Improving Lives With Sheep & Goats

Mar. 24 | 2016

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Sheep and goat meat is critical for supplying essential protein and nutrients not available from a maize or rice based diet. Small and consistent management practices can increase goat and sheep production dramatically. Increasing their control over production and health issues is fundamental to improving household income security and the nutritional status of their children. 

Disabled family member in background
Woman headed and supported family

Internationally, improving small ruminant production and marketing practices through information, technical training, and value chain development is a primary need for smallholder farmers and is especially critical in Mali.

There is a high regional demand for Malian livestock and meat. Mali possesses the most important livestock population in West Africa. Livestock products rank among the top ten agricultural commodities produced in Mali and the combined value accounts for approximately half of Mali’s agricultural GDP  (FAO, 2014).

Small ruminants are especially important in rural Mali as 80% of the population own sheep and/or goats and depend on their contribution to family income and food security as meat and milk. They are a socially acceptable business for women with low initial investment, minimal labor demand, and easy market access. Youth and young children safely interact and share in the daily care of sheep and goats keeping both out of trouble for much of the daylight hours outside of school.

And yet, livestock inventories over the last 20 years have not been increasing in productivity and are far behind the productivity rates in other developing countries. The demand for animal products in Mali is only partially being met while the demand for meat is predicted to grow steadily in coming decades (FAO, 2014). Malnutrition rates for children under 5 years is already at 27%. The productivity of Malian herds will need to improve dramatically to prevent the gap between demand and supply from increasing even further. Improving the yield of the flocks of smallholders will require holistically: 1) identifying opportunities to improve pastoral land use; 2) applying feed supplementation strategies; and 3) upgrading livestock genetics, healthcare and management.


classroom Discussion
classroom Discussion

This project teaches skills to efficiently produce high quality meat and milk protein improving the nutritional status of children and increasing household income. Women and their dependents including those with disabilities are actively integrated into the training. Women comprise two-thirds of the low-income livestock producers. Many of the production activities such as milking and processing of milk are carried out by women, their children or other dependent family members.

Participants learn:

  • Humane management methods
  • Nutrition including Protein, carbohydrate, fat, fiber, mineral and vitamin required to meet the different life stage development of goats and sheep and similarities and differences compared to the needs of growing children and working adults
  • Reproduction and birthing best practice
  • Disease prevention, vaccines, diagnosis, treatment and risk management of living in close proximity to livestock and poultry
  • Safety issues associated with production such as food safety, zoonotic disease, pesticides and herbicide management.



Hand pedal bicycle
This young woman has a small agricultural holding.

All assignments were open and welcoming to farmers with disabilities. Over 30 individuals with disabilities, including physical, vision and hearing issues, participated in the workshops and trainings. Physical disabilities were common due to a polio epidemic many years ago and recent military upheaval.

Farmers with disabilities often own land or retail businesses, and actively tend to daily activities, fields and livestock with the support of children and extended families. Individuals with disabilities are often not included in traditional educational or training programs.

The World Bank estimates that 20 percent of the world’s poorest people have some kind of disability or that one in four individuals have a family member with a disability. Women have a higher incident of disability than men and tend to be regarded in their own communities as the more disadvantaged than men with similar disabilities. Individuals with disabilities are often hidden or invisible within the rural community and are excluded from most income generating activities.

Disability serves as an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations or participation restrictions. These may include chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions, injuries at home, work, on the road and violence, birth defects, AIDS, malnutrition and mental illness. In general individuals with a wide range of disabilities experience social stigma, discrimination, marginalization, economic hardship and poverty.

Women with disabilities are recognized to be multiply disadvantaged, experiencing exclusion on account of their gender and are particularly vulnerable to abuse. Approximately 20 million women become disabled each year as a result of complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Rates of poverty are known to be higher in households with a person with a disability. Women also spend extra time and money taking care of their family member, who needs personal assistance. Ongoing civil unrest and violence also contributes to increasing disabilities within the family. For every child killed, three are injured and acquire a permanent form of disability.

Resources from the World Health Organization