African Time is Not on Our Side

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July 22nd 2015
Published: July 22nd 2015
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Sorry I haven’t been keeping up with blogging lately; I have been crazy busy the last few days. I have barely had time to eat or sleep, let alone blog about everything. The safari blogs will be coming soon (and boy, they are quite the story) but for now back to life on the project. I’m going to play catch up and try to explain a bit more of the basics of the project so I’m sorry if this ends up being a bit long.

Dr. Claire Card arrived in Entebbe shortly after we got back from our mini vacation in Zanzibar (which was amazing!) and that morning we all made our way to Mbarara. Claire is a professor and veterinarian at the WCVM, and is also one of the founders of the goat project. Claire is only going to be with us for a couple weeks and Lena is wrapping up her time on the project in just one week, so we’re all going to try to cram in as much as we can in a tiny time frame. We hoped to have the two biggest events of the year, the paravet refresher training and the goat
An example of a great penAn example of a great penAn example of a great pen

The women who built this is a new member in her community. She benefitted two goats from us this year.
pass out, while Lena was still working with us. In Canada, this would be an easy accomplishment, but here in Uganda, where everyone runs on African Time, this proves to be an impossibility.

Traditionally the paravet training occurs the day before the pass out so the goats to be passed on can function as demo/training goats for the paravets to use for some hands-on experience. Three massive feats need to be accomplished before any of this can occur though:

1. We need to fundraise money to buy goats.

2. We need to have beneficiaries ready to receive goats.

3. And finally, we need to actually find healthy goats to give out.

With each of the above becoming progressively more difficult.

We were all fortunate to have amazingly supportive friends and family back home that offered to donate goats to the project. Thank you to everyone who bought goats this year! You are the best! Each goat costs about $50, which covers their vaccinations, deworming and transport to the FOAC Demonstration Farm where the pass out is held. So, thanks to generous people back home, step one was easily check off
And a less than ideal penAnd a less than ideal penAnd a less than ideal pen

This leaning mess was obviously missing a few key things on the checklist
the list.

Now, like last year, finding beneficiaries who were ready to receive a goat ended up being a time consuming challenge. We are working in 17 different communities, some that are pretty spread out, and each with their own little quirks and differences - some communities are much older with primarily widows as members, while others are newer and have younger families. Others are very successful with the pass out and some have completely fallen apart over the years. We have a few basic requirements that must be met before a beneficiary can receive goats. They have to be an active community member and they absolutely must have a goat pen that meets our standards - four walls, a roof, raised off the ground with a proper floor and a door. Pretty basic and simple, right? We want beneficiaries to keep their goats in pens 100% of the time because it protects them from wild dogs, thieves, reduces the amount of parasites they consume and how many ticks they are exposed to. We tried to really emphasize the importance of building a good pen at the community meetings and said that we didn’t want to have
The team with Ibriham and RoseThe team with Ibriham and RoseThe team with Ibriham and Rose

Ibriham is one of the first paravets we trained years ago. Him and his family have had a lot of struggles over the years, but thanks to the goat project and help from Claire and Laura, they are doing much better now
to do multiple visits at each house inspecting their pens. When the beneficiary said they had completed the pen, they were to let their chairperson know, who would contact us, and we would come once, and only once, to look at it. Last year we sometimes had to visit the same house 2 or 3 times only to find out that it was never completed. Unfortunately, in some of the previous years goats were given to beneficiaries with no pens based on false promises that they would build them, resulting in an incredible number of goats dying the following year. Obviously we didn’t want to deal with a bunch of dead and dying goats again so we cracked down this year - no pen, no goat. However, since we are all sort of push overs, and only a handful of people listened to our warning about needing a pen, we ended up doing a couple visits to many homes to inspect them. After spending most of the week going community to community and home to home we were able to gather a list of about 30 beneficiaries ready to receive.

Lastly, we had to find healthy goats for the pass out. Generally, each beneficiary receives two goats, unless they’ve received one in the past or other special circumstances, so we were hoping to find close to 60 goats. In a country that literally has goats tied up along every street, this is actually incredibly difficult. We were able to buy a few off of community members, but usually we end up buying goats from larger ranches. We also have a checklist that each goat needs to pass before they are considered for the pass out: ideally less than 100,000USH, female (usually), between 12 and 18 months old, healthy body condition, low worm burden, a negative blood test result for brucella, and clear of any other significant health problems. We contacted the ranchers we’ve bought from in the past and Joseph from NARO called some of his contacts looking for goats. Our team has been splitting up to be more time efficient and one morning Brit, Susanne and I went with Joseph to pull blood from a ranch a ways out of town. Close to about an hour after we planned on meeting Joseph at NARO he shows up. Off to a great start.

