Cricket Farmers Demonstrate their Progress

HELVETAS Visits Cricket Farmers
VWB’s 16 female cricket farmers in Xaythany District were happy to receive a guest from HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, Ms. Elizabeth Vochten, who is Technical Advisor to the “Integrated Upland Development” project in Laos’ Northern province of Xiangkhouang. As cricket farming is one of the project’s livelihoods activities, Elizabeth came to learn from our cricket farmers about their rearing techniques and also share her experiences with them.
The cricket farmers welcomed Elizabeth together with Thomas (VWB) in their village office, where a very lively discussion followed. The women told Elizabeth how they farm their crickets, how they eat them, and also about the cricket-based products, which they had developed in cooperation with the Faculty of Agriculture. When they reported about difficulties to access markets to sell their produce, Elizabeth encouraged them to use their strength as a producer group in actively finding sales opportunities. She told the farmers how a weaving group in Xiangkhouang has successfully managed to sell their products in Vientiane, which is a 20-hour trip away from their home village.



Elizabeth and Thomas discuss with cricket farmers in their village office

 Following the discussion in the village office, the cricket farmers were proud to show Elizabeth their cricket cages.
 Cricket farmers show their cages
In one of the cages, we discovered that a lizard had sneaked in. After a few seconds, the cricket farmer skilfully caught the unwanted visitor. Judging by the big belly, the lizard had a giant feast on the crickets.
cricket 3
 Cricket farmer catches lizard in cage
After having seen the cricket cages, Elizabeth asked the women whether they would be interested to participate in a farmer-to-farmer exchange visit, meet the cricket farmers in Xiangkhouang, share their experiences with them and also show them how to produce cricket chili paste and cricket chips.Despite the long journey, which they would have to take, the women immediately agreed and were very excited about this opportunity to visit another part of the country and share their knowledge. We will keep you posted when this visit will happen!

Laos–Key Stakeholders Assess Project Results

As VWB’s 3-year project “Improving Food Security and Rural Livelihoods in Cambodia and Laos (Foodlive Camlao)”will end in December this year, and following a recent meeting with external stakeholders, such as international NGOs and government staff, a Final Stakeholder Meeting was conducted at the Faculty of Agriculture (FAG) together with 11 village chiefs of the project villages in Hoychiem community, local representatives of the Women’s Union, 11 village veterinary workers, and farmers who had participated in the project’s different activities. In addition to this, project team members and staff of the faculty joined the meeting, which was chaired by Associate Professor Fongsamouth, the faculty’s Vice Dean and Project Supervisor.

Following introductory speech given by Assoc. Prof. Fongsamouth, Dr. Daovy (FAG lecturer & project coordinator), gave a short overview of the project history. Then, Mr. Sisavath (FAG lecturer & project trainer) presented the project’s veterinary activities, namely the training of village veterinary workers and veterinary drug vendors, animal health monitoring, rabies vaccination campaigns, and village-wide poultry vaccinations. After this, Dr. Lampheuy (FAG lecturer & project coordinator) explained the results of the implemented livelihoods activities (i.e. crop farming, forage production, poultry farming, and insect farming) and of the Community Health Days.

After the presentations, the Vice Dean asked representatives of all present villages for their feedback and their plans for the future. All participants expressed their gratitude for being able to join the project activities and many of them want to continue with the activities after the end of the project. The Vice Dean encouraged the participants of the meeting to take an active part in the development of their villages and emphasized the commitment of the faculty to assist in this endeavour.

On behalf of the faculty, Assoc. Prof. Fongsamouth handed over certificates to VWB’s project officers Margot and Thomas, and thanked them for their work.

Finally, all village representatives were asked to participate in an end-of-project survey to assess their satisfaction with the different project activities and their relevance for them.

