Some of my last few weeks with the project were spent building coops for some of the older farmers of the village (mostly elderly widows). The village chair, James, and my two interpreters Baraka and Juma, were a huge help with this endeavor and did all the hard work by cutting bamboo for hours each day. I did my part tying bamboo pieces, digging holes, and holding posts while James nailed pieces together. The farmers were incredibly appreciative and we were rewarded with many a delicious meal! We’ve done a lot of teaching over the course of the summer so it was a nice change of pace to accomplish something so tangible.
Last month we had a three-day training session for those chosen to be teacher farmers in Lubanda and we had asked them to choose their students. A few weeks ago I met with these students in groups and discussed the requirements for participation in the program (they must have chickens, must be willing to build a coop, must attend weekly meetings with their teacher, must vaccinate their chickens, and must keep records) and the importance of these requirements. Then I recruited field extension officers Henry and Gaga to help show the teachers how to vaccinate chickens. We got some vaccine and practiced on chickens belonging to one of the teachers before the teachers started vaccinating their students’ chickens. The teachers really liked the hands-on training and I was also happy to do my first-ever poultry vaccination!
I said my good-byes to the teachers of Lubanda and had one last meeting with the teachers of Ilima, during which I thanked them and said goodbye. But the farmers of Ilima “weren’t going to let me leave quietly.” They had a big send-off party for me two days later. Field extension officers Henry and Gaga, Juma the interpreter, Kibona the Village Executive Officer, the teachers of Ilima, and I gathered in the village “movie theater” (a small building with a tv) and had a feast of wali (rice), nyama (meat), Chinese (a spinach-like leaf), and soda. We watched Bongo Flava music videos, exchanged gifts, and thanked one another. The teachers gave Shona and I each a kanga (fabric worn by women as dresses, shawls, and/or head scarves). Along with prints of flowers or animals, these kangas have messages written in Kiswahili. Ours say “ Kila Muomba Mola Hakosi Fungu Lake.” I learned what that meant, but then totally forgot.
I think that Shona and I have accomplished a great deal this summer in the villages of Ilima and Lubanda. We’ve established an in-country support system for the farmers with the help of poultry expert Chris Chalangi and field extension officers Henry and Gaga. We’ve also successfully expanded the Ili ma Poultry Project to the neighboring village of Lubanda, built coops for elderly farmers in Ilima, and revised the vaccination system in Ilima.
Along the way I’ve learned a lot about Tanzania and its people. There are 120 different tribes in Tanzania, each with its own language. I’ve gotten to know so many Nyakusa people in the villages and I now know enough of the Kinyakusa language to make the necessary 10-minute long greetings. I’ve also met people from the other tribes in my travels and learned a bit about their cultures. I’m still working on my Kiswahili and hoping to be fluent sometime in the future. But I think that by far my greatest accomplishment has been learning how to cook like a Tanzanian!
But let’s not forget about the chickens! Coming from a mainly small animal background my knowledge of small-holder poultry farming was very minimal prior to this internship. I know Shona and I were the ones doing the teaching, but I think we ended up learning quite a bit ourselves about poultry management! Veterinarians have so many different career options – small animal, large, mixed, wildlife, research, academia, public health, the list goes on and on. But no matter what your interest is in veterinary medicine, I think it’s important to have a variety of different experiences and that those experiences ultimately make you a better veterinarian.
Lastly, and most importantly, I’ve learned what a powerful tool teaching can be. I was a bit hesitant about the Ilima Poultry Project at first because of its lack of hands-on work with animals. Alternately, the aspect of working so closely with people drew me to the project. Shona and I did not have the opportunity to do much with the chickens, and our work was not as tangible as treating a cow for mastitis, for example, but we did do a lot of teaching. And teaching helps people help themselves – it empowers them. If what we’ve taught these farmers about poultry management helps them raise more chickens, healthier chickens, improves their diet, and provides them with much needed cash by the selling of chickens and/or eggs then I think that the project is a success.
For the past few weeks I’ve been experiencing a reverse culture shock being in the much more touristy part of the country. I’ve enjoyed the delicious food and beaches of Zanzibar, made it to the summit of Kilimanjaro, and have seen hyenas and lions from only inches away in Serengeti and Ngorogoro. I’ve also been lucky enough to meet some really cool people along the way. But although I don’t so much miss the bucket showers and nightmarish public transportation of rural southern Tanzania, I do miss my Ushirika housemates and the farmers of Ilima and Lubanda. We’ve only just begun in Lubanda, but I can tell that these farmers are a great group of people so excited to learn. And my Ushirika housemates as well as the farmers of Ilima have been like family to me during my stay in Tanzania. This country has become like a second home these past three and a half months. I’ve met so many incredible people and I hope to come back and visit sometime soon.
I’d like to thank CFIA, Iams, and Merck for their financial support as well as my friends and family who donated money towards the project. Your generous donations have made a significant positive impact on the lives of farmers in Ilima and Lubanda. I would also like to thank our Ushirika family for giving Shona and I a place to stay, showing us how to cook like real Tanzanians, and worrying about us whenever we travelled anywhere or got sick. And of course thanks to the farmers of Ilima and Lubanda for being so generous and welcoming!
Now we’re nearly done our visits with all 76 student farmers! It’s been great experience meeting with them all and we’ve learned a lot along the way (such as the 9 million ways to greet someone in the Nyakusa language!)
One of the discoveries we made last week is that some farmers are not taking the proper steps to prevent external parasites. We’ve heard a common complaint about “wounds around the eyes.” At one of the farms we visited we examined some chicks that had some black around their eyes. On closer inspection we saw that their faces were covered with fleas. Most of the farmers use an insecticide powder, but this particular farmer was using an herbal remedy that just wasn’t working. All of his chickens were infected, the young chicks most severely. We explained that the fleas have a negative impact on the health of the chickens, especially the chicks, and that in addition to spreading amongst his population of birds, they could spread to other birds in nearby farms when the chickens free range.
We’ve suggested to some farmers the option of doing post-mortem exams on some of their chickens. Adamson Mwakayaga told us that she had lost 30 chicks to disease recently. She said the chicks had swollen necks and were coughing. Shona and I considered gapeworm as a possibility, but explained that coughing could be a sign of a lot of different diseases. We looked at one of the sick chicks, but did not find anything significant besides a mass on the neck. We’ve discussed the idea of doing some post-mortems with Ngaga, the field extension officer. We figured it would be good to determine, as in Andamson’s case, what is killing so many of her chicks and what are some of the common diseases in the village. It will also be good to show the farmers what exactly a post-mortem exam is and how it can be a valuable tool. And oh yeah… it would be quite fun for us!
