It is very hard to believe that our twelve weeks with the Veterinarians Without Borders Tanzanian Poultry Project ends today. Although there were likely moments that time dragged or felt like it stood still, it mostly feels like the time has flown by! It makes sense that it feels like that since “time flies when you’re having fun” (and the saying must be a cliché for a reason).
Spending ten weeks living in Ushirika and working with the small-holder chicken farmers in Ilima and Lubanda was nothing short of life changing for us. There were definitely some challenges adjusting to the change of pace that accompanied rural African life and the differences in daily life compared to Canada; however, putting our newly found skills into practice, every day became easier than the last. We even came to enjoy some of the tasks that were once challenging like hand-washing all our laundry and cooking over a charcoal stove (although we don’t claim to have become good at them).
Although we faced slight challenges along the way, the rewards we received were plentiful and outnumbered the challenges a hundred to one! Working with the small-holder farmers in Ilima and Lubanda was a true pleasure. Their enthusiasm was contagious and got us excited to teach at every session. They were eager to learn, engaged at the training sessions, and excited for the opportunity to learn more about their chickens and how to improve chicken health and productivity. It was very fulfilling to see the discussions and questions that followed each training session and watch as some of the training material was put into practice by the farmers. When we began, we were hopeful we would be able to make a difference in the health, productivity, and livelihood of the farmers and their chickens. By the end of our time in Ushirika, we were able to see the beginnings of that difference – probably the greatest reward of all!
After ten weeks of the project, it was incredibly difficult to say goodbye to all the familiar faces in our small town of Ushirika. We made some amazing friends and it was going to be a big adjustment not seeing them every day. We were so thankful for the time we got to spend in Tanzania and everyone’s gratitude for our work in the villages was overwhelmingly touching. When the time came to hold our final session with the small-holder farmers in Ilima and Lubanda, it was surreal. We had spent nearly every day working with them and when we said our goodbyes we both thought “this isn’t really the last session” – it didn’t really kick in that it was until we were in Morogoro.
Our time in Morogoro the past two weeks has also been very rewarding. We had the opportunity to visit the four primary schools in the district that have a chicken house project. The chicken house projects were implemented two years ago by the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) to provide primary school students hands-on, learning opportunities with local chickens. The classroom teaching and hands-on practical experience from the school’s chicken house project could be transferred into the homes of the students, improving poultry care and knowledge within the surrounding communities. In addition to the knowledge and its transfer to the community, the chicken house also provides an income generating project for the schools. The sale of chickens and their products helps support students living in poverty to offset school fees or uniform purchases, and provides money for school supplies like chalk, books, and soccer balls for the school. Chickens and their products are also used as a reward for student academic excellence and as protein sources for child growth and development. The chicken house model, referred to as the Teacher-Pupil-Parent (TPP) model, plays a central role in the IDRC concept note we submitted in May during our first trip to Morogoro. If funding were approved from IDRC, the chicken house project could be expanded into a huge number of schools in the district and increase the health, productivity, and livelihood of the majority of the families and chickens in the area.
We were very excited to have the chance to visit the project schools and check out the chicken houses! The Tanzania Poultry Project has a similar chicken house built at Ilima Secondary School that would function to achieve similar goals to the chicken houses in the Morogoro primary schools and also provide living accommodations for a few orphans in Rungwe district. Unfortunately, land disputes at Ilima Secondary have put the implementation of the chicken house on hold currently. Visiting the project schools here would give us an idea of what the chicken house could look like in the future at Ilima Secondary and also how a larger-scale project through IDRC funding could change things dramatically in the Morogoro area. Each school was managed very differently but all of them were self-sustaining and made huge differences in the lives of the students and surrounding communities. We visited nine other schools that could potentially house the project in the future, and talked about some of the key parameters that could be used to assess the success and feasibility of implementing a chicken house at the schools. We both have our fingers crossed that through IDRC funding or other sources, the TPP chicken house project can expand to a wider region in Morogoro and maybe even to other districts in the country. Perhaps you can keep your fingers crossed too…
In addition to visiting the project schools, we got to spend some time with a veterinary class at SUA. We accompanied them on their field practicals to some swine farms in the area. We got to talk about the differences in veterinary medicine in Tanzania and Canada and they even taught us how to perform some minor procedures in pigs! Yesterday, Thursday August 8th, was a national holiday known as “nane nane” (literally eight eight) that celebrates agriculture and farming throughout the country. We visited the fairgrounds, explored the different pavilions, and learned all about different agricultural practices and advances in Tanzania. Our two favourite exhibits were at the SUA pavilion. The first was an urban farming display where we were taught about space-saving ideas for gardening in the city. We’ll be bringing the ideas back to Canada and improving our home gardens with some of the designs! The second was SUA’s faculty of veterinary medicine display. We got to examine preserved diseased specimens, cool x-rays from various animals, and all the instruments they use in veterinary practice here. Everyone at the display was shocked to hear us explain each item to the kids (we went to nane nane with our Morogoro family – the Gimbis’)… they didn’t realize we were veterinary students from Canada!
It is no surprise that twelve weeks has flown by with all the fun we’ve had here. We made some friends, learned a ton, and explored the beautiful country of Tanzania. Our next few weeks will continue that exploration as we set off together for some vacation time. We plan to enjoy the exotic spices and white sandy beaches of Zanzibar, the wild animals and safari excitement of Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, and the beauty of Northern Tanzania. We’ll part ways for the last week as Kellie returns to Canada and Jodi climbs Mount Kilimanjaro. Our adventure has been such a rewarding experience and we’re so thankful to have had the opportunity to work on the Tanzania Poultry Project. We appreciate your support throughout our journey and hope you feel our blogs helped you get a taste of the wonder Tanzania has to offer.
Kwa heri kila mtu (goodbye everyone)!