Breakthrough science and innovation

S. Kilungu (CCAFS)

Breeding climate-smart 'super' goats

East Africa

Goats and sheep (small ruminants) are important for household livelihoods in many parts of the world which must be considered in efforts for climate change adaptation. For this reason, starting in 2011, CCAFS and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have been working to help farmers in Kenya’s Lower Nyando Basin develop new breeds of goats and sheep suited to conditions brought about by climate change – such as increasingly frequent droughts.

In 2015, the small ruminants project, led in partnership with Kenyan research organizations and government bodies, generated a high level of media interest. As a result, there were numerous visits to participating farms and interviews with lead scientists. A key highlight was the participation of the Deputy President of Kenya in the annual goat auction held at Barng’oror, Kapsorok in December 2015. During this auction, farmers purchased nearly 4 000 of the new climate-smart goats.

S. Kilungu (CCAFS)

The goat breeding and rearing project is part of the wider Climate-Smart Villages initiative led by CCAFS. As such, villages in Nyando have been designated as test sites for climate-smart agriculture. The new goats bred by farmers in Nyando originate from selected Galla goats crossed with the local breed. The resulting cross-breeds have several advantages compared with the local breeds: they grow faster, they are resistant to internal parasites, and they tolerate drought and heat stress better. And, because they mature 6 months earlier than indigenous breeds, they have faster reproductive cycles and produce more milk and meat.

“I now comfortably pay [school] fees for my children from the sale of the goats.” Daniel Langat, Nyando farmer

The new ‘super goats' have become so popular with local farmers that they are set to replace traditional breeds in Nyando completely in only a few years’ time. The goats fetch 3 times the price of the indigenous breed, which shows how highly they are valued by farmers. And because so many farmers have switched to the new breed, the proportion of households enduring 2 ‘hungry months’ each year – periods when they eat fewer than 2 meals a day – has fallen dramatically.