Billy and Grampa Goat have arrived in Burundi!
Read Grampa's next travel blog entry about his first time in Africa, the animals they're meeting, and how these goats are helping people be good neighbors to each other.
So this is Africa!
Early Saturday morning (so the sun told me—my body has no idea what time it is anymore), our plane landed in Burundi. We then drove northeast toward the borders with Rwanda and Tanzania to a small community known as Masasu Hill, where we’re visiting our second group of cousin goats on our trip around the world!
In Seattle, I’m used to my world colored in blue and green and a little white, sometimes gray. Here, the palette is green and red—forest and land—domed in a brighter blue than I expected. Beautiful!
And it’s so warm—feels like summer. After our week in the plains of central Mongolia, I can feel my bones loosening up, thawing a chill I hadn’t realized I’d carried with me until I felt it depart.
My grandkid Billy seems energized by the warmth, too. I’ve been wondering how traveling for the first time would affect us both, but the jetlag appears not to have fazed him at all. Which I prefer; I’ve had plenty of time to learn patience in my 17 years. Billy … not so much.
While Mongolia is the land of the Khans and holds a long history of armies and nomads, Burundi’s history is also fascinating but far more recent. In Mongolia, I could feel this slower pace of life and the weight of time; here in Burundi, it feels like time hasn’t become history yet. The land is still recovering, holding its breath before it fully believes that past events have truly passed.
Twenty-two years ago, Burundi fell into a civil war: it was rooted in tensions between groups of people, and it would last for twelve long years. I don’t know a whole lot about people and why they do the things they do, but goats tend to be communal creatures—with each other and often with other animals, too. In general, it sounds to me that civil war is the most extreme version of people not being good neighbors.
This was the story we were told on our drive out to Masasu Hill, so you can imagine how wonderful (and in a small way, surprising) it was to find the goats and people in this small agricultural community being great neighbors to each other!
We saw the first example of this neighborly attitude as soon as we arrived at Masasu Hill. Early in the day, the people take their cows out to pasture, and then later in the day they go out again with their goats (glad we didn’t miss it!). Cows are big, hungry animals and can very easily take over all of the best grazing spots, but they didn’t! They intentionally left plenty of prime grazing for the goats, knowing we were coming along next.
Later in the day, we learned that the people here are good neighbors, too. And you know the best part? It’s the goats that help make this happen!
I’m not sure why—maybe it’s the redness of the land, maybe it’s the kind of animals that used to live here—but the land in Burundi is poor. Not very fertile. So for a family like the one these goats help who are so closely tied to their land, animals are essential: without manure from their goats and other animals for fertilizer, they wouldn’t be able to grow enough food for their family.
When a family doesn’t have the food they need, they often have to go to their neighbors who have animals and beg them for food, they told us. This family knows what that’s like, so they decided to be proactive. They decided to be good neighbors: rather than wait for other people in their community run out of food, starve, and come ask for it, they began sharing their surplus goat manure! Now those other families can grow their own food, too.
Sure, they also have an abundance from their harvest, but they don’t believe in giving handouts of just the food. They’ve been in that position and don’t only want their neighbors to survive; they want them to be able to thrive!
The gift of goat manure may not sound like much, but here in Burundi it’s actually a big deal. That civil war I mentioned above was a big setback, and many people today still live in poverty, so being able to grow their own food is very helpful. Just two years ago in this community, more than half of the children were underweight.
Today, the number of underweight children here has already dropped to 25%. And that’s why having goats from World Vision’s Gift Catalog makes such a big difference. Goat milk helps feed people, and their manure helps the rest of their food grow better!
Goats are essential to the people that live here in Burundi, more helpful than I ever imagined! You can be helpful to a family, too: give a goat through World Vision!
Later this week, I'll tell you all about Chania and her family. She’s six, and their goats have helped them so much already. More about her in my next blog on Thursday! In the meantime, you can choose a child like her in Burundi to sponsor here.
*This post and characters are a work of fiction by Matthew Brennan.
Photos: 2015 Robert Coronado/World Vision