Certificates Margot Thomasfinal group photo

Final Stakeholder Meeting

In December 2015, VWBs 3-year project “Improving Food Security and Rural Livelihoods in Cambodia and Laos (Foodlive Camlao)” will officially end. Last week, VWB organized together with its main partner, the Faculty of Agriculture/National University of Laos, a Final Stakeholder Meeting to present the project results, lessons learned, and recommendations for the future to representatives of Lao government and local/international NGOs.

During the meeting, members of the Foodlive Camlao team gave presentations about the particular activities they had been responsible to coordinate: Dr. Malavan (Faculty of Agriculture) presented the two poultry activities in Thachampa and Douniean, Dr. Lampheuy (Faculty of Agriculture) explained about the work of the crop farmers from Douniean and forage farmers in Nakhao and she also presented the just finished community health day implemented in schools of 10 villages; Thomas (VWB) showed how the 15 women cricket farmers are doing in Hatviengkham and Margot (VWB) talked about the work the 26 PAHWs, 2 rural drug vendors and 80 veterinary students have been doing.

Daovy (Faculty of Agriculture), the overall field coordinator of the Foodlive Camlao project, was orchestrating the whole ceremony and Prof Fongsamouth, (Vice-Dean) gave inspiring opening and closing speeches in front of many guests from the District and Province Agriculture and Forestry Offices, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Public health, Local clinics, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National University of Laos and from development organizations as well.

Interesting questions were asked and we hope this meeting will be the starting point of new collaborations…

Another stakeholder meeting will be organized soon at the Faculty with our more direct stakeholders: farmers, village chiefs, PAHWs, teachers… We will keep you posted!







Question time

Question time

Lao Veterinary Student Travels to Japan to Present VWB’s Rabies Project

Souay Vongsichaleune is a 4th year student in bachelor of Animal Science at the Faculty of Agriculture, National University of Laos. Recently he participated in the 15th International Student Summit in Tokyo, Japan with many other students from all over the world.

The topic of the summit this year was “Food, Agriculture and Environment in the new century” and all students had to present an activity related to this topic that students were implementing in their own faculty.

Souay decided to present the rabies campaign that Vets without Borders has organized together with the Faculty of Agriculture in the 11 villages of Houychiem Community. Every year many veterinary students receive refresher training on rabies – cause, transmission, symptoms, prevention of the disease – and have then the opportunity to practice dog restraining and vaccination as well as participating in the awareness raising part of the campaign.

If dogs are the main reservoir of the disease in Laos, it can also contaminate humans and livestock such as cattle, buffaloes, pigs or goats; cases in those species mainly originating from dog bites. Thus by vaccinating dogs, people prevent rabies cases to outbreak in their community dogs and thus prevent the occurring of cases in humans or other livestock. Thus, they protect themselves from the economic impact that the loss of a cattle head from rabies would have on the household economics.

Souay learned a lot, met many people and discovered a new country during this summit!

On his experience there he said: “Meeting people from all over the world was wonderful, exciting and scary at the same time. People are the same everywhere. Having friendship with people talking different languages is so fantastic that everybody should experience it.”

We are very proud he could present Vets without Borders’ work at this summit!

Below are some pictures from his adventure!


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Lao Veterinary Students Ace their Final Examinations!

In the middle of September, 4th and 5th year students were getting ready for their last round of Animal Health Monitoring. This last round was also to be their final evaluation, as this activity has been integrated in their curriculum.Sisavath, Chantha, Dethaloun, Khao, Amphone and Bounthang, who are all teachers, also got ready for the evaluation by expanding the planning, deciding on evaluation criteria and practicing with the evaluation form.  Dr. Maude Pauly joined the team to add some more samples to her survey on zoonotic viruses. This gave her the the opportunity to update the students on the first results from her survey.

The students were very dedicated to the work both in the field and in the lab. They were assessed on how they could perform clinical examination of animals, sample collection, and laboratory analysis. In addition, they were asked more theoretical questions on normal values of physiologic parameters and on the protocols used for laboratory analyses or on diseases caused by the parasites they could identify.

