From the ‘Pearl of Africa’

by Dr. Laura-Anne Kutryk…

Upon my arrival in Uganda, I was quickly reminded of the fond memories I have from the first time I experienced this country 8 years go. The beautiful landscape of green rolling hills spotted with herds of cattle and goats, and endless banana plantations makes Uganda every bit deserving of its nickname “The Pearl of Africa”. The beautiful landscape is matched only by the friendly people that call this country home. I was welcomed with warm greetings, vibrant smiling school children, and my favourite local comfort food: the Ugandan Rolex (fried egg with some tomatoes, onions and cabbage rolled up in delicious chapatti bread).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

       Twesigye, he is a farm worker on Mutanoga Farm

For this placement, Veterinarians without Borders is partnering with the Dutch organization, SNV, and their ‘TIDE’ project. TIDE stands for ‘The Inclusive Dairy Enterprise’. The goal of TIDE is to enhance the private dairy sector in southwestern Uganda and help improve the livelihood of individual farm families. We work directly with farmers to help them commercialize their farms, increase profits, and improve the quality and quantity of milk produced. Through TIDE, SNV connects farmers with the resources they need to grow their businesses. These resources include practical training sessions, different dairy service providers, and on-farm investments.

The project has dedicated 3 farms in the region to be Practical Dairy Training Farms. These farms serve as examples to other farmers in good dairy management practices. The PDTFs also function as training facilities to formally train farmers in different aspects of dairy production. Each PDTF focuses on a specific topic: breeding and reproduction; nutrition and feeding; or animal health and diseases.

I spend most of my time working with one PDTF called Mutanoga Farm. Mutanoga Farm is located in an especially scenic district called Kiruhura. It is nestled amongst green rolling hills of native pasture land being grazed by both local breeds and exotic breeds of cattle. Traditionally, the people of Kiruhura are known for being cattle farmers. Historically, they were pastoralists, living nomadic lives moving their herds of long-horned Ankole cattle to different grazing areas. Today, cows are still a valued symbol in many areas of modern society. More recently, farmers have been moving away from the pastoral way of raising cattle, and more toward intensification by paddocking their pastures and focusing more on milk production.

Once a month Mutanoga Farm holds a 4 day training session to educate farmers in the skills and knowledge needed to improve the health of their dairy herds, as well as improve the quality of milk they produce, consume and market. These sessions teach about health and disease using relevant hands-on learning activities. A large emphasis of these trainings is placed on encouraging women and youth to get involved in farming as much as possible, not just to empower the most vulnerable members of society, but to also ensure the succession of the family farm as a sustainable business.

Esther Alumba discussing importance of involving family in the farm business, especially wives and children

Besides helping to train farmers, my other duties on the farm involve working with the farm owner and his workers to identify areas that can be improved and helping to implement these changes. As well, I help to diagnose and treat any individual animals that require care. This has proven to be a bit of a learning curve for me, as the diseases and health issues here tend to be quite different than the pressing dairy issues I am used to facing in Canada.

Laura treating a cow for East Coast Fever

Infectious tick-borne diseases are the major production-limiting issue facing dairy farmers in Uganda, particularly a fatal illness called East Coast Fever. Ticks are so prevalent that farms have to spray their cows on a weekly basis with ascaracide to control tick infestations. Obviously, this has environmental and health implications, but with cows frequently dying from East Coast Fever, Anaplasmosis, Heartwater Disease and Babesiosis – all of which are transmitted by ticks – many farmers have limited options. Compounding this problem is the limited extension services available to farmers, and poor access to sound veterinary advice. As a result, there tends to be an overuse and misuse of veterinary drugs. This is very concerning given the looming reality of worldwide anti-microbial resistance. Growing resistance and decreased effectiveness of the available ascaracide products has led to efforts to develop local natural herbal remedies to combat the tick problem.

