In environmental-conservation programs, empowering local communities is essential. The Goats for Widows program by the Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) non-profit organization is one way to both save the environment and improve the livelihood of widows who live in underprivileged villages around the Palung Mountain National Park.
But why goats?
ASRI says goat manure can help keep the soil healthy in order to end environmentally damaging land-clearance practices. If the soil quality is maintained, it ensures the sustainability of organic farming, which becomes an alternative to illegal logging.
Goats for Widows coordinator Setiawati said the program started in 2014, giving one goat per widow and equipping them with knowledge on how to take care of the goats.
They were also required to give the manure to ASRI to later be used in its organic farming program.
When the goat has its first baby, it must be distributed to another widow. And after that, the mother and other baby goats that follow belong to them, and they can do whatever they want, Setiawati said.
Nevertheless, a team would still make regular visits to the widow’s homes to check on the goats’ health.
Up to now 120 widows in 11 villages have taken part in the program.
One of the goat recipients, Puniah, said she was very happy with the program as it kept her busy every day.
I have two goats, male and female. I also have a cow too, so I’m very busy because I need to feed and take care of them. When it rains, I must hurry to move the goats from the yard and get them into the cage," she said. It’s tiring, but I’m really happy to do it. Mother-of-five Puniah said she would use the male goat for her aqiqah, an Islamic ritual where people offer a sacrifice as an expression of gratitude following the birth of a child. My parents didn’t have money to make aqiqah for me. So I’ll do it for myself now, she said.
Setiawati said sometimes widows sold their goats when they needed money to renovate their houses. Some also sell the manure as organic fertilizer to local farmers for additional income.