You’ve been involved with IGA since the beginning. How did it start?
“Few people know the background that led to the formation of IGA. It was born during a bus ride for a field excursion, during the 2nd International Goat Conference in Tours, France in 1971.* I made the suggestion to Prof. Christian Gall from Germany who was sitting next to me that that we move to form a professional association to provide information and promote the development of goats. This led to the formation of The World Committee on Goats in which Prof. Gall was made the President and I was elected as the Vice-President, with the Secretariat in France. Since then I have served over a record 17 years as Vice-President, by my own choice, to work with colleagues so that I could play a more effective role in spreading the regional focus and development of goats, assisting the Presidents, and finding venues for the international conferences in which I was directly involved with four.”
How did you become involved in the field of small ruminants?
“My early interest in the science of goats was mooted by the mentoring influence of the late Prof. I. E. Coop of Lincoln University in New Zealand, who developed the now famous Coopworth breed of sheep which now accounts for about 62% of the total population of sheep in New Zealand. During most weekends, I worked part time with his sheep experiments to earn money to upkeep myself in the University. On return to Malaysia, this early interest in small ruminants provided the impetus and intuition as I contemplated the situation with goats. That enquiry led to four important conclusions. One, goats were a developing country resource. Two, being generally unimportant in the industrialized countries, resource use and their development was meagre. Three, there was an extreme paucity of information on the science base of the species, and fourth, the opportunities for generating important and much needed information were limitless, overwhelming and most compelling.”
“My extended tryst with goats has brought with it enormous and very deep satisfaction in ways that are difficult to express. With academic contributions, conference participation and other windows of opportunity, I have been privileged to establish a large network of colleagues and friends both regionally and internationally. Above all, I have been blessed with the camaraderie of very fine individuals in many parts of the world.”
How did you get involved in research and development?
“The defining issue was writing the book on goats at the invitation of the late Mr. J. P. Maule, former Director of the Commonwealth Bureaux of Animal Breeding and Genetics in Scotland, concurrently with my post-graduate studies for the PhD degree at the University of Nottingham under the Commonwealth Scholarship Programme in the U.K. This resulted in the publication by the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux in 1966 of Goat Production in the Tropics which introduced the species fully, its potential importance in the developing world, and multifunctional value in agricultural development. This text became the standard reference throughout the developing world, simply because of the paucity of knowledge, which in turn stimulated widespread interest, R and D initiatives, and enquiries into their socio-economic relevance in farming systems Beyond the PhD, continuing R and D focused on the efficiency of use of feed resources that can give predictable levels of increased productivity and sustainability , and the socio-economic importance of goats to poor people, especially in less- favored environments.”
“The R and D mission began with the establishment of the energy requirements for maintenance in goats for first time from Malaysia, followed later by requirements for growth and dietary protein utilisation, and efficiency in feed resource use.The submission of the originality of the research results led to the award by application, of the DSc degree also from the University of Nottingham from the UK. Since then there has been a constant flow of publications, chapters and journal articles that have emphasized the multifunctional value of the species in the context of natural resource management, their particular role in the drier agro-ecological zones (AEZs), eco-regions, small farm systems, relevance to food insecurity and the poverty dimension, and potential income generation”
“In subsequent years, work with the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) over some 25 years enabled the pursuit of many of these issues across Asia and elsewhere with small ruminants. Some 80 projects and 6 networks were formulated.”
You’ve written 18 books and approximately 470 publications. Why have you been such a prolific writer and publisher?
“The importance of information dissemination, the impact of empowerment, and the firm belief that knowledge was the purview of all mankind were driving forces and the ultimate goal. This drive was fortunately enhanced and blessed by a strong passion for writing and sharing the information.”
What are the challenges IGA and goats face in the future?
“Maximizing the contribution of goats is fundamental, but is certainly not without problems, limitations and concerns. There is incomplete characterization and utilization of the many bewildering variety of breeds in developing countries and their productive potential to the extent possible. In addition, there is the looming threat of climate change and increased temperature that will affect cereal plant growth, with resultant reduced plant yields and crop residues. Ensuring the multifunctional values includes the following in Australasia: the potential harvest of goat meat in Australia and New Zealand; improved understanding of the livelihoods, sustainable farming and survival strategies of the landless in South Asia; alleviation of nutritional and food insecurity; increased R and D attention on the underutilized integrated ruminant-tree crops production systems; the Asian Dairy Goat Network in Malaysia; increased interest in goat meat and meat products e.g. “Zeungtang” for improved and good human health, trade related diseases; and in Japan increasd interest to the value of goats milk, wider socio economic, socio-cultural values associated with the companionship of nature.”
“Climate change-induced high temperatures will bring with it problems of increased numbers, overstocking and strong possibilities of environmental damage especially when there is no control. Inadequate mitigation strategies and R and D capacity are likely to further affect plant growth and yields. To address these, there needs to be much more investment in the R and D spectrum with anticipated climate change. Unrelenting demographic pressures, food insecurity and social consequences, survival and self-reliance are overwhelming challenges. Multinational engagement and investments can provide a major nod definitive means to meet these challenges and offer more than hope in the immediate tomorrow."