Animals being inspected for tick number

The tropical climate is a major contributing obstacle to milk production. The introduction of exotic breeds to increase milk yields – particularly the familiar Holstein-Friesian – that are not well equipped to living in tropical environments has posed more challenges. Although these exotic breeds have the genetic potential to produce large quantities of milk, they lack important traits that the local indigenous breeds possess. This is especially obvious in their lack of resistance to ticks and their associated diseases, as well as their susceptibility to heat stress which is a constant challenge when you live on the equator. TIDE aims to train farmers in breeding practices that promote cross-breeding of exotic and indigenous breeds to optimize milk production and resistance to local challenges.

Through nutritional education, farmers are taught about making silage and other methods of feed preservation to counteract the fluctuations in milk production seen by the changing seasons. With the current low-input systems that most farms use, the only form of nutrition is through grazing. When the rainy season comes, there is usually enough grass to sustain milk production. However, during the dry season grass can be very limited, and as a result milk production and overall animal health drastically declines. By teaching methods of feed preservation, farmers can continue to be productive year-round.

Typically, cows are milked by hand into pails. The milk is then transferred into milk cans which are then transported by boda (motorbike) or bicycle to the nearest collection centre. Quality control is a major issue as there is little regulation over the marketing of milk, with most milk being consumed in the raw form, and very little testing of milk quality parameters or drug residues.

My time on the farm has opened my eyes to the day-to-day life of a dairy farmer in Uganda, including some of the daily struggles they face. Through the TIDE program, we are working to give farmers the resources needed to allow them to address many of these issues. Training sessions teach them basic skills about nutrition, breeding and animal health; and promotes the establishment of improved feeding practices, methods of water collection and distribution, and intensified grazing management. Although the goal is to commercialize the dairy sector, we realize it must be done in a way that is environmentally sustainable. With this focus in mind, the project helps farms implement biogas digesters so they can use manure as a renewable energy source to fuel their homes and provide nutrient-rich fertilizer for crops, reducing the reliance on firewood and charcoal. As well, farmers are encouraged to establish solar energy systems to pump water throughout their farms.

Since arriving in Uganda, I have been constantly learning, and it has made this placement very interesting. Besides learning about the many challenges facing farmers here, I have also been getting accustomed to cultural differences and trying to pick up words and basic conversational phrases in the local Riankole language.

I am optimistic that by training farmers we can impart the knowledge and skills necessary to improve livelihoods and develop sustainable and profitable dairy farms in Uganda. I look forward to continuing this work over the next few months!

Africa Bridge and Treatment for East Coast Fever

By Dr. Gerry Smith

Dr. Gerry Smith has been a veterinarian for 34 years, mostly in large or mixed practice. He is currently in Tanzania working as a Field Veterinary Advisor with Africa Bridge with the objective of improving field practical knowledge of poultry and dairy health. In the past, Dr. Smith has served as a Director for Western Drug Distribution Center in Edmonton, AB. (a purchasing group and distribution center for veterinary products and supplies) and a Director  for the Spray Lake Sawmills Recreation Park Society in Cochrane AB.

Dr. Gerry Smith and Noel from Africa Bridge treating dairy heifers for East Coast Fever.

Today we saw why we are here and who we hope to help. Africa Bridge, VWB/VSF’s partner organization in Tanzania, identifies families with the most vulnerable children then sets up co-ops of dairy, chicken or avocado with these families and their community. They provide the animals or trees, training, resources and follow up support so that after 5 years the families can continue on their own. Dr. Amy Lowe (another Canadian volunteer) and I were able to assist the District Veterinarian and his crew, along with some of our Africa Bridge colleagues, in vaccinating some of the dairy heifers for East Coast Fever. The facilities and environment are more rudimentary than in Canada. I got involved in the restraint of the animals and left the needle and ear tag work to Dr. Amy Lowe, Dr Kibona and Kimose. Many of the families are headed by single women –  in one of the pictures below is a widow with her three young boys. To see the care she gave and the pride she took in her heifer, the participation of the boys, the way she clasped our hands after and said ‘asante sana’ and “ndaga” many times ………..no words.

VWB/VSF, Africa Bridge and the Tukuyu district veterinary team preparing for a day of treating cattle.

