Some of the goats loaned to vulnerable women in Jigawa

Recently, Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Badaru Abubakar unveiled a goat-rearing micro-credit programme for vulnerable women. The programme, which is first of kind in Nigeria, has already empowered18,000 vulnerable women, especially widows across 27 local government areas in the state. Gboyega Akinsanmi writes

Binta Abdullahi is a victim of double tragedies. Binta, a Gwaram resident in Jigawa State, lost her husband few years ago. She was alone with her children to cope with the country’s harsh socio-economic realities. Also, Binta has lost her two eyes, a condition which she said, made it difficult to overcome challenges that her status as a widow naturally threw up.

Confronted with these grim conditions, Binta had to trudge on with courage, though according her, often challenged by the stern realities of life. She acknowledged that it was indeed not easy, coping with her sight loss and enduring a life of solitude. Amid Binta’s battle for survival, there was no hope in sight, which she said, perhaps made her resign to providence.

Like the case of Binta, thousands of women are battling diverse socio-economic conditions in different parts of Jigawa State. Even though they are married, some women are unemployed or under-employed. Also, many of them are bereaved, leaving them with the huge responsibility of breadwinner. Others are physically challenged in one way or the other.

The indicators of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) bears witness to the grave conditions of Jigawa’s women. According to the NBS, Jigawa has a population of 4.3 million. Of the population, about 47.6 per cent comprises women of different strata. By these indicators, Jigawa has the highest poverty rate. Of course, women as the most vulnerable in the state.

After he took up the mantle of leadership in Jigawa State, Governor Badaru Abubakar said the grim picture of Jigawa’s socio-economic life spurred his decision to study the goat multiplication programme, which he said, had yielded much results in other climes in different parts of the world. He said he shared a belief that once a woman “is empowered, a generation has been empowered.”

So, the passion to lift up thousands of women from the dregs of life informed the decision of Abubakar to initiate a goat-rearing micro-credit programme. By design, the programme was initiated to loan three goats – one male and two female – two women, who are faced with the stark realities of life in 287 wards in the state.

What could have spurred the Abubakar administration to introduce the goat-rearing micro-credit programme? The programme has really worked in other climes, according to the governor. He said it was a kind of programme, which he said, had been used in some countries in Africa, Asia and South America as “a powerful tool to eradicate poverty amongst women.”

The governor, specifically, cited the example of Botswana and South Africa, where he said, borrowed the idea of goat multiplication programme. In these Southern African countries, Abubakar said the goat loan scheme “has brought out millions of women from poverty and penury. It thus became imperative to look at different options to assist women in our state.”

But for him, really, the fact that the goat loan scheme worked in Botswana and South Africa is not a sufficient reason to introduce in Jigawa. Different findings showed that other empowerment programmes “rarely yield desired impact on the lives of the beneficiaries,” whom he said, were empowered and equipped to create wealth and opportunities in the state.

However, according to the governor, the goat loan scheme differs from other empowerment programmes, at least for one good reason. He explained that the scheme was different because it was sustainable. He, thus, compared it with other programmes, by which he said, beneficiaries received equipment that could enable them practice their trade.

He said: “Findings show if 10 youths are trained in tailoring or carpentry and given tools for such trade, there will not be market for them in this rural setting. They will add to the existing number of tailors or carpenters that are not fully engaged by the available business their skills offered. At the end of the day the youth would sell the tools and return to square one.”

After a comprehensive survey, Abubakar said, the goat multiplication was adapted to address the peculiar challenges of Jigawa women. He said the main reason was “to eliminate poverty among Jigawa women.” He said Jigawa “has the highest poverty rate, especially among women in the country and we are curious to reverse the trend. This is something we must stop.”

Aside, the governor said, the goat multiplication programme is part of our electoral promise to create wealth in the state. In Nigeria, today, Abubakar explained that there was a consensus that agriculture “is the potent tool of job creation in a state where more than 80 per cent of its population are involved in animal husbandry and crop production.”

