The project was undertaken through a charity that works from East Sussex called “World In Need” (WIN). Yearly WIN organises for people in the UK to buy someone in Uganda a goat. This is usually coordinated around Christmas and the goats are sourced in Uganda during the following few months. The goats are native breeds which are suitable for both meat and milk; however most households like to just use them for breeding and meat. The first kid from every doe must then be passed onto another member of the community who doesn’t have a goat. This project is based around a rural community called Owiti just outside of Lira.
Owiti is a severely impoverished community. Houses are made from mud and straw and have no electricity or water. There is a natural spring about 1km walk for most households, however it is at the bottom of a hill which allows for a lot of muddy runoff to enter it. Most people are HIV positive and malnourished. Families rely on their crops and animals to maintain a living, by either consuming them themselves or travelling the 8km to sell them at Lira market. Despite their very basic lifestyles, they maintain a very civilised community group where they meet monthly to talk about their needs, loan money to each other, share cooking utensils for functions, and talk about their goats.
There are just under 100 family groups in Owiti and most groups own between 3 and 5 goats each. In the dry season (November to April) the crops have been harvested and the goats are allowed to roam free. During the wet season, goats are tethered to stop them destroying the crops. The goats in the dry season are usually well nourished, however they struggle with large round worm burdens. In the wet season the goats struggle to maintain a healthy weight despite the lush surroundings as they don’t have access to it. This is also the time of year that reportedly they have more infectious diseases.
Currently in the area, a trained man named Maurice attends to the treatment of the animals, however he comes across many obstacles due to the lack of knowledge of the community.
Overview of the WIN Uganda health and welfare project
In February to March 2015 I was to visit the community to establish a program to improve the health and welfare of the animals in the area. This was to be done in two ways: education, and treatment, with the emphasis on education. The project would have a loose schedule which would be adaptable to the needs and wants of the community. The first few days would be to assess what level of knowledge there was and after that, the days would consist of a mixture of group lectures and house visits to solidify the lectures and treat animals if needed. All visits would be accompanied by Maurice, who was fluent in English and could translate. He was also familiar with the common diseases of Uganda and would act as a second opinion in the case of an unusual or tropical disease.
Findings on arrival
The knowledge of the community was severely lacking with many unable to identify whether an animal was well or not, or recognise malnourishment. Knowledge of diseases specific to animals was almost non- existent. From Maurice’s experience, if an animal was so ill that it was collapsed, that was when he would be called out and the owners were not interested in the disease pathogenesis but rather just wanted an injection for the animal.
Knowledge on husbandry was also lacking. Goats would be tethered with no shelter from the sun nor from wind and rain at night. Foot trimming was not done, and deformed and overgrown feet were common.
Owners also had little concept over the need of water for animals. Water was scarce and carrying it from the well required substantial effort. Animals never had water during the night, and those tethered during the day would only be offered a bowl once, maybe twice. Dehydration was relatively common, and poor lactations were very common.
- Teach about body condition and nutrition.
- Teach about the signs of illness, how to do a health check, and what a healthy animal looks like. Treat animals that were sick and emphasise the importance of treating early.
- Teach and practically demonstrate foot trimming of goats.
- Teach about worming and provide worming treatment.
- Teach about neonate care, care of mothers and demonstrate bottle feeding.
- Teach about animal husbandry, living conditions and the five freedoms.
After taking the first 4 days to get to know the community and find out their troubles with their animals, I began to teach and visit houses. On the first weekend that I was in Uganda, we organised a lecture for the community and over 100 people turned up. I taught for 1 hour based around the leaflet I had made, which included what a healthy animal looks like, worming advice, foot trimming explanation and a practical demonstration, neonatal advice including a demonstration of bottle feeding and teaching about the 5 freedoms. Following that was a further 30 minutes of questions and answers followed by handing out of goat goody bags to goat owning families. The community was split into 4 groups and the leader of each group took the spare goody bags to the families who were unable to attend. I followed up on this, and all 100 goody bags for goat owners were handed out.
Over the next few weeks, Maurice and I left at sunrise every morning to visit houses. Animals are tethered throughout the night and then released to roam and graze by midday, so our plan was to work just the mornings with house visits but start very early so that we could visit every household in the community. Daily we saw between 6 and 14 houses, stopping to spend quality time at each, checking over their animals, discussing what could be improved and what was good, deworming and foot trimming the goats, and treating any problems. I ensured at every house, the owner would trim the goat’s feet in front of me and I would talk them through it.
The house visits were a major success. The main ailment that I came across was diarrhoea and weight loss, particularly in cows, however there were some cases of coughing goats, some cases of anaemia, a few cases of majorly deformed feet and hence abnormal gaits, a few cases of eye problems, and one case of lumpy jaw.
Comments from the community back to the leaders were entirely positive, mentioning they had learnt many things that will improve their animals, that they were pleased by the extent of the advice I could give them, and they were surprised that a girl could be so strong (there are very few women in Uganda that work as vets).
The households were incredibly hospitable and grateful and many gave me gifts such as eggs, small amounts of money (equivalent of 20p) and chickens as thank you gifts.
On the last weekend, World In Need had a donation to provide the community with a further 36 goats to those that were yet to have one. All 36 were bought from market on the Friday, checked over and dewormed in the afternoon, and then randomly allocated to people through a ballot on Saturday. Owners who received goats were overwhelmed and I interviewed a few after about what they will do with their goats. Comments included:
“This goat will provide for me an income when I am sick and too weak to work in the fields.”
“I am going to grow and breed this goat and sell the offspring for a few years. With the money I earn I am going to buy some cows to plough the land I live on so I can grow my own food.”
“The offspring from this goat, and the offspring from the offspring will be used so that I can actually afford my son’s dowry.”
No comments were made about growing the goat for food, as all goats donated through the give-a-goat scheme must be kept for breeding and milk and are not allowed to be slaughtered.
Even though I was just there for a short amount of time, Maurice is continuing the house visits in the area to continue treating and educating as needed as he himself has learnt a great deal too and will continue to pass that on. The education aspect of the project however is the most sustainable part as families have shown a real interest in caring for their animals and improving their lives and I hope what they have learnt will be passed on to future generations.
With my grateful thanks to VCF who gave a grant of £300 towards this trip