Our project is a joint effort by Veterinarians without Borders Canada and Africa Bridge. The program is designed to provide sustainable support for those in the community who are most vulnerable. Yesterday we visited one of the projects in its initial phase in the Kambasegela Ward, which is comprised of three villages and the surrounding farmers. In order to select those families most in need, a committee of community members is elected, trained in data collection. They then visit families who have been identified by this committee as being vulnerable. Any other households noticed during the visits who may not have been identified are included in the data collection. The household I visited was one of those, not on the list but, quite in need. From this data, the families are ranked by degree of need and, depending on the budget, a number of them will be selected to participate in the co-ops. The land is beautiful and fertile with abundant water. Crops include banana, cocoa, cassava, potato, tea, avocado and maize. Production from the land is limited by traditional practices and insufficient money for seed and fertilizer. As the families grow the plots of land become too small to support a family as it is divided from one generation to the next. Many challenges ensue –  property disputes, absentee land owners, a generation of young men unwilling to work on the farms, HIV/AIDS and many other factors.

Crops grown by an Africa Bridge co-op participant.

The agricultural co-ops provide income to the families through the sale of milk, eggs, meat and avocados to allow members to better care for their children, send them to school, obtain health care, etc. Our role as veterinarians, is to provide guidance in developing and refining the health care/management program of the animals and to help train the co-op coordinators and Ward Livestock Officers in animal care. These communities are very invested in this process. Members attend training classes and do data collection, supervision and the administration of the program on a volunteer basis, many of them walking 10-15 km to participate. One of the Livestock Officers told me that transportation is one of the biggest issues she faces. If she gets a call to help a farmer she has to hire a taxi (usually a motorbike) and even then, especially in the rainy season, often cannot get to the farm in time.

 

Youth Participation in the Dairy Value Chain – Uganda

Esther Alumba is a Canadian Gender Advisor volunteer that has been in Ugandan since January 2017. She has been working with the Uganda Crane and Creameries Co-operative Union (UCCCU) to engage youth in the dairy co-operatives in Mbarara in the South-Western region of the country.

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In accordance with one of the objectives of the Uganda Crane and Creameries Co-operative Union (UCCCU), Esther and the gender team are making sure young farmers’ groups are formed within various co-operatives through mentorship activities undertaken by the main co-operatives. So far six youth groups have been formed with more to come before the end of the year.

Ibadan Young farmers (3)Ibanda Young farmers association

The rationale for youth interventions is based on the fact that there are fewer and fewer youth interested in farming. As the older farmers age and become weaker, the younger ones (their sons) are expected to be taking responsibility for the farms. Instead they are not interested and more and more are growing up without the dairy farming skills, passion and knowledge their parents had. This gap is a threat to UCCCU and to dairy sector because there is no clear strategy for continuity and sustainability.

Some of the issues around dairy farming include:

  • The work is a challenge and there is no technology in place yet to make it easier.
  • There is reduced labor to milk the cows.
  • Farm workers are not motivated because they cannot earn as much from farming as they would like to.
  • Quality control of milk is a challenge with hired farm labour.

Given the above stated issues, there is a need for the government and partners in the country to have a strong strategy for the future.

Ishongororo young farmers (4)Itojo Young Farmers’ Association

What VWB/VSF is doing to enhance youth involvement in the dairy sector

  • Helping youth to understand the opportunities and challenges that are present in the sector so that they can be able to make informed decisions.
  • The youth are being encouraged to take lead in the dairy sector space, for instance being in cooperatives management. This will enable their voices to be heard and policies that favor their growth implemented.

Itojo young farmers groupItojo Young farmers association

Ishongororo young farmers (2)Ishongororo young farmers

Going Together in Tanzania!

There’s a saying here in Africa that “If you want to go quickly go alone; but if you want to go far, go together”. We could not agree more. We have been blessed to meet such hardworking and passionate individuals who are all dedicated to the betterment of Tanzania. From the team at Africa Bridge who consistently go above and beyond what is expected, to the small holder farmers who have warmly welcomed us into their homes and patiently taught us Swahili; Tanzania undeniably puts the T in TEAM.

