A broken goat, a massive rainstorm and one death.
That's what I had to work with on my first day of managing the Suubi goat farm. During the weekend leading up to my week of management, I prayed hard that the week might be easy. Apparently that's not what was in the plan, and honestly I am OK with it.
I arrived to my new job to find that the workers at the farm weren't as eager to get to work that morning. It is important that the cows and goats stay on a tight schedule at the farm, and my first task as manager was keeping the workers accountable to this schedule.
I have taken leadership courses and have had experience being the person in charge, but never in an international setting. The challenge of guiding workers that don't understand what you are saying is a task I have adapted to quickly in this line of work. I learned that facial cues and a stern tone go a long way. Leadership skill development was inevitable this week, and I'll forever be thankful.
We picked up the pace and were only about five minutes behind schedule. That I could live with, but there were many more challenges coming my way.
Denis records tag numbers to track milk production.
Each goat is hand milking in the morning and evening.
After the 7 a.m. milking and pens were cleaned, a massive storm rolled through Suubi. Lightening was striking feet away from the pens, and the rains echoed in the barn making communication more of a challenge.
The rain put a halt on much-needed work, and eventually made a young kid become too cold. It grew weak as my heart sank wishing there was more that I could do. Taking it inside, I made my rounds and found a goat that was limping. It was apparently hit by another goat and broke its front leg. I immediately jumped into action by getting the attention of a worker to find something to set its leg. Denis, an amazing worker, found an old broom handle and some ties keeping supplies together. He chopped up the handle and created a splint. We worked in the rain to set the leg, and prayed for the best outcome.
Denis chops an old broom handle to create a splint.
The broken goat wasn't too happy about its new leg brace.
Only after getting the morning tasks done did I realize just what I had accomplished. In the first four hours of management, I overcame my fears and dove right into solving problems. I just did what needed to be done.
Those first few hours on Monday prepared me for anything that came my way the rest of the week. Had my prayers for an easy week been answered, I would have missed out on a golden opportunity. A chance to develop my skills, conquer some fears and eventually develop some relationships with my co-workers. I transitioned from feeling like I was just barely managing to manage to feeling like a capable, confident leader.
As I became more comfortable, the week became easier. The broken goat can now walk as if nothing happened. The rains have let up, and the weather is beautiful. We lost two kids, but gained seven more. Five of which were complete surprises, but I've learned to roll with it.
A new arrival rests.
Newborn twins that were a surprise find one morning.
The #bluecow meets some of the new kids.
I learned to do my part and pull my weight so that the other workers can do their jobs.
I realized how important each person is to the Suubi goat farm. Without my co-workers, my job would have been impossible. I also feel like my newfound confidence allowed them to be confident in me. I found it easier to suggest new methods or correct tasks, and the responses were positive.
Gorret bottle feeds a newborn twin.
On top of managing the farm, I got a chance to follow in Patrick's footsteps and teach some visitors about the farm and milking process. Mr. Henry's senior 4 class visited last Wednesday, and I spent about an hour explaining everything they saw and answering questions. I was able to teach students about agriculture, and I can only hope that I inspired some to dig deeper.
It was a great boost that I used to finish out the week.
Mr. Henry's fun, energetic class poses with the #bluecow.
Records were updated, milk was distributed and invoices were sent out. My co-workers and I seemed to synchronize into a well-oiled machine. I did my rounds as kids were fed, cows were milked and waters were filled. We laughed and talked during the milking times and waved each other goodbye until the next morning.
Goats on the milking stanchion for the evening milking.
I have even more respect for Patrick now that I have had a chance to walk in his shoes. I really enjoyed getting to know those who spend every day working to provide milk to the babies and mammas at Watoto Suubi. Most of all, I am honored that I have been able to be a very small part in this sustainable agriculture project. My job was simple: to fill some big shoes for only a week. I was so happy to do it.
Even with all the struggles, the kids always put a smile on my face.
Lacey Roberts is a 2016 Noble-Watoto Fellow working at Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. Roberts is from Gail, Texas, and has one semester left in the master of international agriculture program at Oklahoma State University, where she focuses on international development and extension education.