A-Z: A is for Animal Rearing!

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In this series of short blogs, we’re working through the alphabet to highlight the approaches – some perhaps more surprising than others – that we take at CHIPS to grassroots peacemaking!

The benefits of animal rearing

As a result of continuous farming and other unsustainable practices, Ghana’s land has suffered rapid degradation over the years. That’s particularly true of the northern part of the country where CHIPS works, where it has led to lower crop yields.

Crop farming also takes a lot of time and energy, while raising animals is less intensive work and costs are lower. Materials for animal housing are easily available locally and feed is abundant – whether from leftover food or the countryside’s lush grass.

However, many animals have been killed during decades of conflict and, for most households, keeping animals is at most an afterthought or an ‘insurance policy’ in case crops should fail. Since 2011, CHIPS has therefore been working with communities to encourage animal rearing in a planned and sustainable way that helps to diversify sources of food and income.

Overcoming the challenges

For eight years, we’ve been visiting communities to meet leaders (usually the village chief or assemblyman) and explain CHIPS’ approach to sustainable farming. They help us to select appropriate households, who we then encourage to try things out with one animal of their own.

Of course, there are challenges to be overcome. Having the right infrastructure is key to getting started, so we focus first on encouraging and supporting households to build and maintain suitable housing for their animals.

The main challenge for local people is a lack of technical knowledge, so we form small groups which provide members with mutual support. We then give the groups access to experts. For example, we often invite a vet or community animal health worker to visit the community and educate members on housing, feeding, water and medication. We also train up new workers where there aren’t any.

Once things are going to plan, the CHIPS team goes to the market to buy goats, sheep and chickens and we give a total of two to each new group. Once the groups are established and their animals are breeding, they then donate two to the next generation of new groups, helping to make the project  sustainable.

Some facts and figures

Since the project started, CHIPS has:

  • Set up animal rearing groups in 5 villages, with a total of 313 members
  • Purchased and provided 150 birds, 120 goats and 59 sheep
  • Trained up 26 community animals health workers
  • Facilitated 43 group gatherings attended by members from both sides
  • Arranged 120 hours of training and education for groups

In the name of peace

Like all of our activity in Ghana, the big idea at the heart of this project is bringing people together from across the divides. Divisions often exist at clan level, as well as at between the Konkomba and Nanumba tribes themselves.

We take every opportunity we can to do this, for example by including people from both sides in the groups, or through regular gatherings and training sessions that bring the communities together.

We’re pleased with the results of the project so far. It has helped the communities to nurture new relationships, and to build trust and confidence.

Perhaps the best proof of this is when we see members happily sharing stories with their former enemies and thanking them for their tips and advice!

We also many of them start to spend time in neighbouring villages, where they wouldn’t have ventured before, because they now know someone there and want to get to know their family and friends. We’ve even noticed the attitudes of some of the village elders beginning to shift slowly – as they see practical results from the projects and see their own people working and laughing together in peace.

Progress indeed, and evidence that animal rearing deserves a place in our A-Z of grassroots peacemaking!