Last weekend we camped at Lake Masoko, about an hour away. Once again we went through the Rungwe Tea Tour Company who put us in touch with a local guide named Joshua. Joshua was absolutely hilarious! He used to be part of a popular band that toured all over Africa back in the day. Hes and his brothers are tall and skinny with ‘fros (think Jackson 5 but much much older). Being the grandson of the village chief Joshua knew a lot of the legends surrounding the lake. He regaled us with stories of cursed treasure and magical snake dragons. During World War II German soldiers were stationed at the lake. They dumped coins and trucks in the lake before being forced to evacuate after the war. Joshua, being a diver among many other talents, had managed to find some coins in the lake which he showed us. However, there is a chest of money in the lake which no one has been able to reach: it is believed to be guarded by chains that turn into snakes. Joshua showed us a big hole in the ground where more German treasure was believed to be buried. Digging had stopped because the workers had seen zombies and snakes! We saw the grave of a German soldier who had unsuccessfully attempted to slay the multiple-headed snake dragon that guarded the lake.
Shona and I had the opportunity to get to know Joshua’s daughter Zeba pretty well. She told us stories of her family that were just as colorful as Joshua’s stories of the lake, but much more heartbreaking involving murder, betrayal, and HIV. Zeba lived in China and studied in the UK, so although she was very much Tanzanian she also has the prospective of an outsider. One of the things we talked about with Zeba is the problem of education in Tanzania. Many parents just don’t see the importance of sending their children to school, particularly their daughters. Joshua and Zeba told us about a man in the village, who we had met briefly, that had enough money to buy alcohol all day everyday, but was not willing to pay for his daughter to go to secondary school, despite her strong desire to learn. She is currently age 14 and pregnant. Zeba was great to talk with and we hope we’ll be able to see her again. She’s also interested in raising chickens so hopefully we can help her out!
This week Shona and I along with the village chair James, the vaccinators, the teacher farmers, and Alan Minga (who is the one that gets the vaccine and brings it to the village) have reached a final decision as to how vaccinations are going to occur now. Previously two farmers appointed as vaccinators would vaccinate all 82 farmers’ chickens once every three months. After speaking with over 50 farmers we found that they were not happy with the current vaccinators, accusing them of not showing up, using expired vaccine, and not vaccinating properly. The teacher farmers came up with a new plan: each teacher would be responsible for vaccinating their own students’ chickens. All money collected (25 Tanzanian Shillings per chicken) would go to James, who would then give the money to Minga so that he could use the money to purchase the vaccine for next time. All of the teacher farmers and all of the student farmers we talked to were happy with this new plan. But before “firing” the vaccinators we needed to hear their side of the story. The vaccinators claimed that the farmers were not always home when they came to vaccinate and that many of them did not pay. They also said that they were giving the money they collected to Alan Minga so that he could buy the vaccine, but this was not the case. When we all met with Minga, who has been involved with this project for years and in whom we all trust very much, he said that he was not receiving ANY money from the vaccinators. So we decided to go with the new plan of the teacher farmers doing the vaccinations. We thanked the vaccinators for their hard work, apologized, and tried to explain that vaccinating was just too much work for two people, and the current system is clearly working so we have to change it and try out something new. We hope that this new plan will be much more effective!
P.S. Unfortunately the internet is too slow here to download pictures to the blog
Last week was another busy week going from farmer to farmer. We have so far visited 24 of the 76 student farmers in Ilima. These visits have given us a chance to find out about any problems they’re having as well as those things that are going well. We’ve learned a lot from them and I hope that we were able to help them with some of their concerns.
One big issue seems to be predation, which is one of the many reasons why having a coop as well keeping chicks inside until they are at least 2 months of age is so important. Patison Majinja, a very excitable man and animated talker was telling us in rapid-fire Nyakusa about how salamanders were coming up the hill from the stream, going into his coop, and then eating eggs and killing chickens. These “salamanders” turned out to be monitors! Our translator was getting her lizards confused! Patison has a very nice, large brick coop in which his chickens spend most of their time. James saved the day by suggesting wired windows to stop the monitors while also allowing light and airflow. Sofia Msyania, who does not yet have a coop, said that monkeys have been taking her chicks. Another problem is that some of the older widows are unable to build their own coops. Both James and Margaret have a lot of student farmers that are old widows and we’ve discussed the idea of helping them to build coops while we are here. Since we are using all local materials money isn’t so much an issue, but time is. It turns out there’s quite a few widows and it’s probably going to take at least a day or two to build a decent coop complete with nest boxes and perches. And also we wanted it to be a project that the community is involved in, hoping that others would help us, perhaps the student farmers. This is something we’re going to discuss at the meeting with all of the teacher farmers next week. Another thing we have noticed is that some chickens don’t have access to water all day. Chickens that free range during the day or part of the day will have water outside, but very often there is none inside the coop or the house. And although most farmers have been very proactive about parasite prevention, we’ve discovered that some have been using insecticides meant for cattle that may be inappropriate for use with chickens.
Despite some of these issues and set-backs we’ve been very impressed by many of the student farmers. We’ve seen some fabulous coops, some hearty-looking chickens, and discovered that many students are incredibly enthusiastic about learning as much as they can. Emlike Kibona had a coop large enough for 5 of us to stand in with lots of space to spare complete with perches and nest boxes. Not many people have electricity in Ilima, but Emlike does and he has a light bulb inside his coop to provide warmth to newborn chicks. Gwakisa Mwasuka wanted to learn more about how to build the perfect nest box and provide a sufficient diet for his chickens. He also expressed interest in being more aggressive about vaccinating his chickens because he has noticed that some of his young chicks have died prior to being vaccinated. Others have shown interest in knowing what signs to look for in sick chickens and what they can do to help treat their chickens. However, because treating sick chickens is not always a viable option we’re focusing more on disease prevention. We’ve started spreading the word about de-worming and quite a few farmers are interested.
In addition to the fact sheets we made, we also delivered the farmers some very good news: an “expert” in poultry production has agreed to hold a workshop in both Ilima and Lubanda in Swahili. It will be great for them to be able to be taught by someone in their own language and we’re sure they will have lots of questions for him. The “expert” I’m referring to his the very friendly and funny Chris Chalange, who has studied animal science, wildlife management, and tourism and has had a lot of experience with poultry. Chris has his own large-scale poultry operation (700 chickens , down from 1,000 after recently selling some – and he started with day old chicks!) in Mbeya and he seems very excited to help out with the project in Ilima and Lubanda. Chris is a very enthusiastic individual, particularly when talking about wildlife, his two year old, and of course his chickens!
