A warm welcome to Uganda

One of the great joys of an international placement is the opportunity to experience another culture. The VWB/VSF volunteer team recently experienced a warm introduction to the culture of western Uganda  (editor).

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As we continue our placement, we visited Annah Kabateraine’s mixed farm. In the above photo she is seen in the red along with our team and many others who work for her including her son Emanuel and nephew John seen on the right in the photo. She received a bronze medal for national agricultural micro finance management for highest yield in mixed farming. Annah also promotes agro tourism on her farm.

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Dipping is one of the practices that Annah uses on her farm to prevent the common problem of tick born disease. The cattle impressively swim through an 18 foot deep trough filled with water that is mixed with pesticide.

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Whilst on the farm we ran into mechanical trouble with the community tractor that Annah shares with 6 other farms and was financed by the government. Shortly after it broke down we had many people from nearby villages come to help fix the problem. We are learning first-hand about Uganda’s strong sense of community.

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Annah’s son, Evan Toras, took us to a traditional Ankore wedding and helped us rent the proper attire so we would fit right in. The people commented that “we looked smart” which is a common saying/compliment in Uganda.

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In Ankore culture milk is kept in the pots seen above; they are smoked after each use to clean the pot and flavor the milk. Yogort and “ghee” which is a fermented butter are also made in the pots. Momma Annah gave us our own pot to use whenever we visit her as a token that we are now like her daughters.

Greetings from Mukurwe-ini!

Over the past 2 weeks, the Kenya team has been working with the veterinarians and extension officers from the Mukurwe-ini Wakulima Dairy Ltd. The dairy is the Kenyan partner of Veterinarians Without Borders and Farmers Helping Farmers, and plays a vital role in the economy of the ever-growing Mukurwe-ini. Currently, over 6000 farmers sell their milk to the dairy, and it provides rewarding employment to many Kenyan women living in rural areas.
The dairy has a strong support system for its farmers, including laboratory tests, extension officers, and veterinary services. The lab provides routine testing of milk, similar to what is done in Canada, to ensure quality of milk products.

The dairy’s extension team educates farmers on components of animal health and welfare including nutrition, housing, and management practices. They advise farmers on small adjustments they can make to cattle housing to optimize comfort, feeding to keep cows a healthy weight, and milking practices to maximize production. Currently, the extension officers are focusing on educating farmers on the benefits of silage production to help feed their cattle consistently over Kenya’s two dry seasons when fresh food is harder to come by. The extension team supplies a chaff cutter to farms on a rental basis, as well as labour for the day, to help farmers make silage.

When working with the veterinary services team, we responded to calls from the community and treated animals as needed, under the supervision of Dr. Patrick Githae Gatheru. These treatments include preventative measures such as deworming, as well as treatments of illnesses with the use of antibiotics, vitamin and mineral supplements, and a little TLC. We were also able to observe some artificial insemination of cattle, a common practice in Kenya.
Next week, we will begin our project focusing on calf care. Our goal is to educate farmers about how to best feed, house, and care for their calves. We want to emphasize that calves given a good start to life will grow into higher producing cows, increasing income for the farmers.

Be sure to check out our favourite photos below from the past 2 weeks!
Thii nawega!
(Goodbye in Kikuyu)

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This is the milk receiving dock at Wakulima Dairy. Most farms do not produce much milk with only a few cows per herd, so the dairy uses 20L milk cans to collect from each community. 

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This is our team (Alina left, Kelly center and Megan right) on one of our first days out with Dr. Githae Gatheru, one of the vets from the Wakulima veterinary services team. Although it is taking some time to adjust to the heat, we have been enjoying every minute of our experience here.

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This week, we went with the extension team from the dairy to help with small scale Napier Grass silage making. First, the Napier Grass is cut using a gas powered chaff cutter, then molasses is added to aid with fermentation, then the chopped silage is packedtightly into plastic bags, each weighing 200-250 kg.

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Megan and Kelly following Dr. Githae Gatheru to a farm where we watched an artificial insemination. Many of the farms we visit are only accessible by foot, and are surrounded by the many beautiful landscapes of Kenya. 

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Kelly and Megan measuring out a common preventative deworming medication in order to maintain health for this cow and her unborn calf.

