Somali Refugees in Utah Establish Self-Contained Goat Farm to Support Refugee Community
Goats graze on the farm operated by Utah Refugee Goats. Located just outside of Salt Lake City, the farm serves and employs refugees as they continue to create new life here in Utah. (Prince of joy)
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SALT LAKE CITY – When most people see a goat, they see a goat. When Daud Eftin sees a goat, he sees a past, a present and a future.
Eftin is a refugee from the Bantu tribe in Somalia. During his first 18 years of life, he was moved from camp to camp as political unrest and civil war took hold. He, like millions of other refugees, has not experienced much stability.
Even with the constant uncertainty of the world around Eftin, one thing that remained was culture – and goats were an integral part of that culture. In fact, according to Eftin, raising goats was something he loved to do as a child.
“After school I kept goats. And I did that until I was 17 or 18,” Eftin recalls. “Goats are a big part of our Somali culture.”
In order to bring this way of life to the thousands of Somali refugees in Utah, organizations have been formed. The East African Refugee Goat Project, in partnership with the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City, has started raising goats on 80 acres of land just outside of Salt Lake City. Here, men, women and children who have found refuge in our state worked together to build a self-sustaining farm serving refugee communities.
Last July they took one step closer to this goal, starting what is now called Refugee goats from Utah. The non-profit organization serves the three main Somali tribes, namely the Bajuni, Bantu and Burundians. The farm’s goats are hired for weed control on local farms, and members of refugee communities can also buy a goat to care for and later harvest meat to feed their families.
Eftin said having this organization has served many purposes, including cultural preservation and community, but it also brings something of the utmost importance: dignity.
“Having this organization gives us a sense of belonging,” Eftin said. “Having this stigma of refugees using government funds doesn’t suit me. Utah Refugee Goats gives refugee families the opportunity to improve their lives. “
Eftin, who is a member of the organization’s board of directors, also has six children. He said the goat farm is a great place to get his kids to teach them about their roots.
He also said that many families and organizations outside of the refugee communities have donated their time and other means to help develop the project. This, he said, has helped both to combat the stigma against refugees and to bring communities together as humanity.
Joy Prince, who is not a refugee in Utah, has volunteered for the growth of this organization and the care of the goats for the past five years, along with her children. She said spending time on the farm also gave her a sense of belonging and community.
“I’m a country girl living in the city, and the farm feels like home to me,” Prince said. “More than just feeding the goats and being outside in the fresh country air, I feel such a strong connection to these refugee siblings and to their journey here.
“I can’t begin to imagine having to flee my country and my home that I love because it is so dangerous. Leave behind everything I have ever known and, in many cases, the family and friends that You may never see again and It breaks my heart. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be able to help, even if only in a small way. “
Eftin said he is grateful to everyone who continues to support Utah Refugee Goats, and he only hopes this will continue to grow as it will bring a sense of belonging to so many of his siblings who now call Utah theirs. House.
For more information on how to volunteer or other Utah Refugee Goats, visit refugiegoats.org.