The farmers have been so nice and welcoming toward us. They’re always giving us oranges, avocado, and ground nuts. And they are very surprised when we use the occasional Nyakusa phrase – many will even start laughing and dancing!
We’ve expanded our horizons in terms of cooking – plantains with beef and vegetables, guacamole with all the avocados we’ve gotten from farmers, and we’ve even discovered that they sell spaghetti at the market! We’ve also spruced up our room a bit using some perfume samples from my magazines. They make pretty good air fresheners and now our room smells less like musty basement and more like Macy’s beauty department.
Last weekend we went on a getaway to Matema beach on Lake Nyassa a.k.a Lake Malawi. It was a four-hour drive by daladala (bus). And by bus I mean van packed to capacity with people with chairs not completely attached to the floors. The roads were pretty rough in some areas and falling out of the window seemed a legitimate concern. The lake was beautiful! Because it’s so big it’s very much like the ocean, complete with waves and sand and surrounded by mountains. We stayed at Crazy Crocodile Campsite 3 km from the village, right on the beach. It’s owned by a German man who greeted us with “Welcome to Paradise.” It was definitely a stark contrast to Ushirika – very quiet and peaceful with hardly anyone around. We were thrilled to have food with cheese for the first time in so long! We stayed in a bamboo hut and with the sounds of the waves crashing putting us to sleep and were very excited to have a tree shower and compost toilet! We spent our days swimming, exploring the beach, relaxing, and practicing some slack-lining. It was definitely hard to leave – but I’m also excited about getting back to the project!
Sorry my blogs are so long – not much else to do at night in Ushirika and we are running out of Downton Abbey episodes to watch on Shona’s computer!
This week we also started visiting the Lubanda farmers. The village chose ten farmers to be potential teacher farmers. Eventually they will decide on only five. We went around asking the farmers questions about whether they would be willing to make the time commitment to attend training sessions, take on student farmers, and if they would be willing to vaccinate their chickens. We asked that the farmers be equally distributed throughout the village and they certainly were! We climbed up and down steep hills, traversed vast fields of beans and groundnuts as well as swamp land, and made our way through thick jungles of banana trees to get to all the farms. The landscape of both Lubanda and Ilima is amazing – all you can see is rolling green hills and mountains in the distance. There’s also a huge plateau not too far away that is believed to have magical powers. The last two farms were about a 45 minute walk down the side of a mountain. We walked (well I slid) down trails of slippery clay and mud. Most of our journey was spent out in the open in the hot sun, but there were times we were in the shade of the thick forest and we could hear waterfalls in the distance. When it was time to go back up the mountain I was surprised at how high it was! I took some pictures on the way, but they just don’t convey how awesome the scenery is.
On our first day visiting the Lubanda farms we were accompanied by two field extension officers that work with the regional veterinarian. They came to the poultry farms with us and we came along with them to check up on a mastitis cow along the way. The field extension officers go all around the different villages treating sick animals and providing some sort of agricultural assistance. They also perform post-mortems, which could be cool to do on any Ilima or Lubanda chickens that may die. Henry, one of the field extension officers told us that worms are a common problem with a lot of the chickens he has seen in the region, so this is something we need to look into. Many of the farmers have been treating for external parasites, but not internal ones. The de-wormer is relatively inexpensive and is something that could be shared between farmers. We also were told that infectious colitis is quite common and indeed we did see a few chickens with the disease at a few of the farms.
We decided to do something touristy on Saturday. Shona and I went with a local guide named Christoph on an all-day adventure to Kaporogwe Falls. We went through the tour company Rungwe Tea Tours. We took the bus to Tukuyu and met with the tour director, who looks like a thinner Samuel L. Jackson with leather gloves hobbling around on crutches. Apparently he had a bad fall on a trip to the big crater nearby. Needless to say he did not come along for the bike ride and hike. Anyway we talked to him about doing a few more trips to places nearby – like some of the mountains and Lake Masoka. From Tukuyu we rode our rickety old Chinese bikes along gravel and dirt/mud roads to the falls. We hiked down the side of a mountain to cross an Indiana-Jones type wooden bridge built around the time of World War I. We hiked back up to a large cave right behind Kaporogwe Falls. It was incredible to be right behind the waterfall! Although the mostly uphill three and a half hour bike ride back to Tukuyu was brutal, it was worth it just to see the mountains and the waterfall!
This week we will start visiting the student farmers – there are 76 of them. We’ve made a fact sheet for them about basic nutrition, housing, parasites, vaccination, etc. that we’ve translated into Swahili with the help of one of our housemates, Lucas. Visiting all of them will give us the opportunity to look at their chickens and their coops and it will give them the opportunity to ask us any questions or concerns they may have. Looking forward to visiting some more farms and sliding down some more mountains!
First week on our own! It’s been nice to finally get things started in the village. I feel like we’ve made quite a bit of progress in the first week, though it’s been a slow start.
Monday was supposed to be our first day of work in the village, but due to a funeral it got postponed to Tuesday. Tuesday we went to the village finally! But it turned out the funeral was postponed to Tuesday. We didn’t get our interpreters text messages. Since we had nothing better to do we decided to walk the 20 km back to Ushirika and made quite a few friends along the way. We started talking to this old farmer in our broken Swahili, using our little Lonely Planet Learn Swahili books like the tourists we are, and then we met his friend, another farmer who was headed to Ushirika. I’m pretty sure this guy was planning on taking the bus, but then maybe figured it would be more interesting to walk with us? He only spoke Swahili and Nyakusa and was trying to teach us some along the way. The only two English words he knew were “tired” and “cross-country” haha. We saw lots on mbuzi, ngombe, and mlima (goats, cows, and mountains) as well as fields full of chai (tea) plants. We also met two very giggly girls that walked with us for a while. What a group we were! One of the girls held my hand the whole time (people hold hands a lot here- it’s been hard to get used to!) It ended up taking us about four hours to get back to Ushirika .
Wednesday we had our meeting with the Lubanda villagers. The purpose of the Lubanda meeting was to explain the poultry project and see who is interested in being involved. We are expanding the Ilima Poultry Project to Lubanda and using the same set-up (teacher farmers trained by us have groups of student farmers that they teach and meet with monthly.) Shona and I came up with a set of criteria we were looking for in terms of who could be teacher farmers: literate, must keep records, must have chickens, must have a coop or be willing to make one soon, equally distributed about the village, equal gender distribution, no one too old as it is a long term commitment, and only people that are willing to make the time commitment. With these criteria in mind we wanted the villagers to decide on ten potential candidates, whose farms we would visit. After some input from us, we wanted the people of the village to ultimately decide on who the five teacher farmers would be. They ended up deciding right then and there who the ten would be: someone would stand up and shout a name and the crowd would shout in agreement. Much faster than taking a vote! Next week we start visiting farms!
