“Happy Goat” farmer/sanctuarian Agitu Ideo Gudeta, 42, was reportedly killed by Ghanian she gave a job
VALLE dei MOCHENI, Trentino, Italy––Goat herder Adams Suleimani, 32, an immigrant to Italy from Ghana, has reportedly confessed to raping Happy Goat [La Capra Felice] farmer/sanctuarian and cheesemaker Agitu Ideo Gudeta, 42, and bludgeoning her to death with a hammer, multiple Italian news media reported within hours of the December 29, 2020 discovery of her body.
Kept Mòcheni goat breed from disappearing
Gudeta, an Ethiopian immigrant, was widely credited with preserving the existence of the rare Mòcheni goat breed. Before her involvement, Mòcheni goats were at risk of extinction because they produce relatively little milk.
Though considered attractive in appearance, Mòcheni goats are not big goat hair producers, either, and not seen as a profitable breed to raise for meat.
Gudeta may have been the first person in several generations to earn a living from keeping Mòcheni goats, accomplished because she developed gourmet-quality specialty cheeses and beauty products based on the goats’ milk.
Bred 15 Mòcheni goats up to 180
Goat slaughter was not a routine part of the Happy Goat modus operandi because Gudeta was as focused on recovering the breed by building her herd as on building her business. She does not appear to have advertised goat meat.
Beginning in 2010 with just 15 Mòcheni goats, and holding an outside job tending bar to support herself, she died with about 180 goats roaming her tiny 27-acre mountain farm, as well as a small flock of egg-laying hens.
Altogether Gudeta kept nearly two-thirds of the total Mòcheni goat population registered with the Associazione Nazionale della Pastorizia, the Italian national association of sheep- and goat-breeders, which tracks 43 rare native goat breeds in all.
The herd also includes some Camosciata goats, added to increase milk production after demand for Gudeta’s cheeses grew faster than her Mòcheni goats could produce the milk needed to keep up.
Did not answer telephone
Neighbors who were alarmed because Gudeta had not come to a scheduled business meeting, and was not answering her cell telephone, heard ringing and vibrating from outside her home, found her dead on the floor of her upstairs bedroom in the former kindergarten building she had converted into her apartment and shop in the German-speaking village of Plankerhof.
Plankerhof, in the Mòcheni valley near Frassilongo, in the Dolomite region of the Italian Alps, was settled during the 13th century by the same Bavarian immigrants who developed the Mòcheni goat breed in response to the often harsh local climate.
The village is located about 50 miles south of the Austrian border and about 100 miles southeast of Switzerland.
Was it about money, or about the goats?
The carabinieri, the Italian national police, are reportedly investigating allegations that Suleimani, held without bail in the city of Trento, assaulted, raped, and killed Gudeta after an argument over an unpaid salary.
ANIMALS 24-7 found unconfirmed hints, however, that Gudeta, who apparently raised her goats as much as pets as livestock, might have confronted Suleimani over suspected mistreatment of goats.
“In the province of Trento there is a farm where the goats are happy because they are free to graze all day,” wrote Giulia Romualdi in a 2018 History of the La Capra Felice Farm.
“I have not suffered attacks from animals”
“In summer they always graze where grassy and wooded surfaces alternate, and where there is a varied quantity of vegetation that they can feed on,” Gudeta told Romualdi. “In winter, when due to the temperatures it is not possible to leave them in pasture, also because there is nothing they can eat, I leave them in the stable and feed them with hay, especially the smaller ones.”
Gudeta emphasized her philosophy of keeping goats with “Zero stress, no cowbells and no watchdog.”
Gudeta used electric fences to avoid losing goats to brown bears and wolves, who in recent decades have re-established themselves in the Dolomites, centuries after being hunted out by herders and trophy-hunting nobility.
“So far I have not suffered attacks from animals,” Gudeta said.
But she acknowledged occasionally sitting in her car and tossing out firecrackers to scare bears and wolves away, after finding their tracks near the goats.
Came to Italy first as student, then as refugee
Originally from Addis Abeba, the Ethiopian national capital, where Italian remains widely spoken, 80 years after World War II ended Italian colonization, Gudeta learned goat-herding and cheese-making from her maternal grandmother, a member of a nomadic shepherd tribe.
Gudeta first arrived in Italy at age 18, in 1996, to attend university. She earned a degree in sociology, then returned home to defend nomadic tribal land rights against incursions by multinational corporations who allegedly bribe government officials to be allowed to build on former pastures around Addis Ababa.
As the political atmosphere in Ethiopia worsened, Gudeta and her family fled permanently to Italy in 2010, about five years ahead of an influx of more than 650,000 African immigrants arriving since 2015.
“I created my own space & made myself known”
While many immigrants struggle to economically establish themselves, Gudeta––who arrived with just 200 euros––recognized an opportunity to combine two separate government programs into one: subsidies from the Province of Trento for preserving the Mòcheni goat breed, together with grazing leases offered on abandoned farm land for herders willing and able to prevent flammable accumulations of brush from taking over pastures.
Initially, Gudeta told the Reuters news agency in 2018, “I created my space and made myself known. There was no resistance to me.”
But as a young black woman, living and farming by herself, keeping a breed of goat long since abandoned by others as allegedly useless, Gudeta encountered rising hostility as African immigration increased.
Became “a beloved figure”
Gudeta overcame “persistent racial harassment to become a beloved figure in the Valle dei Mocheni, a stronghold of Italy’s far-right League party, which is led by the hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini,” the July 2018 Reuters profile summarized.
“She became a national symbol for environmentalism and integration,” the broadcast said, “after Radical Party politician Emma Bonino singled her out as an example of successful integration and courageous female entrepreneurship,” Reuters said.
Gudeta, however, recounted to a Slow Food journalist that on one occasion, “I was alone – the boy who helps me was out in the pasture. I was washing the milking machine when I felt grabbed from behind with exhortations to leave the valley.”
Responded to assault by starting internship program
A man Gudeta recognized as a neighbor who had been harassing her for some time said “You ugly black girl, you have to go away.”
In July 2020 the assailant was sentenced to serve nine months in prison.
Gudeta responded by starting internships for fellow African refugees and hiring a Malian refugee as a fulltime employee.
The Ghanian, Adams Suleimani, was apparently hired after that.
What will become of Gudeta’s goats, hens, and business now is unknown.