School Visits in Kenya

While teaching seminars takes up most of our days here, we also got to spend a few highly enjoyable days visiting 8 different schools in the Mukurwe-ini area to teach the students there. We teach students from Gr 6-8 about topics relating to animal health and safety to help minimize diseases in the community.

The planning for each school visit starts about a week before it actually happens, with us visiting the school’s Head Teacher to meet them, explain our lesson plan, and arrange a date and time for when we can come. We also discuss with them which classes we will teach, depending on the class sizes and whether some of the grades received the lesson from the Canadian students who came last year. The groups we have taught range from a Gr 6 class of 33 students, to 134 students from Gr 6 and 7 (there were so many students that we taught the lesson outside!)

When the day comes, we get dressed up (no scrubs on these days!) and head to the schools. The students are usually gathered and ready when we arrive, though sometimes the Head Teacher insists we have some tea before we start.

We always start the lesson by singing a song with the children, because they are usually very shy of us at first. Singing a silly song with lets them interact with us in a stress-free way, and by the end of the song everyone is smiling and laughing. Even the teachers join in sometimes!

Children laughing as they sing a song with us.

Once everyone is happy and relaxed, we start our lesson. Alex teaches about Zoonotic diseases and how to recognize a sick animal, as well as about safety around cattle to prevent injuries. Elle teaches about proper hand-washing to help prevent illness, and about understanding dog body language. Aiyanna teaches about ways to avoid dog bites, what to do if you are bitten, and about rabies prevention.

Elle teaching about understanding dog body language.
Aiyanna teaching about how to recognize a mammal

The students are all very focused on our lesson, and are constantly writing to get down all the information we are telling them. We make sure to have some interactive parts to the lesson as well, and once the first brave student puts up their hand to answer a question, the classroom becomes a sea of waving hands, every student eager to give an answer.

Students busily taking notes

After we finish the teaching portion of the lesson, we go through some case studies with the students based on what they have just learned, talking about ways to recognize a sick or rabid animal and what to do in that situation, and ways to act around dogs to prevent bites.

Aiyanna helping students with the case studies

At the end of every lesson, we emphasize that the knowledge the students have gained from us should be shared with their friends, families, and communities. It is our hope that through this, our teaching will reach a greater number of people than what we could possibly reach alone, and thus help everyone in the community be safer and healthier. Even the teachers often say that they have learned something, and that they will share it with their families as well!

After these are done, we ask the students if they have any questions for us about the material or about Canada. There are usually many questions about what life in Canada is like, if it is always cold there (they are surprised when we tell them that Canada is currently warmer than Kenya!), and about our studies.

Students are very eager to ask and answer questions

This summer, our lesson plan at one of the schools changed a bit, when the Head Teacher asked us to talk about Rift Valley Fever with their students. Kenya and the surrounding countries are currently experiencing an epidemic of this Zoonotic disease, which causes fever and flu like symptoms, and in some rare cases can cause severe illness in humans. This disease is mainly transmitted through insect bites, but can also be contracted from eating the meat or milk of an infected animal.

The students were very attentive during this portion of the lesson, and were eager to learn about ways that they can keep themselves and their families safe during the outbreak. We emphasized the importance of using mosquito nets and recognizing when an animal is sick to avoid contact with it, as well as making sure milk is boiled and meat is well cooked before eating it.

Alex teaching about how to prevent a zoonotic disease
Alex teaching about how to prevent a zoonotic disease

School visits are always the highlights of our week when we go, we love meeting and interacting with the students, who are always so excited to have us! The visits also give us the chance to reach out to and teach a different demographic than we do when visiting farms (the children are almost always in school when we visit farms for seminars).

By the end of the day, it’s hard to tell who is smiling more – us or the children!

Wrapping up our time in Tanzania

It’s hard to believe that our time in Tanzania is almost over! Throughout July and the beginning of August, we have continued our calf management seminars with the Africa Bridge team in Kisondela ward, educating co-op members in all six villages. We found that the farmers were particularly interested in learning more about calf housing and the numerous benefits it provides.

Fortunately, we were able to return to 3 of the villages, Isuba, Mpuga, and Bugoba, to facilitate calf pen building sessions. Many co-op members gathered at one farm in each village, and over the course of the day, built a calf pen according to the directions we provided during our seminars. They were able to build these pens using local materials such as bamboo for the floor and walls, and grasses and leaves for the thatched roof. It was very rewarding to see co-op members putting the training they’ve received into action, and we hope that they will continue to build these pens throughout the rest of their farms and villages. Calf health is essential to Africa Bridge’s calf pass-on program, and these pens are an important step in ensuring the animals will have a good start to life and be beneficial to the families who receive them.

