Why giving a goat is still important this Christmas

Dec 07, 2020
By Deborah Wolfe and Alison Ralph

“You can never go wrong with goats!” says Eliot Choobwe from his home in the Zambian countryside. And he should know. No fewer than eleven goats bleat in the background while Eliot talks, chewing and butting their way through the day. It’s clear they have filled this family’s life with fun and opportunity.

“We used to say if you had cattle, you were a rich man,” says Eliot, “but now you’re richer with goats. They are easier to raise, have fewer diseases and reproduce fast. Plus, you can always sell them!”

In 2018, World Vision trained Eliot in goat-rearing, and provided him with five starter goats. Those animals have multiplied, bringing an increase to the family’s income. There’s more milk to sell at market, more baby goats to sell or trade. 

“Now that we have more goats, we are better able to provide for the children,” says Eliot’s wife, Patricia. Their children, seven-year-old Loveness and nine-year-old Better, signal their happiness with broad smiles, young goats in their arms. 
A young Zambian boy smiles holding a young goat in his armsNine-year-old Better holds a young goat from his family’s herd in his arms. Photo: Laura Reinhardt

Goats in crisis 

It sounds idyllic – but there’s more to this family’s story. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives and livelihoods of thousands of vulnerable families in Zambia, including Eliot’s own. The children’s school has closed for now, putting critical education on hold.

Many Canadians have wondered what they can do to help families like Eliot’s this Holiday season, despite our own pandemic-related challenges here at home. 

A recent IPSOS survey revealed that the compassion Canadians feel for those less fortunate remains strong with 88 per cent agreeing we need to spend more time focusing on those who need help. 

With Christmas coming, caring Canadians have an opportunity to make a difference in the world, while giving to friends and family here at home. In the survey, 75 per cent of people indicated they’d rather receive a meaningful gift that helps others. 

Goats as the solution 

Goats through the World Vision Gift Catalogue can provide an elegant solution for Canadians looking to help vulnerable families during the global pandemic, while selecting gifts for friends and loved ones here at home. 

Eliot and Patricia have already experienced the difference goats can make in times of crisis. Long before COVID-19 Zambian communities were already contending with debilitating drought. 

“We usually have a good harvest of maize in April,” recalls Patricia. “But that year, there was no yield.” 
To diversify their income and help feed the family, the family developed a garden on a plot by a nearby river. The children help to carry goat manure to the garden and fetch buckets of water to water the plants. 

A young Zambian girl pours a bucket of water on the plans in her garden
Loveness waters greens in the family garden after getting water from a stream nearby. Photo: Laura Reinhardt

“Goat manure is good for the garden,” Patricia says. The whole family works there, to make it as productive as possible. They eat from the garden and sell the extra greens.

Goats as security  

Pre-existing threats like drought and food insecurity don’t go away in times of crisis like a global pandemic. In fact, they’re usually made worse. 

COVID-19 has the potential to reinforce poverty and deepen food and nutrition insecurity caused by these ongoing challenges, setting back decades of progress. That’s where gifts like goats can make a surprising difference. 

“Gifts like goats, chickens and fruit trees provide families with both a source of nutrition and an ongoing source of long-term income to help as they weather the storm,” says Lisa Fernandes, Gift Catalogue manager for World Vision Canada.

Goats bring joy and purpose 

Eliot and Patricia’s eleven goats have been a mainstay for their family, helping them weather the challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Their children, whose school has been shuttered during COVID-19, help care for the goats daily. Chores of any kind can give children a sense of purpose, stability and importance. Raising goats – seeing them grow up healthy and marvelling as kids are born – can also bring a special kind of joy. 
a young Zambian boy herds some goats
Better, 9, helps take care of his family’s herd of goats. Photo: Laura Reinhardt

“I like to take care of the goats,” says Better, with a smile. “In the morning I let them out to browse, and I make sure they get water.” It’s something rewarding to do when school is out and the future, uncertain. 

Goats in context 

Goats aren’t the only way Canadians are helping this family and community. Both Better and Loveness are sponsored through World Vision, which has helped keep life stable during the pandemic. Staff in Zambia are providing COVID-19 prevention information, handwashing stations and support for children’s education at home. 

Though life is not easy for this family and so many others, sponsorship means support structures are already in place. World Vision teams have long-term relationships with families like Eliot’s and can respond rapidly to people’s needs in a crisis.

Gifts of love and stability 

Are you looking for a simple way to make a difference this Christmas, in one of the most complicated years many of us can remember? A goat may be your elegant, life-sustaining solution. Not only are goats fun to give, but they help support long-term development that will outlast the coronavirus pandemic by many generations. And that’s a joyful prospect.

Visit the World Vision Gift Catalogue and find more than 90 ways to support long-term solutions in communities like this one.

(With files from Kathryn Reid.)

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