Originally published on June 17, 2015.
Changing ingrained practices about how one makes a living has its share of challenges but, for Anita Rai Magurangunah, learning how to raise goats has made all the difference in ensuring year-round food security for her and her family of six.
For as long as she can remember, she spent her time raising cows and poultry, while her husband working as a fisherman. And for six months of the year, when the scorched earth was replaced with abundant monsoonal rain, she would also toil in the rice paddies. “The extra money I could earn from the paddies helped, but we generally had a hungry season the other six months of the year, and those times were filled with hardship and struggle,” she recalled.
Her cattle fattening efforts were also enormously time and cost intensive. “It would take over 3 years to get a bull big enough to sell, and it required a huge investment that wasn’t always worth the effort in the long run.” Anita Rai could generally earn the equivalent of US $378 for each bull she sold, but she noted her production costs, mostly from animal feed, would range from $250-315; so, it wasn’t much to bank on.
I never saved money before, but from goat rearing, I actually saved $126 to purchase a small plot of land.
But through the Rural Enterprise for Alleviating Poverty II (REAP II)
program, a USDA-funded Food for Progress effort led by Winrock International with the support of Land O’Lakes International Development, Anita Rai and other rural Bangladeshis are diversifying their livelihoods, improving their food security and economic potential, and gaining reliable access to viable markets.
Anita Rai is part of a goat rearing group with 40 members also engaged with REAP II, and she personally has two adult goats and nine kids. “Goat rearing is far less cost-intensive, and I can sell a mature goat after less than 2 years of raising it, earning between $63-75 per goat, and sometimes even more,” she says. As her goats can grow to a reasonable size simply by eating available grass, the income goat rearing provides makes a real difference. Although she was interviewed during the dry season, she noted she planned to begin cultivating simple Napier grass for the goats when the monsoon rains arrived.
Anita next to the goat house she learned to build through the REAP II program.
Having the goats has also helped her weather the hungry periods and unexpected shocks far better. “While my goal is to raise each kid to maturity, I have many of them and can sell one or two in an emergency. With limited cattle, selling one of my cows would really hamper my future potential for economic productivity,” she explained. While she still has two cows and works in the paddies when she can, she got out of the poultry business once she started raising goats.
Through the REAP II program, Anita Rai learned how to build a raised house for the goats that protects them from worms and other diseases. “I also learned how to collect the goat manure and use it as a natural fertilizer in my paddy fields, which has been very beneficial,” she added.
For a woman who regularly struggled to feed her family throughout the year, she’s amazed by the significant improvement in her livelihood and ability to plan for the future. “I never saved money before, but from goat rearing, I actually saved $126 to purchase a small plot of land.”
Having only finished fifth grade, Anita Rai understands all too well the hardships borne from insufficient education the extent to which it can hamper options for financial prosperity and food security. “That’s why my plan for the land I bought is to plant trees on it. My goal is for them to mature in time to provide my five-year-old daughter and nine-year-old some additional support to attend college or pursue other dreams when they grow up.”