In addition to our calf management training, we have attended and taught at a few of Africa Bridge’s other sessions. We taught the empowerment workers, para-vets and school teachers in Kisondela ward about heat detection, breeding and abortion in dairy cattle, with the goal of obtaining higher conception rates and shorter calving intervals.

In addition to our calf management training, we have attended and taught at a few of Africa Bridge’s other sessions.  We taught the empowerment workers, para-vets and school teachers in Kisondela ward about heat detection, breeding and abortion in dairy cattle, with the goal of obtaining higher conception rates and shorter calving intervals.

Attendees of our heat detection, breeding and abortion seminar in Kisondela ward. We were very excited to have so many people attend! They were all very enthusiastic learners.

Aside from our work in Kisondela, we provided practical training sessions on chicken nutrition and nest box building to co-op members in Kambasegela ward and taught about the importance of establishing a vaccination program for Newcastle disease, a viral disease endemic in Tanzania that can easily kill entire flocks of chickens if adequate preventative measures are not taken.

Chicken co-op members in Katela village in Kambasegela ward gathered around their newly completed nest boxes. Nest boxes provide a safe and comfortable place for hens to lay their eggs. When nest boxes are provided, hens lay more eggs, which results in more income for the farmers and better nutrition for the people, helping to build a stronger community!

We also attended meetings in Kambasegela ward to discuss ideas for a new project aside from the dairy cattle, chicken and avocado farming projects that Africa Bridge currently has available. Some ideas mentioned included fish farming, dairy goats, cricket farming and beekeeping. It’s important to implement a project that co-op members are interested in and passionate about, to help ensure good participation and a positive outcome. We are sure that whatever project the Africa Bridge team and the members of Kambasegela ward decide on, it will be of great benefit to the community.

On our last day working with Africa Bridge, we travelled to the city of Mbeya to attend the annual Nane Nane festival. This yearly exhibition is attended by thousands of people from across Tanzania. Its purpose is to provide education about various agricultural practices and products throughout the region. Farmers and companies bring animals, crops, machines, tools, and other products for displays and demonstrations. There was a lot to see at the festival and we were very impressed by the large variety of plants and animals on display. We hope that as Africa Bridge’s programs grow, they will be able to expand their projects to include some of the farming practices and products we saw at the festival.

A chicken and turkey shed hanging over a fish pond at the Nane Nane festival. Known as “integrated livestock-fish farming”, this technique allows poultry manure to fall directly into the fish ponds. At the right dosage, the nutrients in the manure give an enormous boost to the growth of plankton in the ponds, which are the main food of fish such as carp and tilapia. According to the farmers, the practice has helped to increase fish yields by up to 40 percent!

As our time in Tanzania draws to a close, we would to thank the wonderful team at Africa Bridge for their knowledge, kindness and willingness to collaborate with us. We have learned so much from them, not just about farming, but about Tanzanian life, culture, and customs. We look forward to keeping in touch with them, and hearing about the continued success of their projects. We are very thankful that Veterinarians without Borders chose this organization to be their in-country partner, as we believe there have been many valuable teaching and learning experiences during this partnership. We will always remember the wonderful times we’ve had and the friendships we’ve made during our time in Tanzania, and we hope that we’ll be able to come back again one day.

Us with the amazing team of Africa Bridge staff. We are so grateful for them allowing us to be a part of their life for these past three months, and we are proud to call them our friends. (Left to right: Ponsiano, Noel, Megan, Brent, Kelvin, and Tedy).

This project is made possible by funding from Global Affairs Canada.

Youth Volunteers Working Hard in Uganda

Wasibota! Good Afternoon!

It has been very busy this month in Mbarara! Between meetings, farm visits, school presentations, and vaccinations, all of the volunteers have had their hands full this June.

Katelyn and Carina continue their work with SNV/FAOC to educate students about the importance of including milk in a balanced diet. They travel to many schools, sometimes visiting over 10 in one day! The work is rewarding when they are able to see the children’s smiling faces.

Olivia and Nikki also carry on with setting up the dairy business centers, presenting their progress in SNV’s TIDE business meeting. Not only were their ideas well received, but they were able to gain a better insight into some of the problems faced by the local farmers through invited speakers. The day was long, but very informative!