Thursday was our first official day of work in Ilima FINALLY! We met with our interpreter Juliana, a native of Ilima who is studying business accounting in Morogoro, as well as the village chair James. We went to visit three of the six teacher farmers. Friday we visited the last three. We took a look at their coops, their chickens, and their records and asked them a series of questions about feed, housing, whether or not the sell eggs or chickens, the health of their chickens, vaccinations, etc. I was pretty impressed by some of the coops that the farmers had, especially James. He had a place for young chicks, a nice dark place for hens to lay eggs, and a high-up perch box. All of this was within an enclosed bamboo pen. He also keeps his chicks inside until they are at least 2 months old, gives them mineral supplements, and vaccinates his chicks monthly. He’s definitely a model farmer and we wish they could all be like him! One of the big issues now is vaccinations. A lot of people have been having issues with one of the two vaccinators accusing him of incorrectly administering the eye drops and not coming to vaccinate certain farmers’ chickens. There has also been some confusion regarding payment for vaccinations. One of the student farmers, Leah, and James began discussing the idea of getting rid of the vaccinators and having the teacher farmers do it themselves. James could go pick up the vaccine and the teacher farmers could take turns vaccinating their chickens as well as all their student farmers’ chickens. We would have to train them how to vaccinate first and they would need to charge their students 25 TSH per chicken and use that money to pay for the vaccine. They would also have to keep a tight schedule as the vaccine only lasts about a week when not refrigerated. All of the teachers we spoke with are in favor of this idea so it is something we are looking into. Another big issue surrounding vaccinations is that some people think that vaccinating once a month kills their chicks. We tried to explain that the deaths could be due to a number of things (improper vaccination and handling, other diseases, etc) but because our translator didn’t necessarily agree with us/knew the farmers were convinced the chicks were killed by the vaccine she decided not to translate this to the farmers for us, which was a bit frustrating. But all-in-all she has been a great interpreter and we’re lucky to have her! This summer we are hoping to get someone who has training and experience in poultry production that speaks Swahili to do a workshop for all the farmers in both Ilima and Lubanda. We want some kind of training session that involves all the farmers, not just the teachers, and we thought it might be helpful for them to be taught in their own language. We have two potential “experts” so far. Other plans and ideas for Ilima for the summer include visiting all the student farmers farms, making a handout of basic info to give all farmers, helping some of the older widows build coops, attending meetings between students and teachers, and of course addressing the vaccine issue.
Last Sunday night we had our first cooking lesson with the women of the house, and even Lucas and Simmeon (Zekeo’s other brother) helped out. A lot of the neighbors came to watch and laugh at us. Many people were surprised that we had never cooked on a kerosene cooker before. Although others, like Zekeo, know that we use electric ovens. I had some difficulty cutting a carrot and they found it pretty entertaining. Diana and Mary pretty much took over the cooking and we just kind of watched. They peel tomatoes here! We made pasta (which is a rare commodity in rural Tanzania) and mixed in veggies. It ended up being really good and different from the way we usually do it. They also made us rice and beans. So far we have made wali (rice) and vegetables, nyama (meat), and we even made the traditional dish ugale. Ugale is hard to describe – it’s made with flour and water and doesn’t really taste like much of anything, but you dip it in meat or vegetables . Every night Lucas comes to check on us and see what we are making, sometimes he takes us to the market to show us where to get certain things, and then almost the whole house watches us cook. I now fully understand that old adage about too many cooks in the kitchen! I swear they must think we are helpless, but we just do things a different way from them sometimes (for example leave the skin on tomatoes). But it’s always interesting to learn a different approach. And it’s really sweat that they worry about us. They are always very concerned if we leave the house without drinking tea.
Speaking of our housemates thinking we are helpless, the women of the house taught me how to properly wash clothes the other day. There’s quite an art to it. Unfortunately I struggle with this fancy technique. They did not approve of my biodegradable camping laundry detergent so they used one of their soap blocks. Tanzanian soap is amazing! I will definitely have to bring some back.
We are also getting used to the insanity that is Tanzanian transportation. We went with Lucas, Zekeo’s younger brother, to see Zekeo in the hospital (he’s doing much better now and is back to his peppy self). A friend of the family named Alice also joined us, as did Emmanuel, another teacher at Ilima secondary. We packed into a “cab” and right as we started going we hit a motorcyclist. He got up and looked okay, though. A crowd starting forming around and Lucas got out to look, but then another driver just hopped in and started driving! And of course the buses are an adventure. They are big rickety old vans packed full of people, bananas, and bags of rice. They usually never quite come to a complete stop to let people on and off and I have yet to see anything resembling a seat belt. Alphan, headmaster at Ilima Primary, has been a big help getting us settled in Ushirika. The other day we went to dinner at his house. He owns a van that is used as a bus. Other people drive it and he splits the profits with him. Right after telling us about he can’t drive, has no license, and just never learned, he jumped in the driver seat and drove us through the dark jungle of banana trees to his house along a windy, bumpy, dirt road that was barely wide enough for a vehicle.
Shona and I have done some more exploration of Ushirika the opposite way of the market and the main street. It’s mostly farm land, some churches, plantain trees, chickens, a few cows. Sometimes there are a lot of people walking on the road: men dressed in button down shirts and blazers, women in colorful fabrics carrying baskets on their heads, many screaming children that run up to greet us. People greet us in Swahili, Nyakusa, and even some English. Other times the roads are quiet other than the occasional motorcycle (pikipiki) whizzing by.
We’ve met some interesting characters here. Just as we were about to eat the other night there was a knock at the door. It was Noel Mahyenga, the Regional Director. We figured that he was the equivalent of the mayor in the US or maybe an MP in Canada. He wanted to check up on us, but also to tell us about potential investments. He had been urging Roger to invest as well. He has a lot of ideas relating to tourism and the exportation of livestock to the Middle East. We have no money as we are poor students nor do we know many people who would be interested. He told us to ask our parents. He got our emails and phone numbers and has sent us two emails about all his ideas. Oh my! And we’ve started to compare many people we know to characters from The Lion King. The wise old Alan Minga is just like Mufasa and the very helpful, clever James Magila reminds us of Rafiki.
