Today was our most important day of the summer – the goat pass-out to new beneficiaries! I was so pumped (and a tad stressed) for this day; all of our hard work for the summer leads up to this and we really had to bust our ass to make it come together. Like I mentioned in my last blog, we managed to find 38 healthy goats that we could pass out.
(Thank you again to everyone from back home who donated money to buy goats!!)
Unfortunately, last minute several more beneficiaries built acceptable pens, but we didn’t have enough goats for everyone, so we narrowed down our list to those who seemed like they were most vulnerable and in most need of help. We tried to focus on women, either single mothers or widows, or families who had members with physical or mental disabilities. We encouraged those with pens who didn’t receive to keep their pens because they will then be the first to receive goats passed on by beneficiaries in their community or will receive when we do another pass out next summer.
To our pleasant surprise today the beneficiaries didn’t run on African Time and they all were at the Demonstration Farm on time and some were even early. So I guess Ugandans are, in fact, capable of muzungu time after all – can’t risk missing out on getting your goats! Before we gave out the goats, I gave a little speech (read: lecture) to the new beneficiaries about the five steps to raising proper goats:
- Proper pen
- Proper food and zero grazing
- Providing water – you’d think this was a no brainer, but here in Uganda people believe that animals don’t need water. In two summers on the program I honestly don’t think I’ve seen one pen that had water available to the goats.
- Vaccinations and deworming
- Good human hygiene when cleaning the pens
I followed “the big 5” with a discussion of how these goats are a loan, and not a hand-out and tried to emphasize that loans need to be paid back. This is a constant issue and it’s incredibly frustrating to work so hard and feel consistently taken advantage of, so we’re very picky about who gets goats. Before handing out the goats we also awarded a new paravet a certificate and a medical kit; he had completed the training in the past but for some reason it was not made official until this summer. Finally it was the moment all of our hard work all summer had lead up to – passing out the goats to new beneficiaries. Shafiq and I were on goat wrestling and handing out duty and Brit took care of the paperwork for each beneficiary. I found out at the end of the day that unsurprisingly over a third of the women were not literate enough to sign the paperwork and had to use a thumbprint to acknowledge ownership of the goats instead.
Maybe because I was working up a sweat chasing and fighting with goats the whole time, but the pass-out flew by. In a little over a couple hours it was over, the photos were taken and we were saying our goodbyes to the beneficiaries as they strapped screaming goats to the backs of bodas and were on their way home. It was another fun day and we could feel the excitement radiating from the beneficiaries as they patiently waited in line to receive their goats. I really hope with all my being that they can care for them properly, taking our advice seriously, as this is a business opportunity that can and does work with a little bit of patience and effort. Worldwide women are suppressed by dated rules and patriarchal traditions that prevent them from accessing the same privileges as men. I truly believe the most important factor to improving lives of all people around the world is educating and empowering women. In developing countries men traditionally hold the power and wealth in the households, and too often they abuse and waste their privilege. In rural Uganda, in particular, men often spend the family’s money on alcohol, prostitutes or buying other wives. Some men abandon their family for the newer, younger female flavour of the week, leaving the wife to struggle to provide for the family and try to raise enough money to send children to school. When their husbands are gone, other male family members may try to steal their land and the little resources these women do have. Women here have little rights and little power over their possessions. When women have the money and power they put it all back into their home and their children, not needless vices for themselves. All of these reasons and more are why I feel so passionately about the goat project. “Loaning” the most impoverished women goats through the project gives them a chance at having a micro business; it allows them to have some control over their finances, ultimately empowering them and gives them some control over their life and livelihood. Some women obviously fail with the project by not taking care of their goats like we ask, but some are incredibly successful and at each community meeting we were thanked by the chairperson for helping to bring some security and wealth to their community. Each year we learn from past mistakes and are trying to make the project more successful and sustainable, and slowly we are seeing the positive changes it brings. One thing I’ve learned this year – and I have no idea how many times I’ve said this out loud over the last couple months – is that development work is a slow, and sometimes painful process. Often all your hard work brings seemingly little or no change, and your efforts bring no reward, but even being able to help improve the life of one person makes it all worth it.
So following the refresher training and pass out we were busy the rest of the week finishing our first, and trying to get started on the second, vaccination campaign. Recap: the first is where we went home to home collecting blood to test for brucella bacteria antibodies in the serum and simultaneously vaccinated the goats for clostridium. Now that we’ve run all the tests we are going back to each home to tell them the results and vaccinate their negative goats for brucella and also give a booster shot against clostridium. We lowered the price of the vaccines to be as little as possible (even less than the vaccine costs itself) in hopes of improving compliance to vaccinate. We had a wide mix of reactions with this one – some communities were great and understood the importance of getting their goats vaccinated, while others didn’t see the need to vaccinate their goats, and others flat out couldn’t afford it. Yet, next year they will complain to us about their goats dying of sudden death or aborting and demand us to replace them… which we will continue to refuse to do. I lectured about this at every single meeting this year. Unfortunately there is a complete lack of education regarding human and animal health in these remote communities; last year I spent time trying to convince people that you can, in fact, get HIV from having unprotected sex. True story. It makes it incredibly difficult to help people care about the health of their animals, or even themselves for that matter, when they have no prior knowledge about disease risks or transmission.
One of our new beneficiaries:
Who doesn’t love cuddling with goats?!
Awarding our newest paravet his kit:
Group photo with all of the new beneficiaries:
Love these cuties!