However, they were able to step outside the office and get their hands dirty by visiting a nearby demonstration farm, Rubyerwa Dairy Investments LTD. The business development officer, Wilber Begumya, welcomed the volunteers warmly before giving them a full tour.

Bimonthly, local farmers are invited for several training days where they are able to learn about farming practices and animal husbandry, so that they are able to improve the productivity on their own farms.

Pictured above is Uganda’s famous ankole cattle, with impressively large horns. On the right, you can see a cow which was gifted a bell around its neck, signifying it as the 100th addition to the herd.

Both Nikki and Olivia were able to take part in the demonstrations, including those around artificial insemination and cattle management.

Jersey cow exam.

Pictured above volunteer Olivia preforms rectal palpation on a jersey cow with instruction from technician Paul Nabaasa. The procedure is important both in placement of the sperm during AI and in checking the pregnancy status of the cow after insemination has taken place.

Nikki and Wilber had a milking competition after the demonstrations were finished.

Finally, the month was wrapped up by the beginning of the goat vaccination campaign, spearheaded by Carina and Katelyn.

Blood draw, physical exam, and vaccination was preformed on over 300 goats spanning 3 communities, with many more to come!

After blood collection, the volunteers carry out brucella testing to identify the goats that carry brucellosis, a disease that is prominent in Uganda and causes many issues in regards to farm productivity.

Young Volunteer Updates from Yua

Wυntεεŋa (Good afternoon) from Yua, Ghana! We’ve been in Yua for a month and a half now, and can’t believe how fast the time is passing! As per our last blog post, we had a busy first week here, getting the ball rolling on all the activities we had planned to help the community. Now that we have almost completed all of them, we can delve deeper into the components behind them.

Upon our arrival, we realized that vaccines were of the greatest interest to community members. According to the farmers, their sheep, goats, and fowl were dying in large numbers from preventable diseases, particularly during the months of March and October. Luckily, we arrived right before the next predicted bout of illnesses, thus we spent most of our time
administering vaccinations in order to help as many Yua members as possible. Administered vaccines included: Newcastle disease for fowl, Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) for sheep and goats, and Rabies for dogs.

– Newcastle disease is a contagious viral disease, that is transmissible to humans. Unfortunately, no treatment is available for the disease, but it can be prevented through prophylactic vaccines. The vaccines administered are called I-2, which are manufactured right in Ghana! We have been able to immunize approximately 2000 fowl, which include some chickens and guinea fowl.

– PPR is a highly contagious viral disease that, in Ghana, affects mostly sheep and goats. There are no available treatments for the disease, although supportive care can be given in order to aid the animal in recovery. Unfortunately, lack of funds and resources in Yua prevent farmers from being able to afford supportive care for their affected livestock, resulting in large amounts of deaths. This is why vaccination against PPR is so important for the community. We vaccinated around 1400 sheep and goats, reaching 190 different families throughout the community.

Yuqing vaccinating goats.

Lastly, Rabies is a viral disease that is transmissible to humans, as well as other mammals, and has no treatment available. Dogs, being a large vector for rabies, are free to roam around the community, resulting in increased risks of dog bites. Recently, there has been an international focus on eradicating rabies globally by the year 2030. In order to take part of
the global initiative, we saw no better place to start than with Yua! We vaccinated 60 dogs against the virus in the community.

Nima vaccinating a puppy from Rabies.

While vaccinating, we were able to educate the farmers on the disease and give them some background on the organizations that brought us to them. Community members were very thankful, and came in large numbers to take advantage of the great project put forward through GAPNET and Veterinarians Without Borders.

Our next big project has been creating a fowl-rearing protocol in order to decrease deaths in young keets. Farmers have repeatedly mentioned losing large numbers of chicks at very young ages, and are unsure as to why. In order to come up with a solution, we set up an experiment where we raised half the chicks under optimized conditions within the means of community members, and the other half were raised under traditional methods in Yua.

Traditional methods allow the chicks and their mother to roam free throughout the day, to forage for their own food and water. At night, they are given shelter, and small amounts food and water. As they roam immediately after hatching, large amounts of chicks tend to die due to starvation, predation, exhaustion, and heat loss. In contrast, optimized conditions allow the chicks to be in an enclosed and safe area with their mother for the first two weeks of rearing. The chicks are then also provided with food and water, while the mother provides them with heat. All of these provisions allow the chicks to survive through their most vulnerable life stage. We are currently a week and a half into our experiment, and have yet to lose one chick using our optimized protocol.

