By Chibwa Gwanama

When President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa took office in 2001, Zambia was facing a severe drought and had little food reserves. A famine was looming and Government had to be seen to be leading the way in averting starvation. In consequence, he announced that Government was getting into partnership with private companies to produce winter maize. We were told maize deficits would be history. The public media, fanned by all the honourable officials, hyped the political rhetoric. As far as I can recall only one analytical dissenting view of a recently honed postgraduate was voiced. The man said that the project was not likely to succeed because maize grows very slowly in winter and the irrigation costs would be too high. The second rebellious voice came from then former President Frederick Chiliuba who, out of frustration for being persecuted, held a press conference and alleged that the winter maize had even failed to germinate! All professionals either decided to jump on the bandwagon or cowered into silence. We have not heard about winter maize since that season. I am reliably informed that successive governments have had to bear the grunt of paying back the winter maize loan.

Fast forward to 2019. There are terrible forebodings of history being repeated. The current Government has opened a project in Kaoma to produce goats and export them to Saudi Arabia for use in Muslim animal sacrifices. The Kingdom has shown willingness to procure large numbers of goats for the purpose. This time again, government functionaries and public media have gone on a frenzy to sensitize about the developmental prospects of this initiative. Not to be outdone, private media have climbed the bandwagon and at least one media house took a trip to South Africa to do a documentary on the potential in goat production. Below, I give a few red flags on this road. Investment does not always translate into success. There are (by far) more failed agricultural projects than successful ones.

One principle of investment is to start small and grow. In that way, if the project is not well formulated, the financial loss in case of failure is minimal. Zambia is not strange to goat production—the whole country abounds with the species. The Eastern Province and Gwembe Valley, especially have very large numbers of goats. Rather than start a whole new big project, Government would have been better suited to develop the existing goat production industry, such as through better veterinary services and cross breeding.

Secondly, when the Saudis showed interest in our goats, we should have looked at the gaps within the industry and partnered with the Arabs to pump in foreign direct investment into the sector. We ought to have looked at what are the gaps or limiting factors for the expansion of this sector. The biggest problem with the goat sector in Zambia is not production, but marketing. It is the only livestock and meat sub-sector without a corporate player. The cattle business has mighty Zambeef, Starbeef, Cedrics, Parmalat, etc. Chicken, pork and fish sectors have many big corporate brands. Despite being plentiful, goats are only sold as Nyama-ya-Mbuzi by the roadsides and informally at COMESA market. At COMESA market, business is controlled by thugs called Kabeshas. This breed of heavies is more to be dreaded than the infamous Jerabos. Farmers must worship them, or perish. Farmers will transport goats from the reaches of the country, only to sell them for about the transport money. Kabeshas will resell the animals in the afternoon at thrice the price. Rather than invest in goat keeping ventures in new schemes, more immediate and lasting impact could be made by Government in improving the marketing arrangements in this subsector. The goats bought from such arrangements could then be exported to Saudi Arabia, it that itself were feasible.

But that may not be feasible. The above red flags are trivial in comparison to the really big problem in exporting live animals to Saudi Arabia. Let’s stress it: animal sacrifices must be living until point of use. In the context of the current article, forget about Zambia being a land-linked country—for the purposes of exporting living livestock and not meat products, we are a landlocked country. If we were to avoid this fact, we would have to fly the animals from Lusaka right into Riyadh or Mecca. That would be tremendously expensive and unprofitable. The only alternative left would be to truck them to nearest ports in neighboring countries and therefrom put them on ships. I will leave alone the biological difficulties of trucking and shipping living livestock. Nonetheless, this mode has huge logistical problems. In order to deter the transmission of pests and diseases each country has in place quarantine procedures. Every animal passing through the border must undergo this process. If they are to be exported through Tanzania, for example, each batch of goats would be held 2-3 weeks within the confines of the Zambia-Tanzania border until they are certified free for within country transport to the port. We assume that the Saudis have no quarantine, although that is unlikely. Remember, it is every animal passing through this procedure. Quarantine procedures present one of the great barriers of importing better breeds of livestock into countries. They make largescale cross-border movement of livestock impossible. When improvement of livestock is required, it is usually more practical to ship in a very small number of breeding animals, usually males, which will form the nucleus of the introduced breed. Sometimes to avoid quarantine altogether, it is much better to simply import frozen semen and use it in artificial insemination programmes to improve local livestock.

In view of the foregoing, it may legitimately be asked, will sale of goats to Saudi Arabia really rise as a viable export sector?

The author lectures crop science at Copperbelt University

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27 COMMENTS

    • That Ester has real put country in got soup. Promise of goats failed, and now turned to pay in PF cadres.

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    • At COMESA market, business is controlled by thugs called Kabeshas. This breed of heavies is more to be dreaded than the infamous Jerabos. Farmers must worship them, or perish. Farmers will transport goats from the reaches of the country, only to sell them for about the transport money. Kabeshas will resell the animals in the afternoon at thrice the price.