20347935_10212070947704330_1618285891_oNot to be biased but Isuba may be our favorite village. Only four people were required to attend our calf care training but we had over 20! We guess even learning is more fun with the support of your entire village.

DSC02427The A-Team. Front to back Left: Wema, Martha, Angie, Kevin, Yona, Davis. Right: Fred, Cheyenne, Abed. We feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from this inspiring and dedicated group of individuals of Africa Bridge.

DSC02398Ponsiano (black jacket) and Cheyenne discussing cow management with Maria Moses (turquoise shirt). When talking with villagers, it helps to have someone who can double as translator, like Ponsiano. We’d be lost without him, that’s for sure.

DSC01773Here we are getting our hands dirty as we learn pottery, a true Tanzanian craft, at Matema beach with the help and guidance of the local villagers.

20632348_10154710979972483_464730040_nWhen you’re not used to village life it can get the best of you. Our mentor Dr. Roger was always ready to have a little fun and put a smile on our faces.

20370531_10154680540537483_977058630_nActivities such as distribution of cows need support from both private and public authorities. Seen here is Alfred (Brown sweater), the Ward Executive Officer of Kisundela ward handing a cow to one of the caretakers of most vulnerable children in Isuba village.

DSC02291All hands on deck as Cheyenne collects milk from Edward Sanya’s cow (light blue shirt) for mastitis testing, while Godwin Makasungo helps restrain.

20170804_124008What is there more to say? We would be lost without Dr. Gimbi. No Tanzanian placement will be complete without this amazing veterinarian. He was a big help to us and has taken care of several other groups of VWB/VSF students in the past.

DSC02192From the peak of Mount Rungwe, Team Tanzania thank all of you who have joined us throughout our journey. The support we felt here was amazing, and the things we learned will stay with us for a long time. Asanteni sana (thank you all) and badayi (till we meet again).

This is Team Eggplant signing off!

Working in the present to support the future

It’s been two months since we landed in Tanzania and in our time here, we’ve notice that there is an awful lot of both local and international NGOs. One of the most difficult parts of working with any of these NGOs is trying to develop a sustainable program.
The first step to ensuring sustainability is to learn what the community needs. We believe the most effective way to do this is through a method we lovingly call “shut-up and listen”. Creating a sustainable program means building trust with local communities and having a baseline knowledge of their challenges to maximize opportunities.

20170622_125849Sustainability means that a community will be self-sufficient once the NGO is no longer working in the area. Here we see the villagers of Ndubi putting theory into practice. After teaching the co-op members about New Castle disease, Ponciano (striped sweater) co-op coordinator of Africa Bridge (AB), asks Juliana Frank (purple dress) to lead the vaccine preparation and distribution.

Africa Bridge (AB) is putting this principle into practice through their Most Vulnerable Children program. The program’s goal is to equip the caretakers of vulnerable children with the skills and resources necessary to be able to provide for them in the long term. The first step is to choose which ward to work in by meeting with district council and determining the number of vulnerable children in that ward, as well as the economic status of their caretakers.

IMG_0030Seen here are over 100 children from the Lufingo Ward getting ready to start celebrating International African Child day (June 16). These are some of the most vulnerable children that Africa Bridge tries to support through dairy, poultry and avocado programs.

The next step is called Future Search, which involves meeting with children and adults within that community and understanding their needs. Following this, AB develops a Work Plan individualized to the needs of each village. The work plan involves electing a ‘Most Vulnerable Children’s Committee’ made up of village members as well as developing dairy, poultry and avocado co-ops. It is up to each family to decide which co-op suits them best.

20170622_120631Every training session is an opportunity to hold a community meeting. Here we see the members of the Ndubi village poultry co-op discussing a recent difficulty they had with poultry management. We were there with Africa Bridge staff to facilitate discussion but ultimately it was the members who decided on the best solution.

Once co-ops are established, AB begins a comprehensive training program that goes on for more than two years. Villagers are taught the appropriate management system for their chosen livestock or crop, disease management, and housing. AB ensures that each session is a mixture of both theory and practical application. While AB’s goal is to help vulnerable children, the training session is open to anyone in the village.