All groups succeed in the final evaluation and received a certificate of completion from Prof. Fongsamouth and a scoring attestation from Margot last week during a small ceremony. The FoA teachers, students and VWB staff all gave great speeches.We are looking forward to the next project where the same type of work will be done on more infrequent basis and in different locations, so that students still have the opportunity to get field experience.

Linda and Salongxay counting the rumen movement frequency on a cow2015-09-15 08.42.54

Soukanya and Khamxaixong counting the rumen movement frequency on a goat, while Prof Chantha assesses their technique:2015-09-15 07.42.53

Thitoudon and Namfon checking the color of mucosal membrane of a cow:SAM_3674 - Copy

Seesuphan and Yeng Li practicing blood smears in the lab:P1290720

Manisa, Bounsom, Xayavanh and Kampasong checking the temperature of a young buffalo:P1290671

Mailar and Lattana examining the mouth of a goat:2015-09-14 18.03.18

Prof Fongsamouth giving Nouna her certificate:SAM_4086

Margot giving Sisouphan his score attestation:SAM_4137

Group picture with Vannaphone, Amphone, Maude, Margot, Prof Fongsamouth, Chantha, Bounthang, all the students with their certificates, Kampasong and Sisavath from left to right:P1290857

Certificate Presentation to PAHWs in Laos

This last week, in the Faculty of Agriculture, all PAHWs (Primary Animal Health Workers) from the Houychiem community in Laos attended the last two big gathering events for the current Foodlive Camlao project.

On Day 1, all PAHWs participated in a training for cattle reproduction and obstetrics with several of the university professors and our own vet, Margot. Since PAHWs have a lot of experience as farmers, we used a group format to understand and integrate their knowledge into the training.  The best way to practice identifying a calf position was using a stuffed animal and a fake uterus! The day concluded in with a farm visit to practice Burdizzo castration on livestock. They were all very enthusiastic to learn about the new techniques!

Day 2 brought discussion of the “One Health” concept and more specifically, the health risks that can be associated with being a PAHW.  The group discussed the impact of animal diseases on human health, the impact of climate change and urbanization on farming activities and the impact of poor use of antibiotics. The PAHWs went on to visit a forage and silage production units and were very interested in learning the different types of grass they could grow for their cattle and how many cattle they can feed with one ray of grass field.  They also learned about biomedical waste disposal by visiting a facility that was built with VWB support!

In the afternoon, all PAHWs put on their brand new T-shirts to receive their final certificate from Prof. Fongsamouth and Erin, VWB’s executive director who came from Canada to visit our Lao project. They also received signboards for their house, scoring attestations, “menus” with all the services they can offer and the prices for them to advertise their work in the village office. Village chiefs, staff from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Province and the District Agriculture and Forestry Offices attended the ceremony, as well as teachers from the Faculty who were involved in the PAHW training. We look forward to working with the Faculty of Agriculture to expand the project and conduct new PAHW training throughout Laos!



Prof. Kampasong giving instructions to Phonethip, Khamla and Vanthong for the group work


Kouadouayang, Kamphoun, Xayphone, Lenyang and Vongsong reflectiong on the impact of urbanization


Prof Sisavath, Khamhuk, Sweden, Sophone and Boun in front of the Biomedical waste disposal device


Prof Viengsakoun explaining the recipe for grass silage production

SAM_3753 Labu, Khamla and Khamhuck doing the burdizzo castration


Latee demonstrating how to identify calf position


Phomma describing the signs of calving in cattle


Prof Viengksakoun and PAHWs in an Elephant grass field


Final Days in Uganda

Well, this will be our last blog post from Uganda. I honestly can’t believe it’s over already.

Our last day in the field was a really fun one and we spent it teaching the women of the Kahenda community how to make donuts. Kahenda is one of the first communities we started to work with way back in 2007, and it is also one of our oldest communities, comprised mostly of widows. Back in June when we attended their community meeting they asked if we could provide training on how to make donuts. Since the community is almost entirely made up of elderly women, the goat project wasn’t a great fit for them anymore; the physical labour in caring for livestock was becoming too much for them and they are often the target of thieves because they cannot protect themselves very well. They are hoping to use making donuts and other sweets as a new source of income. Kahenda is also a very far out and isolated community with little to no amenities or health clinic, so we also invited the U of S nursing students to come along and give them a health talk.

