Sustainable goat production combats rampant iron deficiency in African village
While sitting in two different seminars about five or six years ago, Mark Miller began to wonder if a big problem throughout parts of Africa couldn't have a fairly simple solution. The seminars dealt with iron deficiency in women and children, which prevented them from generating healthy blood to fight off diseases such as malaria.
Not even iron supplements made a difference, so after learning more regarding the deaths of these women and children due to iron deficiency, Miller, a professor of animal and food science at Texas Tech University, developed a plan that may have just saved villages in the country of Malawi. Miller's solution? Goats.
Sustainable Goat Production.
"I teach in my class that many of the women in the United States are iron deficient, and some of them are anemic and need to eat more read meat," said Miller, who also is the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo Distinguished Chair in Meat Science. "Red meat is really good for you. It gives you iron, B vitamins, zinc and many other micronutrients "" all the things you don't get with chicken or other meat products."
Miller and colleague Malinda Colwell, a professor of human development and family studies, helped institute a sustainable goat production program at the Circle of Hope Grace Center campus in Malawi, Africa, believing the theory of red meat from goats could solve the rampant iron deficiency in the country and, thus, help increase health.
Last month, Miller, Colwell and their fellow researchers from the International Center for Food Industry Excellence returned from Malawi where they saw results of their efforts first-hand. "The very first day we got there you could just see in the kids the visible improvement in their health," Colwell said. "Before, a lot of them had distended bellies and large cheeks, but now they have a much more typically developed body structure, and we saw a lot more interaction among the kids, more playing and more physical activity than we'd seen in the past. That's exciting."
Re-Introducing Red Meat.
Due to the AIDS pandemic, which Miller said wiped out a large part of the Malawian population between the ages of 17 and 30, the knowledge of animal husbandry from when villagers raised cattle all but disappeared. Because of that, goats were selected as an easier method of re-introducing red meat into their diets.
The consumption of red meat from goats improves the health of red blood cells and is why, Miller said, citizens in other African countries like Kenya survived malaria outbreak at a higher rate. Raising goats for food is much more common in Kenya. Beginning of change The Malawians didn't take to the project right away, Miller said, because resources were limited.
Maintaining a goat herd requires food and water, which was scarce for the Malawians themselves much less for any livestock. Plus, water is also needed to raise traditional corn crops that provided a main source of food, a corn-based paste called Nsima. "They weren't eating but once a week or twice a week themselves, so how often would they let the goats out to eat?" Miller said. "They kept the goats penned up from predators or from someone stealing them, and there was not water in the pen for them. If the women are hauling water on their heads to keep their family alive, how much are they going to do that for the goats?"
Eventually, however, the effort caught on. A selected group of 34 women of childbearing age and 47 children ages 2-5 were the central focus of the experiment. The Texas Tech team took basic measures of their social, emotional, physical and cognitive and pre-language development to track changes as they were fed goat meat. The results were almost instantaneous. Six weeks into the experiment, there was significant physical change in both the children and the women.
When other villages noticed the difference, the interest as well as the importance of maintaining a goat herd grew. It also became a source of income as some villagers sold goats for roughly $50-$60 (Malawians earn about 60 cents per day). "When they saw the results "¦ they saw the goats as life," Miller said. Colwell said she and Miller continued to receive reports every three months, and the longer the program went, the healthier the Malawian women and children became.
"From the standpoint of the production of the goat herd "¦ we've seen amazing improvement in the last year," Miller said. "The good thing about that is that they've had all this improvement and we aren't there. We've been able to see those improvements and changes because of the education and the training that was implemented while our students were there, and then they've implemented it themselves."
Reporting by George Watson
CONTACT: Michael Orth, chairman, Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2805 or firstname.lastname@example.org
0827NM14 / Editor's Note: For full text of story, go to http://today.ttu.edu/2014/08/saving-lives-in-africa/
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