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Individual calf pens on one of the farms we visited. This raisedhousing system helps to improve calf welfare by preventing calf to calf contact, and reducing the potential for infection by parasite or bacteria from the ground. 

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Happy Cows = Happy Megan!

Finding inspiration in northern Ghana

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Volunteers Natalie Chow (left) and Olivia Bos (Right) with Martha Kumah.

We are pleased to introduce Martha Kumah! Martha attended our three-day animal production Training of trainers (TOT) workshop from June 1st to 3rd 2017 in the Kpandi district of the Northern region of Ghana. She is married with five (5) children and stays in “Kabonwule” a community in the Kpandai district. Her enthusiasm during the training sessions stood out, she was constantly putting up her hand to participate and asked questions despite looking after her small daughter Grace.

Martha even led the participants in a rousing energizer after lunch. We admired how she was able to show up early, participate effectively and look after her child all at the same time. There was something special and inspiring about her. After some casual conversation and giving her a brief knitting tutorial (which she was fascinated by and got the hang of very quickly), we learned more about Martha’s story.

Martha has been raising animals for over 15 years and now has a herd of 25 goats and about 20 chickens. Like many others in this district, she uses her animals for meat, eggs and as gifts for special occasions.When the family needs quick cash, her animals fetch a good price at the market, with a female goat selling for about GH?300.00 ($100 CD).
Over the three days, Martha learned about the benefits of providing animal housing and hopes to soon build housing for her animals. She will also be vigilant in providing fresh, clean drinking water for the goats and chickens. Martha is a great example for her community of a woman who is able to raise animals and run a household.

She is now excited to put what she has learned into practice in hopes of improving her animal production. Martha is thrilled with the training and plans to go to her community and actively share her knowledge on animal production with them!

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Natalie and Olivia with Samuel Agongo.

Samuel Agongo is one of the few individuals in the Kpandai district who considers animal production a business. We got to know Samuel through our SEND GHANA supervisor who mentioned that Samuel owned a farm and she praised it for how well kept it was. We were instantly curious since not many people in this area raise animals in any manner other than free-range/extensive system.

We went to visit his farm and began to learn more about his background. Samuel said he started his semi-intensive poultry and pig farm in Kpandai in 2014. Over the past few years it has grown and flourished into a profitable business. He currently has 1000 laying hens, and was expecting another 3000 shortly, in addition to having about 30 pigs and a small herd of sheep. According to Samuel, he became interested in animal production after watching his father raise animals and 1000 guinea fowl while he was in high school. He had a background in agriculture coupled with a degree in crop science before starting his animal production.

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Samuel has built an excellent poutry barn.

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Happy, healthy pigs.

He grows yam, cassava, soya beans and maize crops on 11 acres of land in order to feed his animals. Samuel provides an excellent example of the benefits of appropriate housing, good animal husbandry, herd vaccination and using manure as a natural fertilizer for crops. He is a strong believer in the importance of vaccines and believes that more farmers should make this investment for their herds. Samuel faced many challenges when starting out, some of which included high capital investment in buying land, fencing the land, getting electricity to the farm, and constructing the housing. He says that it took about three years before he finally started to make profit. His farm is currently doing very well and he is seeing the fruits of his investments in animal production. Samuel Agongo is a pioneer of good animal production in his area, and we hope that he can inspire others to start investing more in this business.

Below:  Cropland with the poultry barn in the background.

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Tanzania young volunteers — one month in

Hello everyone, this is Angie, Cheyenne and Dr. Roger of Team Tanzania. We can’t believe it’s been a month since we left home to start our African journey. After a training session in Ottawa we landed in Tanzania and dived head first into international development in this beautiful country. We hope you can appreciate the diversity of the work we’ve been involved in for the past month. We’ve been a part of round potato planting to prevent soil erosion, taught secondary students about the opportunities involved in poultry keeping, and started a pilot poultry vaccination program.

These are our first month’s highlights, Enjoy!

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Figure 1: Mr. Ntajile of IADO showing farmers from ILEMBO USAFWA the importance of reducing chemical fertilizer by using more portion of organic fertilizer for round potato farming.

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Figure 2: Cheyenne and Angie distributing New Castle Oral Vaccine to chicken farmers of Idimi village. Clean soda bottles and 20L pails are essential when working in remote villages to distribute oral vaccines.