Frying up some tasty donuts:

Frying up some tasty donuts

The Kahenda women learning how to make donuts: The Kahenda women learning how to make the donuts

Upon arrival in Kahenda we were all greeted with the warmest welcome we have ever received in any of the communities! All the women came over and shook each of our hands and gave us hugs, thanking us for coming to see them that day. I had no idea they would be so excited to see us! After prayers and quick introductions, our nursing students from the University of Saskatchewan, Janaya and Anthony, were going to present on cervical cancer and STI’s. Back in June they did a placement in Rugazi and along with health care students from Mbarara they chose these topics to focus on in that community. A bunch of 80 year old widows might not make for the most appropriate audience for these topics but it’s what they had already been prepared for. Janaya discussed cervical cancer, which is the most common cancer in Uganda and talked about its relationship to HPV. The women were really interested in doing a cervical cancer screening so we’re hoping to organize an outreach camp to come to their community in the future. Following this, Anthony talked about all of the different STI’s that are prevalent in Uganda. Not realizing this is a community of widows, he also lectured on the importance of being faithful to your husband or wife… oops. Fortunately, they didn’t seem to mind. I was quite blown away by all the questions and openness the women had when it came to discussing any health issues they have been having. I can’t say I would be quite that comfortable talking in public about the spots that itch and the fluids and discharges that may be affecting my nether regions.

Janaya explaining cervical cancer:Janaya explaining cervical cancer

Finally it was the time everyone was most excited for – donut making! We hired a friend of Shafiq’s (one of our translators) to teach the group all that she knew about making the tasty deep fried sweets. The training went really well and the ladies got a chance at making donuts and we all sampled some of the finished product as well. I now know how to cut the shape of donuts using a cup and a bottle cap! The community also all came together and contributed to preparing a massive feast of traditional food for all of us as well. It was such a kind gesture and they were very excited to share it with us.

Katrina taking a turn at making donuts: Katrina taking a turn at making the donuts

Just as we were saying our goodbyes and about to leave, Katarina, the community chairperson, started to clap her hands and sing with the group joining in. I’m not sure if they were on a sugar high or just so thrilled that we came to visit them, but they all started singing and dancing. One woman even picked up a jerrycan to create a drum beat! It was absolutely beautiful and we all were almost tearing up a little before the performance was over. I was overwhelmed by how much this day meant to these women. It was the most perfect way to finish our last day in Mbarara.

Our farewell dance party:Our farewell dance party

The last few hours before leaving Mbarara ended up seeming a bit frantic as Brit and I tried to get everything organized for Susanne before we left. Despite being so busy every day working on our vaccination campaigns, Brit and I were not able to make it to all the communities for a second visit so Susanne and Joseph were going to finish them for us. We also had to say all of our goodbyes, which is always, always hard. Having spent two summers on the project now, leaving everyone is so much harder as I’ve grown close to all these wonderful people. It’s difficult to be excited for the next chapter of my life when I feel the guilt of leaving so many great people behind.

I think I can speak for both Brit and Lena when I say we will miss Uganda and the amazing people we’ve met; even the light switches that randomly electrocute you when you turn them on, and its seatbelts that come undone when you shift in your seat too much. However, Brit and I are both getting excited to see all our friends and family back home, and who knows, maybe we’ll be back again some day!

Well it has been one amazing journey and the summer of a lifetime. We hope you enjoyed the blogs and thank you to VWB for giving us this great opportunity! Webare munoga!

Thank you VWB!

Last student blog of the summer from Kenya!

It is hard to believe that 10 weeks has gone by so quickly and that our internships have ended. The final few weeks were not only busy with finishing up the projects, but also full of new, fun experiences.

