high infant deaths, insufficient milk production for young, etc., etc., -- many of which are inter-linked.

We have been working for over 5 years to help rehabilitate the goat sector through a variety of activities, including upgrading the Central Africa Goat [CAG], which - because of the problems noted above - are in danger of loosing their genetic viability.  Also, CAGs are said to have very poor milk production and so many young are growth stunted, weak or die from starvation.  However, the results of our work  suggest that this problem is more related to malnutrition; anemia; worms burdens; possibly in-breeding,  [etc.], than to breed traits. 

 

On the whole, CAGs are a remarkably hardy and adaptive medium-sized meat goat that seems genetically disposed to resist several tick diseases as well as heavy parasite burdens, and to tolerate suboptimal grazing conditions.  However, the breed and breed characteristics have not been systematically profiled – a task that we hope to carry out in the future with collaborating animal scientists.  CAGs have short to medium legs, stocky body, sort neck, broad girth, short-ish back, small or no horns, pointed ears, & is predominantly brown but also black and multi-colored.  

 

Rhadagone, a Central African Goat [CAG] buck & Tharcisse, one of our herders

The CAG is thought to have originated in West Africa, from where it was brought by Bantu groups  migrating to central Africa – a process that began over 2000 years ago.  There are two know strains – one short haired and the other long haired.  However, because  Burundi is strategically located between East and West Africa, stock from East Africa have undoubtedly also influenced the breed.

The males are extremely aggressive in their breeding rituals - but the breed is not at all aggressive towards people and are easily handled and herded.  Indeed, because they are closely handled by herders since old enough to join their mothers, they behave very much as sheep, flocking close together and spreading out just far enough from one another to seek forage - but never straying far.

 

 Some of our Boers and Alpines  a few weeks after being imported

We have also imported Boer (from South Africa) and Alpine (from Germany) and are in the 1st through 4th generations of developing a CAG-dairy strain and a CAG-meat strain.

 

We are also into the 2nd generation of a 3-way cross, 1/2 CAG, 1/4 Alpine and 1/4 Boer.  This has turned out to be a very promising cross that is meatier and has more milk, while also retaining some of the desirable genetic traits of the CAG.  Because of the harsh conditions, we do not want to provide farmers with goats that have been crossbred up to 87.5%, but to keep at the 2 nd (75%) generation for purposes of restocking.  Even the 1st (50%) generation of these crosses has better milk (and / or) meat production than the CAG.

We divide our stock into several herds (males; pre-breeding females, breeding-age females, etc.), with 2 herders each herd (for security).  Each herd goes out to browse/graze in the common scrublands alongside Lake Tanganyika from 730-1200 and then from 230-530.  From 1200-230 – during the heat of the day – the herds are brought back to rest and nurse kids that are still too young to accompany the herds.  Those with milk (50% Alpine and above) are milked once or twice daily.  This milk is given to the herders and is also made into yogurt.  

Bucks returning from commonlands browsing

We've never had serious problems with bloat and very seldom with other nutrition-related maladies - except urinary calculi, which killed 3 of our imported Boers.  A commercial concentrate that on analysis showed a huge imbalance in the Calcium and Phosphorus ratio caused this. We now mix our own concentrates, if they are needed.

However, we've learned through our open-grazing strategy, combined with aggressive and timely management of parasites and other health problems, that these goats are excellent  selectors, during their grazing/browsing, -- of what their body needs. Consequently there is rarely a shortage of milk for the kids and slaughtered goats have surprisingly large reserves of fat, given that no concentrates or cultivated forage is given.  This is as true for the Alpine & Boer we imported as it is for the CAGs.

 

Central African goat buckling browsing in the project compound

We maintain disease, health and breeding profiles on all the foundation stock - CAG, Alpine & Boer - as well as on the crossbred herds [Training & Technical Documents].  We retain the does in the foundation and multiplication herds; improved CAG and crossbred bucks are leased, at a nominal fee,  to small farmer groups as well as to larger, farm entrepreneurs, who also receive basic training in goat husbandry, health, breeding, etc [Training & Technical Documents] . 

Our biggest problems include  lack of trained technical livestock specialists, lack of information, lack of materials and supplies, lack of lab facilities - in other words, just about everything that is taken for granted in many other countries. As well, due to recurrences of fighting in and around the capital of Bujumbura last summer - and more recent fighting and massacres of Refugees at Gatumba, not far from our Project compound,  our donors have tabled development funds and now are only providing emergency relief assistance.  Hence, we are forced to operate on minimal funding and trust the security situation will be resolved within the coming months.

 

There are no veterinarians left in the country who have had detailed and up-to-date training in goat health and husbandry  - many were killed or fled elsewhere.  Veterinarian and vet technicians who are left would like to learn new techniques but do not have access to information because Internet and email use is still very expensive and few are trained in their use. 

We have a highly dedicated staff and team of vet technicians, paravets and herders who have, with great bravery, seen us through many emergency situations involving attempted robberies, rebel incursions into the compound, and other emergency events.

 

Vet tech, Para vets and herders following a successful surgery

Farmer and children hanging browse

 Emmanuel, the Project's Vet Technician,  treating a 75% Alpine-CAG buckling for cocci

We are currently working with FAO (the Food & Agriculture Organisation - Rome) to organize a national assessment of the goat sector and plan to develop training programs both for livestock professionals as well as for animal owners.

This is a very poor country – 3rd poorest globally – but the people are very enthusiastic, determined to rebuild their lives and their country, and to improve their agriculture – livestock practices.  Due to poverty and lack of inputs, we're really focusing on Low-Input Animal Agriculture  As noted above, to the extent possible, we raise our foundation and multiplication herds in the conditions farmers will have to raise them, i.e.  extensive browsing/ grazing in the surrounding scrublands  (no feedlot strategies here!), rare use of concentrates, and an emphasis on preventative measures : worming as needed, de-ticking, good cleaning of the goat houses, early/aggressive treatment of Caseous Lymphadenitis, Theileriosis ('Tick Fever'), Coccidiosis, diarrhea, soremouth, and other common  ailments.

 

We do our own surgery,  have sent samples to veterinary labs in South African and in Kenya, and in diagnosing and treatment, consult goat producers and animal scientists in other countries, as well as descriptive and technical literature coming out of several European, South African and Australian   Institutions.

Treating a young buck for theileriosis – a common tick-borne disease in the African tropics

We have a lot of problems, have to do a lot of guess-work, and look to goat associations / groups, organizations and friends and colleagues in other countries, for good exchanges of information – learning how you folks do things, and also  sharing our own experiences and ways of dealing with goats under tropical and low-input conditions in the context of post-crisis reconstruction following years of fighting in central Africa.

Welcome to our world, the home of the abatimbo drummer groups on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, with the Congo hills to our right, the Burundi hills to our left, and the longest and second deepest lake in the world right in front of us!

The capital of Bujumbura , located about 10 klm from the Project compound to the East.  Above rise the hills leading to the highlands and central plateau characterized by numerous hills on which are located farmsteads. 

Congo Hills and Rusizi Delta and wetlands lie to the West of the compound

 Lake Tanganyika and fisherman on shore.  The lake contains over 10% of the world's fresh water reserves and is home to 100s of rare fish species.

CAG doe with a ½ Boer daughter and a ½ Alpine  son, born 8 months later

 

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