One thing we have discovered is that Tanzanians LOVE their music. Early every morning we wake up to the sounds of either fast-paced, upbeat Swahili music meant for dancing or some kind of gospel music, which is also meant for dancing. We even saw a gospel music video being filmed in Tukuyu! So what else to Tanzanian listen to? Well there’s the occasional Bangrha song or even some Jason Derulo, but there is a nation-wide obsession with Celine Dion! Everywhere we have been, everywhere we go, and every time of day we hear Celine Dion.
Wednesday May 16, 2012
So we arrived at our hotel in Dar Es Salaam with no problems whatsoever! For me it was a seven hours journey from Boston to Amsterdam, where I met up with Roger and Shona. I had a five hour layover in Amsterdam (so plenty of time to walk around the airport looking at wooden shoes and tulips). Next was a 10 hour flight to Dar Es Salaaam via Kilimanjaro. When we stepped out of the plane onto the runway it was so warm and humid. Palm trees were scattered around the runway …as were some pretty decent size cockroaches! A friend of Dr.Minga, a very nice woman named Angela, drove us to our hotel. We rode along the lively streets of Dar listening to some sweet tunes from Michael Bolton and Whitney Houston. We were shocked at how many people were out and about selling things by the light of torches along the street. There were also so many people running around weaving in and out of traffic.
The place we are staying is pretty nice. One of the last hot showers I will have this summer! We watched a Spanish soap opera (yeah I know…random), had a beer, and know I’m ready for some much needed sleep.
We are only staying here a brief time then headed to Morogoro a few hours away, a safari, and then finally to Ilima, which is about a 12ish hour drive along some rough roads. Tomorrow Shona, Roger, and I will be visiting Open University of Tanzania along with Dr. Minga, a professor at the Open University who has been with the Ilima Poultry Project from the very beginning.
Friday May 18, 2012
This morning I woke up at 5am to the sound of praying outside the window. It was actually pretty cool to listen to. The water was still not working in our room in Morogoro’s White House Inn, but thankfully they left a bucket of water outside of the room so we could wash up a bit…yay bucket bath! We eventually got our rooms switched to the building next door. Now I have a lovely view of some backyard chickens and goats! We figured we should enjoy having running water for the next few days while will still have it, because once we go to Ilima we will be back to buckets!
This morning we left for the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, which has a veterinary college. It’s quite a big campus right underneath the mountains – such a beautiful view! We ended up spending all afternoon at the University. We met with Dr. Mellau, the head of the dept. of veterinary medicine and public health. We talked to him about what the Ilima Poultry Project was all about and told us everything about the veterinary college. We then went on a tour of the entire vet school with one of the anatomy lab technicians. We saw the anatomy lab, PM room, the small animal clinic, the virology labs, etc. It was interesting to compare to this school to the OVC. In some ways the schools are so similar yet also worlds apart. They still use halothane and manually develop radiographs by dipping them in the chemicals. On the other hand, they have a PCR and a sequencer. I found the virology labs the most interesting, especially in regards to our poultry project. The virologist we spoke with was telling us about how they are making Newcastle Disease Virus vaccines with strains isolated from local chickens. He explained that the commercial vaccine is not always effective in these local chickens and in addition is more expensive. The vaccine made at the school is given to the farmers for free or a small amount of money. The new virology lab is made out of two storage containers stacked on top of one another. Despite its external appearance lab was very impressive! They have equipment donated from USAid including a PCR and an instrument which converts RNA to cDNA ( probably should know this, but I totally forget what it’s called). Some of the Tanzanian students have recently come back from training at UC Davis and a phD student named Ava from UC Davis is there for a few months to oversee the project at Sokoine University. She is involved with an organization called “Predict” which focuses on predicting emerging diseases. Right now the lab is focusing on RNA viruses. Since they are still such a new lab they send many of their samples to an older, more established lab in Uganda to confirm. It ended up being a great tour and we were thankful that so many people took time out of their day to show us around! We had lunch at a restaurant on campus right under the mountain. Like all the other restaurants we have been to so far it was open on the sides with just a roof. Angela met up with us there and we went to a place called “Rock Garden” with the slogan “We will rock you.” We followed rocky paths around mountain streams and saw so many monkeys (tumbili). We searched a couple of bookstores in Morogoro for the Tanzania Atlas that students at the Ilima and Lubanda village primary schools use. Ilima Primary only has one atlas for all the students to use. However, it’s one of the most important books because so many questions from the exit exam come from it. While Roger was in one of the bookstores Shona and I waited in the car with Angela and we made some friends. These two guys wanted to show us around town and later jokingly offered Roger a dowry of 200 cows for both of us. Not even 200 each! After a visit to Angela’s house we went out to dinner with both her and Dr.Gimbi’s wife , Dorothy, as well as Angela’s very quite nephew and Dorothy’s two very energetic daughters. We are lucky to have so many connections in Tanzania!
Saturday May 19, 2012
Saturday was one of my favorite days here in Tanzania so far. We spent the day on safari at Mikumi National Park, which is only an hour from Morogoro. It turned out to be quite the adventure. On the way there Angela got a speeding ticket – there were police at the edge of the road with a radar gun. The ticket was 30,000 shillings (the exchange rate is about 1,500 TSH per 1 USD). However, the policewoman accepted a 10,000 TSH bribe, something which is quite common here. What’s hilarious is that Angela practically became best friends with this police woman. On our way home from the safari we saw the same woman there and Angela stopped to say a quick hello! Even before we got to the park we saw lots of baboons (nyani) along the highway, even some babies! When we got to Mikumi we decided to do it without a guide. It was Roger, Shona, Angela, Angela’s nephew, and I in our rental van. Roger was pretty familiar with the park as he had gone there before and also said the routes were pretty well-marked. However, the roads ended up being a bit treacherous. Some were nice flat dirt roads whereas others were pretty rough and full of puddles, mud, and big ruts, covered in rocks, or just tire tracks in the tall grass. Actually I’m sure a few of the paths we probably weren’t supposed to be on. We ended up making some of our own paths when we had to go around big puddles or ditches. And also you are not supposed to get out of the car, but we decided not to follow that rule. It was a big enough place and no one was around most of the time. Plus, we needed to get to figure out how to maneuver the van around obstacles, to move rocks, and to take better pictures of the animals of course! We saw seven hippos (kiboko) in one of the ponds, along with a group of men cutting down plants. These guys were actually IN the water not too far from the hippos. The hippos would stay under water and then stick their heads up every once and a while to get air, snorting with their ears twitching. They were so big! We saw some wildebeest (nyumbu) and there were impala (swalahala) everywhere including a HUGE heard of them. We estimated that there were a few hundred of them. We also saw a group of about six warthogs (nygiri) very close up. After the nygiri we saw giraffes (twiga) and zebra (punda milia). You could tell that many of the animals were accustomed to having cars close to them because they allowed us to get so close. We found a path that led to some empty buildings and saw about eight elephants (tembo), including babies! Angela was terrified of the elephants, especially because they were so close to the road and even crossing it right in front of us. We decided it was best to hang back for a while so mama and baby elephant could get a little further from the road. We did one last 30 km circuit hoping to see some water buffalo (kifaru). We ended up seeing a huge herd of them right before we left. Also on that last circuit we saw elephants, but Angela got freaked out and gunned it past them (It was pretty hilarious). That last path had the worst roads and we almost tipped over into a ditch! We ended up being very impressed both with Angela’s driving skills and the fact that the van made it through our safari. Other than the lions, we ended up seeing all the big species of animals at Mikumbi, not to mention all the birds, lizards, and guinea fowl.