I (Maggie) also had a chance to visit the Meru side of Mount Kenya and help with the Farmers Helping Farmers (FHF) project that has been started there. As Mira and Sarifa have previously mentioned, it was really interesting to see the differences in the management styles of cattle in this area, as well as such a new and rapidly growing dairy with such a promising future. Some of the major differences I noticed were that most farmers have larger herds of cattle, graze their cattle, and use more natural breeding as opposed to artificial insemination (AI). These different management practices resulted in different health implications; the tendencies I noticed were that the grazed cattle were in better body condition, but had considerable number of ticks, and I even saw one that had severe skin cancer from sun exposure.

While there, I also had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with the two Atlantic Veterinary College students (Emily and Krista) at the Mother Maria Zanelli Children’s Home, which is run by the Sisters of St. Theresa’s. I was extremely impressed with the facilities and the staff, and we had a lot of fun helping out with meals and playing with the children…they were very excited to learn “Red light, green light” and “Hot potato”!

Maggie (back) and Emily (front) with a group of children showing off their “Hot potatoes” (donated homemade dolls from PEI) at the Children’s home in Meru.Photo 1

When I returned to Mukurwe-ini, Emily came with me. It was a great week for her to visit, as we continued working on farms from the nutrition project, while also having the chance to accompany a local veterinary technician on his calls. The Wakulima Dairy has one veterinarian and four technicians whose services are available to members; it is a great system in which farmers can use their credits to pay for these services. Patrick is one of these technicians, and was kind enough to let two students (per day) accompany him for a couple of days. It was very interesting for us to see how veterinary services work in this area; in general, the veterinarian is usually called to challenging cases, and the technicians are called to treat the more common problems and to do AI, which is the primary method of breeding in this region. Despite being extremely busy (visiting 10-15 farms/day), Patrick was an amazingly patient and informative teacher and we learned so much in such a short period!

Maggie helping treat a cow for metritis (infected uterus) following calving.Photo 2 

That week, we also taught at our last primary school. Once again, I was blown away by the attentiveness and enthusiasm of the pupils and the questions that some of them had, which demonstrated some impressive critical thinking. As veterinary students, these teaching experiences have been invaluable to us. Not only have we been able to share knowledge that we are well versed in and that we believe is important in the daily lives of these children, but we have also been able to strengthen our communication skills while being inspired by the motivation and studiousness of these children. At the end of the lesson, we were actually told an unfortunate story of a women in the area who died of rabies only a few years ago; this tragedy really reinforced the fact that the diseases we taught about are very relevant and of real concern.

Students at Mweru Primary School going over the review activity on zoonotic diseases.

Photo 3

Photo 4

After teaching, we had the opportunity to spend the night billeting with some local farmers. Both Joyce and Esther are directors at the Dairy and were gracious enough to host two students each in their homes. It was a really enjoyable time full of cooking, meeting friends and neighbours, and engaging conversations! We also toured their farms, checked their cows for mastitis, and discussed some ideas for changing stalls to improve cow comfort.

Mira helping Esther cook our delicious dinnerPhoto 5 

Maggie and Mira have morning chai (tea) with Esther (right) and her friend Mary (left).Photo 6 

At the end of the week, we also had a chance to visit the University of Nairobi Veterinary School. We had a great tour of the facilities, and even got to try some yogurt made by the Department of Food Science that shares the campus. The campus was fairly quiet, as the veterinary students are out on 2-month rotations around the country; in Kenya, this is part of the curriculum for all students in second to fifth year.

Last week marked our final week of work, but we were fortunate to continue having new opportunities! The Dairy has several extension officers whose roles are working with and educating farmers in different topics. On Tuesday, Sarifa and I attended a training session that Elias, one of the officers, was holding for a new group of farmers. Farmers can come together and form a group (this one had 10) that can then request free training on subjects of their choice. This particular day, the topics were on cow comfort and calf nutrition, and we were excited (but a little surprised!) to get to teach the portion on cow comfort.

