News from Kenya- Last Student Blog of the Summer

Lumpy Skin Disease Encounters

We have continued to have some successful farm visits/changes but have also seen some unfortunate realities such as lumpy skin disease. Lumpy skin disease is not a disease we have in Canada but is common in African countries. It is a disease that affects cattle causing fever, depression, and nodules all over the body. Secondary bacterial infections often worsen the situation. This disease is transmitted by biting insects (therefore unlikely for travelers to bring back to Canada). This is a reportable disease in Canada to which the Canadian Food Inspection Agency would respond with efforts to eradicate the disease.  This disease does not cross over to humans. There is no good treatment for Lumpy Skin Disease but vaccination can be effective. Here however, it seems that the recent rounds of vaccines wasn’t the best and some animals ended up getting the disease from the vaccination. But most cases we have seen were not vaccine induced.

Recently, here in the Mukerwe-ini area of Kenya, there seems to be a larger out break than normal. We have seen several cases of cattle with lumps on their skin. Their stories are stricken by abortions and decreased milk production (along with many other negative results). The most frustrating case we have heard about this week was about a cow that had died one week ago of the disease… she was due to calve early August.

On average farmers here have 2 cows and therefore having a sick one (and potentially a dead one) is a huge loss that greatly affects the people’s quality of life. Finances get a hit largely because expected milk production is absent, they see no return on the money that went into breeding and feeding the cow to term, and they can’t sell the calf or benefit from it in the future. To some people this may mean the difference between putting their child through school or not (or other similar choices). It is frustrating in Canada to lose a cow-calf pair but does it ever make or break a child’s basic education level?

A reminder to stay thankful for what we have.

Back To School

We also got time to go visit an elementary school. We were very lucky to be welcomed to the Karaguririo elementary school in Mukurwe-ini. The school has over 500 students going from nursery to grade 8. (Nursery would be the class before junior kindergarden in Canada). With that many students, it was surprising to find out that each grade level only has one class. That means that in one room there are over 70 grade 7 students with just one teacher. I can’t even imagine the work that faces the teachers with that many students to educate, prep for and mark all their work.

The school day starts at 6 am with students responsible for cleaning to school after walking up to 5km to get there. By 7am classwork starts and continues till 5pm. At least one teacher stays at the school until 6:30pm so that students may finish their homework before they go home as many of them don’t have lights. That amounts to a 12hr school day. To add to this, the students go to school 7 days a week (only in the afternoon on Sundays). Finally, most schools have a break in August, one in April and one in December. This school however only takes the December break

Farm #24 (signalled by our fingers): Anika repairing a stall with John (who is an extension worker at the dairy). We promise he smiles all the time…except in pictures.Capture

Going through our physical exam parameters (every cow got one at the beginning of the study and one at the end)

Farm #36: Ephraim (our main driver) and NancyCapture3

Farm #48 “Can we Fix it?”Capture2

This is “break a leg farm” so nicknamed because we could very easily envision one or both cows doing just that. The cows were obviously not using their stalls (see picture below). After a great deal of machete work to loosen soil, hammering, sawing, shoveling, discovering the partial remains of a cow, measuring and sweating, the cows had a new place to call home.Capture4

Farm #48 continued: “Yes we can!”Capture5

Farm #48 continued: And we did!!!Capture6

Nancy planting a tree with a student from the school that we got to visit