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A gendered analysis on the role and potential of goat production to improve income and food security in semi-arid areas of South Africa.

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Small scale goat farming has a potential to contribute to livelihoods particularly in semi-arid areas where rainfall is erratic and crop farming is too risky. The broad objective of the study was to conduct a gendered analysis on the role and potential of goat production to improve income and food security in semi-arid areas of South Africa. The study used focus group discussions, key informant interviews and a questionnaire survey of 241 households for data collection. Descriptive statistics, general linear models, Chi-square tests and the Tobit regression model were used for data analyses. Male-headed households were mostly young, married and educated whilst female-headed households largely belonged to the old aged, were single or widowed and had little or no formal education. Male-household heads generally owned goats. In female-headed households, both the head and elder sons owned goats. In male-headed households, the head made decisions on goat marketing and on use of goat income whilst in female-headed households, both the head and elder sons made decisions (p<0.01). Male-headed households had larger goat flock sizes (mean 26.78 goats per household) than female-headed households (mean 15.59 goats per household) (p<0.05), lower goat mortality rates and achieved higher goat reproduction rates (p<0.05) as they followed better health control. Their goat annual net gains were higher than those of female-headed households (p<0.05). The motivations of male and female-headed households for keeping goats were different, with female-headed households rearing primarily for cultural ceremonies and males for sales. Goat sales were generally low, with mean of 2.1 for male-headed households and even lower for female-headed households with mean of 1.0 (p<0.05) in 12 months. The determinants of goat commercialization were gender of household head, location, education level of household head, occupation of household head, total household income, number of goats a household owns, goat marketing price, goat losses through death from diseases and theft, and whether a household receives remittances. The main constraints to goat commercialisation were poor condition of goats and mortality, high illiteracy rates of women, cultural settings biased against women, which discouraged them from owning and selling goats, shortage of transport to take goats to the market, poor confidence in the newly set up auction system of marketing and limited access to information. The reason for the low goat sales could be due to farmers’ failure to build up suitable flock sizes (due to losses through poor nutrition, diseases, predation, and theft), and this made it more unlikely to sell goats. Goat numbers were also an indicator of wealth. The Chi-square statistic showed a significant relationship between food security and household socio-economic parameters such as education level of household head (p<0.05), gender of household head (p<0.05) and the total household income (p<0.01). The study found that in gendered analysis, goat production does not contribute significantly to the improved income and food security in semi-arid areas of South Africa. Goats did not emerge as one of the main determinants of food security as their contribution to household income was limited. This is because goat flock numbers for most households did not grow significantly due to poor nutrition, diseases, predation, and theft. Where goat flock sizes were low, households limited goat sales to maintain their flock sizes and only sold goats when there were household emergencies such as funerals and ill-health. The main determinants of household food security were education levels, gender, saving money, location with access to irrigation to sustain gardens, sale of goats in the previous 12 months and the total household income. Female-headed households were less food secure than male-headed households, partly because they did not have reliable employment to provide adequate and nutritious food for their households. The food security situation was lower for households with lower education levels, and those who received less household income. Strengthening the role of women in household decision-making process is best done by increasing literacy levels among females so that they become empowered to achieve gender equality and their abilities within the society. Household commercially oriented goat production is a prerequisite for the commercialization of goats, particularly in female-headed households. For a successful goat production, female farmers need to regard goat farming as a source of income and to be convinced that their standard of living can improve through goat farming. Hence, there is need to improve the capacity of rural women and strengthen their resource base to enable them to play better roles in goat production. Participation of women in goat ownership, production, marketing, as well as decision-making on their income is critical in achieving food security. Empowering women by promoting rural education can contribute to improved food security. Increasing goat flock numbers enable farmers to make more sales, which can improve household welfare. Therefore, extension workers need to assist farmers to manage and utilize goats to their full potential. This may be done by assisting goat farmers to improve goat nutrition, health, and management; thereby increasing production efficiency of goats.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.