Our brooding hen with some of her chicks.

On our time off, we were able to explore the area and spend time with the community. One of our most interesting adventures, has been to visit the Paga Crocodile Pond, where we met a 78 year old crocodile, and saw dozens of others. The crocodiles in Paga are not domesticated, but they maintain a positive mutual relationship with the locals of Paga.

Nima with the 78 year-old crocodile!

Our local guide, Issaka, invited us to his sister-in-laws graduation ceremony. The ceremony was quite different than what we see in North America. Rather than robes, diplomas and hand shaking, graduating in the Upper East involves a large dancing event! Family members and friends dance up to the graduates, and give them monetary gifts to start their
businesses. We had a great time listening to Ghanaian music, and seeing the locals dance.

The graduates table with family and friends.
Yuqing and Grace dancing in line to present their gifts to the graduate.

Milking Cows in Uganda by Dr. José Denis-Robichaud

During my first two weeks in Uganda, I have been doing a lot of learning. I know, I know, I am supposed to bring expertise here…but I think before I can help in a foreign country, I need to understand what is happening. So  here I am, in the second biggest coffee producing country, drinking tea and talking about how it is to milk cows in Southwestern Uganda.

Tea time at Rubyerwa Dairy Investment ltd. No day can go without a few cups of tea (hot fresh milk and tea leaves). On a farm that employs so many people and constantly has visitors and trainees, Brenda and Alex are essential to the operation, and the happiness of everyone!

To be immersed in the culture, I am staying at Rubyewra Dairy which is one of the Practical Dairy Training Farms. In collaboration with SNV (the NGO hosting me here), these farms created 4-day courses for farmers to improve their knowledge on management, nutrition, and breeding of dairy cattle. I had the chance to attend one of the training during my first week, where I was happily surprised by the amount of information that was given to farmers over the 4 days.

Practical Dairy Training at Rubyerwa Dairy Investment ltd. Discussion about water access in the pastures with (from left to right) Generous Kagumire, Innocent Nowarmani, David N. Kalitani, and Norman Kakuru.

While everyone in the class was learning about management, nutrition and reproduction, I was learning about the challenges of milking cows in Uganda. Most of the milking cows in Uganda are local breeds (Ankole and Zebu), which seem to be more beef than dairy cows with a daily milk production of 2 to 4L. To be able to meet the milk market that has grown in the past years, producers are now using exotic breeds… And by exotic, I mean what we are used to: the good old black and white Friesian, or the pretty Jersey (which are known to produce over 30L per day in North America and Europe).

Milking cows at Rubyewra Dairy Investment ltd. Philomena’s herd has 28 cows in lactation at the moment. While most of them are crossbreeds between Ankole (local breed) and Friesian, some are crossbreeds with Jersey and Ayrshire.

The problem with exotic cows is that they are not very well adapted to Ugandan conditions… and maybe Uganda is also not really adapted to them. Here is why: I first learned about the four Ugandan seasons: the wet season (March to June), the dry season (June to September), the very wet season (September to December), and the dry season (again, December to March). And let me tell you, they don’t call it dry season for nothing…We’re in the middle of it now, and I think the humidity level is probably -15% (true story)! As Ugandan dairy cows find their feed on pastures, the nutrients available for cows during the dry seasons are so limited that ͞exotic cows have no possibility to reach their milk production potential.

Farmers now need to plan ahead and have extra silage, grains, protein sources, minerals, which they never had to do with their Ankole cows. Moreover, they need to make sure their cows have access to water (I know this sounds very basic, but it is not an easy task to make water accessible to your cows in every pasture they go grazing)!

During the training sessions, instructors emphasize the importance of building water points, and to making silage in preparation for the dry seasons. This is when I realized what ͞mechanization of agriculture meant. Personally, I grew up in a world where there was a tractor for everything. Seriously, plowing, tilling, disking, harrowing, planting, spraying, harvesting, chopping, mixing, transporting, etc. The only thing left was rock picking, but I think there is now a rock picker! Here… well, let’s just say there’s a tractor for nothing. It’s all man power that accomplishes work on farms. For example, it takes 40 people for a whole day to make a small silage bunk.

Making silage at Rubyewra Dairy Investment ltd. Man power is essential for every single task on the farm, from harvesting the feed, to milking the cows. The silage bunk took 40 people working for a whole day.

