Goats offer hope in Uganda | TheUnion.com

Goats offer hope in Uganda

A new 36-minute video created by local 4-H youth will teach Batwa Pygmies living near Dr. Scott Kellermann’s hospital in Uganda how to raise goats for meat, milk and profit.

After living for generations as hunters and gatherers, the Batwa were forced to leave their rainforest, now a gorilla preserve, that had always sustained them, Kellerman said this week. Now, they are struggling to survive.

“They used to eat meat every day. Now their protein is almost nil. They’re starving,” said Kellerman, an area physician who is back in western Nevada County for the summer.

The video is part of a project to provide goats and training to the Batwa. The project will be funded with $80,000 from the Nevada City Rotary Club.

For start-up, two small goat herds will be provided to several clans for care. When the animals reproduce, the young can be sold to other nearby communities.

The money came from a $210,000 Health, Hungry and Humanity grant from Rotary International. The remaining $130,000 will provide the community with clean water and latrines, Kellermann said.

Goats will provide easy-to-digest milk for sick patients bedded at Kellerman’s hospital, the Bwindi Community Health Center, and help malnourished children develop stronger and more resilient bodies. Goats take less care and feeding then larger farm animals such as cattle.

“Goats give a higher return for their resource usage. They’re just a better bang for your buck,” said Rotary Club member Steve Sarantopoulos.

Agriculture has been slow to develop, because it’s a fairly new concept to the hunter gatherer society, Kellerman said.

But Kellermann believes the goat project could give hope to the people of Bwindi, whose average life span is 28 years, and who earn about $25 a year, according to a 2000 study, he said.

Active volunteers

Seven western Nevada County children, aged 12 to 15, spent six months creating the video, which involved researching a different culture and animal husbandry techniques far removed from those practiced at local farms.

For example, predators such as gorillas and lions threaten livestock in Africa. And the Batwa can’t drive to a feed store to pick up a bale of hay to feed their animals.

“I expanded my knowledge on subjects I didn’t know about,” said Alyssa Garrett.

Seven years ago, Kellerman first ventured to Uganda and established mobile health clinics. His project has expanded into a 75-bed hospital with 100 employees and three new schools with 600 children enrolled.

To prevent disease such as malaria and malnutrition, Kellerman and the many volunteers who support him are working to establish basic sanitation and access to health care. In the past 18 months, they have built 22 new homes. In the past year, they have distributed 10,000 bed nets, reducing death caused by malaria by 90 percent.

Since Kellerman began providing health care to Pygmy children under age 5, their death rates have been cut from 38 percent to 18 percent, Kellerman said.

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown,e-mail lbrown@theunion.com or call 477-4231.

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