The following day, Mira and I accompanied Elias to several farms to see some silage making. In the past year, the Dairy has invested in several new chaff cutters that are available (free of charge) for members to borrow to make silage. In addition, when a cutter is borrowed, an extension officer also comes and helps/teaches the farmer the entire day that they are making the silage! This investment certainly seems to be paying off, in the past year, the number of farmers making silage has gone from 40 to over 200! This is very exciting as it means more reliable feed sources during dry periods, which translates into increased milk production and increased profits. It was really interesting to see the process on different farms, since each farmer has to work with what they have available and what they can afford. We saw a wide range of storage methods, from 200 kg bags to 1 tonne plastic-lined crates, to 2 tonne pits!

Elias (left) and Susan (right) packing maize silage into a bag that will fit 200 kg.Photo 7 

Mira checking out one of the crates that Elias is packing approximately 1 tonne of silage into.Photo 8 

Elias also brought us on a tour of the Dairy’s Demo Farm. This is a plot of land that they acquired just over a year ago and on which they are now growing several crops including Calliandra, sweet potato vines, desmodium, maize, and Napier grass. The crops are used for both educating the farmers, and growing seeds to provide to members (again, free of charge!)

Seeing Elias and the other Wakulima Dairy extension officers at work these two days and learning about all the services they provide to farmers was really impressive and inspiring. It was very evident that they really care about their jobs and that farmers are benefiting from their help.

On Thursday, Mira and Sarifa had the opportunity to accompany Patrick on calls again, while Shauna and I visited the final farms of the nutrition project. These last visits brought the number of farms I had been to up to nearly 150 and yet, I continued to be moved by the eagerness and generosity of the farmers.  In fact, while not surprising, it was definitely a nice treat to finish off the visits being invited into one last farmer’s home for chai and food!

Enjoying some chai and lunch at Supa Café, our favourite spot in town. From left to right: Maggie, Shauna, Priscilla, Jeremiah.Photo 9 

Friday was my final day in Mukurwe-ini, and it was definitely a great end to an amazing summer! The morning was spent helping our chef Samuel prepare a huge spread of Kenyan food including chapatis, Mukimo (potatoes, greens, and maize), beef stew, chicken, and stir-fried vegetables. That afternoon, we had a party to thank all the incredible people (and their families) that we have been fortunate to work with this summer. The party extended well into the evening, and was a blast of delicious food, heartfelt speeches and thank you’s, and bittersweet goodbyes. It was really nice to have a chance to express our gratitude to everyone, including (but not limited to) our awesome drivers, talented chef, skilled translator, incredible laundress, and all the wonderful employees of the Dairy.

Sarifa, Samuel, and Matthew (Shauna’s husband) working hard preparing food for the thank you party.Photo 10

 Maggie making mukimo for the thank you party.Photo 11 

This summer was truly a once in a lifetime experience. I began the internship with the hopes of helping farmers improve their milk production and maybe learning and improving a few skills myself, but in the end, got so much more. As student interns, we did get to share the knowledge we have from our schooling, and were extremely fortunate to actually see some nearly instantaneous results; extension officers told us that one farmer went from getting 8L to 15L of milk/day solely as a result of the stall changes we made to improve cow comfort. However, I had no idea this experience would be such an exchange of knowledge; for everything that we taught, there is no doubt in my mind that we received 10-fold back in return. In the past 10 weeks, I have learned more than I could have imagined about veterinary medicine, farming, teamwork, communication, Kenyan culture, and being resourceful, generous, and appreciative for all the wonderful people and things in my life. On behalf of Mira, Sarifa, and myself, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all those that made this unique opportunity possible, including all those who donated time or money to our fundraising, Veterinarians Without Borders and all their sponsors, Farmers Helping Farmers, and all the wonderful people we were privileged to work with in Mukurwe-ini!

Group photo with all our wonderful colleagues and their familiesPhoto 12 

The 3 student interns with our amazing laundress and friend, Ruth and her son Cedric.

Photo 13


The Great Goat Pass-Out!

