Oh Snap! It's Goat Pass-Out Day!


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Africa » Uganda » Western Region » Mbarara
July 30th 2015
Published: July 30th 2015
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I left off my last blog with us being down one intern since Lena flew back home and we were now frantically trying to get everything ready before the big paravet refresher training the following day. We spent the entire weekend either running around rural Uganda or on our phones and computers organizing the events. Come Monday morning we still had a lot to do in the next 24 hours, so what does Uganda decide to do? Cut the power about a half hour after we all wake up. Thanks Uganda, you’re the best. I spend half the day at a local cafe that occasionally has internet continuing to chip away on our presentation for the training. I’m not a vet yet, and I have absolutely no clue about the most common chicken diseases here in Uganda, so internet access is crucial for me today. I spent the other half of the day racing through town with Susanne buying supplies. Well, “racing” might not be the appropriate word as it sounds as if things are moving quickly. I move briskly, weaving in and out of people littering the streets, then wait patiently for an eternity at every location to have a simple task completed or merchandise scanned so I can pay for it. African Time is against all of us again, and none of us make it home before dark - typically not the most ideal (er, or the most safe) situation, but what can you do? Brit was on her own adventure out in the field trying to buy the goats we tested and approved. Despite leaving first thing in the morning, she still ended up being out in the field at night trying to pick out the same goats from our records, in the pitch black, using just the light from her cell phone. Needless to say, we were all exhausted when we finally made it home.



The following morning we arrive at the demo farm with training manuals and homemade posters in hand. And there we wait, and wait. A couple hours later enough paravets show up for us to get started. African Time strikes again. Claire does a brief intro then asks the group for any questions they might have or tough cases they’ve seen over the last few months. I suppose this is where I should probably explain what paravets are. Paravets are
Paravet Joseph (not our translator) trying out the technique Paravet Joseph (not our translator) trying out the technique Paravet Joseph (not our translator) trying out the technique

He is one of my favourite paravets! Always eager and always excited about anything we throw at him. He takes excellent care of his animals and has been very successful with the project.
members of the communities that have been selected to receive special vet med training, allowing them to provide very basic medical care to livestock. They do a week long course taught by VWB interns and upon graduation they are awarded a medical kit to take with them into the field. Each year we provide a refresher training to go over some of the basics and answer their questions; it is followed by hands-on training to help them refine some of their skills.



After the intro and many, many, MANY questions it was time for me to present. Oddly enough, I ended up discussing pig husbandry for the second year in a row, but then added on common pig diseases faced here. Susanne discussed the chicken training section and Brit talked about cattle followed by a demonstration on how to properly milk cows. We then broke for lunch followed by the hands-on training section of the day. Attempting to learn from the chaos that ensued during this section last year, we broke the paravets into groups and arranged ourselves into stations. First up was Susanne with the physical exam station where she taught the paravets how to properly restrain a goat, check it’s body condition score, take a temperature, age the goats, and check their FAMACHA score, which measures anemia by looking at the conjunctiva. Pale conjunctiva indicates anemia due to a high blood-sucking parasite burden likely from the Haemonchus contortus worm. Following this station, they would move to my station where I taught them how to properly vaccinate against Brucella melitensis and clostridium (or what the locals call “sudden death”), and how to deworm the goats. Next up was Brittany with the IDing and ear tag station, and lastly they saw Joseph to spray the goats to repel ticks.



The day was very long, but also very successful! Like last year, the paravets were all very eager to learn and asked a lot of questions. It was great to see them so excited and passionate about being an educated paravet. I had a moment where I realized what I’m doing here really matters to a lot of these people. For us, it’s just a simple presentation where we looked up some facts and drew a few posters and relayed all we learned back to some people we barely know. However, to them it was
Claire explaining how to properly castrate a pigletClaire explaining how to properly castrate a pigletClaire explaining how to properly castrate a piglet

They know how to castrate anything they want, so the key word is "properly"
so much more; we are teaching them how to make a living and improve their livelihood; for some this could be a means of survival. Beyond that, it’s a break from their day after day life of working in a plantation or tending to duties around the home; to them this was a big deal.



The following day 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
Brit at the ear tagging stationBrit at the ear tagging stationBrit at the ear tagging station

Definitely the most chaotic and stressful station
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:

1. Proper pen

2. Proper food and zero grazing

3. Providing water - you’d think this was a no brainer, but here in Uganda people actually 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.

4. Vaccinations and deworming

5. 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. More on one of the many big reasons women don’t get a proper education in the next blog.



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 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
Katarina from the Kahena community Katarina from the Kahena community Katarina from the Kahena community

She's at Sue's station learning how to properly restrain goats
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.



Anyways, I’ll stop rambling. Take me out for a beer when I’m home if you want me to dive deep into how I feel about development work and female empowerment!



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
Someone order some chairs? Someone order some chairs? Someone order some chairs?

It's amazing what these guys can strap onto the back of a boda.
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.



Ok this is long again! Sorry about all the rambles! And as always, more pictures below. Take care back home!


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Almost 6 million shillings to buy all the goats
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We handed out 38 goats to 20 beneficiaries this year


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