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.