Today was our most important day of the summer – the goat pass-out to new beneficiaries! I was so pumped (and a tad stressed) for this day; all of our hard work for the summer leads up to this and we really had to bust our ass to make it come together. Like I mentioned in my last blog, we managed to find 38 healthy goats that we could pass out.

(Thank you again to everyone from back home who donated money to buy goats!!)

Unfortunately, last minute several more beneficiaries built acceptable pens, but we didn’t have enough goats for everyone, so we narrowed down our list to those who seemed like they were most vulnerable and in most need of help. We tried to focus on women, either single mothers or widows, or families who had members with physical or mental disabilities. We encouraged those with pens who didn’t receive to keep their pens because they will then be the first to receive goats passed on by beneficiaries in their community or will receive when we do another pass out next summer.

To our pleasant surprise today the beneficiaries didn’t run on African Time and they all were at the Demonstration Farm on time and some were even early. So I guess Ugandans are, in fact, capable of muzungu time after all – can’t risk missing out on getting your goats! Before we gave out the goats, I gave a little speech (read: lecture) to the new beneficiaries about the five steps to raising proper goats:

  1. Proper pen
  2. Proper food and zero grazing
  3. Providing water – you’d think this was a no brainer, but here in Uganda people believe that animals don’t need water. In two summers on the program I honestly don’t think I’ve seen one pen that had water available to the goats.
  4. Vaccinations and deworming
  5. Good human hygiene when cleaning the pens


I followed “the big 5” with a discussion of how these goats are a loan, and not a hand-out and tried to emphasize that loans need to be paid back. This is a constant issue and it’s incredibly frustrating to work so hard and feel consistently taken advantage of, so we’re very picky about who gets goats. Before handing out the goats we also awarded a new paravet a certificate and a medical kit; he had completed the training in the past but for some reason it was not made official until this summer. Finally it was the moment all of our hard work all summer had lead up to – passing out the goats to new beneficiaries. Shafiq and I were on goat wrestling and handing out duty and Brit took care of the paperwork for each beneficiary. I found out at the end of the day that unsurprisingly over a third of the women were not literate enough to sign the paperwork and had to use a thumbprint to acknowledge ownership of the goats instead.

Maybe because I was working up a sweat chasing and fighting with goats the whole time, but the pass-out flew by. In a little over a couple hours it was over, the photos were taken and we were saying our goodbyes to the beneficiaries as they strapped screaming goats to the backs of bodas and were on their way home. It was another fun day and we could feel the excitement radiating from the beneficiaries as they patiently waited in line to receive their goats. I really hope with all my being that they can care for them properly, taking our advice seriously, as this is a business opportunity that can and does work with a little bit of patience and effort. Worldwide women are suppressed by dated rules and patriarchal traditions that prevent them from accessing the same privileges as men. I truly believe the most important factor to improving lives of all people around the world is educating and empowering women. In developing countries men traditionally hold the power and wealth in the households, and too often they abuse and waste their privilege. In rural Uganda, in particular, men often spend the family’s money on alcohol, prostitutes or buying other wives. Some men abandon their family for the newer, younger female flavour of the week, leaving the wife to struggle to provide for the family and try to raise enough money to send children to school. When their husbands are gone, other male family members may try to steal their land and the little resources these women do have. Women here have little rights and little power over their possessions. When women have the money and power they put it all back into their home and their children, not needless vices for themselves. All of these reasons and more are why I feel so passionately about the goat project. “Loaning” the most impoverished women goats through the project gives them a chance at having a micro business; it allows them to have some control over their finances, ultimately empowering them and gives them some control over their life and livelihood. Some women obviously fail with the project by not taking care of their goats like we ask, but some are incredibly successful and at each community meeting we were thanked by the chairperson for helping to bring some security and wealth to their community. Each year we learn from past mistakes and are trying to make the project more successful and sustainable, and slowly we are seeing the positive changes it brings. One thing I’ve learned this year – and I have no idea how many times I’ve said this out loud over the last couple months – is that development work is a slow, and sometimes painful process. Often all your hard work brings seemingly little or no change, and your efforts bring no reward, but even being able to help improve the life of one person makes it all worth it.