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Figure 3: Cheyenne standing with Riziki Samwel (grey dress shirt) and one of the local farmers in Lwanjilo village after successful vaccination.

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Figure 4: Prior to mass vaccination, every village receives training on basic poultry management and the importance of regular vaccination. Seen here is Dr. Roger (red VWB shirt), and two IADO staff Lusakelo (green striped shirt) and Ntajile (tan shirt) lecturing in Hapaloto village.

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Figure 5: Angie inspecting a kid (baby goat) for external parasites. After we finish distributing ND (new castle disease) vaccine in Hapaloto village, we had some downtime. This is one of the best ways to pass time as a vet student in Tanzania.

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Figure 6: Building a relationship and meeting with the village council is essential building block of sustainable international development. They say it takes a village to raise a child, can you imagine how many people it must take to run a village? (Seen here IADO team with Dr. Roger Thomson and village executive council of Ilowelo. From left to right, Steven Mengu (hamlet chairman), Yona Samwel (village executive officer, wearing blue suit)

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Figure 7: On our first weekend off since arriving in Tanzania we decided to take a breather from the buzzing city of Mbeya and enjoy a 2 hour hike through the rainforest to crater Lake Ngozi. Seen here are Cheyenne and Angie enjoying the view of the lake while snacking on fresh fruits.

Living in Tanzania has been quite the adventure so far! We have met some wonderful people, dedicated farmers and seen amazing views of protected environments. We can’t wait to see what happens next!

Meet the Uganda volunteer team

“Agandi” – Hello how are you? Greetings all the way from Mbarara Uganda!

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We would like to introduce you to the Veterinarians without Borders Uganda team. From left to right Cassia Michel, Nicole Sheedy, Michelle Mak, and Hollyn Maloney. In the middle is Dr. Ludwig Siefert, one of the veterinarians who oversees the health of wildlife within the Queen Elizabeth National Park and leads the team of the Uganda Carnivore Project. (www.uganda-carnivores.org) Cassia and Michelle are working together on VWB/VSF’s goat pass on and school milk projects. Nicole and Hollyn will be working on a new project in partnership with SNV a Netherlands based organization. The project is called TIDE (The inclusive dairy enterprise).

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Edison Ntwazza is a trained technician performing artificial insemination (AI) on a local farm. Edison is one of the technicians working with SNV to improve the success of AI in the district of Mbarara. He has been operating his own AI business in the district for many years and is one of thirteen technicians to join the TIDE project in 2016. We have been travelling with Edison to local farms in the community to observe the challenges and successes that the people of Uganda experience when developing their dairy farms.

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This is Sister Antonia Tibareka, one of four sisters who run a successful dairy farm in Rubindi, Uganda. She has a herd of 30 Holstein cattle and has been using the AI services for 8 months with good success rates. One of the challenges she faces is providing sufficient water for her animals during the dry season. This year Uganda has experienced a drought which has made access to water during the dry season a serious issue. Sister Antonia solved the problem by building dugouts, including the one below. She sold 7 cows to pay for the construction. Each cow is worth approximately 1,000,000,000 ($376 CDN) for a total investment of nearly $2,700 CAD.

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Along with her herd of cattle sister also raises pigs and goats to diversify her income. She has constructed raised pens for both the goats and pigs so that the manure can be collected and used as fertilizer elsewhere on the farm.

Sister Antonia is appreciative of the partnership she has begun with SNV and Veterinarians without Borders, and is looking forward to continued support for the development of her farm.

Getting down to work in Kenya

Muriega! (“Hi all” in Kikuyu, the local language spoken in Mukurwe-ini)

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The three of us visiting the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi, which is part of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife Kenya Ltd. 

We would like to formally introduce you to the VWB team Kenya!
We are a mini force of three. Kelly Hammond (photo left) is a vet student from Manitoba heading into her second year. She aims to work in mixed animal practice after graduation and is very interested in contributing to sustainable agricultural practices on a global scale.  Megan White (photo center) is a Registered Vet Tech and agricultural student from Alberta. This is her second trip to Kenya, and she is excited to see how veterinary medicine contributes to human and animal welfare in developing nations.Alina Gardiner (photo right) is a vet student from Ontario heading into third year.  Alina wants to work in a bovine practice after graduation, so she is thrilled to be on the dairy team andto collaborate with Kenyan farmersto improvethe health of their calves.

