Julie and Liz’s much condensed adventures with Vets without Borders student placement program in Tanzania:
We had safely arrived in Morogoro at 6am and we were very happy to have a bed after two days of travel. Our first day had us driving to Sokoine University of Agriculture which has the only vet school in Tanzania. We learned that students out of high school come to this university, but that the program is 5 years instead of 4, as it is in Canada. They have about 600 hours of classroom time in a year and it is not as hands-on as the experience we have had so far in our schooling in Ottawa. We had a tour of the labs, the surgery prep room and the animal handling facilities. All the equipment and facilities were very rudimentary. The one interesting thing they told us was that when they did surgeries, they only used an injectable anesthetic because their anesthesia gas machine was broken. They were also very proud to show us their new x-ray machine.
Our first hotel is in Tukuyu which is the closest city to where we are staying. We were introduced to bucket showers as the motel had only running cold water, and we only got hot water from the hotel in buckets. Also, only one of our toilets is a typical North American one and the other is just a hole which we affectionately call a “lily pad”. Tanzania is divided into regions, then districts, then wards and then each individual city or village. We are working in Ilima which is part of the Mbeya region, Rungwe district and Ilima ward. The Ilima ward has 6 villages and we work in Ilima, Lubanda and expanding the project to Katundulu. We had a meeting with Veronica Kessey who is in charge of the Rungwe region and other officials to discuss the project. Ms. Kessey is originally from Kilimangaro and has only been working in this area for a month. She seemed really keen on our ideas and she seemed like she will be great to work with.
We then travelled to Ushirika which is where Liz and I will be living for the duration of the project. We also met up with Gaga who is the Village Extension Officer. He is like a veterinary technician who is in charge of looking after the livestock in Ilima and Lubanda. He has been involved in the Ilima Poultry Project for three years. We also met Allen Minga who is another successful farmer who has worked on the project for several years. Roger said they ask for more chickens every year, but the local breed can do fine if the farmers practice proper animal husbandry. Roger explained that the project is not about providing money; it’s about educating the farmers so that when we leave at the end of the summer, they can continue with the project.
Roger and his wife have been contributing to the school since 2003, as well as helped build the Ilima Secondary School in 2008. They started cheering and singing as they followed us to the school. It was amazing and the children were so welcoming! Roger talked about the project and how it was important in that it generated income for families in Ilima and provided them with more eggs. He emphasized the importance of education and that learning is best on a full stomach. After Ilima Primary, we traveled to Lubanda Primary. We had a meeting with all the teachers and the school and town council. We discussed the same issues and talked about the poultry project.
In late May, we were lucky enough to attend a National Torch Ceremony. Every year the National Torch drives around the country and stops in many cities. It is a symbol of peace and unity in the country. The ceremony was in a school field down the road. When we got there the torch wasn’t there yet so we had dinner in one of the dozens of food tents. It was pretty neat to see all the different booths and tents. It reminded me a lot of festivals at home. When the torch got there everyone crowded around to watch the ceremony. The whole town was there! We walked around a bit after and we played some ring toss games and Liz and Gaga also gambled a bit. We also looked at a very interesting booth with natural medicines. My favourite part of the festival was watching all the dancing. Music is a big part of the culture and it was neat to watch all the different tribal dances.
In June, went on farm calls with Gaga to see some pig raising facilities and help farmers with some problems with their livestock. We treated a calf in Ushirika with dewormer (Ivomec) and vitamins. I did the subQ injection for the dewormer while Liz did the IM injection of vitamins. Then we walked to Kayuki Girls Secondary School. There is a small farm on the campus. They had a pretty impressive pig raising facility. It has separate pens for different age groups, but they could be either inside or outside. We were giving piglets iron injections that day so Liz and I hopped into the pen to capture the piglets. It was pretty fun to chase them! We then met with a school teacher who has been raising chickens for a year now. She just had a bunch of her chicks die so she had to buy more replacements. She was interested in learning more about raising poultry and she asked us if we could teach her. She gave us a tour of her chicken coop and showed us the new one she was building which was pretty impressive. For much of the remainder of June, we did a lot of work with chicken coops and teaching best practices for poultry raising.
This morning we went to visit the teacher at Kayuki Girls School. We brought her fowl typhoid meds with us as well as vitamins. We explained to her that the medication dissolves in the water and to only provide this water to all the chickens on the farm. We provided her with enough medication and vitamins for 5 days. Then we went to visit a farmer whose cow had just calved that morning. He said that the cow had calved twice before and afterwards “all the milk would move into her abdomen”. We didn’t think this was possible so we decided to look at the cow. There was definitely swelling in her abdomen and she tried to kick us when we touched it. Gaga said that she could always produce enough milk for her calves and that the calves were always healthy. We thought that she most likely has a hernia and that after the calf is weaned he should sell her for meat. The farmer invited us to see the calf which he bottle fed and kept in the house. It was so cute and friendly! Afterwards we drove back to Ushirika to pick up the chick Gaga had been taking care of. The chick had a lot more diarrhea around her vent and there seemed to be blood coming out of it. The chick also had picked a lot more feathers away. For dinner, Liz and I went to Happy’s and cooked “Canadian food”. We asked them if they had ever had spaghetti before and they said they had, but they only ate it plain with salt and oil mixed in. We made spaghetti sauce with tomatoes, garlic, onion and peppers. We were able to cook everything ourselves, but we were still not good at using charcoal. Everyone loved the spaghetti which was awesome. We were glad it turned out considering we had only had practice cooking spaghetti on a regular stovetop. Happy and everyone else ate the spaghetti like ugali which was pretty funny. They had the sauce on the side and then they picked up a handful of spaghetti and then dipped it in the sauce. Liz and I laughed and said we need to teach them to twirl it with a fork North American-style.