But the programme presents different advantages, according to the governor. He explained that there “is a corn-stalk shredding and grinding machine to be provided in each of the 287 wards in the state. The loan beneficiaries will trade the manure of their goats with farmers who will give them corn stalk for grinding which is a by-products of their crops.”

Abubakar explained that the grinded stalk would be used to feed the goats, which he said, would be stationed at a place “instead of roaming about and littering the communities with their excreta. The fact that the goats are kept at a place will enhance their sizes, productivity and enriched their droppings with urea from their urine, which improves soil fertility.”

The governor’s Special Assistant on Women Empowerment, Mrs. Hauwa Umar-Aliyu provided more insight into the goal multiplication scheme, which she said, had been recognised worldwide. Already, the special assistant said the Veterinarians Without Border (VWB) had adopted the programme, which she said, had transformed millions of lives in other countries.

Umar-Aliyu explained the significance of goat multiplication programme and how the programme had empowered women globally. She said the VWB, an international organisation, unveiled several programmes on goat loan scheme in Bangladesh, Rwanda, Uganda and other countries where it proved a successful strategy to bail women out of poverty.

“Goats thrive and reproduce without much intervention. Goats are also central to VWB/VSF’s special approach to community development. Pairs of goats are given to selected families. The families will raise the goats within a period of time. They are expected to produce three goat kids eventually, which can then be donated and loaned to someone else.

“It is a small-scale lending system that uses livestock, a more tangible and relevant currency than cash to many in the under-developed countries. The programme is designed to empower women to improve their families and their communities as a whole. It has worked Botswana, Rwanda and Uganda among others. Here, in Jigawa, it has started to work.”

In Jigawa, Umar-Aliyu said a comprehensive marketing plan “has been put in place to support the marketing of the goats by setting a committee of breeders that are working to ensure success of the programme. We have set up a committee that is working with 18,000 beneficiaries so that the output of the programme will be marketed and sold at optimum profit.”

Already, the special assistant added that the Saudi Arabian Government Mass Animal Purchase Scheme “is being exploited by the committee so that in the next few years, the beneficiaries will be able to sell their goats to both exports and domestic markets. It is estimated that by end of the year, the goats loaned to Jigawa’s women will multiply to over 100,000.”

By implication, Umar-Aliyu noted that the goats “will form a large resources for the beneficiaries and revenue for the state government when they are finally taken to markets for sales.We are sure that in the next few years, millions of women will be taken out of poverty through the goat loan programme. Already, some states have started coming to study us.”

She noted that Katsina, particularly, had sent a team of experts “to study our version of goat loan programme. Katsina has launched the same programme in their state. We hope Jigawa’s goat loan scheme will surpass what Botswana and South Africa have achieved. Jigawa will become the biggest producers of assorted goats for both domestic use and exports.”

Even though the programme had benefitted about 18,000 households in the state, critics said the Abubakar administration had taken the state backward. For them, the administration of former Governor Sule Lamido built an airport, which they said, brought Jigawa “to the comity of elite state in the federation. The goat loan initiative is a joke.”

However, the governor said the programme had gained acceptance among women across the state. He, thus, gave an illustration that if Jigawa’s women are given the options of a return flight “to Abuja from Dutse Airport at N50, 000 and three goats at N15, 000, they will definitely opt for the later because it will add value to their lives, families and communities.”

He argued that people criticised the goat loan scheme because they did not know “how to solve problems. I have tried empowerment programmes in skills acquisition and vocational training. But these programmes have not been as successful as the goat programme. Already, we have recorded over 70 per cent rate success in the goat programme we did.
“We put monitoring and evaluation mechanism in place to measure the impact of the programme. When we evaluated different empowerment programmes, we discovered that the success rate is less than 20 per cent. Some beneficiaries sell the empowerment materials given to them the same day they collected it because it cannot sustain them,” Abubakar explained.