So following the refresher training and pass out we were busy the rest of the week finishing our first, and trying to get started on the second, vaccination campaign. Recap: the first is where we went home to home collecting blood to test for brucella bacteria antibodies in the serum and simultaneously vaccinated the goats for clostridium. Now that we’ve run all the tests we are going back to each home to tell them the results and vaccinate their negative goats for brucella and also give a booster shot against clostridium. We lowered the price of the vaccines to be as little as possible (even less than the vaccine costs itself) in hopes of improving compliance to vaccinate. We had a wide mix of reactions with this one – some communities were great and understood the importance of getting their goats vaccinated, while others didn’t see the need to vaccinate their goats, and others flat out couldn’t afford it. Yet, next year they will complain to us about their goats dying of sudden death or aborting and demand us to replace them… which we will continue to refuse to do. I lectured about this at every single meeting this year. Unfortunately there is a complete lack of education regarding human and animal health in these remote communities; last year I spent time trying to convince people that you can, in fact, get HIV from having unprotected sex. True story. It makes it incredibly difficult to help people care about the health of their animals, or even themselves for that matter, when they have no prior knowledge about disease risks or transmission.

One of our new beneficiaries:

One of our new beneficiaries

Who doesn’t love cuddling with goats?! 

Who doesn't love cuddling with goats_

Awarding our newest paravet his kit:

Awarding our newest paravet his kit

Group photo with all of the new beneficiaries: 

Group photo with all the new beneficiaries

Love these cuties!

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2-Day Poultry Exchange Visits

To share the good results of the farmers from our two poultry activities in Douniean and Thachampa, we invited PAHWs, poultry farmers and village chiefs from 12 other villages to an exchange visit at the beginning of August. Staff from the District and Province Agriculture and Forestry Offices joined the visit as well.

Mentors from the faculty presented the objectives of the two different activities:
– A model village for poultry vaccination, where all poultry farmers in the village are vaccinating their poultry against Fowl Cholera and Newcastle disease, thanks to a local regulation, and recording their farms’ performances, to be compared to the poultry production level with another village where farmers don’t vaccinate;
– A village where 12 model farmers have been selected to apply improved farming technics in addition with vaccination;

Then PAHWs from Douniean and Thachampa presented their role within the activities: organizing the vaccination campaign, giving advice on farming practices to farmers during mentoring visits, and helping to deliver trainings. The village chief from Thachampa also explained how the activity has been enforced and made sustainable by the setting up of a local regulation, making poultry vaccination compulsory in the village.

Finally, we went to visit three selected farmers from each villages to have a look at their farm.They explained about the changes they have made in their farms thanks to the project and the impact it had on their poultry production.

Visiting farmers had the opportunity to ask questions to mentors, PAHWs and farmers and they were especially interested in vaccination protocol and techniques, economical impact of the poultry activity in the households, and the feed formula used by farmers They requested to have a poultry manual to have access to all this information, so that will be our next project!

In the end, we were very happy to see that the rain and the very muddy roads didn’t discourage the farmers to come and to visit the farms

From farm to farm, under the rain:SAM_3576

A poultry farmer in Thachampa:

Somphone, PAHW from Thachampa explaining about feed formula:SAM_3616

Checking the chicken house in a farm in Thachampa:SAM_3615

PAHWs and village chief of Thachampa, explaining about the local regulation:SAM_3613

A model farmer in Douniean showing her farm to visitors:SAM_3607

Another model farmer in Douniean showing her farm to visitors:SAM_3606

All participants on the second day of visit:SAM_3585

Malavanh and Bounlerth showing impact of vaccination on the number of hatched chickens:SAM_3598

A farmer in Thachampa, talking about his farm management techniques:SAM_3579

Another farmer from Thachampa in front of his poultry house: