Introductions, Pinch don’t Pull

September 14, 2012
It’s been a busy  day of introductions – not only to our Ghanaian project team members, but to new foods and customs and life in general in the Upper West region.

This morning we got acquainted with the staff and facilities of the veterinary services division of MOFA.  We were welcomed by Sylvester Gala – Professor, University of Development Studies,  Priscilla Ang-Leuha, a veterinary technician, translator, project management board member and hostess extraordinaire – you are in good, kind hands when you are in Priscilla’s hands.  We were happy to offload a large bag of lab supplies for the regional diagnostic lab to be set up as part of this project – many thanks to Dr. Karyn Jones and Scott McRobbie and their team at the Ajax Animal Hospital for tracking down, rounding up and donating the supplies!

We spent some time at the on-site veterinary clinic in the morning -patients (mostly goats, sheep, goat kids and lambs) arrived by rope leash or on motorbike.  Well into the rainy season, there is a high intestinal parasite burden and most patients were treated with dewormer for diarrhea.  One poor ram had a urethral prolapse, diarrhea and a hefty tick load – after being restrained on an outdoor treatment table he was let down and immediately started grazing in some nearby grass – feeling better all ready!

In the afternoon we held our inception meeting with Priscilla, Ben Alenyorege (UDS Nyamkpala campus), David Wawula (MOFA Nadoli), Francis Nuntaba (MOFA Wa) and Zakaria Yahaya (recently appointed project coordinator).  This would be our working team for the next few days.  We were caught up on many aspects of the project to date and learned 2 very important facts:  that mortality rates in guinea fowl were now 100% in many flocks in the villages and the initial project budget had been sized down significantly.  We set out our plan for the week: we would make calls to all 4 villages over 3 days to introduce the new faces of the team, update our project baseline data and, most importantly, reassure the guinea fowl producers (and future producers) that this project is indeed going forward.

The formalities of the project inception meeting gave way to a team lunch at nearby Mummy’s Kitchen – this quickly became our favorite place to eat in Wa!  I was initiated in  the art of eating FuFu (a dough-like ball made of finely pounded yam) in a peppery groundnut soup with my first taste of guinea fowl (boiled for this meal).  The ritual begins and ends by hand washing with liquid soap and water in bowls at the table.  Procuring my meal involved no utensils apart from my right hand.  William and Ben instructed me in the finer points of handling the FuFu – pinch, don’t pull!  Guinea fowl is truly a superior meat – the flavour and texture of the bird is wonderful – no wonder it is in such high demand.  I look forward to trying it roasted!

On returning to our hotel, we had a great informal meeting with both the regional director from MOFA,  Mr. Joe Falon, and Dr. Phoebe Balagumyetime the director for health services for Jirapa District in UWR.  Dr. Balagumyetime was happy to discuss One Health approaches to public health as this is a new concept being adopted in the region’s health service department.  After a separate meeting with Ben that took us into the evening, we broke for the day with homework – to review and add input to a questionnaire that would help us gather the information from village farmers to update our baseline study to inform our project and evaluation plan and add to our understanding of what could be contributing to the devastatingly high mortality rates in guinea fowl flocks.

-Trace MacKay