45 Years of Selling Roasted Goat Testicles

Meet Matia Okiror, 69, who for 45 years has been living off goat testicles. Yes, goat testicles.

Okiror’s story is an interesting one that will make some frown yet to him and others, it is a business with a large clientele in Gulu.

For clarity, in many parts of Uganda, animal testicles will certainly find themselves on the rubbish pit but not in Kanyogoga ‘A’ village.

Okiror wakes up as early as 5am to comb for goat testicles from one slaughter place to another. At about 8am, he retreats to his kiosk in Kanyogoga ‘A’, Bardege Division in Gulu Municipality, to prepare what he has gathered.

On a chilly Tuesday morning, a few minutes past 8am, I meet Okiror at his kiosk in Kanyogoga ‘A’ village built out of papyrus reeds.

He is a man of average build whose body frame suggests he still has enough energy to go about his routines.

Inside the kiosk, Okiror sits on a folding chair as he slices through testicles and other cattle products he harvests from different slaughter areas.

In one corner of the kiosk is a charcoal stove complete with a net-like wire mesh where the roasting is done. Just nearby is a table that Okiror uses as the cutting platform.

The dusty room looks untidy for a roasting place with jerrycans, a bench, plastic containers, source pans and plates, among other things thrown around haphazardly.

“You are welcome my friend,” Okiror greets me with a flashy smile that cuts into his wrinkled face before morphing into a receding grey hairline. Smoke and hissing sounds of burning fat fill the air in an area surrounded by rickety drinking joints and sparse shops that open as early as 8am.

Customers here call the testicles “Irish”, perhaps because of its resemblance to the shape of irish potatos or for lack of a better and decent name.

“I decided to specialise in roasting and selling goats’ testicles because they have a ready market,” he says, taking us back to as far as 1971 when he started the business.

Joining the business

“I started with selling roasted meat but my customers requested that I begin roasting “Irish” [goat testicles] because they are delicious when taken with waragi and malwa,” he says.

“I used to do it as a side job but in 2000, I took it as a full time job after retiring,” the former potter and cleaner at Gulu Municipal Council, says.

In the early days, Okiror would get most of these testicles at no cost but people in the slaughter areas realised that he was making money out of them.

Therefore they started selling them to him. He buys each testicle at Shs300 and sells a roasted one at Shs1,000. On a regular day, he sells substantial amounts that, on average, earn him between Shs150,000 and 200,000.

This, he says, is more profitable and way cheaper than other types of meat whose market is not only small but highly competitive.

However, on bad days, sales can fall as low as Shs70,000. Okiror, who many will struggle to tell his real name, is popular among residents who describe him as a hardworking and trustworthy man.

“I came from Teso [sub region],” he says, explaining that his fluency in Luo and Swahili made him blend easily with locals in places such as Katakwi District where most of the population is predominantly non-Itesot speaking.

Achievements

Although many will frown at the mention of eating goat testicles, Okiror can only sing praises for the gold he has found in them.

“I have built a house, bought cattle and goats from this business,” he says, adding that he has also educated one of his children up to Makerere University selling goat testicles.

Okiror started roasting meat in 1971 but even Uganda’s turbulent history could not take him out of business.

“I remained here when other people were running away for safety. Although the wars have affected my business, I have always pressed on even when it requires me to start all over again,” he says.

Challenges

Matia Okiror admits to grappling with some challenges, especially when it comes to getting enough supplies for his customers.

“On days when I cannot get enough testicles, I roast cow tongue, pancreas and cow breasts. However, most of my customers do not appreciate them,” he says.

“Sometimes, few goats are slaughtered at the abattoir so you end up having less supplies and opting for other alternatives that are not popular with my customers.”

Apart from low supplies, there are clients who don’t want to pay their debts, which he says has a serious impact on his business. “Some people just refuse to pay, which puts me in losses,” he says.

By Alice Adikin & Stephen Okello

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Source: The Monitor

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