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Filipino Christian, Muslim women raise goats for unity, income

Initiative improves living conditions, unites communities in conflict-ridden province

Filipino Christian, Muslim women raise goats for unity, income
Basilan’s Christian and Muslim mothers meet to plan their goat-raising project
Christian and Muslim women in the southern Philippine province of Basilan have got together to improve their lives - by raising goats.

"Goat meat is preferred to beef because it is cheaper and easier to cook. A variety of dishes can be made with it," said teacher Arsenia Enriquez.

Enriquez leads the women in the village of Panunsulan in an effort not only to uplift the living condition of residents but also to bring together Muslims and Christians in the conflict-ridden province.

Basilan is known to be the home of the bandit Abu Sayyaf group that has been linked to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

To ensure fair prices for the animals the women raise, the residents set up the Panunsulan Mothers Cooperative (Pamoco), which markets the live goats and the meat in the town center.

Demand for goat meat has been increasing with the rising belief that it reduces the risk of hypertension, Enriquez said.

Alifah Taruc, one of the leaders of Pamoco, said the activity makes women in the village more productive. "But more than that, we are affirming our solidarity with each other, given the image that Basilan is home to the Abu Sayyaf," she said.

With technical inputs from the Land Bank of the Philippines, Pamoco is set to seek a loan later this year for start-up capital for new projects.

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