EPAR Research Brief #156
Sun, 07/31/2011
Jacob Lipson
Travis Reynolds
C. Leigh Anderson

This literature review examines the environmental impacts of goats in pastoral and mixed farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. We find that the most notable environmental implications of goats stem from their ability to graze on a wide variety of biomass sources in frequently marginal environments; while this intensive grazing stimulates biodiversity loss and may be more severe than grazing by other livestock species, goats are not a major driver of forest clearing due to their low economic value. Environmental benefits of goat production include keeping wildlife corridors open, preventing the spread of noxious weeds, and promoting the growth of local vegetative species through moderate grazing. Goats are also more water-efficient than large ruminants such as cattle. Mitigation strategies vary by category of environmental impact, but largely suggest improved productivity to reduce land conversion, modified management systems (e.g., biodiversity, water use and consumption, grazing intensity and frequency, and waste), and the reduction of livestock numbers altogether.

This brief is part of the Environmental Implications of Livestock series (EPAR Briefs #155-158). The series identifies environmental impacts related to either climate change and air pollution, land degradation, biodiversity, or water resources. We review environmental analyses on the general and species-specific impacts and discuss two types of interventions to mitigate the negative and enhance the positive environmental impacts of livestock: (1) biophysical interventions directed at natural resource components of farming systems, and (2) socio-political-economic interventions directed at individual incentives, policies and institutions. Most analyses of environmental impacts across livestock types recommend both a reduction in overall meat consumption by those who can nutritionally afford it, and a shift in dietary emphasis from ruminant species (cattle, water buffalo, goats), to monogastric species (poultry).

See also:

EPAR Research Brief #155: Environmental Implications of Livestock: Cattle

EPAR Research Brief #157: Environmental Implications of Livestock: Chickens

EPAR Research Brief #158: Environmental Implications of Livestock: Water Buffalo


Type of Research: 
Literature Review
Research Topic Category: 
Sustainable Agriculture & Rural Livelihoods
Environment & Climate Change
Geographic focus: 
South Asia Region and Selected Countries
Sub-Saharan Africa

Downloadable Documents