Now, Joseph has always given me a bit of a weird vibe. Maybe it’s the fact that he doesn’t wear his wedding ring, or the way he looks muzungu women up and down when he meets them, or maybe it all stems from the time he serenaded Andrea Bocelli to Laura and I, but I knew that today was going to be a very long, awkward day.

Before we all can leave the office, Joseph spends some time introducing us girls to people in his office, with the excuse that his boss needs to know who he’s working with before he can leave. In reality, he just wants to show off his harem of young white women. We finally leave and a good 45 minutes later we make it to the ranch, where he asks us several times if we are capable of pulling blood from goats ourselves…. ahem, I’ve only been doing this everyday for almost two months, but thanks. He continues to watch over us, trying to critique each small thing that we do.

Finishing up at the ranch, he informs us that some of his personal goats are for sale. We drive
back towards the city (with a few random stops along the way as he continues showing us off to his friends), past NARO (*note*), into Mbarara, where he needs to stop quickly to pick something up. We pull over and he disappears into the bank. Illegally parked on the side of the road, in plus 30 degree weather, we wait in the car. And wait. And wait. An hour of our time is lost, along with about 30% of our body’s water weight, before he returns, only to say he needs to go another bank across the street. If he wasn’t so important to the project we would up and bail. Instead of waiting, I leave the girls and drag my sweaty ass to go do some errands; I go to another bank, and two pharmacies several blocks away and am back well before he finally returns. Hot, bothered and pissed off, we drive through Mbarara and finally make it to his acreage outside the city. Almost all of his goats are sick - coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge - all the signs of a contagious respiratory illness. And on top of it they have orf, a highly contagious (although self limiting) virus that causes skin lesions and can be transmitted to people. Wonderful! Glad we spent the gas to come here. He argues with us saying, “the goats only appear sick because they were dewormed the other day.” I’m not a vet yet, but I know a thing or two, and unless he was accidentally squirting the dewormer down their trachea, into their lungs, there is no way the herd would be sick from it. Despite knowing we likely won’t be buying his goats, we pull a few blood samples to appease him, as he continues to critique us and wear on the little patience we have left.

As we are walking back to the truck to get the hell out of there and go home, he asks for a lift back to NARO. But first, he “quickly” needs to say hello to his grandmother. Fine, it’s not like we had a million other things to do before the training and pass-out in a couple days. We go back to Mbarara, through the city, back out the other end of the city, to NARO. While getting out of the car he informs us he just needed his briefcase and then would like a ride back into town. My eye starts to twitch. Patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue.

Besides searching for goats or inspecting pens, we were also busy making posters, writing the training manual, and about a dozen other small things that needed to be organized for the paravet training day and pass-out. The word “efficiency” apparently does not exist in the local language, so forget anything happening in a reasonable amount of time. In fact, the only thing Ugandans seem to do with any sort of speed is drive; they constantly cut you off and swerve in and out between bodas and mataoke trucks like they have a death wish. But upon arrival at their destination, they slow right down again because they weren’t in a hurry to get anywhere anyways. We worked long hours everyday and tried as hard as we could to get everything done before Lena left, but alas, African Time won and we had to push the date back for both events and sadly Lena would have to miss out on them.

Lena flew home on Monday, so Sunday night we had the VWB family over for dinner as a joint going away party for her and a birthday party for Shafiq. As you’d expect, it was bitter-sweet but at the same time couldn’t have been more perfect. I’m not sure why, or how it happened, but after Brittany pulled out her ukulele to sing for Shafiq, Vivian requested to hear “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and that kicked off the start of an epic dance party! In case you were wondering, white girls still can’t dance as good as Ugandans, but we try, damnit! My face actually hurt from laughing and smiling so hard and I will forever be reminded of this night when I hear that song. According to Joseph (paravet Joseph, not NARO Joseph), “the way we’ve chatted tonight has added years” and “if we can dance, we can make it” and I couldn’t agree more.

I think that’s a happy note to leave you all with. Next blog will be two of my favourite days - the pass-out and paravet training! Take care!

(scroll down for more pics)

Additional photos below
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Joseph and his amazing pen!Joseph and his amazing pen!
Joseph and his amazing pen!

He is another paravet of ours and is one of my favourites! He is so enthusiastic to learn and is just a joy to be around! His wife benefitted two goats this year from us.

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