When I use man power, it is not a figure of speech as most people involved in agriculture are men. I’ve come to realize that women are not raised to be involved in agriculture or businesses. There are, obviously exceptions. For example, the almost 75-year-old woman who owns the farm where I live runs the family business on her own. I also met a few other women involved in farms, but I have to say they are rare. Organizations such as Veterinarians Without Borders and SNV have for mission to integrated women in agricultural enterprises and support their empowerment.

Philomena, who will be 75 years old in September. She is a great inspiration for other women in the community!
Clementia is a young hard-working university student who did her internship at the farm. She was excellent with the calves and had a good eye to see when a cow was starting to be sick.

Another great challenge exotic cows are facing in Uganda is diseases. Many tick-borne diseases such as East Coast Fever (Theileria parva), anaplasmosis (Anaplasma marginale), and babesiosis (Babesia bigemina) are highly prevalent in Uganda.

Unfortunately, exotic breeds are not resilient to these infections, and there are many losses associated to them. The control of these diseases is primarily done with the use of acaricides to prevent ticks to attach to cows and calves. As all animals on the farm need to be thoroughly sprayed twice a week, it is a very intensive workload or a very expensive investment to install a spray race on the premise.

Spraying acaricide on cattle at Rubyewra Dairy Investment ltd. While spraying, it is essential to get the animals covered in acaricide. It is either time (hand spraying) or money (spray race) consuming for farmers to maintain a good tick management and prevent diseases highly prevalent in the region.

The last challenge I want to present here is more for me than for the cows… While Ugandan dairy farmers are facing multiple challenges such as weather, nutrition, water, diseases, etc., my role here is to assess the breeding strategies in use, and to make recommendations for the future. As a veterinarian and an epidemiologist, I was trained to use data to make decisions. There is however, no data available in the country, whether for production, reproduction or health. It is consequently very difficult to evaluate the impact of the strategies adopted by farmers, other than with the ͞gut feeling.  Luckily, I have a few resources in my back pocket, which I’m planning to use to help supporting my recommendations.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep on giving a hand for milking (literally, there is no milking machines here), taking care of the calves, and interacting with local farmers for the two weeks I have left in this beautiful country.

On a Ugandan dairy farm. Milking cows by hand, twice a day, requires skills and dedication. Pelé, born from a Friesian cow and a Gir bull (Brazilian breed).This crossbreeding is possible through importation of semen and artificial insemination.

Webare / thank you!

Project update from Tamale, Ghana

This past month, we have travelled to two districts in the Northern region of Ghana to meet farmers in rural communities.  The road was often rough but our driver expertly avoided the potholes that the rain created in the dirt road.  We departed early every morning for the communities so we could meet the farmers before they left for their farms.  

Cows on the road in the village.While we greeted the members of the community in the local language, chairs and benches were brought and placed in a circle under the shade of a tree.  Ghana has a large diversity of ethnic groups and languages and it’s a fun challenge to learn the proper greeting for each community we visited.  In respect of the local custom, we accompanied our guide to greet the chief of the community to explain our presence, and to receive his approval before we spoke to the farmers.  Once the members of the community had assembled, we began our presentation.

We shared information about good animal husbandry and spoke about providing shelter, feed and water to the animals.  We also provided sensitization on disease prevention and control and proper maintenance of a shelter.  By implementing these animal care practices, we hope that farmers will be able to increase their animal production as well as their income.

Following our presentation, we invited farmers to share their experiences with animal husbandry and we found their stories inspirational.  Some of them had already improved their animal care practices and reported increased production, and were able to sell their meat and eggs at the market for additional income.

A shelter used for pigs .

Although the communities showed a great interest in animal production, they also faced significant constraints.  Major challenges preventing the start or expansion of animal production include limited access to water, medicine, veterinary services and start-up capital.  High mortality rates due to disease also prevent the growth of their herd or flock size.  The community members asked many questions and we did our best to address their needs and discuss possible solutions that could be implemented.  We always tried to respect the local culture and way of thinking as we shared ideas.

A picture taken following our presentation in the community of Kpembe.

We hope that sharing knowledge and skills with farmers will enable them to improve their animal production.  By empowering farmers, they can become their own agents of change, and promote sustainable development in their communities to help improve their livelihoods.

It Takes a Village – A Day in the Life of the VWB Vet Students in Kenya

Hello all!

The weeks are just flying by! For this blog post, we would like to describe what a typical day looks like for us, and the number of people it takes to pull off a project like this – enjoy!

8 am: Breakfast! Our cook Sam keeps us well fed, we are always eager to see what he has prepared for us in the mornings. While our primary goal it to assist the farming community, our project offers gainful employment to many people like our cook Sam. We pay for his salary out of our own pockets, and without the project we wouldn’t be here, and Sam wouldn’t have this job. We discuss our plans for the day over tea and coffee and look at reports about the farm from previous years to know what to focus on/expect when we get there. Without all the work put in by previous volunteers we would be starting from scratch.

9 am: Our driver Ephraim and translator Pricilla arrive. They have both been working on VWB projects for the last five years offering driving and translation services (in addition to cow wrangling, and coordinating all our farm visits). These two are a major backbone of the project and help to ensure we succeed. More than that they also help to guide us in the cultural norms and practices in Kenya. To say we would be lost without them is an understatement both figuratively and literally – no farm has a road name or house number here, it is all first hand knowledge of the region and people. We load up the van with supplies for the day. These include our medical supply kit for animals, construction tools, a first aide kit (for any minor bumps and scrapes for the humans), the flip chart and stand for the seminar presentation, and buckets for washing our boots between farms.

9:30 am: Arrive at the host farm, where we meet the farmer and take a look at their cow(s). We discuss how the past year has gone for them and if they have any concerns about their cow currently. Most of these farmers have been working with VWB volunteers for 1-4 years, indicating the success of a long term partnership. If time allows, we do a physical exam on their animals while we wait for the rest of the seminar participants to show up. Yay Kenyan time! – things run a slower schedule here than we are used to in Canada, but it is a one of the charms of being in a new culture and country. The other farmers are coming from farms near-by, and are often friends of the host farmer.

The team talks with a host farmer about their cow and farm.

10 am: Priscilla takes attendance of the farmers who have arrived. Many of them have come to the seminars in previous years, but there are always some new faces in the crowd. There are usually 7-10 people who come out to each seminar. We always try to ensure at least half of the participants at the seminars are women as they are often the person taking care of the cows, and can benefit from farming as a source of income they have control over.

10:30: Once everyone is settled and introductions have been made, we start the seminar. Each of us take turns discussing the different topics that we are teaching this summer. Each topic is specifically targeted to provide information to increase cow production and welfare, and is all based on research projects done in this area through a PhD student and VWB volunteers from past years. These topics include:

  • Nutrition
    • Proper feeding of water (always available!), forage (free choice and good quality!), minerals, and dairy meal (a mixture of grains)
    • How to calculate how much dairy meal their cow needs depending on their milk production
  • Mastitis prevention (mastitis is an infection in the udder that lowers milk production and quality)
    • Proper milking practices to prevent the spread of bacteria – keep things clean!
    • Farmers here all milk their cows by hand, so we discuss the best techniques to ensure we reduce the risk of mastitis.
  • Reproduction
    • Heat detection
    • When to breed your cow
  • Cow comfort
    • Proper stall design
    • Clean and adequate bedding
    • Prevention of environmental mastitis

Farmers often have a lot of questions on all the topics in the seminar – they are very engaged and interested to hear about ways their can improve their cow’s milk production and prevent illnesses.

Alex and Priscilla teaching about nutrition at the seminar.
Interested and engaged seminar participants.

1 pm: Once we are finished with the teaching, we head on over to the host farmer’s cow pens to apply what we have just talked about. Farmers have the chance to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the stall, with the hope that applying what they have learned will help them improve on their own farms.

If the stall needs minor changes to the size or bedding, we help the farmer make these changes. For larger reconstruction projects, we suggest to the farmer proper ways to rebuild to maximize cow comfort. We then deworm one of the host farmer’s cows as a thank-you for having us and taking the time to host all the seminar participants.

Looking at the cow pen to evaluate if alterations need to be made.

2 pm: We offer to visit the farms of the other seminar participants to do physical exams on their cows, give one-on-one feedback about their stalls and feeding programs, or to troubleshoot any specific problems they may be having. We may also help with stall reconstruction there if we have time. Usually we visit 2-3 farms for every seminar we teach.

At a seminar participants farm.

