A Goat Story

Chapter One: So Leah, Why are you in Peru?

I like goats. They have spunk and curiosity. I worked with goats for a few weeks in 2009 and every interaction had me laughing my head off.  They were kept in pens, but these were more for show than anything else. Often, I’d walk in to the barn to find the goats perched on top of their pens, waiting to let me know I was late with their dinner.

My time with the goats was too short. I always hoped to learn more about how to take care of goats, to see if I would enjoy keeping my own in the future.

So when I had some time to spare, I contacted Natalia Lozano, a development practitioner and agricultural researcher specializing in goats, and asked if she had any goat farming contacts who would be willing to take me on for a month and teach me.

She connected me with a farmer in Peru, her home country. When she heard I am a trained journalist, she asked me to help promote goat farming in the country.

Lozano told me that goat farming up until recently has had a negative stigma in the country. According to A. Perevolotsky, a researcher who studied Peruvian goat farming in the 90’s, goats were the ‘scapegoats’ for land desertification. He also quoted previous research about anti-goat prejudice in the country. He writes of a negative bias against the goat farming sector in the country as poor and destitute activity, despite the presence of over 2 million goats (at the time of his writing), and the viability of goat production as a means of reliable income.

Peruvian goat enthusiasts have worked hard to reverse this bias. Today Lozano and her colleagues, Dr. Irma Cheli, and Dr. Edgar Rangel are at the forefront of changing the popular perception of goat farming to make life better for the low income farmers who make their living with goats.

Dr. Rangel operates his own goat farm, Centro Ganadero Aldea Ecologica in Carabayllo, Peru. He also seeks out low income dairy goat farmers as business partners. He buys their milk and manufactures dairy products to sell. He is currently working on expanding his icecream line. He tells me when people buy his dairy products, they aren’t just helping him and his family, but the small scale farming families he buys from, and in turn their communities all across rural Peru. He truly believes in the life giving possibilities of goat farming for his country.

I’ll be staying at Dr. Rangel’s goat farm next month, to learn more about goat production, and also to visit with the low income farmers he works with.  We’ve decided my main function will be to promote my experience on the farm via social media, and also create a short documentary about Dr. Rangel’s social enterprise. This will be exciting!