Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Goat Train

One of the objectives of our project is to identify people and their families who will be next in line to receive goats, and then provide goats to them. So far mostly local meat goat breeds have been distributed. Last week 16 of these local meat goats were given out to 8 beneficiaries.

We have also been trying to identify beneficiaries that want and have the capacity to care for dairy goats, which require more intensive management. Milk from dairy goats can provide much needed dietary supplementation for children, women, and immunocomprimised or HIV positive individuals. When well managed dairy goats can be used to produce wealth for beneficiaries when extra milk not consumed by the family is sold or via selling dairy goat offspring, which command a higher market value than meat goats. In our parishes, there is a stigma against drinking goat’s milk (versus cow’s milk) mostly because it is largely a novel concept for most people in Uganda. For different reasons, dairy goat introductions to the parishes have been met with challenges and varying degrees of success. Some beneficiaries have simply not been managing the animals well – feeding them improperly, failing to keep them zero-grazed (bringing all their food to their pens to reduce disease acquired during grazing), or failing to keep breeding records or failing to even breed them at all.

Just as beneficiaries have been selected to receive goats, the paravets that we are training have been selected by their communities to help them manage their goats into the future. Like the beneficiaries, the paravets are community members, but in addition to receiving goats themselves they are also trained in livestock husbandry and then equipped with tools to manage their own goats as well as those of their community. Beneficiaries and paravets are often widowed parents, usually mothers or grandmothers, often with orphan children. Many of the paravets are widowed as a result of AIDS and some are HIV positive themselves.

One HIV positive paravet recently stepped down from her position as she was too busy with other pursuits. The other day I paid her farm a visit to inspect the dairy goat that she was given. In most cases dairy goats given out to beneficiaries have not yet been producing any milk either because they have been too poorly managed, are simply not being bred, or are still not mature enough to produce milk. This dairy goat was a welcomed successful exception. The paravet had been taking excellent records of her goat. Five months earlier her goat kidded a healthy male and has been producing milk ever since. She kept daily record of morning and evening milkings that showed that during the first few months between 2-5 litres of milk a day was being collected. Not only was this milk an important supplement to her own diet, but also for her many children.

It has become evident that despite all our efforts here with our Ugandan goat project only a little of what we accomplish may actually be sustained into the future. But it is stories like that of the paravet above that give a glimmer of hope that what is being established here by our efforts, from those before us, and by those that will come to contribute in the future, will continue to provide benefit to the local communities long after we are gone.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pig training day with Purinari, Hilda, and company.
Dancing with the beneficiaries after training session in Kyera.
Goat pass-out ceremony.

week 5

This week we had a lot of fun! Things have been moving along well, but it still feels like we have a mountain of tasks to tackle. On Monday, I went to Kaberebere to seek out some goats to give to beneficiaries. It was more of a wild goat chase, but still fun to be out in the field working with our co-workers Joseph and Hilda. I also worked with the global vets girls on a silage project. They worked all day chopping grass by hand, and at the end of the day I, Hilda and Joseph spent about 3 hours helping them. We chopping napier grass with a machete on a tree trunk into ¼” pieces and we only filled less than a quarter of the silage pit with chopped napier grass. I felt like it was a lost cause, but the girls filled me with ambition and hope.
On Tuesday, we had training on how to manage dairy goats in the morning, and then a celebration for the day of the African child in the afternoon. Three schools participated and we had some speeches, the kids sang some sad songs about losing loved ones to AIDS, then we had some fun games at the end. I organized a relay race where the children put on two articles of baggy, adult clothes, and had to carry an egg on a spoon to the end and back, then switch with their teammate until all four team members were finished. They were shrieking with excitement and it was hard to keep them under control.
Wednesday, Rocky and I spent the day in town while Hersh did the dirty work in the field. We got supplies, did some brucella testing of the goats we were to buy for the beneficiaries, and visited our friend Godwin, a principal of a local primary school.
Thursday we did meat goat training in the Kyera parish. It was also a rewarding experience, as the beneficiaries had a lot of knowledge and we had a lot of fun doing skits for them, and interacting with them. The ladies sang and played the drums after we arrived, and were waiting for everyone to show up. In Africa, you set the time to start as 9am, and some people don’t even show up until 11am! It is amusing and also difficult when you are planning an event. We gave out two meat goats each to 8 beneficiaries in the Kyera district, the newest addition to the project. They were so grateful and we had a ceremony where formal speeches were made, we said a few words to the women, and as is tradition, we participated in some dancing and singing. We met a very smart boy (man) of 21 years old who knows a lot and can speak many languages: in addition to many Ugandan languages he knows French, and he knows English better than I do. He taught me a few sayings including ‘be good to your friends on the way up, because you will meet them again on your way down’.
On Friday I spent the day with Innocent and Purinari in Nyamuyanja looking at pigs with them. It was also very rewarding to work with the paravets as they had no previous training in pig medicine. I am looking forward to the next week and to find out what adventures/challenges we will meet.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Hershel taking a jugular blood sample for Brucellosis testing in goats before they are bought. Brucellosis is an important reproductive disease of goats and can be spread to humans.
Hershel kidding around...

Dr. William from the District Veterinary Office with a herd at the Goat Breeding Workshop for local farmers. This Workshop focussed on a breeding nucleus where bucks would be sent to be exchanged between regions in order to maintain genetic diversity (prevent inbreeding).

Some of our beneficiaries in their land on a hot, lovely afternoon. Amazing how quickly they can get around barefoot on the rocky slopes.

Pam working with FAOC and paravet to vaccinate a goat against Clostridial disease.

Rocky, a quick draw...

Hershel and Janet, one of our excellent paravets on the way between farms, with cold vaccine in hand.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ugandan people

It has now been 3.5 weeks since I arrived in Kampala. And we have been working for 3 weeks. The time has gone by incredibly fast, probably because I am enjoying myself so much. This week was very exciting, on Tuesday I was up and in town by 8am ready to pick up the vaccine. I was elated that it had finally arrived and that we were finally going to be able to vaccinate. The vaccinating days were so fun, the paravets being very helpful and doing a great job. They all have proved that they listened at the training session.
The aspect of our life here that I enjoy the most is the people whom we have met. Hilda, the program officer, is an amazing woman. She is truly an African woman, working so hard every day. The women here work extremely hard, when I go for runs in the early morning I find them all working in the field while the men go into town to work (or do whatever else to keep busy). And here, they do not have the luxuries that we have when cleaning, cooking and farming. Each time we make a meal we have to start the charcoal stove, which takes at least 15-20 mins (not like turning on a stove burner), then you have only one little stove (about the size of a stove burner) to cook on, so usually we make katoga, which means everything together in one pot. The other day I also washed our car with Milton, a friend of ours. He was insistant upon helping me, and so we drove down to the lake and hand washed the car, with a cloth and bucket and hand soap: no fancy pressure washer. It took some time to make it look nice, especially to wash off the stubborn red dirt that we accumulate during our field work.
Doing laundry is also a workout: no washing machines my friend.
Although everything is a lot of work, it makes you appreciate what we have and realize that we don't need a lot of the tools that we use. As long as you have a lot of time and a bit of patience.
Some mornings I get up, help Hilda sweep, do my laundry then start the charcoal stove and boil some milk from the milk man for African tea. I like being an African woman, and hope that when I return home I will appreciate the luxuries we are blessed with and remember how strong my African counterparts are.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


After our first real big day in the field we are all tired, dirty and smelling of goat, but satisfied from a great day of hands-on good-feeling work. We set out in the morning in a convoy of two vehicles along with the Global Vets crew who will be joining and assisting with our efforts over the next three weeks. Their help was much appreciated as we realized today how big of a mission will be to vaccinate (twice 3-4 wks apart) and tag all of our 1600 goats. If this many goats were all on one farm as is often the case with livestock in Canada, this could easily be done in a day. However, there are only a few goats owned by each beneficiary and each family seems to live down a distant, barely passable red dirt path. Then, when we arrive at where the goats ought to be penned we learn that we are to wait while the goats are gathered up from surrounding pastures. So, although we accomplished much of what we hoped to, even with the extra crew, we still fell short of our goal and realized that vaccination will take an extra few days longer than planned.
During our rounds throughout the parishes we’ve been greeted with openness and generosity by the locals. Often, the amount of attention that we get here in Uganda, especially in rural areas, just because we are white is not only a little overwhelming, but also mystifying. The children especially go wild every time we ‘Muzungu’ drive by. It often feels as if we are Hollywood stars driving past a crowd of screaming fans. Except we have not acted in any movies or had any records go platinum. We just happened to be born with lighter skin pigment and are fortunate enough to be born into a stable, wealthy nation. If a real, famous and black celebrity like Micheal Jordan or Morgan Freeman were to drive by these same children, there would be no response from the kids at all as they would probably just assume them to be fellow Ugandans, instead of the white-skinned average westerners that they get all riled up for. Francis, our local interpreter and FAOC accountant, put it well today by jokingly asking whether he would receive the same response from children were he to visit Canada. More likely to a Canadian child he would just represent another adult that all their parents have warned their kids not to talk to, not because he is black, but because he is a ‘stranger’.