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Suubi sustainability

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Posted Sep. 23, 2016

My first day at the Watoto Suubi Sustainability project was a Monday, and what a Monday it was.

Tucked away in a gorgeous, rural piece of land, the Suubi goat farm can be found at the bottom of the Watoto Suubi village. You're first greeted by the green Watoto sign and an impressive barn run by Patrick.

Patrick, the young, highly energetic manager, helped me hit the ground running. Literally. I am pretty sure I walk/jog 5 miles a day just following him around the goat farm.

Patrick oversees the entire operation at Suubi farm. This means twice-daily milking of an average of 62 goats at a time, three-times daily milking of a cow named Destiny, feeding and care for the entire herd of 97 goats, delegating tasks to the seven other workers at the farm, and of course the ever-so-important task of keeping records of milk production and sales. On top of these, there is also vehicle care, vaccinations and educational tours for visitors.

patrick teaching
Patrick takes time out of his busy day to teach about the farm and encourage Watoto children to participate in agriculture.

Impressed is an understatement. Following behind Patrick's brisk steps all day left me amazed. Not only did I have to slightly jog to keep up, he seemed to be in several places at once.

In my first day, I immediately got my hands dirty as we vaccinated and dewormed several goats. My days on the ranch back home quickly came in handy here. We checked fences and discussed our passion for agriculture. During the first hour of my arrival, a kid was born. Kid 66 is a Toggenburg breed, which is a common milking breed in Africa. She's a gorgeous dark brown with eye-catching white spots all over. At just an hour-new, she was already given a neck band and put into the records.

kid 66 with a neck tag
Patrick gives Kid 66 her neck tag, officially making her a part of the Suubi goat farm.

She was left for 48 hours to allow her to receive colostrum from her mother. After that time, her mother was moved to be milked and Kid 66 (affectionately named Lacey) now lives with the other 14 kids that are raised on the farm.

I was shown Destiny, the milk cow, whose milk feeds the kids. And I saw Patricia, a heifer that will produce milk for the kids after she gives birth to her first calf. Some of the cow milk also goes to the Mama homes in the Watoto Subbi village.

destiny and patricia
Destiny and Patricia enjoy the lush grass and beautiful weather at Suubi.

The goat milk produced on the farm is taken twice a day up to the babies home where children are cared for before they are moved into Mama homes around the village. I've had the pleasure of playing with these kids as well.

watoto child
Just one of the many precious children who receive milk from the Suubi goat farm.

I continued to follow Patrick as we checked milk production levels and combed the records to ensure that the farm is running smoothly.

We did several walks around from one end of the farm to another just keeping an eye on things. Sometimes, Patrick even has to put out fires.

Patrick rushing to put out a fire that was lit too close to the farm property.

We made a loop past the buck pen (billy goats) and checked on the forage that was being cut to feed the goats in the evening. Besides forage grown on location, the goats receive a ration of sunflower cake mill and cottonseed cake mill.

forage field
Checking over a future forage field that will be planted with elephant grass to feed the goats.

After the second round of milking and ensuring the goats were safe inside, I took a deep breath and reflected upon the fun but exhausting day. I asked myself, "How does Patrick do it?"

Turns out that I will soon find out. Monday, after my first tour around the farm, I was given my assignment for my next week at Suubi. I will be assuming the management position as Patrick takes leave.

I honestly find no words to explain how shocked I was to hear this. The task ahead seems monumental, but with a few days of training and some words of encouragement I will begin to try my hand at being Patrick for a week.

The best part even when times get a little tough: I can take a break and enjoy the views Suubi has to offer.

sunrise over suubi
Sunrise over Suubi village

And if that doesn't work cuddling Kid 66 will surely melt the stress away.

cuddling kid 66
It is safe to say that Kid 66 is my favorite.

About the Author

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.

Lacey Roberts
Noble-Watoto Fellow