Success!!! My $3,500 USD project was fully funded and implemented. We delivered 48 goats (44 female and 4 male) to families on Banton Island. These families had their homes and livelihoods destroyed when Typhoon Nona hit just before Christmas last year. Now the people of Banton can slowly regain their status as a goat farming island increasing food security and economic development. Each recipient will return one female offspring from their adopted goat and our program will continue to expand even after I leave the Philippines. Here’s a look at the project:
Approaching Banton Island via banka (traditional Filipino bamboo boat) was a 2-3 hr boat trip with my two counterparts Ate Lettie and Sir Jay from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. The island is super mountainous with roads so steep I swear they top Baldwin Street in New Zealand (the current Guinness Book of World Records holder as steepest residential road). Jay brought his motorbike along on the boat ride so he could drive around once we arrived.
On May 18th we had an orientation program with all beneficiaries. The mayor of Banton (red shirt) gave opening remarks, I gave a speech in Tagalog about the project, and others educated the beneficiaries on the practice of raising goats.
“If female goats have only 2 nipples, what happens if they have 3 kids?” This query and others were addressed during our question and answer session following the program. Lastly, all participants signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) stating they agree to raise their goat and will return one female offspring after the first breeding. These MOAs were super official and required left and right thumbprints in addition to signature. Unfortunately, we misplaced the stamp pad so everyone scribbled on their thumbs with a pen and quickly stamped. Working as a Peace Corps Volunteer is an experience in creative solutions with limited resources.
How do you weigh a goat in the Philippines? If you want to hear a goat scream for dear life, this is a sure way to do so: tie it up and hang it upside down from a tree with a scale. The goats were priced based on total kilos, thus each one was strung up and weighed. The goat farmer (light pink shirt weighing goat) was also our driver in goat delivery. Banton island has fully cemented roads, however they are extremely narrow, meant for motorbikes not 4-wheel vehicles or sidecars. Sometimes passing people meant running so close to the edge that the wheel tire was partially hanging off! I held my breath and held the goats inside our little sidecar.
On one uphill a goat jumped out of the sidecar entirely! Luckily our driver was an expert and not only avoided running it over, but also kept the vehicle from running backwards down and off the cliffside. I quickly hopped out and heaved the goat back inside. We retied her quite a bit tighter. Keeping multiple goats inside a small cage, while flying full speed along narrow mountain roads is no small feat. I was constantly rescuing limbs protruding from their designated position.
The sun set and we were still not finished. My 2-man team and I proceeded to climb a mountain that night to visit a goat farmer at the top (photo above left). But the excitement and gratitude of the beneficiaries (above right) was well worth our efforts.
Check out the goats in their new homes (above). Throughout the entire island destruction was omnipresent even now 5 months months after the typhoon. The town shown above was the hardest hit barangay.