IMG_0934Visual aids go a long way in helping improve a training session. In this case Angie is showing the farmers of Mpuga village a video of chickens with New Castle disease, one of the leading causes of chicken mortality in Tanzania.

Bupe Jakobo, secretary summarizes at end of lecture in Isuba villageAt each training session, the village selects a secretary to ensure that they have a reference to turn to after the session. Here we see Bupe Jakobo, the secretary of Isuba village, summarizing that day’s training session of New Castle and Gumboro Disease.

Once a village has begun to become self-sufficient, AB spends less time there and prior to graduating a ward they perform a follow up. This includes activities like visiting villages with disease outbreaks and performing pregnancy diagnosis on dairy cows.

20630278_10212164667527267_1570705481_oCheyenne performing a pregnancy diagnosis through the guidance of experienced Africa Bridge staff Noel (red shirt) and Ponciano (grey sweater). This is part of the follow up in Kagwina village where Africa Bridge has been working for almost 5 years.

The final step of AB’s sustainable program is paying it forward. AB aids farmers by providing them with dairy cows, poultry, and avocado seedlings. In each case the farmers are expected to ‘pay it forward’. In the case of the dairy co-op the first two calves that are born must be passed on to other members of the village.

IMG_0031Paying it forward is the driving force of the dairy co-op. Seen here are Joyce Jimwambande’s cows. She is the co-op’s treasurer and has successfully passed on 2 of her calves to other co-op members.

 

International development is often slow and riddled with setbacks. However, we believe that Africa Bridge is working hard in the present to support the future.

Goats for Women!

Today is Goat Pass-On day; one of the most hectic and exciting day of our placement! We have been working tirelessly with our partners in Uganda over the past few weeks to provide medical care to their livestock.

IMG_9268IMG_8706In this photo our supervisor Dr. Clair Card and partner Vivian Namale are preparing medical supplies for the day. Each goat is vaccinated, dewormed, tagged, blood tested, and recorded into our system.

IMG_8665Prior to the pass-on day, we take blood from the goats to make sure they are Brucella negative. Once they are confirmed to be disease free we get them ready for transport for pass-on day. (Photo above of Vivian Namale and Nikki Sheedy)

IMG_8707As well as handing out goats, pass-on day is also the day when all the new paravets graduate. These individuals provide basic medical care for the goats in the communities to ensure the success of the program and develop their own business. In the image above, Ibrahim Nuwabaine, one of the superparavets helps train the new paravets and pass out the goats.

IMG_9271Two goats are ready to go to their new home. Once they have kids (baby goats) two will be passed on to another woman in the community to help start more farms. All other kids will be kept to grow the farm.

IMG_9267At the end of the day a total of 55 goats were passed on to 31 women and families and 6 new paravets graduated to begin serving their communities.

Unique Ideas from Tanzania

You know how the saying goes “give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” Well in Tanzania if you teach a man to fish not only will he master it, but he will also find new and innovative ways of improving his craft. We’d love to share with you some of the unique ideas coming from some innovative people that we’ve had the chance to work with over the past two months.
Let’s start with something that is near and dear to both Cheyenne and Angie’s hearts, wildlife preservation. Over the years, human-wildlife conflict has drastically decreased wildlife population in Africa, especially in the Rungwe region. Farming lands has resulted in encroachment on wildlife habitats which increased human-wildlife conflict. For example more monkeys steal farmers’ crops. While visiting Mbeya we met Sylvanos Kimiti, who informed us that the Wildlife Conservation Society of Southern Tanzania has been working to resolve monkey-human conflict in a very innovative way: chili dung. That’s right, by mixing chili peppers and cow dung, and then smearing it over their crops monkeys are deterred from eating farmer crops. Less crop loss means a happy farmer and a safer monkey.

DSC01977Yellow baboons, like this one, are just one of the many species of monkeys who can live to close to farmlands and steal farmers’ crops. Along with the chili-dung method farmers can also plant garlic or avocados. Both of these are alternative crops that monkeys don’t like to eat.

Sticking to the topic of crops, we have had the privilege of ‘training the trainers’ about the “Millenials” favorite food, the glorious avocado, locally known as the parachichi. Avocados take 3 years to mature from seedling into a fruit bearing tree. Therefore, it is essential to make sure that young tree gets appropriate care, including weeding at least 2x a month. To help reduce weed overgrowth, Tanzanian farmers have also discovered that they can plant short season crops such as beans in between their trees. This helps reduce the need to weed and acts as an excellent source of food.

19867021_10211904882272798_1341041089_oAngie teaching at Iponjola village and discussing the benefit of plant beans (maharage) in between lines of avocado trees to prevent weed overgrowth as well as provide extra nutrient to soil. As you can see Cheyenne and Angie added their own flair to the avocado lesson with hand drawn visuals to keep the farmers engaged.

Next on our list is the most innovative of them all: the chicken farmer. Aside from disease prevention, management, and nutrition, we also teach farmers about proper housing for their chickens. We are always amazed at how creative they get with the materials they have available. When visiting Mpunga village we were amazed to see a chick brooder complete with lights to keep the chicks warm. Frequent power outages can be a big problem in rural Tanzania but don’t worry this farmer has it covered, he also has a backup clay pot that can be filled with charcoal to provide extra heat. The difference this makes? Zero chick mortality from this flock.

19885718_10211904805910889_802183513_oNo cold chicks here. The chairman for the most vulnerable children committee has been attending all of Africa Bridge’s training sessions and used this information to go above and beyond in his brooder, complete with heat emitting lights as well as a backup heat source (the charcoal filled clay pot in the corner).

 

We also cannot help but notice innovation even during our days off. Whilst in Iringa for a Safari we had the privilege of getting to know the staff and story of Neema Crafts. Neema is a local organization working to change the way society views those with disabilities. Employing over 100 workers, all with disabilities, Neema had an especially innovative start in 2003 when they started making elephant dung paper.  That’s right, by drying, dying and flattening elephant dung Neema has made beautiful paper that can be used for everything from post cards to journal covers.

19885717_10154633880792483_1956376470_oHere we see Raheri, who is working on making boxes which will later be covered in the dung paper. The different sheets of paper can be seen behind her to the right. The sheets can be dyed different colours and used for a variety of products.

19850972_10154633886087483_755943539_oOne of the beautiful elephants Angie and Cheyenne got to see on their Safari to Ruaha. All of Neema’s elephant dung is sourced from Ruaha national park. It is collected by volunteers, dried and then brought into the workshop.

Since coming to Tanzania we have spent a lot of time training farmers in livestock and crop management.  However, as much as we have been acting as teachers, we have also learned a lot.  We hope that through sharing these stories you also see that when faced with a challenge, Tanzanians will change it into an opportunity.

A week in Salaga, Ghana

We’ve had an absolutely wonderful last week of work in Salaga. We spent four mornings helping the Salaga veterinary officers, alongside several other veterinary students, quarantine and process 300 sheep for one of their animal distribution programs.

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This was our first time working with sheep in a veterinary capacity and we were able to learn lots from our fellow veterinary officers and students, including sheep handling techniques and some treatments for local diseases.

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Over the span of a week we ear tagged the sheep for identification purposes, treated and monitored any sick sheep and vaccinated the herd for Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), which is a common viral disease in the area. We were also able to tag along and help with the sheep distribution in one of the communities. It was great to see all the smiling faces as people received their new sheep.

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In addition to the excitement of working with the sheep, we were also fortunate to be invited to the wedding reception of one of our coworkers, Taaha. Our local seamstress made sure that we each had a beautiful Ghanaian style dress to wear for the occasion. This was a good thing because we were asked to get up and dance for the newlyweds in front of everyone! It is a common practice that the wedding guests dance for the newly married couple, and if you like the dancing you are supposed to throw money over the dancers heads, which is then collected for the bride and groom. We had a lovely afternoon learning more about Ghanaian culture.

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As we prepare to head back to Canada we would like to extend a HUGE thank you to all the amazing staff we have encountered at SEND-GHANA. They have taught us so much over the past three months and have made our time here memorable and fun. We will miss them all tremendously!
And thank you, readers, for taking the time to follow these posts. We hope that you have enjoyed following along and that you learned something about Ghana and international development.

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Whirlwind summer in Kenya!

After a whirlwind summer in Kenya, the time has come for our final blog post. As our time here draws to a close, we want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our Kenyan family, without whom this project would not have been possible. Each member of our team has been essential in helping us reach our goals. We are so grateful to them for welcoming us into a new country with open arms.photo1(placeafterintroparagraph)
With their help we have worked directly with over 500 farmers and taught over 40 seminars. A total of 54% of the farmers we worked with were women. We were able to increase our impact this year by visiting more farms than in previous years to provide one-on-one training. This allowed us to teach farmers not only about the importance of raising calves, but also about feeding a milking cow, construction of an appropriate place for cows to rest, milking hygiene, and much more. By working one-on-one with farmers we ensured their individual needs were met to set them up to succeed.
To ensure our project was sustainable, we also taught 20 staff members at the Mukurwe-ini Wakulima Dairy Ltd. about the best ways to raise a calf and take care of a dairy cow. These training sessions were based on years of past research proven to be useful in this region. This group of staff is responsible for training dairy farmers, so countless more farmers will learn about how to dairy farm more sustainably to ensure improved livelihoods.
We also visited 5 schools and taught 360 primary aged children about Rabies prevention, how to avoid dog bites, staying safe around farm animals, and how to ensure you don’t catch a disease from an animal. These students go home and teach their siblings and parents about this information, creating an even larger impact on the community surrounding staying safe around animals.
These are just some of the large impacts our work had this summer in Mukurwe-ini, but as we previously mentioned, none of this would be possible without our Kenyan family. Therefore, to end off our summer, we would like finish this blog by sharing some details about our great team that we had the pleasure of working with every day.
Ruth Wathiha provided us with laundry services to ensure we had clean clothes every day for working on the farms. Without her help, it would have been very difficult for us to maintain good biosecurity practices while working with the livestock here. Ruth is from the Mukurwe-ini region of Kenya and lives with her grandma, husband, and three year old son, Travis. Ruth has been working with Veterinarians without Borders since 2010. In addition to her small laundry business, she is a well-established entrepreneur, operating a fruit stand in Ichamara as well as a flour, sugar, and fat shop in Kimondo. In her spare time, Ruth enjoys listening to music and playing with Travis. Ruth loves working in the Ichamara region of Kenya because of its pleasant climate and peaceful atmosphere.

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Samuel Karanja, our very talented chef, was inspired at a young age by his uncle who was a successful chef at fancy hotels in the Nairobi area. Samuel completed his secondary education in Nanyuki and attended Nyeri Technical Institute for 2 years for his culinary training. He has been working with VWB/VSF for the last 3 years. Although he faces challenges such as limited availability of ingredients in Mukurwe-ini and less than favorable cooking conditions, his ingenuity pays off with his delicious meals and the well-deserved compliments he receives. He loves his childhood home of Nanyuki and credits his mother’s guidance for his successes. Samuel’s goal is to work abroad in Canada for a few years and ultimately return to Kenya to build a fancy restaurant of his own in Nanyuki. In his spare time, Samuel likes to watch movies and the cooking channel, listen to music, go swimming, and make new friends. Aside from his cooking skills, he has given us invaluable insight into understanding Kenyan life, and has become a great friend.

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Priscilla Muthoni was our enthusiastic translator who has been working with VWB/VSF since 2012. She speaks 3 languages – English, Swahili, and Kikuyu. Kikuyu is her native tongue, which helps us to connect with the local people. She was born in the Mukurwe-ini region and grew up on a dairy farm. Of her many chores on the farm, milking cows was her favorite, and this cultivated an interest in the dairy industry. She completed her post-secondary education at the Dairy Technical Institute in Naivasha and then worked as a laboratory technician doing quality control at local dairies. She is well versed in dairy cow care and Kenyan farming practices, providing background knowledge and a Kenyan perspective to each situation we encounter. Her favourite part of the job is helping to make a difference in the dairy farmers’ lives. In her spare time, Priscilla enjoys going out with her husband and 3 children to volunteer with the less fortunate. Priscilla was a vital part of our team, especially in connecting and building relationships with the farmers we teach. Every day with Priscilla was a delight as she is so personable, funny, and easygoing.

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Ephraim Mutahi was our very impressive driver. Amidst the bustling pedestrian and vehicle traffic, he was successful in getting us where we needed to be quickly and efficiently, and his faithful car Shira always made it up the most intimidating hills. He has been working for VWB/VSF since 2013 and really enjoys the opportunity to be a private driver because it’s dependable employment. He has worked as a matatu (local bus) driver in busy Nairobi, but prefers the more peaceful life of Mukurwe-ini. He says his biggest challenge as a driver is competing with the many other drivers in the area for customers, but it is worth it because his job allows him to provide for and work close to his family. Ephraim is a pastor and a father of 3, often providing us with daily wisdom and cheesy dad jokes. He loves spending time with family, volunteering on the school board, and taking time to bathe his cow, Maggie. He says, “When you have a big heart, you always have time to do more.” Ephraim feels lucky to have been born in Kenya because the country is free and the landscapes are beautiful. Our daily drives with Ephraim were always an adventure, and we looked forward to his exciting wardrobe choices.

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In addition to the team we worked with daily, we would like to thank Gerald Kariuki for coordinating our partnership with the Mukurwe-ini Wakulima Dairy Ltd. as well as the local community. He has been a valued liaison for VWB/VSF for many years and we are all very appreciative of his efforts. We also appreciate the following individuals for their many contributions to our work:
Extension staff from the MWDL – Charles, Elias, James, Eunice, Jeremiah
Veterinarians from the MWDL – Patrick and Ayub
The administrative, lab and management staff at the MWDL.
Henry and the staff at Sportsmen’s Safaris in Nairobi who supported us during this project.
We would like to thank our wonderful supervisor Dr. Shauna Richards for her knowledge and guidance throughout our placement, Veterinarians without Borders Canada for their sponsorship of this project, Farmers Helping Farmers for their continued collaboration, and the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre for their generous financial contribution. Last but not least we want to extend a special thank you to everyone back home who donated their time, services, money and encouragement for us to be here. None of this work would be possible without you!

photo6(placeafterthanksparagraph)Our team with friends and family in Mukurwe-ini at our Canada Day celebration

This project is supported by VWB/VSF Canada with funding from Global Affairs Canada.
#KenyaBelieveIt #Dairyfarming #Cowsforlife #Vetsinthemaking #VetsWithoutBordersCanada #FarmersHelpingFarmers #Drinkmilk #TeamPotato

Working with girls in Uganda

Part of VWB’s work in Uganda is to promote gender equality through female empowerment. In the picture below Dr. Laura McDonald poses in front of the hundreds of bras which she collected with the help of her friends in Canada. Some of these bras were given to young school girls as a thank you for attending a Women’s Empowerment Day which our team hosted.

Laura BrasSchoolAbove is the outside of one of the classrooms at Kihwa Primary School, the first location where the Empowerment Day was held.  We also followed up on last years “Pad’s Project” started by Sarah Zelinski which teaches girls to make their own reusable sanitary pads so they can continue attending class when they are menstruating.

The inside of school classrooms usually consist of attached benches/desks and a chalk board at the front of the classroom.  The students must bring their own pencil and notebook and take these items with them at the end of the day.  Here (below) we are teaching the girls about the importance of sexual health with the help of Vivian Namale (in yellow) who works tirelessly as our community liaison to organize and facilitate our community visits.

TeachingAfter spending the day with the girls it was most rewarding to see all of the smiles on their faces and to feel the appreciation that they have for our visits.  This picture truly captures the beauty and resilience of the young women in Uganda.

Two GirlsFinally our team poses for a photo with the headmaster and teacher of Kihwa school as we exchange our thank-yous and goodbyes.  This day has been a life changing experience for us and we leave the school with our hearts full.

Headmaster