Cuban Goat Herding
Edelsio Gijon Hernandez left his career as an English teacher to follow his true love: raising goats. He doesn’t do it for the money, he does it for the goat-love.
In an area where he makes an average $115 per month, it’s obvious that caring for his herd, rather than being wealthy, is Gijon’s motivation. The income is derived through milk sales; Gijon refuses to sell his goats for religious sacrifice no matter the price offered.
The Cuban system is complicated. Gijon earns points based upon production. With the points he can purchase needed items at the state owned store. For every 50 liters of milk, he earns 1 point, equal to about 80 cents US, but he’s happy as long as he can buy a couple of beers on the beach.
I addition to being Havana province’s top goat milk producer for eight years, Gijon is also the resident comadron (animal midwife), provides verterinary care and is a specialist in animal genetics; but it’s not easy. While he used to have veterinary help, and was able to obtain goods at discounted prices, from government overseeing agencies, that assistance has dried up.
Lately as an added burden, government institutions have started to limit the land he has available to raise his goats. While he is protected by a law that grants unused land to anyone inclined to make it productive, Gijon has seen his grazing space decreased by fencing to 5 hectares, half of what he needs to maintain his herd.
It’s complicated in Cuba, but Gijon plans to continue his struggle to raise the goats he loves.