29 May 2012

Turkey Time, Part One

In the last post, which, I know, was a long time ago, I mentioned a turkey project. It was an idea and plan that came from Okwakol John Michael, one of the volunteers I trained as a home-based HIV/AIDS counselor last year. He gathered a group of ten individuals from his village, Odwarat, some ten or fifteen kilometres from town, all of them living with HIV or AIDS, that would raise turkeys, keeping and feeding and breeding them to expand their flock, as an IGA, a way to make money to pay for antiretroviral treatment, or school fees for their children, or food, or whatever, along with more turkeys. A month or two after he first came to me with the idea, and after a lot of support from some wonderful people (you know who you are; embrace that warm-and-fuzziness that you're more than welcome to feel), we bought the first group of turkeys, seven females, and made plans to buy three males when I got back from a trip to Rwanda I had planned (which means we should be able to buy them this week, and stories from Rwanda will come shortly). We went together to Odwarat, north out of town and then east well off the main road down a narrow rutted dirt track, flooded over with massive puddles where it wasn't covered with five or six inches of loose sandy dirt, to where there was nothing to be seen but the occasional handful of huts interspersed between fields of sorghum and millet and cassava, to the home of the woman whose name I forgot who had turkeys for sale, stopping on the way to meet one of the group members and its treasurer. She showed us into the small hut, barely seven feet across, where she kept seven turkeys. They negotiated over the price, agreed on four of them, then we went back outside where they herded together three more from between the legs of a handful of cows and the trunks of orange trees. The sale complete, Okwakol took me down another narrower dirt path to his home, a couple huts of and a small, not-yet-finished square brick house and a mango tree in the middle of the compound under which his white-haired and smiling mother sat on a mat shelling a pile of groundnuts, to show me the turkey house the group had constructed, another small hut, the door latched and bolted with a shiny new gold padlock. He smiled and laughed and talked to me in way more Ateso than I could understand, but it was obvious --as it already was in the fact that he was wearing his best, shirt buttoned up to the collar, trousers pressed, grey blazer clean and smart-- that he was happy and grateful and hopeful and proud and the feeling was mutual.

Okwakol, checking out the turkeys.

Four of the birds he decided on.

Price negotiations.

Rounding up the other three turkeys.

Our turkey lady. (She was smiling and gregarious the whole time, Ugandans just don't smile for pictures.)

Okwakol, outside of the newly constructed turkey house, at his home. (He wasn't ready for the picture, so I was able to catch a smile.)

Okwakol and his mother, because she asked.

So, there it is, part one. It made for a pretty great morning, and hopefully it'll make for a pretty great, and long-lasting, source of income for the group, thanks again to some awesome people. Another update, more pictures, when we get the last three turkeys, hopefully in the next few days.