Governor Mohammed Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State’s promise to provide 47,544 goats to 15,848 women in June 2019 under the state’s Goat Breeding Microfinance Scheme may qualify as a unique approach to poverty alleviation in the state, even though it has some visible drawbacks. The governor, who made this promise on Monday last week, said he was building on the successes of this year’s loan scheme in which 8,428 women received 25,284 goats.
Considered as a social welfare scheme, the policy requires every woman who received a he-goat and a she-goat to repay the loan to the authorities with two pairs of goats, which would be distributed to other loan beneficiaries. It is not clear under what social policy scheme Governor Badaru has embarked on this measure. But in 2008, the Jigawa State government set up a Directorate of Economic Empowerment under the Office of the Deputy Governor. Its website stated, “The Directorate has the mandate of designing and implementing programmes aimed at combating mass unemployment and poverty particularly among the women and youth groups. These programmes are targeted and will address both the strategic and practical needs of these groups. Major elements of Economic Empowerment include the pursuit of women and youth Empowerment programmes, agricultural related empowerment programmes, access to micro, provision of vocational skills acquisition and entrepreneurship development, provision of social safety nets, establishment of an Economic Empowerment Trust Fund and development of trade-based cooperative groups.”
Jigawa State’s Goat Breeding Microfinance Scheme is a desperate measure in a state that does not have good statistics on poverty. For instance, poverty has grown in Jigawa State from 50 per cent in 1997 to 72.1 per cent in 2017, according to Nigeria Poverty Statistics. The data also indicate that in Jigawa State, 54.3 per cent of women marry before the age of 15 while adult literary is still very high. A goat breeding scheme alone cannot ameliorate this situation. It is also important to examine if goats are the best animals to rear in Jigawa State. The goat is a hardy animal and it is bred easily in Jigawa State. However, its voracious feeding habit has some deleterious effects on the environment which should be carefully examined before embarking on this program.
Other animals that are successfully grown in Jigawa State, such as sheep, cattle, poultry, fish and others could also be examined as part of an expanded and upgraded poverty alleviation scheme. Animal rearing is a way of life in the state so there is no shortage of animal candidates that can be used in this kind of scheme to benefit youths and rural women. In choosing the right animal, everything should be considered including local climactic conditions, local availability of foodstuff, product marketability locally and abroad, and also environmental impact. It takes a pregnant goat six months to deliver kids, which in turn take up to three years to reach adult size and are then sold for about N15,000. This is hardly ideal.
For a policy like this to make impact, it has to be all-embracing. The five emirates of Jigawa State would need to be covered, because certainly, there are more than 8,000 women who live below poverty line in the state. Also, agricultural extension workers would need to be engaged so that they could provide support services to beneficiaries. Without technical support and guidance from experts in animal husbandry, the goats could breed kids that are not healthy or they could die of one disease or another.
Furthermore, without effective monitoring of the beneficiaries the rate of payback and retention would be very low. The bane of such schemes in Nigeria has been the default of grantees. If this scheme must survive to outlive the administration of Governor Badaru, then mechanisms that would ensure accountability and payback should be put in place.