4:30: Arrive back at the house. After changing out of our (sometimes very dirty) scrubs, it’s on to the paperwork. Another person employed by our group with our personal funds is Ruth. She ensures all of our scrubs and clothes are clean when we go to work, no easy feat since in Kenya its all hand washing! For our paperwork we record how many participants were at the seminar that day, as well as their age, gender, how many cows they have, and if they had attended seminars in previous years. Additionally, we write a summary report of what we did that day, noting the things that we taught and what the farmers showed particular interest in. We write down how things have been going at the host farm, as well as improvements we suggested so that next year’s group can follow up with them about it. We also write about the other farm’s that we visited. In the background we also have ongoing assistance from many of the staff of the Wakulima Dairy, and our in country coordinator Mr. Gerald Kariuki. This assistance ensures we can all do our work easily with the cooperation of the greater Mukurwe-ini farming community.

Doing some paperwork before dinner.

6:30 pm: Dinner time! Sam outdoes himself every night with the spread he prepares – there is always something new and delicious to try. We like to joke about how we eat better here than in Canada!

Enjoying dinner!

8 pm: After dinner, with very full bellies, we have some free time to talk about the day, look up any questions we didn’t know the answer to during the seminar, and to catch up on our personal journals.

10 (ish) pm: After a busy day, it is time for bed to rest up for another day tomorrow! As you can see it takes a village to accomplish the project goals. Without the support of so many Kenyans and Canadians we would not be able to accomplish so much! Thanks to everyone who supports our work here – it wouldn’t be possible without you!

Hello from VWB’s Team Tanzania!

Since our last update, we have been hard at work in the villages of Kisondela ward, holding calf management seminars for the members of Africa Bridge’s dairy cow co-op. We have found that calves are sometimes overlooked in favour of cows because they are not yet producing milk and generating an income for the farmers. The goal of our seminars is to educate farmers on the importance of investing in and caring for their calves while they are young, to set them up to be healthy, high-producing animals in the future.

Our seminars have focused on the importance of giving the calf a good start to life by making sure it receives adequate colostrum and milk, clean, fresh water, and comfortable housing. We have provided the farmers with a weaning schedule that will help them transition from feeding milk to feeding grain and grasses by the age of 12 weeks. We have found that giving advice on these simple, attainable changes that farmers can make is an effective way to improve the health and welfare of the calves and to ensure healthy, high-producing cows in the future.

With a calf we met after our calf management seminar in Lutete village.

We have also had the opportunity to join the Africa Bridge (AB) team in the field, performing pregnancy diagnosis on cows belonging to members of the AB dairy cow co-op. This is an especially important service provided by AB, as the calves that are born will be passed on to other families in need. By taking good care of their animals and having their cows’ pregnancies diagnosed, farmers will be able to provide a healthier calf to their neighbours sooner, resulting in a more productive, stronger community.

Brent performing a pregnancy diagnosis on a heifer in Isuba village.

While AB’s work is ongoing in the wards of Kisondela and Kambosegala, another ward, Lufingo, recently completed their five-year partnership with AB, and graduated from the program. We were fortunate enough to attend the graduation ceremony where hundreds of community members were present, celebrating the progress that has been made in their villages thanks to the programs instituted by AB. We visited a few farms, saw the improved living conditions of the animals there, and heard from farmers about how having these animals has positively impacted their lives. Farmers have used the money earned from their animals to build new houses, purchase clothing for their children, pay school fees and even to buy more animals. We are optimistic that Kisondela and Kambosegala wards will see similar results by or before their graduations from the program.

Farmers and community members from Lufingo ward gathered for their graduation ceremony.

We were able to further explore Tanzania by spending a weekend on a safari in Ruaha National Park. It is Tanzania’s largest national park, and home to many animals including lions, elephants, giraffes and hippos. We were lucky enough to see these and many other animals on our short trip to the park, and to explore the nearby city of Iringa. We have noticed many differences between Tukuyu and Iringa, allowing us to appreciate the diversity of cultures, landscapes, climates, and traditions throughout this beautiful country.

Lions resting on the edge of the Great Ruaha River in Ruaha National Park.

We are looking forward to continuing our seminars for farmers, and hope to broaden the range of topics taught to include ones we have received many questions about, such as heat detection in cows, mastitis prevention, and mineral supplementation. We are excited to continue our work with AB, and to collaborate and teach with the great people at this organization.

This project is made possible by funding from Global Affairs Canada.

Nogambaki from Mbarara, Uganda!

