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Goats Help Cameroon's Displaced Get Back on Feet

Goat herd in Gorom, Cameroon (Photo by Daniel Tiveau for Center for International Forestry Research via Creative Commons license)

Goat herd in Gorom, Cameroon (Photo by Daniel Tiveau for Center for International Forestry Research via Creative Commons license)

A new program in northern Cameroon is giving families displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency a pair of goats to help them get back on their feet.

Boukar Abba, 40, pulls his two goats outside the fence behind his house in Mozogo, a town on Cameroon's northern border with Nigeria.

He said he expects to raise the goats and make money to take care of his children's health, school needs and food. He plans to sell baby goats in the future and make some profit, but he said he still has to travel a long distance to fetch water for them.

He got the goats this month as part of an initiative by the French Red Cross and the government of Cameroon. Some 200 others, out of 510 targeted households, already have received animals.

Families affected by the conflict against Boko Haram are given a pair of goats. The family keeps the goats until they produce offspring. Then the parent goats will be passed on to another family in need.

Muje Dieudonne works for the French Red Cross, which is piloting the project.

Dieudonne said participants are taught good hygiene and techniques to care for the goats and for their food to prevent illness. Participants also receive counseling to help deal with violence inflicted on them during the conflict.

Economic impact of Boko Haram insurgency

Boko Haram has been carrying out attacks in northern Cameroon for more than three years. The conflict has hit the local economy hard.

Cameroon's National Institute of Statistics reports the unemployment rate at the border with Nigeria is over 90 percent. The government says poverty makes youth vulnerable to recruitment into Boko Haram.

Many youth abandoned raising livestock in their villages amid the violence.

The Red Cross' Dieudonne said insecurity makes it difficult for aid workers to reach places where there are displaced people. He said that because the initiative's participants continue to move to new localities out of safety concerns, it's not easy to retrieve the goats and hand them off to other families.

Money maker

Earlier this year, the United Nations, along with international NGOs and the governments of Cameroon and Japan, built a livestock market at the village of Zamai where youth can sell tje goats they raise.

Cameroon also provided $4 million of emergency funds to create jobs for youths on its northern border with Nigeria.