Day two in Gulu started with a visit to another one of our economic development groups in the Gulu district. This group, comprised of 30 HIV+ women and men, started a pig-rearing project following our February visit. With support from Sweet Sleep, a pigpen was built and five piglets purchased.
When we visited in February, we found the group to be warm, cheerful and welcoming, in spite of their difficult circumstances. Like our other groups, these people were struggling for basic survival. They had no significant or regular sources of income, meaning children were not able to go to school and meals were irregular, at best.
Today, the group was still warm and welcoming, greeting us with a gift of sodas, in a show of hospitality that is more common than you might imagine for people here struggling just to survive. We taught them to say “cheers” and clink their bottles together, which they found very funny. But at the same time, a somber mood covered the village today, as a member of the community had died the night before. About half of our group met with us, while the rest remained in another part of the village to mourn the death of a friend and neighbor. In spite of this sadness, the members of the group that we met with today spoke excitedly about their expectations for the pig project. The piglets are now about three months old, and should be ready for breeding when they reach eight months. There are four female pigs and one male. After a gestation period of about three months, each female is expected to give birth to between eight and twelve piglets. So, in about eight months, this group should go from five pigs to 40 or 50.
And while this is great news that should make a big difference in the lives of these people, what we’re learning on this trip is that projects involving livestock like pigs and goats are somewhat slow to develop and should be paired with village savings and loan opportunities so that individuals can support themselves with immediate relief through small-scale business, while the larger cooperative businesses develop.
This highlights for us the importance of trips like this, and follow-up with these groups.
Furthermore, input from the community leaders is critical to the success of these programs; they know details about their circumstances that we can’t possibly know.
Sometimes through experience, we see that adjustments must be made based on the unique needs of the communities in which we serve. But those adjustments help us tailor a solution that will effectively and sustainably end poverty for the members of these groups.
We’ve been blown away by the success stories we’ve been hearing this week. Businesses are thriving, meaning kids are going to school, meals are a regular part of the day, and communities are finding hope. We’ve also learned valuable insight into how to best attack poverty in Uganda and we’re encouraged to see the remarkable change these communities are experiencing.