We’re sure all of you (especially our families) are wondering what we have been up to! The internet is not always reliable here, so we are extra excited to share our experiences through this blog.

We have just arrived in Mukurwe-ini, our final placement destination, after spending the past week with Dr. John VanLeeuwen and The Farmers Helping Farmers team in Meru learning the ropes and acclimatizing to the farming techniques here in Kenya! We were able to practice our physical exams, body condition scoring and pregnancy checks under the watchful eye of Dr. John.

This summer we will be working with women and youth members of the Wakulima Dairy Ltd. We will be hosting seminars focusing on dairy calf health and welfare and making small changes and recommendations on farm. In addition, we will be visiting primary schools to educate children about zoonotic diseases and hygienic practices related to animal handling. Our overall goal is to help educate dairy farmers to improve the health of their animals and promote a sustainable livelihood in their communities.

Kenya is a beautiful country, and we have taken at least 500 photos each, but have included just a few of our favorites from the past week below.

Photo2smallOne of the many calves we examined with the beautiful scenery of Naari in the background.

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In the last week, we have had to get creative with restraint techniques. Alina is holding a cow while Kelly listens to the heart as part of a physical exam.

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Alina performing a pregnancy check of one of the cows in Meru with Dr. John’s guidance. 

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Photo 7: A small 6-month-old calf. With the help of Dr. John and the other vet students we gave nutrition recommendations to the farmer to help with normal growth.

#VetsWithoutBorders #FarmersHelpingFarmers #Kenya #Cows #Vetsinthemaking

This project is supported by VWB-Canada and the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre

Better Livelihoods from livestock in rural Laos

By Dr. Anne Drew

IMG_4347smallDr. Anne discussing body condition of a goat with Mr. Phok, one of the Village Veterinary Workers.

Sepon is a remote district in the extreme west of south-central Laos, just 40 km. from the Vietnam border. With my husband Thom, I’m here for 4 ½ months, assisting with a project called Resilient Livelihoods for the Poor(RLP), in which Vets Without Borders is partnered with Health Poverty Action, a British-based NGO that has worked in Laos for 23 years.
RLP in Sepon works with 400 extremely poor families in 25 ethnic-minority villages, to start them in income-generating enterprises of their own choosing. Nearly all of the families chose small livestock enterprises, and most of these chose goats. The goats are a hardy local variety, much prized for meat for special occasions, and excellent demand exists for them here and just across the border in Vietnam.
In my capacity as Animal Health and Nutrition Adviser, I’ve been assisting the Lao Livestock Health Adviser, Choummala, a graduate of the Veterinary program at the National University. Over my first 8 weeks we conducted an animal health survey in the project villages, evaluating the health and productivity status of the goats, pigs and poultry, in the second year of the project. We visited a random selection of households in each village and conducted a short interview, with questions about reproduction, disease and losses, and feeding. Then we examined the animals and collected fecal samples for quantification of parasite loads. We treated any sick or injured animals that we found as we went.
The goats obtain all of their feed by free-range browsing now in the dry season, but in the rainy season are sometimes kept in for cut-and carry feeding. Ill health and losses are often caused by parasitism, injuries, and sadly, theft. Young kid mortality is also high. These results highlight appropriate education and interventions to increase the success of the enterprises.

IMG_3978smallMs.  Choummala interviewing Ms. Huay about her goats as she works at the loom under her house.

Since mid-March we’ve been implementing an advertising and vaccination/deworming campaign in each project village. We call an evening meeting and after introductions, show 2 videos on the rationale for vaccinating and deworming livestock. These were produced in Lao by CARE International, but we had voiceover in Brou, the minority language, added. Discussion of the videos and personal experience follows, with prizes for participation. We’re also promoting the services of the three Village Veterinary Workers trained by the project, and explaining the need to charge for the service – so the activity will be sustainable. Then, starting early the next morning, we move through the village in 2 teams, treating animals at as many households as will accept the service. Starting early enables us to find the animals and the owners still at home, and avoids the intense heat in the middle of the day.

IMG_4158 1smallMr. Muey in Latuengnai, presenting his goat for examination.