Monday May 21, 2012
So we are in Tukuyu now, which is only about 20 minutes from Ilima, the village in which we will be working. We had a 10 hour journey here yesterday. Angela is not with us anymore, but we are now joined by Dr. Gimbi. We tried visiting the veterinarian for the region, Dr. Kibona, today, but he was away all day. We’re hoping to tag along on some of his farm calls. We figured it would be good veterinary experience as well as a way to potentially see poultry farms in other villages. Although Kibona was not there, we did meet another man named Mpunda at the DALDO (District Agriculture and Livestock Development Office). Mpunda is head of the DALDO. He told us a little bit more about Africa Bridge, an NGO working in nearby villages. They mainly work with those people affected most by AIDS. They deal mainly with cattle. They had distributed swine, but there was an outbreak of African Swine Fever (Shona and I were very excited that we remembered this from virology)so they are no longer working with swine and possibly interested in poultry. Mpunda also told us they he owned a dispensary innTukuyu and carried Newcastle vaccine – this could be a close and reliable place to get the vaccine.
Next we stopped at Rungwe District Office and met with Mwansasa, acting director of the region (the actual director, Mahyenga, was away). Then we went to yet another book store to try to find the elusive Tanzanian Atlas for Ilima Primary School. We managed to get four copies in Morogoro, but Roger was hoping to get a lot more. We also checked out some veterinary drug dispensaries and the internet café. I was quite disappointed with the internet café – we are not allowed to use flash drives nor are we allowed to bring our own laptops. It Seems like blogging is going to be an issue and as well as printing materials for farmers.
We visited Ilima secondary school, which started in 2006 and has grown quite a bit since then. When Roger first came to Ilima in 2003 there was no secondary school and kids from Ilima had to walk pretty far to go to other schools. Thus, many of them did not even attend secondary school. There are now over 500 students at the secondary school and eleven teachers. The layout of the school is interesting…picturesque, but quite impractical. Classrooms descend along a large, steep hill with now stairs or walkway. We imagined that many students must just slide down this hill to class in the rainy season. One of the main purposes of our visit was to find out how the chicken house is progressing. Funds were acquired by Roger to build a poultry building at the school so that the students could learn about poultry management and sell eggs. Mr. Pimbi, the headmaster, will soon be living on school grounds, so there will be someone there full time to look after the chickens. We saw that the poultry building was not yet finished. We met with Mr. Pimbi and Zekeo, the academic headmaster. Zekeo is originally from the area and returned after his studies to teach – something that is apparently very rare hear. Initially there was rapid fire discussion in Swahili between Dr.Gimbi, Allen Minga, Zekeo, and Pimbi. They were discussing living arrangements for Shona and I and then what was going on with the chicken house – why wasn’t it finished? It still had no windows or doors, but construction had begun in 2007. So the deal with the chicken house is that it is on a plot of land belonging to the Moravian church. There are also two small houses on this land. The Ilima Ward community has an agreement with the church: they will build two similar houses on another plot of land belonging to the church, but use the plot on which the poultry building is situated for the school. The reason why construction has stopped, Pimbi explained, is because construction needs to begin on the church’s new houses first. Pimbi said they he was under a lot of pressure from the local government to begin construction on these houses, although it is technically the community’s responsibility and not the school’s responsibility. Once construction begins on the church houses, then construction can begin on the new house for the headmaster and the chicken house can be finished…hopefully. There is a meeting next week to decide when construction should begin on the church houses. Pimbi still seems very enthusiastic about the poultry building. It was, after all, his idea. We also discussed getting a photocopier for the school. They spend a lot of money on photocopies, so having their own would free up a lot of money for other things and they could also charge other schools a reasonable price to use it. Many of the students are AIDS orphans that live with their grandparents along with many other children and have limited funds. Most cannot afford to pay school fees. Shona and I were invited to come teach a class or two – we were thinking maybe some stuff about basic poultry farming, sanitation, stuff about North America, etc.