For much of the remainder of June, we did a lot of work with chicken coops and teaching best practices for poultry raising. Towards the end of the month, vaccinations really kicked into gear after farmers showed a strong interest in learning more about diseases and learning how to administer the vaccines. To prepare for this, we had a meeting first where Gaga discussed the vaccination process and went over the hand out. We also handed out the vaccination records and daily records to the teachers as well as a diseases hand out. There were 14 farmers who wanted their chickens vaccinated that day. They brought water bottles to put Gumboro’s vaccine in and they said they kept their chickens in a coop. Every teacher practiced the fowl pox injection and the Newcastle eyedropper at least once. We were fairly slow at this farm, but picked up the pace as we moved from farm to farm. We had successfully vaccinated 120 birds though! We were pretty proud of ourselves for the first day and we are sure we will be more efficient as time goes on.
In July, we spent a lot of time teaching the farmers about raising their poultry. Due to Uganda’s climate, it is important that farmers do not hatch their chicks in the dry season. We talked about nutrition and parasites, as roundworms are very prevalent in the area that we are working in. The farmers were very receptive and interested especially in the feed ratios! Aside from the health of chickens, we talked a lot about poultry rearing financials. The main lesson being only keeping as many chickens as they could afford to feed. Sell the males and keep the females for laying. We spent a lot of time making a test for their poultry and wanted to get across a few main points such as; Don’t eat sick chickens; Don’t hatch chicks during the dry season; and Vaccination is the only way to prevent viruses. Some reels of wire were provided to the student with the best exam score!
We also advised them to only raise 60 chicks a year (two clutches of 10 chicks at a time every three months excluding the dry season) and showed them what their costs and returns would be. We also showed them the cost of feeding half pumba (free maize screenings) and chick starter which is much cheaper, but the chickens will not grow as fast. We also demonstrated that they will still have a profit of 40% if their chickens die! We asked them if they think this is possible. They really liked the idea and said they would just need the money to start. They think if they sold a cow for example, they would have enough money to buy a bag of feed. The whole idea of the meeting is to encourage them to invest in the chickens and to get a much bigger return in the long run. There were many days that we spent vaccinating chickens at all of the farms that we could reach. One day we managed to vaccinate over 1000 birds!
Some photos from our travels:
Dr Gimbi from the Open University of Tanzania, Roger (Project Manager IPP Canada) ,Veronica Kessy, Executive Director for the Rungwe Dstrict in the Mbeya Region. Ilima, Lubanda, and Katundula are villages in the Ilima Ward in the Rungwe District.
We always meet with the director to inform them of our presence in the district and what our plans are for the poultry project. Ms. Kessy is new to the district and was very interested to hear about the project. She let us know that she was very supportive of the project and would make sure everyone in her department was on board to help the project move forward. We gave Ms. Kessy a T-shirt that we were bringing to the village teachers. All the teachers in Ilima will get one of these T-shirts. The teachers in Lubanda will get a similar T-shirt in red with Lubanda on it instead of Ilima
Meeting with Allen to discuss the agenda for our week long stay in Ringwe. Allen farms in the ward and is a key player in the success of the IPP as he understands the local politics and knows of all the farm families that we work with. He also handles the small stipends that we pay to the teachers with utmost diligence and trust.
Allen Minga( Local IPP project coordinator),Julie (student), Dr. Gimbi(OUT), Liz(student):
Liz trying to make friends with a week old calf at a farm in Ilima. The IPP is all about poultry but there are cattle, goats and pigs in all three villages that we work in.
Ilima Coop. This is a typical small chicken coop that is prevalent in Ilima, Lubanda, and Katundulu. The farmers keep their hens confined at night. The interesting thing about this coop is the walls are made with fish net. The farmer told us he got the net from his grandfather. The net was used to trap monkeys that came to the farm to steal corn.
Chicken coop with bamboo walls. Bamboo grows wild here so it is an excellent building material. The down side is that the termites eventually ruin the structure and the farmers have to rebuild every couple of years.
Liz and Julie inspecting a local pig sty in Ilima
Bus: This is typical of the transportation the Liz and Julie will use to travel to the villages from their home base in Ushirika. One cannot be faint of heart when boarding the local buses because they are always very crowded and you can always squeeze in another body or two. Note the man on top of the bus adding more goods.
James Mgilla and Roger. James is the village chairman for Ilima and is a great supporter of the IPP. He helps organise the itinerary for the week we are in lima Ward.
We also met with the teachers of Ilima Primary School (IPS). Many of the farmers in the IPP are on the school council so this is an important part of maintaining credibility in the village. I have just given James 160 workbooks and 160 pens for the IPS. He will deliver them to the headmaster as he was absent for our meeting. The Head master was at a district education meeting receiving an award of excellence for the IPS for “most improved primary school”. The IPP can take some of the credit for this success as income from the sale of eggs goes towards school fees for the students. Access to school fees means better attendance with simple tools such as paper, pens and school uniforms.
Lubanda Primary School: This is at a meeting with the school council and teachers at Lubanda. Again, many of the farmers in the IPP are involved with the school council . Liz with a group of students at LPS. This is a great ice breaker for the VWB students because they will spend the next 12 weeks working in the villages and now all of the kids will recognise Liz and Julie and welcome them into the community.
IPP team on our last day in Tukuyu: Roger, Liz ,Gaga (Village Extenson Officer and Interpreter), Allen (Local manager) Dr Gimbi (OUT) Julie