This study took place in a small-scale goat farming community, where farmers considered that the major problems affecting goat health and productivity (diarrhea, gastro- intestinal helminth infection, and poor reproductive performance) were exacerbated by a lack of information on goat health and management. The objective was to collaborate with the farmers and develop a flexible framework for the acquisition of skills and knowledge which could ameliorate these problems. Promulgation of such knowledge and skills, if successfully accomplished, would nurture “champions” in the local farming community. These farmer champions would then constitute important role models and a local source of advice and encouragement for other farmers. This paper describes the resultant on-farm goat health research and the development of a “Goatkeepers’ Animal Health Care Manual”. The approach taken exemplifies how the engagement and participation of farmers in such a process may be enhanced, a departure from that of traditional transfer of technology. The methodology involved a “hands-on” approach and encompassed a thorough preparatory phase, on-farm experimentation, and regular meetings with farmers geared to their current levels of expertise, a process which is equally applicable to other similar agro-ecological zones. There is also scope for universities, researchers, and extensionists to assist with the development of farmers’ analytical and record-keeping skills, with the strengthening of farmer associations, and with the training of community animal health workers. A case is made for the organizations involved to continue to cross the institutional divides so that the long-term sustainability and development of small-scale farming communities is ensured.
Keywords: Farmer Participation, Goat Research, South Africa