Comoros: Villager trades classroom for goat pen (by Ahmed Bacar, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Comoros)

| August 20, 2012

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Six years ago, Ali Hamza suddenly lost his job as a public school teacher. Mr. Hamza lives in Tsinimoichogo, a largely agricultural town located eight kilometres from Moroni, the capital of the Comoros. In this village, it is difficult to recover from loss of employment and find money to feed the family. But Mr. Hamza has managed to do just that.

To create a new life, the 41-year-old former teacher took up goat rearing. It was an unusual choice for someone in his village. He explains: “I had nobody to support me. So I took the initiative to remake my life. And so I chose livestock farming, a very profitable endeavour that people of my community have little interest in.”

Mr. Hamza is a founding member of the local agricultural association, which is called Mayendelewo, or “Development.” He presented the idea of goat rearing to his colleagues at the association. He was sure they could quickly succeed if they worked together. But the other farmers were reluctant. So he and his wife, Assiata Adam, decided they would launch the venture together.

Mr. Hamza invested his savings to get the project started. In 2006, he purchased three goats for 80,000 Comoran francs (about $200 US) and built an enclosure at a cost of 150,000 francs (about $375 US).

The pair have pulled it off. They now have about fifty goats. Assiata Adam admits she was a little pessimistic at first, but now she is very proud of the project. She explains how the couple shares the work: “Every day I go from house to house to collect banana and cassava peels. I store them at home and my husband carries them to the farm animals in the morning and the evening.”

Before losing his teaching job, Mr. Hamza grew bananas, cassava, and taro. These crops continue to provide income as he waits for the right time to time to sell his goats. But when is the right time? Mr. Hamza says, “I will do it during traditional ceremonies.”

Traditional ceremonies are held every year in July, August, and December. Farmers get the best prices at these times. Normally, the price of a goat ranges from 20,000 to 75,000 francs (about $50 to $190 US). But during traditional ceremonies, the price can rise to 100,000 francs (about $250 US). With the money he will earn, Mr. Hamza plans to buy other animals, pay school fees for his two children, and cover other family expenses.

Mr. Hamza doesn’t rule out working with members of his agricultural association in the future. The association is now taking his ideas seriously.

Maoulida Ibrahim is the chairman of the association. He says: “At first the members of the association did not believe in this project because the project required a lot of resources that they didn’t have, and therefore they refused to get involved. But now, interest is growing.”

Pending the decision of his colleagues, Mr. Hamza is thinking about enlarging his field and strengthening security on his farm to guard against theft. He has decided that if the association refuses to join his project, he will create his own association just for livestock farming.