We would like to introduce everyone to our VWB summer placement team! We will all be working on SNV’s TIDE (The Inclusive Dairy Enterprise) initiative. Carina and Katelyn will be working on the school milk and goat pass on projects in partnership with FAOC (Foundation for Aids Orphaned Children). Olivia and Nikki will be continuing projects surrounding artificial insemination and dairy farming, eventually aiming to establish dairy hubs to support the current market.

As soon as we arrived, we already ran into car troubles. On our first night we woke up to a flat tire so we all had to use our “mechanical skills” to tackle the challenge. Pictured above is Dr. Laura McDonald and Katelyn attempting to remedy the problem.

Car issues were quickly resolved!

After our car mishap was sorted, we started to explore our new home of 3 months and get down to work. Carina and Katelyn began to get some practice in with some local goats by preforming blood draw and basic physical exam.

Drawing blood

Meanwhile, Olivia and Nikki began meeting with the AI technicians to work on identifying resources required by the technicians for the business centers, meeting some new furry friends along the way.

The SNV group making friends in the field!

In addition to our animal focused work, the volunteers and Dr. McDonald were able to participate in World Milk Day celebrations in Kaberebere. The event was organized in collaboration with FAOC as a part of SNV’s school feeding campaign. Many students are sent to school without proper nutrition, which decreases their ability to focus and learn while in the classroom. By promoting milk programs and educating students and parents about the importance of balanced nutrition, the campaign hopes to help alleviate this issue and improve the student drop out rate. The event was an enormous success, having over 2,500 attendees!

Pictured above is FAOC director Boas with a group of attendees showing off their empty milk cups.

Finally, on a quiet weekend, we were able to steal a few hours away to visit Lake Mburo and to see what vet students love most… ANIMALS! We were able to observe many of the native species to Uganda, including the impala pictured below.

Animals in the park!

So far this has been the experience of a lifetime, and we all are looking forward to what the rest of this summer and our placements have in store!

Hello from Yua!

Ya Bulika (Good morning) from Yua, Ghana! We’ve currently been in Yua, a village in the Upper East Region for a little over a week, and have adapted to the rural life.

Prior to our arrival in Yua, we spent a few weeks in Accra, Ghana’s capital, where we participated in quite a few interesting activities. Yuqing took part in a rabies workshop aimed to evaluate and improve Ghanaian surveillance systems and action plans to decrease rabies prevalence in both humans and animals. Once Nima arrived, we shadowed a practicing veterinarian, who brought us along for cattle vaccination, poultry farm evaluations, and livestock market monitoring. These visits helped us understand the role of livestock in Ghana, allowing us to prepare an action plan for our project in Yua.

Our project in Yua is tied to GAPNET, an NGO with a new relationship to VWB, and we are the first group of VWB volunteers to work with them. GAPNET aims to promote sustainable development, by providing both resources and knowledge on livestock husbandry and it’s relation to human health to Ghanaians. This is exactly what we will be doing throughout the summer in Yua, with the help our supervisors: Dr. Geoffrey Akabua and Dr. Anthony Akunzule.

 

Yuqing, Nima, and Dr. Geoffrey Akabua with the head chief and sub-chiefs of Yua

A few days after our arrival in Yua, we visited the community leaders which included the head Chief. We introduced ourselves, and explained our purpose for visiting their village. This meeting was extremely important to our project, as we needed to receive permission from the leaders to work in the community.

Our first veterinary activity in Yua, involved students from Yua Junior High School. Drilling for Hope, an American NGO, provided 25 single-parent school children with fowls to take care of. We visited these students to check-up on their fowl, and provide them with vaccinations against Newcastle Disease.

High School Student outreach treating New Castle

Our next activity, was vaccinating sheep, goats and dogs belonging to women involved in women’s groups in Yua. In two days, we vaccinated 400 sheep and goats against Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), and a dozen dogs against Rabies. Although 400 seems like a large number, we will also be doing multiple community vaccination clinics throughout Yua, for an estimated 1200 more livestock within the next month.

Administering eye-drop vaccines against Newcastle Disease

One of our most important activities this week involved presenting a seminar on livestock husbandry to women’s groups in Yua. A total of 50 women, from five different groups joined us to discuss proper sheltering, feeding, and disease control for small ruminants; rearing of Guinea Fowl Chicks; importance of veterinary care for livestock; and, drought resistant plants to provide feed to both livestock and humans during the dry season.

Yuqing leading an educational session.
Dr. Geoffrey Akabua, Nima, Dr. Anthony Akunzule, and Yuqing with seminar participants.