Tuesday May 22, 2012
Such a great day! We went to Lunanda primary school to find out a little more about the school, but not to discuss the poultry project…not yet anyway. We spoke with the headmaster, Mwahegaya, along with members of the school council. There are 220 students at the school, last year of 41 students in standard 7, only 28 passed and went on to Ilima secondary school. They only have five teachers and are in desperate need for more. Another problem is a serious lack of books. For some subjects they have just one book. They especially need books for standards 5,6,7 because of a recent change in the curriculum. The headmaster thinks that having five books per subject per grade would make a huge difference. That works out to be 315 books, which would cost around 1,890,000 TSH (about $1200). There are no school fees, but the children must buy uniforms and school supplies. Yet another big issue at the school is that there is no lunch program. Some bring food from home, but most do not. Many eat before and after school, but go the entire day (like 8am to 5 pm) without any food. We have heard that at other schools in the area successful farmers will provide food to feed the students. And Gimbi told us that at his primary school there was a “self-reliance” program in which students grew their own food. At the end of the meeting Roger gave the headmaster some notebooks and textbooks we had gotten in Tukuyu. It won’t solve the problem of not having enough books for every grade, but it will definitely help with students having greater access to books. Next we headed off to Ilima Primary school for the big celebration they throw for “Baba Rogers” (father Rogers) to welcome him back and thank him for all of the work that he and his wife have done for the school since they first came to Ilima in 2003. Our visit to Ilima primary was incredible! When we arrived there were hundreds of uniformed students on the side of the road waiting for us. They were all singing and waving tree branches full of leaves. They were singing a song about sweeping the floor for guest to welcome them (hence the tree branches). They were all so excited to see Roger! And their singing was so good! Ilima primary is at the mountain of this steep, rocky hill. It took about 15 minutes to reach the school and the whole time the children were behind us singing. Another song in their repertoire was one one in which they sing “Karibu tena” (welcome again). On the way down I got a chance to speak with one of the teachers, who was actually a volunteer teacher. When we reached the school we signed their guest book. We have signed so many guestbooks in the past week. Every single place we go we sign a guest book. We went to look at the Roger Thomson building, which was still in need of windows and doors. Because of a change in price of some of the materials needed, construction was at a standstill. But they were at least able to use it for classrooms. We went outside and there were speeches and more singing and dancing. Allen Minga and Dr. Gimbi were able to translate lot of it for us. What’s funny is that a lot of their songs were so literal, like when they sang about the termite problem in one of the buildings. Shona and I both gave a short speech introducing ourselves and even spoke a little Kiswahili. The assembly ended with roger giving a speech describing the history of his relationship with the school and the village as well as commending them for all their imorovements in academics. Ilima primary was first in the ward for the past 3 years in regards to students passing standard 7 and moving on to secondary school. They invited us inside for a delicious lunch of nyama (meat), bananas, rice, and spinach. Over lunch I tried to explain to Allen what an allergy. He was very confused by the fact that he had given me all these groundnuts (peanuts) and Shona was taking them all off my plate. I found the word allergy in my Swahili book “mzio” and showed him. We also talked to Allen about our possible accommodations at Zekeo’s place (a teacher at Ilima secondary). Allen did not seem happy with the place, so we made plans to take a look at another place, and to also have a look for ourselves at Zekeo’s place. After lunch we headed up the big hill to our car. We were accompanied by the headmaster and the teachers. I spoke once again with one of the volunteer teachers, Fred. He is originally from Zambia, but he in Nyakusa and speaks Nyakusa fluently. Nyakusa is the tribal language of Ilima. Although everyone knows Swahili, Nyakusa is still widely spoken, especially among the older people. We gave the teachers textbooks and workbooks we had gotten in Tukuyu and said our goodbyes. We then headed off to look for accommodations for Shona and I. Alfan, the ilima primary headmaster, Agnes, a teacher, Allen, and also Talita, the village executive officer of Ilima, all came with us to check out places in Ushirika. The first place belonged to Agnes’s mother. It was a small compound shared with other families with a courtyard in the center. The room was kind of dark and small and a bit on the dingy side. The shower room and latrine were quite a distance from the room, but there was a water pump nearby. We were much happier with Zekeo’s place. It’s a little compound of sorts with a courtyard and a place to cook on the ground to cook with paraffin or charcoal. There’s a latrine and a place to take bucket showers. The room consists of a big bed, a table with two chairs, and an power outlet. There is a light bulb and a pink fluorescent light. A mosquito net hangs over the bed and the walls are painted blue and covered with sports car posters with fake flowers strung around the wall. The décor makes the room a bit brighter and happier. We chose this place hands down. Agnes, who lives just down the street, promised to cook us a chicken dinner our first night there with the chicken Roger was gifted at Ilima primary.
Wednesday May 23, 2012
Today we went to Ilima to have a meeting with all the teacher farmers and vaccinators. Some student farmers were there as well. The village chair, James, facilitated the meeting. He himself is a teacher farmer and has been such a huge help. He is able to command so much attention and helps to keep order in such meetings. On the way to Ilima we picked up Talita, the Village Executive Officer (VEO), who accompanied us to the meeting. We also got a chance to meet Talida’s boss, the Ward Executive Officer, on the way. Talita has told us numerous times to call her if we have any issues and has even offered to teach us to cook. Our meeting with the farmers went pretty smoothly with Gibi translating for us and James keeping order. We asked the farmers to introduce themselves and to tell us what things were going well as well as any issues or concerns. I have a running list of thirteen issues that Shona and I should work in this summer. The first teacher farmer that spoke, however, said that he had no rpoblems and everything was going well. I was afraid all of them would say something similar. It’s the Tanzanian thing to do: tell someone want you think they want to hear. Some of the problems were: chick mortality, missing the October vaccine because it was expired (but they did not go back and get a new one so they went 6 months without vaccinating, as they vaccinate every 3 months), the issue of teacher farmers becoming older and not being able to perform their duties anymore, but don’t want to give up the job and the pay, they would like more training in the form of field trips to other poultry farms to see what other farmers are doing, and also there are some issues with feeding and coop construction. It was interesting to see during the meeting that there seemed to be drama amongst some people. If only we knew everything everyone was saying! One thing we discovered was that the farmers saw the correlation between higher mortality and skipping a vaccination. However, one teacher farmer thinks that the vaccine was responsible for killing some of his chickens. We had yet another meeting outside – this time it was to welcome us to the village. When some of the villagers stood up to speak they were pointing at us and seemed so angry. I was worried we did something wrong or that they didn’t want us there, but they were actually just explaining how happy they were to have us there and how they appreciate our help. Some ideas Roger Shona and I talked about: Look into taking the teachers to Nane Nane (the big agricultural faire in Mbeya) or to some nearby successful poultry farms, help with coop construction, a new vaccine schedule, figuring out what the vaccinators are doing in terms of payment for the vaccine (it was expected that the vaccinators would charge the farmers for vaccinating and make a small profit), and also address the issue of teachers being too old and students that the teachers no longer want in their groups because they never show up to meetings. We discussed the possibility of getting new chickens. Although everyone seems to want more chickens, I think it’s best to work on a lot of the management issues the farmers are having first. Tonight Shona and I tried Konyagi for the first time, a strong Tanzanian alcohol that kind of smells like a pine tree, but it’s pretty good with bitter lemon soda.
Thursday May 24, 2012
Today we visited Uyole Ag College about an hour and a half north of Tukuyu. It was a huge, beautiful campus. Because the Ministry of Lifestock had split from the Ministry of Agriculture, the school had also split. There was a Lifestock Research Center, a Training Institute, and also an Agricultural Research Center – so there was some confusion about where we should go and who we should be talking to in regards to our project. We were able to speak with an animal health technician, who was in the middle of a cow necropsy with a bunch of students, about the possibility of animal health students doing a placement in Ilima. The issue is that due to lack of funds, many of the students to placement in nearby villages so they don’t need to pay room and board. It’s unfortunate that only neaby villages benefit from such institutions as Uyole. We also got a chance to speak to an old friend of Dr. Gimbi’s, a veterinarian at the Livestock Research Center. It was interesting to get some feedback from him about our project. He explained that exotic breeds, such as Rhode Island Reds, often require more management and are often more susceptible to disease. He explained how it is difficult for farmers here to confine their chickens and he told us how combining free range with feed supplementation was something that is often done. He also talked about how it is best to confine young chicks until at least 8 weeks, once they are big enough to protect themselves from predators. We discussed the importance of focusing on housing, nutrition, and vaccination at the same time. We talked about Newcastle and how outbreaks tend to happen during the dry season. He gave us the name and number of a vet in Mbeya that supplies vaccine.
Friday May 25, 2012
Today we stopped by to see if Dr. Kibono, the region veterinarian was in…still no luck. But we did talk to an extension officer there. He gave us the contact information for lifestock field officer for Ilima Ward who lives in Ushirika (where we will be living). He could be someone who could check up on things in Ilima when we are not there. We found out that Rungwe District consists of 37 wards and 167 villages and there are 2 veterinarians, 4 livestock officers, and 22 livestock field officers. We also discussed getting the Newcastle vaccine from Dr. Kibona, who orders it from Iringa. Possibly James or Allen could call Kibona and order it ahead of time. The extension officer also told us that Kibona offers diagnostic services so we were thinking of having him do some chicken necropsies. We once again stopped over at the Regional Director’s office and this time met Noel Mahyenga, who was back in town. He was incredibly friendly and welcoming. He said to let him know if we had any problems and said we could even come to his office anytime during the day to use the internet. We also had an interesting conversation with him about beekeeping, which seems to be becoming more common in the region. We visited the Africa Bridge offices. They are an NGO based in Seattle, Washington. There were 4 local people working in the office: a project manager, accountant, children committee coordinator, and agriculture and livestock extension officer. We told them about our project and found out more about how they operate. Our meeting got a bit tense at one point when the children committee coordinator kept asking us about village involvement and seemed to be accusing us for not having enough of it. Gimbi was getting quite annoyed with this man and was trying to explain to him that we involve the village at every level – Village Executive Officer, Village chair, etc. They suggested that maybe instead of sending just the “teacher” farmers to train at Uyole, we could get someone from Uyole come to the village and train all the farmers. We were thinking this would be a good idea – for someone trained in poultry management to hold a workshop for all the farmers. We will have to look into who could do this and how much it would cost. Africa Bridge deals with crops as well as livestock. They work in villages they have a high number of AIDS orphans, low economic status, and are not receiving aid from any other organization. The way their heifer program works is that the village chooses 10 families which meet certain criteria, such as a high number of AIDS orphans in the family. These families get heifers and pass the calves along to other families. Africa Bridge provides them only with 300,000 TSH and one type of vaccination, which does not really seem like enough. The farmers apparently have a revolving fund which they can borrow money from and pay back at a low interest rate. We are planning to go back to Africa Bridge and come with them to some of the villages they work in and find out more. Next we headed to our meeting with members of the Lumanda village, which is located next to Ilima. We are hoping to expand the poultry project to Lubanda this summer. Our goal is to train 5 teacher farmers by the end of the summer. We are having a meeting on Wednesday to see who is interested in the program, who wants to be a teacher, who wants to be a student. Ultimately we want the villagers to decide on the 5 teachers, but we can help guide their decision. Roger suggested a requirement be that they can read and write. We would also like to visit all the farms of those interested in being teachers.
After our Lubanda meeting we went to buy rice in Ilima, a process which involved a solid 15 minutes of haggling and then a visit to someone’s house. Things take a lot longer here. Then Shona and I moved in to our accommodation. Before we said our goodbyes to Roger and Gimbi, they were going to give us a ride down the street to get food. While I was trying to figure out just how to close the latrine door, Zekeo passed out while Shona was talking to him. He was still breathing and everything, but completely unresponsive. When his brother carried him to our van his eyes were open, but he was still unresponsive. He is at the hospital now. We hope that he is going to be okay and that it is nothing serious. We had planned to have a chicken dinner with one our neighbors, Agnes, a teacher at Ilima primary school, but she was also in the hospital with her neighbor who had gotten sick. So for our first night of dinner on our own we had stale bread and mango juice! Our plan for tomorrow is to buy food and tools with which to cook.
Some chicks didn’t appreciate the vaccination so off to hide from the evil vaccinators!
While currently working on translating the training manual in use by the teacher farmers, we have made some good advances in updating material to include that will cover nutrition, housing and general information on raising chickens. More training in nutrition has been a common request from the farmers during our interviews and is something we feel we can accommodate. Millet grows wild in the region, termites populate the dying vegetation and even banana peels can contribute to the health of chickens without taking from the maize, which is used to feed the families.
With sustainability in mind, a micro-credit system of chickens as the commodity is being planned. An initial injection of new birds into the program will be the starting point for a continuing pay-forward of birds to other farmers, as well as a potential payback into a fund that will assist in purchasing supplies, pre-mixed feed, etc.
We continue to receive positive feedback from the village elders and the farmers with whom we interact, as well as some wonderful ideas on how they’d like to see the project progress. As we intend to move forward with the final goal of having the villagers themselves take full ownership of this project, having active input and interest displayed by both teachers and students is a wonderful sign. The people here are very creative, intelligent and not only willing to learn but teach us much about caring for chickens in a village environment.
Much of our work currently involves interviewing farmers as we prepare to implement the increased vaccination schedule to help ensure the chicks are not waiting too long for theirs. With luck, we will have all our data by early next week and the week after will see us accompanying the village vaccinators, assisting and assessing as we go.
The village itself is spread out across the side of a small mountain. So our days generally involve a lot of hiking up and down hills in the African sun. Add to that our occasional day off with 14 km walks to see if we can make it to the next town over, and it’s a fair bit of miles being put on our shoes.
We live in a town called Ushirika, because the village of Ilima just doesn’t have the ability to put us up for three months. Ushirika is a small town of about 4,000 people with one short strip of shops and a market. The rest is all residential stretching out into the hills. Our host, Esther, is a teacher at the Ilima Secondary School and has been a wonderful person with whom to live. She has a good grip on English, helps us with our Swahili and roasted up a huge bunch of karanga (ground nuts) that we spent a night shelling. Many of the villagers feel that we cannot visit without receiving something so they tend to give us bags of ground nuts. We’re certainly in no shortage of them.
Living is very basic here and based on a lot of adaptation. Electricity is sporadic, along with water, so you grab a shower whenever you get the chance. And that involves a bucket of very cold water. Cooking is a long process as there isn’t really any kitchen. Just a corner of the room with a small, portable one-burner gas stove. Clothes are all done by hand-washing.
All-in-all, it’s a wonderful place. People love when we try out our basic Swahili and even more excited when we use the local dialect of the Nykyusa (I think that’s how you spell it) tribe. Just a simple “Andaga” (thank you) can light up faces and get a great big, happy laugh.
So, our treks up and down the mountain continue. Work aplenty to get done and time seems to be flying by too quickly.