Government counterparts from Livestock and Fisheries, Rural Development, Labour and Social Welfare, and Planning and Investment participate, so the work goes quickly. We vaccinate against devastating endemic diseases: goats for Foot and Mouth Disease, cattle and buffalo for Hemorrhagic Septicemia and FMD, pigs for classical swine fever, chickens for Newcastle, Fowl Cholera and Fowl Pox, ducks for Fowl Cholera and viral enteritis.

IMG_3310smallAnne and Thom (with assistants not shown) treating a septic goat with a maggot-infested wound.

A durable calendar noting important times for livestock care and sales and promoting the VVWs was produced, and one is given to every village household.Participation by project households has been excellent, as they are already aware of the procedures and benefits. Non-project livestock keepers are coming on-board in smaller numbers. As more families see and understand the benefits, we hope that every biannual campaign will see increased participation.

IMG_5105smallMs. Choummala recording vaccination/deworming date, and next treatment date, on a calendar promoting livestock health care.

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IMG_4993smallThe vaccination team in Palongnai village, with VWB volunteers, 2 Village Vet Workers, Ms. Choummala, government counterparts, and the village goat group leaders on the right.

IMG_5853smallMr. Phon, one of the village Vet Workers, vaccinating a goat for FMD.

 

Animal Health Training in Laos

By Thomas and Anne Drew

GoatA goat recovering from injury after being stuck in a vine.

Anne and I made an early start for the first day of Anne’s Animal Health Survey. We started in Mai village, the most remote of all our project villages at 70km.away and very near the Vietnamese border.  That day, as often after, the survey took longer than expected because we were asked to treat sick animals as well. The very first house had a goat that got its leg trapped in a vine and was missing for almost a week until the owner found it. The goat had broken the bone and sloughed off a lot of skin, and the leg was healing in a deformed shape. Anne treated it with antibiotics and pain meds, as it was nursing a young kid that still needed the milk;  but she advised the owner that he should sell it for meat in a few months as it would be difficult for it to do well through another pregnancy. We went back to check it about 10 days later, and the leg was dry and the swelling reduced.

Goat HouseA goat house built in a vegetable garden.

At another household I gave Mr. Phok, the village veterinary worker, a hoof trimming lesson, and gave him his own Swiss Army knife. I pick these up second hand from those confiscated at Halifax Airport Security check. They make great gifts, and can help the VVWs to perform a needed service.

anne4Dr. Anne Drew and Mr. Phok examining a goat.

One of my jobs has been to take lots of photos of the team at work. After a great village lunch of purple sticky rice and jaew  (spicy chili dipping sauce), BBQ fish, eggplant and pureed greens we visited 4 more goat farmers in Salan Tai village and at the last one saw a great example of a creative use of resources. His goat house is built in his vegetable garden and he has planted things the goats wont eat on their way in and out: onions, cucumbers, pumpkins and herbs. The manure drops down and feeds the garden, everything was lush even though it is the dry season. It was beautiful!

One Health in Uganda

By Jamie Neufeld with Kyla Kotchea, Veronica Pickens, and Shauna Thomas

Photos by Kris Chandroo and Jamie Neufeld

July was by far our busiest month working on a variety of projects. We rarely reached home before it was pitch black, and the sun seemed to rise earlier and earlier with each passing day. Along with our vaccination campaign, we had two reusable menstrual pad training days, two community wellness education days with our nursing and nutrition colleagues from the University of Saskatchewan, paravet training day, and the goat pass-on, which we have been working towards all summer.  Thankfully, July also brought project supervisor Dr. Claire Card to Uganda, which provided us interns with invaluable learning opportunities in the field and help with organizing paravet training day and the goat pass-out.

PHOTO 1Dr. Claire Card with our friends from Vetoquinol.  From left to right: Vik Nimbkar, Claire Card, Kristopher Chandroo, and Kelsey MacNeil.  Photo courtesy Kris Chandroo.

The reusable menstrual pads training day focuses on empowering young women and the value of education.  Before coming to Uganda, hearing that young women miss school every month when they have their periods was a concept that was difficult to grasp. How can something so natural prevent young women from receiving education?  However, hearing about challenges in the household made the situation a bit more sensible; some families eat one meal a day, have over five children to pay school fees for, and certainly cannot afford the disposable menstrual products that we take so for granted in the western world.  The objectives of this project, which was spearheaded by WCVM student and VWB 2015 intern Sarah Zelinkski, are to provide girls with reusable menstrual pads so they never have to miss school because of their menses again, to emphasize how education is directly correlated to making more money and having fewer, healthier children, and that girls can do everything just as well as boys – oftentimes even better! The training days took place at Kihwa Primary School and Nyamuanja Modern School and were received with much enthusiasm.  The girls learned how to sew their own reusable liners, care and wash instructions, and left with a liner and shield set that were sewn by friends and family members in Canada.

