Goats are a popular species of livestock for smallholder farmers world-wide and are very common in Cameroon. Being much smaller than cattle, they require less money to purchase and need little investment in facilities. They can also survive on a diet consisting only of what can be grazed along roadsides or scavenged in villages. These animals have high socio-economic, cultural and religious values in the Cameroonian society. Contrary to other domestic herbivores, goats are found in all regions of the country and in all rural households. Goat meat is also preferred above beef in the North West sub-region and many parts of the country. Nevertheless, their full productive and economic potential has remained largely untapped.
Research on the use of nuclear techniques for improving goat productivity in Cameroon is being carried out by Professor Etienne T. Pamo and his team at the University of Dschang on the Western Highland zone of Cameroon in African as part of the TC project CMR5011. As part of these activites, Calliandra calothyrsus and Leucaena leucocephala were introduced to the zone and used to improve feeding of breeding herds of West African Dwarf goats (WAD). Although the current approach of allowing goats to scavenge requires essentially no financial input, research by Dr. Pamo has demonstrated that a small amount of extra feed can provide significant returns. Supplementation of the diets of WAD by up to 800 g each day of equal quantities of Calliandra calothyrsus and Leucaena leucocephala resulted in increased the overall yield of kids per animal and reduced incidence of abortion. The first three months following the parturition of goats in Cameroon is typically characterized by a decrease in body weight, but goats with the supplemented diets had 11 to 15% more body weight than their respective controls. The difference was especially noticeable in the dry season. In a comparison of lactating goats fed the same overall quantity of feed, average weekly milk production during the lactation period and weight of kids at three month of age were both almost doubled in flocks fed with the supplemental feeds in the dry season. About 32% more milk was produced during the rainy season. The first pregnancy of village goats generally occurs at about 20 to 24 months of age, but proper feeding was found to allow for a marked decrease in age (only 12 to 14 months) at first conception. Extension of this result in rural areas could double productivity of village WAD goats during their first 24 months of age. Farmers are very enthusiastic in feeding Calliandra calothyrsus and Leucaena leucocephala to their So far, seedlings of Calliandra calothyrsus and Leucaena leucocephala have been distributed to more than 60 farmers and 5 distributors of feeds and seeds.
Further support and grants are being sorted for from partners and donors to enable work with smallholder farmers as well as intensive incorporation of useful agroforestry trees into their farming systems. The goal is to establish a holistic programme, providing farmers with a variety of services. A semen technology laboratory is being completely installed with support from the IAEA and current research is aimed at genetic improvement of WAD goat through the identification and semen distribution of superior males and or semen from exotic breeds with proven ability to perform well in the Western Highlands of Cameroon.
This work has resulted in a number of scientific publications, the full-text or abstracts of which can be downloaded below: