May 22, 2013 - 9:05 am
Habari! (our Swahili hello!)
We wrote this blog while sitting at our hotel in the beautiful city of Morogoro (we specify because where and when we write and where and when we are able to post may be different). Morogoro is situated approximately 193km southwest of Dar es Salaam (Dar) where we began our Tanzanian adventure. Perhaps we’ll start our story from the beginning for you…
We (Jodi, Adam and Kellie) arrived in Dar after approximately 17 hours total in the air. We encountered numerous interesting situations along the way. These included: Ethiopian Air’s “get your own drink policy” and Addis Ababa airport (such an unusual airport experience!). After landing in Dar it was refreshing to have our feet on solid ground. It was here we met Dr. Angaza Gimbi, our chaperone for the next two weeks. Gimbi (as we call him) is a veterinarian who works with the Open University of Tanzania and has been involved with the Tanzanian Poultry Project since its inception.
Over the last five days we have visited the Open University of Tanzania, Muhimbili University School of Public Health and Social Sciences, Muhimbili National Hospital, and Sokoine University of Agriculture (which includes the veterinary school of Tanzania) and spoke with many individuals who have lent ideas to the project and added some perspective for the future. Being in Tanzania and speaking with locals about the project has made us all very excited to arrive in Ilima and get to work on the project.
A taste of what we’ve experienced so far
Food and Drink
We’ve been incredibly spoiled in Dar and Morogoro with delicious hotel and restaurant food. Morogoro has been especially wonderful with an awesome selection of Indian food. Other than bottled water, which we drink a lot of, we’ve got to try four of the countries selection of beer. We’re divided on the best with Jodi choosing Kilimanjaro, Adam backing Safari, and Kellie liking Serengeti.
Hot, hot, hot! Although it is the rainy season, the pouring rain happens once every few days and last for maybe 20 minutes. The rest of the time we experience bright, beautiful sunshine and approximately 29 degree heat.
The sun rises at 7am and sets at 7pm – pretty much on the dot! The pace here is much slower than Canada; appointment times are flexible and it appears that only motorcycle drivers and tour buses are in a rush to go anywhere.
Everyone we’ve met in the last five days has been extremely welcoming and patient with our broken, poorly pronounced Swahili. We’ve had the honour of being invited into Gimbi’s home to share lunch with his family, as well join in dinner with them at the nearby Arc Hotel. One afternoon, we travelled to the Rock Garden in Morogoro and got to play cards and learn our Swahili numbers with Gimbi’s daughters – they won each game but we came out with 1-10 down pat!
So far the project is more ears-on than hands-on because we’re still making the journey to Ilima and Lubanda villages in Rungwe district. The discussions with everyone about the project has made us very excited to finish our journey and start our work!
We have already touched on our 17 hours in flight – the ‘planes’ in our title, but we should explain the rest of it. There are no trains in Tanzania. There are tracks, but nothing more than that…and they need them! We wish we knew all the details but we’re not experts. Apparently, they had trains and they frequently break down so now everything and everyone is moved by car on the main roads to the cities. This many trucks and cars on the roads (which are often two lanes only) can lead to some scary situations (which we’ve seen first hand…unfortunately). However, despite the other scary drivers, we’ve been very lucky to have Gimbi offer to drive us. With two day long road trips, it’s nice to have Gimbi leading the way!
Swahili word of the day
We thought it would be interesting to share a word with everyone – you can learn along with us! This blog’s word choice is: Karibu. Karibu translates to welcome. It is said both at your arrival (“you are warmly welcome here”) and upon your departure (“you are more than welcome back again”) from the places you visit.
December 17, 2012 - 10:30 pm
In Uganda, women are limited in their property and ownership rights. Goats are one of the few animals that women can own. For women and children, many of whom have lost husbands and fathers to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Vets Without Borders Uganda Goat Pass-on Project is providing an essential way for women to make a living and support their children through school.
Janet lives in Mbarara, Uganda. In 2008, she became the proud owner of a dairy cross goat thanks to her participation in the VWB/VSF Goat Pass-On Project, which helps to improve the health and well-being of Ugandan families. The program model provides a pregnant goat to a family and they keep first born goat kid, return the second born kid to the program for another household. With each additional goat kid born, the family can decide whether to keep the goat or use it to take out a micro-loan to use for school fees, medical bills or to start a business. This photo was taken in the summer of 2012, where Janet is proudly holding the latest goat kid addition to the family. For the last five years your donations have helped Janet to become a para-veterinarian, a model farmer for her community, secretary for the Goat Pass-On Group and Chairperson for the Micro-loans Group enabling her to better provide for her children and their future.
When you donate to Vets without Borders, give an eGift, or buy a goat tote bag or 2013 Calendar, proceeds go to programs like this, and people just like Janet, around the world.
You can help create healthy lives for animals, people, and the planet.
Send your eGifts today and spread the love a little further.
To learn more about Janet and the Goat Pass-On Project, watch this video.
August 26, 2012 - 7:14 am
Sadly, my time in Tanzania has come to an end. It had definitely been an adventure, a challenge, and an incredible learning experience.
Some of my last few weeks with the project were spent building coops for some of the older farmers of the village (mostly elderly widows). The village chair, James, and my two interpreters Baraka and Juma, were a huge help with this endeavor and did all the hard work by cutting bamboo for hours each day. I did my part tying bamboo pieces, digging holes, and holding posts while James nailed pieces together. The farmers were incredibly appreciative and we were rewarded with many a delicious meal! We’ve done a lot of teaching over the course of the summer so it was a nice change of pace to accomplish something so tangible.
Last month we had a three-day training session for those chosen to be teacher farmers in Lubanda and we had asked them to choose their students. A few weeks ago I met with these students in groups and discussed the requirements for participation in the program (they must have chickens, must be willing to build a coop, must attend weekly meetings with their teacher, must vaccinate their chickens, and must keep records) and the importance of these requirements. Then I recruited field extension officers Henry and Gaga to help show the teachers how to vaccinate chickens. We got some vaccine and practiced on chickens belonging to one of the teachers before the teachers started vaccinating their students’ chickens. The teachers really liked the hands-on training and I was also happy to do my first-ever poultry vaccination!
I said my good-byes to the teachers of Lubanda and had one last meeting with the teachers of Ilima, during which I thanked them and said goodbye. But the farmers of Ilima “weren’t going to let me leave quietly.” They had a big send-off party for me two days later. Field extension officers Henry and Gaga, Juma the interpreter, Kibona the Village Executive Officer, the teachers of Ilima, and I gathered in the village “movie theater” (a small building with a tv) and had a feast of wali (rice), nyama (meat), Chinese (a spinach-like leaf), and soda. We watched Bongo Flava music videos, exchanged gifts, and thanked one another. The teachers gave Shona and I each a kanga (fabric worn by women as dresses, shawls, and/or head scarves). Along with prints of flowers or animals, these kangas have messages written in Kiswahili. Ours say “ Kila Muomba Mola Hakosi Fungu Lake.” I learned what that meant, but then totally forgot.
I think that Shona and I have accomplished a great deal this summer in the villages of Ilima and Lubanda. We’ve established an in-country support system for the farmers with the help of poultry expert Chris Chalangi and field extension officers Henry and Gaga. We’ve also successfully expanded the Ili ma Poultry Project to the neighboring village of Lubanda, built coops for elderly farmers in Ilima, and revised the vaccination system in Ilima.
Along the way I’ve learned a lot about Tanzania and its people. There are 120 different tribes in Tanzania, each with its own language. I’ve gotten to know so many Nyakusa people in the villages and I now know enough of the Kinyakusa language to make the necessary 10-minute long greetings. I’ve also met people from the other tribes in my travels and learned a bit about their cultures. I’m still working on my Kiswahili and hoping to be fluent sometime in the future. But I think that by far my greatest accomplishment has been learning how to cook like a Tanzanian!
But let’s not forget about the chickens! Coming from a mainly small animal background my knowledge of small-holder poultry farming was very minimal prior to this internship. I know Shona and I were the ones doing the teaching, but I think we ended up learning quite a bit ourselves about poultry management! Veterinarians have so many different career options – small animal, large, mixed, wildlife, research, academia, public health, the list goes on and on. But no matter what your interest is in veterinary medicine, I think it’s important to have a variety of different experiences and that those experiences ultimately make you a better veterinarian.
Lastly, and most importantly, I’ve learned what a powerful tool teaching can be. I was a bit hesitant about the Ilima Poultry Project at first because of its lack of hands-on work with animals. Alternately, the aspect of working so closely with people drew me to the project. Shona and I did not have the opportunity to do much with the chickens, and our work was not as tangible as treating a cow for mastitis, for example, but we did do a lot of teaching. And teaching helps people help themselves – it empowers them. If what we’ve taught these farmers about poultry management helps them raise more chickens, healthier chickens, improves their diet, and provides them with much needed cash by the selling of chickens and/or eggs then I think that the project is a success.
For the past few weeks I’ve been experiencing a reverse culture shock being in the much more touristy part of the country. I’ve enjoyed the delicious food and beaches of Zanzibar, made it to the summit of Kilimanjaro, and have seen hyenas and lions from only inches away in Serengeti and Ngorogoro. I’ve also been lucky enough to meet some really cool people along the way. But although I don’t so much miss the bucket showers and nightmarish public transportation of rural southern Tanzania, I do miss my Ushirika housemates and the farmers of Ilima and Lubanda. We’ve only just begun in Lubanda, but I can tell that these farmers are a great group of people so excited to learn. And my Ushirika housemates as well as the farmers of Ilima have been like family to me during my stay in Tanzania. This country has become like a second home these past three and a half months. I’ve met so many incredible people and I hope to come back and visit sometime soon.
I’d like to thank CFIA, Iams, and Merck for their financial support as well as my friends and family who donated money towards the project. Your generous donations have made a significant positive impact on the lives of farmers in Ilima and Lubanda. I would also like to thank our Ushirika family for giving Shona and I a place to stay, showing us how to cook like real Tanzanians, and worrying about us whenever we travelled anywhere or got sick. And of course thanks to the farmers of Ilima and Lubanda for being so generous and welcoming!
August 11, 2012 - 2:49 am
It has been a while since my last blog posting and so much has happened since.
At the beginning of July, the weather in Patagonia was harsher than it had ever been. The icy wind made it hard for us to be outside for long periods of time, but the sun was always shining. The video equipment was often uncooperative with the freezing temperatures and bright sun and we had to repeat a lot of our films. What was surprising was that the dogs did not seem mind the weather at all! When all I wanted to do was stay inside and curl up by a fire, the dogs were playing in the snow, or following children with sleds. It made filming a pleasure, and I developed a lot of respect for the dogs’ tolerance to the weather conditions.
Between filming, we often found refuge from the wind in the homes of generous families, where we were fed pastries and drank coffee. Without the hospitality of the people in the community, I don’t know if we would have been able to accomplish as much as we had. I couldn’t say thank you enough.
Even with all the struggles with our equipment, our team was still able to finish recording all of the dogs in our study a week earlier than we anticipated, which gave us a bit of time to go on a vacation in Argentina. When we returned from our trip, refreshed and ready to endure the cold a bit longer, we started collecting our last set of blood samples. It felt like a trip down memory lane. I was able to say goodbye to the dogs I had followed around for many hours, and to the owners that were so helpful all the way through. During filming, we had to be silent and could not disturb the dog’s behaviors, so it was awesome to finally interact with the dogs whose personalities we got to know so well.
During our walks through the communities to collect blood, we came across many people who were more aware of the work we were doing with the dogs than the beginning of the project. People were inquisitive as to why we had been running around after dogs over the past three months, and were more receptive to our efforts to help control the dog population than they had been previously. It was rewarding to see that our time spent in Patagonia was well perceived by the community.
At the end of our trip, everyone who had participated in the project was recognized for their efforts by the municipality of Puerto Natales. Veterinary students from across Chile that gave their time to help sterilize, vaccinate, and microchip the dogs were also there. This was the first time we were able to meet them, and it was great to see everyone that made this project possible.
Along with the many thanks from the city and dog owners, the municipality organized a tour for us of the local national park, Torres del Paine. Pilar, who works in ecotourism for the city, spent the entire day showing us the best the park had to offer, which included bright blue icebergs and world renowned mountain ranges. We hiked for a few hours and had a great picnic. The weather was great and seeing the beautiful landscape was a perfect end to our trip in Patagonia.
After many days of traveling, I am back in Canada. I didn’t know three months could go by so fast. Although it is great to see friends and family again, it is difficult to say goodbye to the people and places that have made Patagonia feel like home. I am so honored and grateful to have had the opportunity to volunteer with Veterinarians Without Borders. This organization has devoted so much time and energy to us as students and to our placements throughout the world. I am inspired by the dedication of everyone working at VWB, and I believe my summer with VWB has solidified my goals in pursuing a career in public health. As my future as a veterinarian unfolds, I am excited to work with organizations like VWB again, where I can be part of a team to help develop sustainable solutions to global health problems.
Until next time,
August 4, 2012 - 7:00 am
Where does the time go? One day I’m being lead around Nepal on a tour without realizing it, the next I’m saying goodbye to the extraordinary
staff and volunteers of the KAT centre and on a flight to Delhi. So much has happened since my last blog it is hard to keep track. The KAT centre is currently in “crisis mode.” The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) sadly, as of this fiscal year, has stopped providing (significant) financial support due to a change in policy. WSPA will now be focusing its efforts on more large scale government work. Furthermore, some of the full time staff at the centre recently went on strike demanding new policies, and leaving volunteers to provide for the animals (aside from feeding). Cathie, myself and some other volunteers recently spent time at the Saturday market, an area which mostly targets ex-pats, spreading awareness and attempting to raise funds for the centre.
It is so easy for us to focus on the overwhelming issue of lack of funds. And it should be. The fact is, the KAT centre currently only has enough funding to run for three more months. Some long term volunteers are frantically strategizing ways to come up with the money, and all donations help. What gets overlooked, or forgotten, are the day to day success stories. Lately we have adopted out three in-house dogs and successfully rehabilitated eight more. Two dogs (Johnnie and Sweetie) that came in over a month ago with serious spinal injuries and a poor prognosis were released last week with a clean bill of health. It was amazing watching them recover with the help of vet medicine and homeopathy. As well, following the strike, our two long term leg fracture patients were released as well as many other hairless, mange – turned luscious coat dogs. The recoveries these animals are able to make, if someone just gives them some time and care, is remarkable. Animals come in with massive wounds festering with maggots and a week or two later trot out looking for food and their companions. In Poland they say, “It heals like on a dog.” And I believe it.
These next few months will be crucial for the survival of the KAT centre. If the staff can settle their differences and therefore permit efforts to be focused on proper fundraising, KAT’s future can be bright. As the leaders in Animal Birth Control and treatment in Nepal, KAT has the potential to further reduce the stray dog population, educate the future of Nepal, and even expand to a second or third location. However, if staff issues remain and proper funding is not received the future looks grim. I urge readers to make even small donations. However, down the line I believe KAT will require a larger, corporate sponsor to thrive.
Over the past three months I’ve learned more about veterinary medicine, shelter medicine, life and humility then all my education combined. I also believe I have provided the KAT centre assistance in every way I could. Sometimes the staff and volunteers needed a laugh more than anything, and I did my best to help ease the tension when applicable. I will greatly miss everyone involved at the KAT centre, especially the children that lived in the attached home. I had the pleasure of taking these children to the cinema one day, and watched them marvel at the shear size of the building and play for hours on the “moving staircases”. I think I may have enjoyed myself more than they did.
My time with VWB has gone by in a blur and I loved every second of it. VWB makes an investment in us students. They send us across the globe to provide help bettering communities for animals and people. We do are absolute best to provide said help, and in doing so, learn more than we could ever imagine. For this, I could not be more grateful. I have made connections here that will last a life time. And, if I’m lucky, I hope to return to Nepal one day. Thanks to everyone I met and all the departure gifts. Your notes were hilarious and heart warming. I am in Manali, India now at a battery powered internet cafe during a power outage. I will be here for a few days then I will take a 22 hour bus or jeep to Leh, Ladahk.
All the best,
July 18, 2012 - 6:42 pm
Le blog a été un peu négligé dernièrement, mais en faisant un résumé nous avons participé à la journée de défense des droits des enfants africains qui a lieu le 16 juin. Il y avait plusieurs activités organisées par la FAOC (notre partenaire local, Fondation for Orphaned Children) telles qu’une parade avec de la musique produite par les élèves d’une des 4 écoles invitées, des poèmes, de la danse et de la peinture. Nous avons organisé deux jeux. Le premier était de nous mettre dans une boîte de carton avec un trou et les couleurs d’une cible autour du visage pour que les enfants nous lancent des éponges mouillées. Le jeu a été apprécié par les enfants, puisqu’ils riaient énormément, cependant certains sont de très bon lanceurs et je voyais parfois de la panique dans les yeux de Scott et Steve qui étaient dans les boîtes (moi je prenais des photo!). Ensuite il y a eu des piniatta remplies de bonbons, ce qui était plus compliqué à organiser entre autre parce que les enfants désiraient les bonbons avec trop d’enthousiasme et qu’ils ne respectaient pas la distance sécuritaire par rapport à la piniatta lorsqu’un autre participant s’approchait pour la frapper avec un bâton les yeux bander.
Nous avons aussi organisé une journée d’entrainement pour les paravets de tous les villages. Nous étions satisfaits des compétences qu’ils possédaient. Ils savaient très souvent quand administrer un vermifuge, des antibiotiques et traiter contre les tiques. Nous avons faits des cas cliniques et nous avons revus certaines notions comme le traitement d’un abcès et l’importance d’un abri propre pour les chèvres. Les paravets étaient très enthousiastes et contrairement à plusieurs autres réunions, personne ne dormait. Ils ont même insisté pour avoir plus de formation au cours de l’été. Quelques jours après nous avons eu de la rétroaction de la part d’une paravet qui disait que tous les paravets en général étaient très motivés depuis la journée de formation et qu’ils travaillaient fort. Cela nous a donné l’idée à Steve et à moi d’acheter des vélos pour les paravets parce qu’ils éprouvent toujours certaines difficultés de transport. Le paravets sont déjà motivés. Plusieurs se disent très contents de leur nouveau rôle (depuis qu’ils sont paravets) dans leur village. Ils ont plus de considération de la part des autres villageois et cela revenait dans les témoignages de chaque paravet que nous avons interrogé. Peut-être que s’ils avaient toutes les ressources nécessaires pour faire leur travail et que nous pouvions remédier au problème de transport, nous pourrions améliorer significativement la santé générale des chèvres dans les villages. Cependant, en Ouganda les femmes ne font pas de vélo, mais selon les travailleurs de la FAOC c’est tendance culturelle pourrait être renversée… Cette option reste à évaluer.
Après la journée d’entrainement nous avons commencé à préparer des journées de vaccination pour tous les villages. Cette année nous pouvons vacciner contre la brucellose pour la première fois. Ceci étant dit, ceci double le coût relié à la vaccination, ce qui veut dire que les villageois devront dépenser environ 90 cents (2000 shillings ougandais) pour vacciner chaque chèvre. Déjà, plusieurs trouvent le coût trop élevé. Nous avons vacciné environ 80 chèvres dans un des 18 villages. La vaccination de toutes les chèvres dans tous les villages représente un travail considérable qui pourra être effectué par les paravets dans le futur.
Nous avons aussi préparé un questionnaire que les travailleurs de la FAOC remplissent avec les bénéficiaires. Ce questionnaire nous aidera à évaluer l’impact économique de l’attribution de chèvres. De plus, nous essayons d’établir un lien entre les soins attribués aux chèvres par les bénéficiaires (vaccins, vermifugation, technique de régie etc.) et le succès de leur entreprise. Nous voulons aussi connaitre la motivation de bénéficiaires face au projet, c’est–à-dire s’ils entrevoient la possibilité de faire plus d’argent en reproduisant leurs chèvres et en investissant dans des vaccins d’autres soins pour leurs animaux.
Nous avons également acheter, vacciner et distribué 28 chèvres aux bénéficiaires qui étaient prêts a en recevoir.
La semaine dernière nous somme retournés au lac Bunyoni pour nous reposer et nous avons été rejoins par Scott, Christy, Nicole, Stefanie et Stephan qui débutaient leur safari pour leur dernière semaine en Ouganda. Cette rencontre était une surprise. Nous avions fait nos adieux la journée précédente et ne pensions plus nous revoir après ces deux mois passés ensemble. Le climat paisible du lac Bunyoni nous a donné l’idée de suivre nos amis jusqu’au parc Queen Elizabeth où nous avons passé trois jours en compagnie du Dr. Siefurt, un vétérinaire qui travaille sur la faune en Ouganda depuis environ 30 ans. Il enseigne aussi à l’université de Kampala. Nous avons retracé une lionne et un léopard à l’intérieur du parc grâce à des colliers émetteurs que Dr. Siefurt avait posés sur ces animaux dans le passé. La technique était assez efficace. Par exemple, nous avons trouvé un léopard qui se trouvait à environ 40 km de notre point de départ en environ 2 heures. Le but est d’évaluer les mouvements de ces animaux et d’en trouver les raisons. Aussi, Dr. Siefurt tentait de trouver une solution afin d’éviter que les lions mangent les chèvres des paysans, mais aussi afin d’éviter que les paysans empoisonnent les lions.
Ensuite nous sommes allés dans un autre parc national, le parc de Kibale qui est réputé pour contenir une population très dense de chimpanzés. Nous avons passés environ 7 heures à observer des chimpanzés dans la jungle. J’étais un peu déçu parce que tous ce qu’ils faisaient étaient de se promener dans les arbres et manger des fruits, mais je n’ai pas eu la chance d’observer certains comportements qui auraient reflété leur intelligence développée. De plus, le prix pour cette journée était très élevé comparativement à toute activité que nous avions faite en Ouganda jusqu’à ce moment (220$ ou 550 000 shillings Ougandais).
Nous avons ensuite rejoins nos amis qui poursuivaient leur safari à Entebbe pour aller faire du Rafting sur le Nile, ce qui était très agréable. Je m’attendais toutefois à être plus secoué et tomber à l’eau plus souvent.
Nous sommes maintenant de retour à Mbarara pour les trois dernières semaines du projet d’été. Nous allons poursuivre la vaccination des chèvres et la récolte de données.
#Photo de Dr. Kent Weir
July 2, 2012 - 1:34 pm
Since it’s been a while since my last post and given the chilly weather outside today I figured this afternoon would be the prime opportunity to settle down with a cup (or three) of tea and update our blog. As of now the project continues to go very well and we are proud to see many of our farmers taking our recommendations into consideration and adjusting their management practices to improve their farm.
Our last cow in the study finally calved on June 25th. We rejoiced when we heard the news given that we had expected all our calves to be born before June 11th. However late, we are glad the little bugger arrived alive and healthy. I’m amazed at how big and strong some of our first calves have become. Taking the girth and height measurements on these calves have become quite a rodeo show!
One of the most enjoyable parts of returning to the farms each week is visiting with the farmers. One of our farmers, Grace, calls Jen and I her adopted children. When we were there last she invited us into her home and as we shared a cup of tea she showed us pictures of her children and told us all about her family. She insisted we return on a Saturday when they come to visit her so we could meet them. I certainly think that would be a pleasant experience.
This last week we have also started introducing a topic such as lameness, proper milking technique, parasite control, etc… with each farm visit we do. We present each farmer with some basic information, address any question they may have on the topic and then leave them with a fact sheet summarizing what we have discussed. This week we decided to discuss lameness with our farmers because one of our cows is currently lame due to cracked rear hooves and at least 2/3 of all our other cows have very long toes. When the cows hooves become overgrown it shifts the cow’s weight onto the heel and makes it very uncomfortable for the cow to stand and walk. As a result they tend to eat less and their milk yield decreases. Long toes also lead to more rapid erosion of the heel area, causing lameness. On a number of our farms the cows also stand
in very wet and mucky conditions all day long and this can cause the hoof to become soft and easier for bacteria to penetrate into, causing infectious lameness. Many of the farmers were very interested in the topic and eager to learn of ways to prevent lameness in their cows.
Of course we’ve encountered a few more hurdles in the last two weeks as well. First off, due to some communication error it seems that all the blood samples we collected and spun from our calves ended up being moved from the freezer to the fridge last week. In consequence all the sample dethawed and have now been refrozen. We are hoping that this did not damage our samples and that the parameters we wish to analyse will be not be affected.
Aside from the lab complications we’ve also had a few more car troubles (poor Fredrick!). On Monday of last week it seems that Fredrick’s car yet again had a few difficulties climbing some hills, resulting in a good deal of exercise for the day. On last Tuesday Fredrick’s car managed to survive the roads but when I emerged from the third farm of the day I found three men huddled around the driver’s door with a wire rod jammed through the window trying to fish the keys from inside the car. I must say I was quite impressed with their dexterity and how
efficiently they manuvered the keys out and up through the window to unlock the car for us. Wednesday made it three days in a row. Everything was going well until we came across a patch of road construction. For a half kilometre stretch men along the side of the road were spreading huge piles of broken rocks onto the road. I was concerned as soon as we started making our way through- we bounced every which way and Fredrick was vigorously jostling the steering wheel back and forth to find the best path. We made it ¾ of the way through and I was beginning to think there had been no reason to worry but then two cars starting coming up the road from the opposite side. The roads are
quite narrow to begin with and with the larger rocks accumulating on the borders of the road the only safe area to drive was down the middle. However rather waiting for us to make it through the last bit of the construction they motored their way up to where we were and then could not get by. They tried to pass and could not so they insisted we back up and move further over to the side. Good natured Fredrick decided to try it their way and instead we ended up in the ditch. Meanwhile the two cars we moved for passed by and continued on their way. When Fredrick tried to drive the car back onto the road there was a horrible grinding and clanking noise and instead we ended up stuck on the pile of rock. Fredrick got out of the car and bent down to assess the situation. He called to all the construction workers and they dropped their shovels, came over and literally lifted the back end and the front end of the car back into the middle of the road! Since then we have had no further roadside adventures so maybe we have reached our quota for now.
With the project running smoothly Jen and I have also taken the opportunity to explore a bit of the country. We took a weekend trip to Lake Naivasha where we climbed Mt. Longonot, toured the gorge in Hell’s Gate national Park, took a boat ride along the lakeshore, saw hippos
and walked amongst the animals on crescent island (and almost got kicked by a zebra we were so close!)! It was a phenomenal trip!
We also ventured into the capital city of Nairobi and bartered our way through Masi market. The market was vast and colourful. We spent the better part of day there and I’m sure we only made it though half of the stalls. We also made it out to the Sheldrick Elepahnt orphanage and the Giraffe center. I can now truthfully say that I have touched a baby elephant and kissed a giraffe!
That’s all for now!
July 1, 2012 - 10:04 am
Last week began with the monthly meeting of the teacher farmers. Hot topics at the meeting included revamping the vaccination program as well as choosing those farmers most in need (such as old widows) for whom Shona and I, with help from some others, will be building coops. The new village executive officer of Ilima attended the meeting and we were very grateful that he explained to the teachers that although we would help some of the most in need to build coops, teachers should be willing to help out those less fortunate in their community even after Shona and I are gone.
Now we’re nearly done our visits with all 76 student farmers! It’s been great experience meeting with them all and we’ve learned a lot along the way (such as the 9 million ways to greet someone in the Nyakusa language!)
One of the discoveries we made last week is that some farmers are not taking the proper steps to prevent external parasites. We’ve heard a common complaint about “wounds around the eyes.” At one of the farms we visited we examined some chicks that had some black around their eyes. On closer inspection we saw that their faces were covered with fleas. Most of the farmers use an insecticide powder, but this particular farmer was using an herbal remedy that just wasn’t working. All of his chickens were infected, the young chicks most severely. We explained that the fleas have a negative impact on the health of the chickens, especially the chicks, and that in addition to spreading amongst his population of birds, they could spread to other birds in nearby farms when the chickens free range.
We’ve suggested to some farmers the option of doing post-mortem exams on some of their chickens. Adamson Mwakayaga told us that she had lost 30 chicks to disease recently. She said the chicks had swollen necks and were coughing. Shona and I considered gapeworm as a possibility, but explained that coughing could be a sign of a lot of different diseases. We looked at one of the sick chicks, but did not find anything significant besides a mass on the neck. We’ve discussed the idea of doing some post-mortems with Ngaga, the field extension officer. We figured it would be good to determine, as in Andamson’s case, what is killing so many of her chicks and what are some of the common diseases in the village. It will also be good to show the farmers what exactly a post-mortem exam is and how it can be a valuable tool. And oh yeah… it would be quite fun for us!
Last weekend we camped at Lake Masoko, about an hour away. Once again we went through the Rungwe Tea Tour Company who put us in touch with a local guide named Joshua. Joshua was absolutely hilarious! He used to be part of a popular band that toured all over Africa back in the day. Hes and his brothers are tall and skinny with ‘fros (think Jackson 5 but much much older). Being the grandson of the village chief Joshua knew a lot of the legends surrounding the lake. He regaled us with stories of cursed treasure and magical snake dragons. During World War II German soldiers were stationed at the lake. They dumped coins and trucks in the lake before being forced to evacuate after the war. Joshua, being a diver among many other talents, had managed to find some coins in the lake which he showed us. However, there is a chest of money in the lake which no one has been able to reach: it is believed to be guarded by chains that turn into snakes. Joshua showed us a big hole in the ground where more German treasure was believed to be buried. Digging had stopped because the workers had seen zombies and snakes! We saw the grave of a German soldier who had unsuccessfully attempted to slay the multiple-headed snake dragon that guarded the lake.
Shona and I had the opportunity to get to know Joshua’s daughter Zeba pretty well. She told us stories of her family that were just as colorful as Joshua’s stories of the lake, but much more heartbreaking involving murder, betrayal, and HIV. Zeba lived in China and studied in the UK, so although she was very much Tanzanian she also has the prospective of an outsider. One of the things we talked about with Zeba is the problem of education in Tanzania. Many parents just don’t see the importance of sending their children to school, particularly their daughters. Joshua and Zeba told us about a man in the village, who we had met briefly, that had enough money to buy alcohol all day everyday, but was not willing to pay for his daughter to go to secondary school, despite her strong desire to learn. She is currently age 14 and pregnant. Zeba was great to talk with and we hope we’ll be able to see her again. She’s also interested in raising chickens so hopefully we can help her out!
This week Shona and I along with the village chair James, the vaccinators, the teacher farmers, and Alan Minga (who is the one that gets the vaccine and brings it to the village) have reached a final decision as to how vaccinations are going to occur now. Previously two farmers appointed as vaccinators would vaccinate all 82 farmers’ chickens once every three months. After speaking with over 50 farmers we found that they were not happy with the current vaccinators, accusing them of not showing up, using expired vaccine, and not vaccinating properly. The teacher farmers came up with a new plan: each teacher would be responsible for vaccinating their own students’ chickens. All money collected (25 Tanzanian Shillings per chicken) would go to James, who would then give the money to Minga so that he could use the money to purchase the vaccine for next time. All of the teacher farmers and all of the student farmers we talked to were happy with this new plan. But before “firing” the vaccinators we needed to hear their side of the story. The vaccinators claimed that the farmers were not always home when they came to vaccinate and that many of them did not pay. They also said that they were giving the money they collected to Alan Minga so that he could buy the vaccine, but this was not the case. When we all met with Minga, who has been involved with this project for years and in whom we all trust very much, he said that he was not receiving ANY money from the vaccinators. So we decided to go with the new plan of the teacher farmers doing the vaccinations. We thanked the vaccinators for their hard work, apologized, and tried to explain that vaccinating was just too much work for two people, and the current system is clearly working so we have to change it and try out something new. We hope that this new plan will be much more effective!
P.S. Unfortunately the internet is too slow here to download pictures to the blog
June 24, 2012 - 2:51 pm
Since I last wrote we have sadly lost one of our team members. Dr. Laura has returned to Canada. We thank her for all her hard work and guidance she gave in the first 3 weeks. She is very devoted to the project, having returned for the 3rd time. It is apparent how much the communities appreciate her as they express their sadness when we inform them she has left. Jerome, Scott and I have been continuing the work and progress is being made. We have been visiting our beneficiaries, searching for vaccines, and conducting paravet training.
We had the opportunity last Saturday to take part in the FAOC Day of the African Child celebration. The Day of the African Child is an international celebration to remember over 200 children who were killed during the South African apartheid when they stood up for their child rights. The day focuses on advocating child rights throughout Africa. This years theme was Children with Disabilities. The intention was to bring awareness to the high prevalence of disabilities in Uganda and the challenges these children face. The event included a parade, speeches, demonstrations, music, and games. It was a huge success and we were happy to be a part of the program.
This week we had our first paravet refresher training. Paravets are local men and women who we have trained in basic animal husbandry, nutrition and medicine. They have been trained over the past years by previous volunteers. We held a refresh training course to review important concepts and answer questions. The individuals are very keen to learn and show great initiative. They asked great questions and were engaged the whole day. We ended the session with case studies regarding typical situations they might face. We presented a case of a goat with ‘flu’ (pneumonia) and had the paravets ask us questions as if we were the owners. This helped to review history taking, common diseases, treatments and husbandry/nutrition recommendations. It was very interesting for me to see how they interpret the situations and their medical approach. This was my favorite part of the summer so far. I really enjoyed interacting and learning with the group.
We are now working to set up vaccination days with all our parishes. We are hoping to carry this out over the next month. Beneficiaries are busy building goat pens and once they are complete we will be holding our second pass out. For those interested, Brian has been discharged from the hospital. We returned him to his home last week. It was difficult to send him back home as I am unsure if he will receive the care he needs. We checked on him on Friday and he seems to be doing well. We provided him with a matress and mosquito net to make him more comfortable.
We are meeting new people every day involved in exciting work across many disciplines and from many different countries. We have booked a trip to Rwanda next weekend to visit the Genocide Memorial and experience the different culture. I am hoping to meet up with the two vets that I met in Guelph before leaving that work with the Mountain Gorilla project. We are about half way through our trip and we realize everyday how much still needs to be accomplished in such little time. Motivation is still high as the staff at FAOC have been very supportive. I am excited to see what the second half of the trip has to offer.
All the best,
June 23, 2012 - 4:46 am
Parler la langue locale, c’est parfois être confrontée à des idées bien arrêtées et défavorables à notre travail de contrôle de la population canine. Parfois, ce serait plus facile de prétexter ne pas parler espagnol pour m’éviter des conversations qui, visiblement, ne mèneront à rien. En effet, que puis-je répondre à mon interlocuteur s’il est convaincu que la stérilisation est un crime contre les créatures de Dieu? J’aurai beau user de tout le tact du monde pour expliquer qu’il y a des limites aux ressources que la ville peut offrir aux chiens errants, tout sera rejeté en bloc. Même lorsqu’il est question d’éviter la misère et la souffrance à de futures générations de chiens, la stérilisation est à proscrire aux yeux de ces individus. «La maladie fait partie du cercle de la vie et il faut l’accepter. Et ce n’est pas aux humains de décider de la vie ou de la mort. En stérilisant ces chiens, vous en tuez des centaines d’autres.» C’est difficile d’accepter ce genre de discours. L’envie est grande de continuer à argumenter, mais ce n’est ni l’endroit ni le moment.
Parler la langue locale, c’est aussi devoir trouver les bons mots après avoir été sollicitée pour des conseils vétérinaires ou pour réaliser l’examen des trois chats et des deux chiens de la maison ou encore la stérilisation de cette chienne qui en est déjà à sa troisième portée. Il faut apprendre à dire non, même après avoir écouté ces gens nous raconter leur histoire et nous expliquer qu’ils ne peuvent payer les services d’un vétérinaire.
Heureusement, parler la langue locale, c’est également avoir accès à plein de choses merveilleuses : comprendre le panneau publicitaire devant lequel je passe tous les jours, rire d’une blague à la radio avec les gens assis dans le même colectivo que moi, remercier mes hôtes après avoir été invitée pour un cafecito, expliquer aux enfants dans la cour d’une école que le chien est filmé pour les fins d’une étude et non parce qu’il est la vedette d’un nouveau film, demander à des passants éberlués s’ils ont aperçu un grand chien brun portant un collier rose avec une antenne…
Mais parler la langue locale, c’est avant tout avoir l’immense privilège d’écouter les confidences de tous ces amoureux des animaux que je croise au cours de mes journées. Tous ces gens qui, de près ou de loin, côtoient des chiens et entretiennent des relations bien particulières avec ces derniers.
Cette semaine par exemple, en traquant l’un de mes chiens au centre-ville, je suis tombée sur une dame qui faisait religieusement chaque matin le tour des rues avec de grands sacs remplis de restes de table, des denrées qu’elle distribuait aux chiens du quartier. C’était «une façon de faire sa part», disait-elle. Puis, une fois sa besogne terminée, elle repartait d’où elle était venue.
Je ne peux m’empêcher de penser également à ce chauffeur de colectivo qui me racontait avoir eu deux chiens qu’il aimait profondément : «Je leur donnais de la nourriture, ils dormaient dans ma maison, ils ne sortaient que pour faire leurs besoins. Un jour, ils m’ont volé le plus jeune. C’était un beau chien. Puis, mon autre chien, il a été frappé par une auto. C’étaient mes compagnons et maintenant, je suis seul. Mais je ne veux plus d’animaux, ça fait trop mal quand on les perd.»
Aujourd’hui, j’ai rencontré cette vieille dame qui m’a appris comment le petit chien que je filmais l’attendait patiemment chaque matin à 6h30 à côté de son kiosque, les yeux brillants d’espoir de se voir gratifié de quelques bouchées de pain. «Il m’accompagne partout, parfois même jusque chez moi», m’a-t-elle expliqué alors que nous prenions un café dans sa cuisine, le petit chien blotti bien au chaud contre ses pieds. Bien entendu, ce qu’elle ignore, c’est qu’il a déjà un propriétaire. En effet, ce petit futé semble parfaitement conscient de sa tête angélique et use à tout casser de son regard de chiot pour faire fondre le cœur des passants ; il est passé maître dans l’art de s’attirer les caresses, les restes de table et les os frais de la boucherie du coin…
Ainsi, certains chiens ont eu la chance de tomber au cours de leur vie sur de bons samaritains qui récompensent leur fidélité et leur compagnie par un peu de nourriture et parfois même par un tapis pour dormir sous leur porche. Malheureusement, ce ne sont pas tous les chiens qui peuvent en dire autant. Ils sont nombreux à dormir roulés en boule entre les quatre murs de tôle froide qui leur servent de niche, en attendant que leurs propriétaires se souviennent d’eux et leur apportent les restes du repas : pain, pelures de pommes de terre, os… un abonnement pour un déséquilibre phospho-calcique et des problèmes de croissance. Parfois, s’ils sont trop faibles pour défendre leur nourriture, c’est le chien du voisin qui vient s’en emparer. Mais les maîtres n’ont rien vu et c’est le ventre vide que leur chien retourne se coucher.
En somme, parler la langue locale, c’est constater qu’il reste encore un grand travail d’éducation et de sensibilisation à accomplir ici. Les besoins des chiens en termes de logement, de nutrition, de comportement, de soins de santé et d’affection sont hélas encore trop méconnus. Plus que jamais, Rebecca et moi sentons la pertinence de créer des ateliers éducatifs dans les écoles… À suivre !