PHOTO 2 (1)Girls at Nyamuanja Modern School sewing their reusable liners.

We were incredibly fortunate to have University of Saskatchewan nursing and nutrition students in Mbarara this summer who were invested in the wellness of our community members. Because of their interest and efforts, we were able to provide community health days to two groups, Kahenda and Kishuro.  Kahenda is a secluded, difficult to access community where the population is elderly and cervical cancer and syphilis are of great concern.  Many children are malnourished, as many grandmothers raising grandchildren are unaware of the different dietary requirements between the two life stages.  Kishuro is a large community that asked for further education in nutrition and first aid training. For both days, our nursing and nutrition colleagues were right on target with providing pertinent training and education, consultations, and cooking demonstrations that used local foods to make tasty, nutritious dishes. To add to this One Health experience, many of the nurses and dieticians spent time with us in the field vaccinating, tagging, and deworming goats, graduating as expert goat wranglers. Shauna and I spent a day in the hospital’s labour and delivery ward and assisted with our first ‘human calving’, an experience that confirmed our pursuit of veterinary medicine.

PHOTO 3 (1)University of Saskatchewan nutrition students starting off the community health day under the acacia tree with the members of Kishuro.

Last but certainly not least, the goat pass-out. The five days leading up to the goat pass out day were some of the busiest days of summer. Pens of potential beneficiaries had to be checked, goats for sale needed to be located, tested for brucellosis, purchased, and transported to the FAOC site where the event occurred, and contracts and goat keeping records printed. Once all of the goats were on site, each goat needed to be dewormed, vaccinated, sprayed for ticks, and photographed for our records. The stress from transporting goats and mixing animals from multiple sellers made for a variety of physical ailments, so the animals were closely monitored and treated when necessary. We performed supermammary teat removals, trimmed hooves, and treated ringworm and deep corneal abscesses. We were happily joined by three people, Kris, Vik, and Kelsey, who were sponsored by Vetoquinol and present for the paravet training day and goat pass-out.  They enriched the experience with sincere interest in the communities and beneficiaries, knowledge of veterinary medicine, humour, beautiful photographs, and lots of help with the goats. After only two days together, we were sad to see them go.  At the pass-out ceremony, beneficiaries received one or two goats depending on level of need along with a notebook for goat record keeping.  Contracts outlining the pass-on scheme and proper goat care were signed, and the day ended with the spectacular site of red dirt roads speckled with traditionally dressed women and men walking their new goats home, some up to twenty kilometers away.

PHOTO 4All attendees of the goat pass-on day: Beneficiaries and their children, community paravets and chairpeople, VWB interns, University of Saskatchewan nursing and nutrition students, and our guests from Vetoquinol.  Photo courtesy Kris Chandroo.

PHOTO 5Hellen Tumwine from Rutsya with her new goat at the pass-out.  Photo courtesy Kris Chandroo.

In conclusion, success of the VWB goat pass-on project is rooted in working closely with the community members and trying to tackle the challenges they face, whether it be animal related or otherwise.  Upon starting our internship in May, we dove into a One Health experience that developed our interprofessional, veterinary, and communication skills.  We are thankful for this opportunity with VWB and to have had Dr. Card as our passionate and informative project supervisor, and for the generous donors who purchased the goats for pass-out day.  We owe so many thanks to our translators who became dear friends, and to the community members who graciously welcomed us into their lives.

thumbnail_PHOTO 6 (1)Ten-year-old Batorine with his sister, Lynette.  Batorine stays home from school to help farm beans, matoke, and fruit.  With the help of goats, we are hopeful that Lynette will have the opportunity to attend school.

Final Thoughts & Goodbyes

Text and photos by Katy White, UCVM Veterinary Student and VWB Intern, and by Julia Nguyen, OVC Veterinary Student and VWB Intern

The internships with the Wakulima Dairy group are a joint initiative of Veterinarians without Borders and Farmers Helping Farmers, an organization of globally-minded people from Prince Edward Island partnering with Kenyan farmers and families. This project is also supported by the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre.

