The Mystery of Suubi Goat Farm
"Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer."
— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Nancy Drew would have been proud of me last week. And to be honest, I now have a lot more respect for the fictitious teenage detective.
Checking the forage on the farm.
The week began with an extensive walk through all of the forage fields at the farm. Different fields are checked each day. It's important to observe the progress of planting, weeding and harvesting of the fields. It's also imperative to be sure that nobody is stealing forage or using the land to graze their own animals. Patrick has had problems in the past with people illegally grazing their cows in elephant grass that's meant for the goats. After all was deemed well and accounted for, we began our true detective work: sorting through the records.
Storms throughout the week kept Patrick and me inside the barn sorting through records.
A new month at Suubi goat farm means compiling data into different reports that must be submitted to summarize the previous month. This, coupled with rainy weather and an extra brain, meant updating records and inventory sheets that had been ignored for months. Patrick and I began with working on a report of the month's sales, which meant hunting down several different receipt books that had been misplaced. Next, we worked on inventory, which proved to be the real challenge of the week.
Inventory is kept of all of the goats at the farm. The bucks are easy to manage since there are only three. But goat kids are constantly being born or sold, and a wave of sickness has recently killed several does and kids. This makes accounting for all of the remaining goats a challenging process. Inventory for the does went pretty smoothly. Our records showed we were supposed to have 70 does when we really only had 69. But then Patrick remembered a doe had died a few days before, and the death had never been recorded. After this discovery, and the death now recorded, all of the does were accounted for. Little did I know, the process of doing inventory for the kids would prove to be much more complicated.
Trying to come up with an accurate inventory list proved to be extremely difficult.
The inventory sheet for the kids had not been updated since early March, so there was a lot of work that needed to be done. After spending a couple of hours combing through kidding records, sales receipts and death records, we finally had all of the kids accounted for. Or at least we thought we did. It was stressful to realize that our inventory sheet reflected that Suubi Goat Farm currently housed 18 kids, but in reality, only thirteen precious baby goats are actually on the farm (cue the suspenseful music).
It took four hours of digging through piles of paper, searching through a million Excel documents, and picking Patrick's memory to find that the death of three kids had never been recorded and one kid had been sold. Alas, there was only one kid left to be accounted for. And sadly he too died, but the record of his death had been lost somewhere in the mountain of information.
Every day I gain a new appreciation for what Patrick does and an increasing desire to help out in whatever way I can. Managing a farm is a lot like trying to juggle while going across a tightrope on a unicycle. It's doing a million things at one time, and sometimes trying to sort one tiny detail out of those million. It takes a ton of dedication, commitment to excellence, and passion for seeing life flourish. It's completely frustrating but incredibly beautiful at the same time. It's an obsession. And when you couple it with the beauty found in Uganda, everything else pales in comparison.
Sarah Weiss is a 2017 Noble-Watoto Fellow working at Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. Weiss is from Brenham, Texas, and has one semester left in the master of international agriculture program at Oklahoma State University. She focuses on education, extension and outreach.