The sun is already high in the sky as we set off through the ankle deep talcum powder dust. A woman holding a little basket with a small wet rag in the bottom leads us up the hill. Carefully wrapped in the little wet rag is a precious little eye drop bottle in which is an important clear liquid.
We walk up to the first house and where we are warmly met by kids with shy smiles each of who wants to shake our hand, and then turns around and giggles. The old “Koko” or grandmother sits on a small stool in front of her hut holding her grandchild. Two scrawny cows are eating the left over corn stover that has been brought in from the fields. No chickens are running around today and we greet everyone in turn.
and we are welcomed.
We proceed. While the woman deliberately unwraps the little bottle from the wet rag and unscrews the cap, a little boy climbs up into the chicken coop and grabs the first chicken. His mother takes it from him and holding it one drop of the precious liquid is squeezed into the chicken’s eye. We’re only there for two hours but we’re having fun and we’re having an amazing experience with people welcoming us into their homes.
Nearly 100% of unvaccinated chickens in Tanzania die every year from a virus known as Newcastle Disease. The nutritional impact of this on rural peoples is harrowing. Yet, a precious bottle of vaccination costs 2800/=, about the equivalent of $2.15, and can vaccinate 400-600 chickens.
We move on to the next house. The chickens are inside the hut and a small window provides amazing light as Nicol squeezes in the door opening, trying not to let any chickens out. She gets some amazing photographs and everyone is lining up to have their picture taken with a chicken.
The woman with the little bottle charges 50/=, the equivalent of 3.8 cents per chicken. Of course on our tour we pay the $1.30 it costs to vaccinate the 35 chickens our neighbors own. On this first round in the village, the 50/= will cover her costs but in the future, she may charge up to 100/= per chicken which will bring her income. Even at 50/= per chicken, she can make the equivalent of $30 per campaign. I’m reminded of the saying “give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime”. The knock-on effects of this simple vaccination program are really amazing.
We walk back to the house in silence. As a guide, providing a genuine cultural experience is difficult. We didn’t set out with that in mind, but it has turned out that way- and in a far more real way.
All photos by Alyssa Nicol www.nicolragland.com