Around towns and villages in Rwanda, during the day or night, there are scores of people with every reason to eat the most expensive meat in the country--goat meat.
It is the most popular and favourite delicacy at every restaurant, served roasted on skewers accompanied by beer, chips and any other starch filled food.
This has dispelled the belief that beans are Rwandans favourite staple food. In some places like Rusumo in Ngoma district, lifestyles have changed with the new love for goat meat threatening the existence of the domestic animal.
Jean-Marie Vianney Habimana, 51, a goat roaster in Rusumo-Ngoma complained about the rate at which goats are being slaughtered for consumption.
“I don’t think if the trend continues this way we shall have goats to buy and sell. The prices of goats are sky rocketing daily. The reason is simple, these are the animals we slaughter every day,” Habimana said.
While Habimana worries about the prices of acquiring more goats to roast and sell, some consumers like Richard Kanamugire, 25, a fresh ULK university graduate cannot help but feed his intense desire for goat meat.
“It is my favourite; I learnt to eat roasted goat meat when I was still five years old. I always accompanied my parents to a pub, where we ate it joyously. So when I grew up I was accustomed it,” Kanamugire said.
Not even health threats can turn away people. Gout patients’ attempts to stop eating red meat has been with little success.
“I eat the meat and when gout crisis comes, I take medicine…I just can’t do without it,” said one gout patient who chooses to defy the doctor’s advice.
Rwanda’s cultural taboos that limit the consumption of certain meats like mutton and pork also contribute to the popularity of goat meat.
“It is for instance rare to find locals feeding on mutton. Some cultural taboos do not allow us to eat these meats. Very few Rwandans will go for mutton and pork in public,” said John Rutayisire, 54, a resident of Rutonde in Rwamagana district.
In Rwanda’s culture cows are deeply embedded and are a constant icon of pride for many. However it is surprising to note that it’s rare to find public restaurants roasting beef.
This is not however a mere coincidence and the reasons behind it vary and are closely embedded in cultural practices as well as social attributes.
Julien Ruhimbura, a businessman in Sake, Ngoma district believes that it is an atrocity to serve beef during ceremonies. He criticized a colleague who served roasted beef to his visitors during his wedding ceremony.
“It is laughable to buy roasted beef for your friend or children. I don’t do it and don’t expect anyone to do it,” Ruhimbura said.
“It is wrong to go for roasted beef because it is hard and never delicious.”
With a stiff demand on the market for goat meat, village farmers are faced with the increasing challenge of battling goat rustlers who never allow farmers to keep goats in their farms.
These animals are stolen from farms and grazing grounds in various homesteads.
“It is extremely difficult to keep goats in your home or farm. Thieves from towns and within the villages target them. “They stole all I had and I gave up this farming business,” said Jean de Dieu Habiyakare, a farmer in Bugesera.
Some initiatives from poverty reduction organisation, that give out small animals, goats inclusive to poor households, are faced with the challenge of reaching their expected goals.
The increasing theft has therefore become a major problem for goat farmers who hope to alleviate poverty in their areas. As the market demand increases, this will still problem persist.
However, the underlying problem is the major threat posed on the existence of these domestic animals. Goat slaughter needs to be regulated in order to increase their numbers of goats.
All these notwithstanding, Rwanda’s most hunted animals can still be traced in communities to feed the ever growing appetite of its consumers.