Throughout the history of literature and folklore, goats are rarely the heroes of the story. They’re stubborn and mercurial by nature, and tend to act exclusively out of self-interest. There’s no moral judgement here; goats have always done goat things, and all their stories hew closely to the same flatlined arc. Heroes act. Goats baa.
The original 60 female goats distributed to the group have gone on to produce an additional 129 offspring in the few short years the project has been underway.
The residents of Outreach-affiliated partner communities in Kuljing, India are far more relatable protagonists; their story is one of progression and transformation. Since 2013, a team of ten local women and men have worked together on an income-generating, goat-centric project, organizing details, streamlining logistics, and ultimately, managing success. Meanwhile, the goats nibbled on grass and climbed on things.
Annie, Get Your Goat
After composing and submitting a project proposal to Outreach, each member of the team received seven goats— six females and one male. The goats were all given a round of vaccinations before joining their new owners just in time for hands-on training on how to best care for their new animals, giving them all the best chance at a successful partnership. If it sounds like the goats displayed a level of engagement at this point, we assure you, they did not.
Returning home with their new owners, the goats found themselves at the center of the action. Strict feeding schedules and routine medical check-up duties were divided among the community partners, who contacted local animal husbandry NGOs to access regular vaccinations. For minor injuries and illnesses, the members’ training equipped them to keep costs and stress low with in-home treatment.
Members kept an eye on each others’ flocks; rotating duties to ensure that knowledge and insights were shared among group members. The shifts also expanded the number of teachable moments present in animal husbandry, peppering everyone with new experiential opportunities. Another way to say this is that goats can be a handful, and if you’re in charge of them for any amount of time, you’re sure to get the chance to solve some of the problems they cause with their curiosity and unwillingness to keep all four hooves on the ground. If you have a financial stake in the success of the goats in question, you’re all the more apt to improve your problem-solving skills during your shift, and have little choice but to garner expertise as quickly as possible to keep the flock happy, healthy, and centrally located.
The Goat that Laid the Golden Eggs
Seasons passed, and more lessons were learned (by the community partners in Kuljing— the goats remained hostile to wisdom): Best practices for everything from how often to change the bedding in the goats’ sheds to how to generate and maintain the proper documentation to remain in good standing with the local government (as well as with one another) as the loans provided to cover the initial purchase of the goats were incrementally repaid by the new income they generated.
The original 60 female goats distributed to the group have gone on to produce an additional 129 offspring in the few short years the project has been underway. Considering the addition of even a single goat can mean a years-long increase to one’s net income, the regular uptick in goat population numbers in Kuljing might as well be the sound of a cash register’s bell.
There’s very little downside to goat ownership in Kuljing— the sales of goat dung alone supplement incomes enough to ease many of the daily financial stresses under which members have lived for their entire lives. It’s not the rosiest-smelling method to get a return on investment, but you can’t beat the profit margin. Group members earn around $132.00 US selling the whole goat (they have no sayings in India that correspond to our “get the milk for free” aphorisms), totaling more than $1,000 US in pure profit for the group as of October, 2016.
The Kuljing goats, while not exactly incidental to this happy ending, still fail to emerge as the heroes of this story. Our admiration isn’t stirred by tales of passive catalysts, it’s roused by news of brave women and men exhibiting dedication and discipline as they work together to achieve success. So it is again that we celebrate the good works of our heroes while the goats are off somewhere grazing in their owners’ shadows.
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