Innovative projects for refugees, former child soldiers, and host communities in northern Uganda
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Mar 2014 03

Stifling heat leads to innovation in our groups

Posted in News

by Odong Charles and Arianna Watson

The dry season has hit northern Uganda; since November the weather has gotten increasingly hotter by the day. The high temperatures pose a threat to agricultural activities in northern Uganda, as crops and vegetables fight their way through the burning air. Farmers are busy harvesting what they have grown, but most new seedlings cannot be successfully planted until March. To counteract the difficult weather challenges and in order to sustain their income generation and food security, 20 GRG groups have taken up an exciting new livelihood project: livestock production and management. The innovation of the project is allowing group members to diversify their sales and food consumption whilst also enjoying the perks of a totally new venture.

SHOAT is our new way of helping manage the hot weather. That’s how GRG’s volunteer Livestock Officer Odong Charles refers to the species of livestock the groups will be engaging with. Far from a new unknown species, SHOAT training is simply the guidance in sheep and goat rearing (sheep + goat = shoat!). In addition to this, one group is also venturing into the production and management of pigs.

Training

During the training sessions, GRG group members have realized that they actually possess a lot more knowledge and wisdom on livestock than they initially thought. For this reason our interactive training sessions involve stimulating and sharing as well as providing additional knowledge. The sessions are becoming extremely popular amongst the groups.

Part of the training is helping groups realize that the right way to keep animals is actually not that different from the way humans live in their day-to-day family life. Some of our key training questions are:

“Human beings need a balanced diet, why should animals not?”

“Just like it is a taboo for a man to mate with his mother, or for a sister to mate with her brother, it is also so for your goats and sheep.”

“Housing is generally an essential need of a human, for shelter and protection. It is also so for your animals.”

Advice on how to improve the quality of their livestock through breeding and selection, good feeding and housing, disease control and prevention, animal health, and record keeping are the main topics of the day. Health tips on how to live and keep a healthy lifestyle are also included, making the projects all the more popular and grounded in practical real life situations.

Getting to the next level

Many GRG members have basic knowledge on livelihood management. If an animal is sick, for example, the members can tell by the animal’s standing rough fur. However, some members had trouble tackling the underlying issues of the sicknesses. Although this gap cannot be bridged within a month, the initial stages of the project have shown some great turn points in GRG members’ livestock knowledge.

The advantage of crossbreeding over inbreeding is also frequently referred to as one of the most interesting and crucial lessons taken from the GRG livestock training. Farmers have learned to avoid mating their closely related animals in order to steer clear of weak offspring, low milk produce from their goats, and unwanted genetic abnormalities. This way, the project aims to generate improved productivity for greater income.

As the groups are now busy constructing housing and looking for goats, sheep, or pigs in the local market, they are well on their way to seeing the project set off. “We are really interested in piggery, all our heart is in the project!” one group member tells us cheerfully as we meet them for a monthly update. Everybody is excited to move to the next step: purchasing and putting the knowledge in practice…

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