      It seems the country has invested so much in hooligans and thugs than anything else,
      Jerabos, karavinas,kabeshas, etc.

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    • We have no regulated goat market in the country apart from the trading post set up by the kabeshas near chibolya and we feel we are ready to export,. Shangrila!!!!!!!!

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    • @Nostradamus
      Boyi, Ester at least did her best to import expired firetruck from USA even if she has no experience in fire fighting,
      Your friend lungu is failing to export one goat to saudi Arabia, that’s why even the bees in sesheke are angry with him and his PF

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    • Mbuzi is the best meat, just reading this article made my stomach ache… I need to eat some goat meat with impwa plus some tente mushrooms as well before they go out of season…yes it nice to be back home and not out in the diaspora where you only eat McDonald’s, fast food and frozen meals and think that is life as Mushota and Nick do.

      Great article Doc Gwanama.

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    • Winter maize is essentially growing maize using irrigation and if it is too cold to grow in May to July why not grow it after July. Irrigation such as the Mwomboshi (sp) Dam is the way forward.

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  1. Zambia… ???? This country? Most of the good citizens are gone working for NASA, BBC, KPMG, Deloitte, the NHS in England, USA Government, UK Government, Canadian, Tesla, Boeing, etc the list is long…

    The point is Zambians are gone and some never to come back as there is nothing in a country full of leadership that doesn’t think about its people but themselves. We have morphed and been flung into a Shiithole orbit. Where you meet shiiit as leadership!

    Proverbs 28:28 when the wicked come to power, people go into hiding, but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.

    Be blessed continue supporting and enriching leaders who should be your servants and not your Lords.

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  2. It is Sata who started the “Goats to Saudi” campaign and he asked for a census of goats in the country as if the livestock department didnt already have this information. This was a failed project the moment it was conceived. The export of maids and drivers is even more realistic

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  3. There PF hallucinations are just to excite the illiterate kaponyas into dancing….

    Goats to SA, teachers to Madagascar , servants to the ME, 2nd had fire trucks from the US that comes with fire training , all lies and hallucinations.

    That is why no one analytical can belive what ever PF say……

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  4. A good number of Zedian Doctors now have a their own clinics here, it’s better than waiting for a small in Kwach.

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  5. This is the first article that has made sense this year.
    If the goats can be flown, then the whole game changes. How much does it cost to fly say 500 goats to Saudi?
    Can goats fly?. Do they vomit to death on landing?

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  6. The solution is to export processed goat meat. Right now the facility is not there and this is where Saudi Arabian businessmen should come in and I think they are working on this. Which country in the world exports live livestock? The author being a lecturer at a University would have done well to research before writing this article – even interviewing the First Lady Esther Lungu, who he has prominently featured in his article.

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  7. The author lecturers at ZIT in Crops Science and not Animal Sciences. However by ZIT standards, the article is good enough.

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  8. You, don’t you know that these people say anything, they will talk about goats today, next will be cheaper fuel from Saudi Arabia, next it will be hippos, next it will be an entourage of bed attendants to the US. And you take them seriously, just lead your lives

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  9. last time I heard about the project was when Ministry of Agric officers came to my farm to conduct Goat census. The problem we have in Zambia is just negativity all year round. I am sure the author of this article doesn’t even have a village chicken.

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  10. They only know how to brag look at that boy who excited with dirty “United American” dollars today he is apologising for exposing his paymasters and stupidity.

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  11. Reading the article reminds one of many projects which have been mooted in the last few years. If we look back what success story can we quote? Very few, countable like fingers on your hand. Start from the multi facility economic zones, citizens economic empowerment, presidential empowerment including where are the buses that were given to youths (actually ng’wang’wazi), now goats and zambia airways. It seems our policy makers dream anything and present it as projects without so much as a basic economic analysis, politicians have experts in areas where they are at best ignorant, and at worst very ignorant; experts themselves have turned party cadre or ng’wang’wazi. Look at EAZ Lubinda, he is on every news bulletin and newspaper praising and politicians. I mean the guy is a real…

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  12. …..Look at EAZ Lubinda, he is on every news bulletin and newspaper praising politicians. I mean the guy is a real embarrassment even to politicians, praising things that they did not mean seriously when they were merely campaigning. Wonder what time he sits to think, study, or analyse national issues, or prepare lessons for his students.
    But the tragedy is that trib.als like Hacks and upnd are no viable alternative at all, far from it!! As opposition they are a real embarrassment to the country!!

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  13. Dig deeper and find out the origination of this goat project ,you will agree with me that government was nust co-opted to pump funding in there.Owners of the project are there find out.This is another Saudi oil saga.

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  14. Those are amalyashi yapa nsaka or pocheza mumazuro for one Ambassador in Saudi Arabia to buy time for his longest stay in Saudi.Nothing is real follow the story to its conclussion , you will tell me.

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  15. We have offers for goats,maids,drivers teachers, and many more but we will just
    Sleep over and make headlines and forget.That is what we are good at.

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