Our project here in Mukurwe-ini has come to an end. It is bittersweet to be finishing our time here as we have had such a great summer. Filled with many amazing adventures and lots of good work, we feel very lucky to have been selected as interns this year. We are happy to have completed such a successful project and met so many amazing people. However, these last three months have flown by and we can’t believe the time has come to say goodbye. Through our youth project we gave seminars to nearly 400 people on 40 farms. 55% of the people who attended the seminars were women and 51% were youth. The 40 youth farmers we worked with saw improvements in their milk production, and the majority of them have become really engaged in getting more youth in the area interested in dairy farming.

Blog 9 - 1Image 1: Feeding a blind rhinoceros at the Ol Pejeta animal sanctuary was one of the many adventures that added to making our trip a memorable one!

We have high hopes for the future of this project in the coming years. The extension team at the Wakulima Dairy have been instrumental in helping us reach out to farmers, and we were lucky to have them join us on several farm visits. Through the help of a recent donor we were able to buy Mastrite (an udder wash and teat dip) for the youth farmers who excelled through our project. The hope is that their farms can be used as demo farms where the extension team can continue to hold seminars over the next year keeping the youth engaged until a new group of interns returns next summer.

Blog 9 - 2Image 2: Katy teaching about cow comfort at the last seminar of the project. 

The work we did on farms was truly rewarding for us. There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from giving someone knowledge that will help them to create a sustainable and stable future. However, as much as we were rewarded through our teaching, we also found that each and every day contained a learning opportunity for us. On a personal level we both found that our communication skills improved a lot. Learning to interact with people who don’t share your language or culture can sometimes present challenges. However, with patience, a good sense of humor, and an excellent translator nearby; any language or cultural differences soon melt away. We also became much more proficient in our cow handling and milking skills. Without a chute system, convincing a temperamental dairy cow that you have her best interests at heart while you are trying to take her temperature can make for an interesting afternoon. With three months of practice, we have found we are much more practiced in the art of “cow whispering” and can milk with the best of them!

We also learnt a lot about the challenges of small scale dairy farming here in Kenya. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, dairy farming in Kenya is a full time job. Farmers have to be up at 5:00am for the first milking, spend the morning getting their children to school, complete all the necessary chores on the farm, and gather forage for their cow before the next milking around noon. They often also have another job that they then go to, or have to tend to the many other animals or crops present on their farm. Working these types of hours can be discouraging when you are getting a poor milk return from your cow. However, the Kenyan farmers we have worked with are some of the hardest working people we have ever met. This mixed with their passion for dairy farming and interest in improving is bound to help them see improvements in the future. Especially if programs like ours continue to help educate farmers in the small changes they can make to see large returns in milk production.

Blog 9 - 3Image 3: One thing we will definitely miss about Kenya is all of the delicious fresh fruit!

On a broader scale we also learned about working in international development. The youth project was based on the premise of One Health. Creating a healthier future for communities, by creating solutions for animal, human and environmental health. This project really showed us how making simple changes on a small scale can make a big impact in a community. By improving the welfare of single cows on small scale dairy farms, you can improve monthly income for an entire family. When the education that helped make that change is spread through the community, you start to see economic stability spread throughout the area. The partnership with the Wakulima Dairy was formed over 20 years ago. Small improvements to single farms may have seemed relatively inconsequential then, but now the Wakulima is a booming dairy that processes 35,000 kg of milk every single day. With over 6,000 farmers it has helped make Mukurwe-ini a great place to live for Kenyan farmers. It truly shows that small changes with the right goals can make big difference to families and communities in developing areas.

As with any project in a developing country, we could not have made these last three months happen without the help of many people. This project would not have been successful without the help of the staff at the Wakulima Dairy, especially their extension team. The extension team selected our 40 youth farmers, helped us coordinate getting project supplies, and assisted in ensuring our seminars run smoothly. We are so thankful to have them and Gerald Kariuki, ex-coordinator of the Dairy, helping us with any issues we faced that seemed a little over our heads.


Blog 9 - 4 (1)Image 4: Posing with the staff of the Wakulima Dairy at our farewell party. The support of these people was instrumental in making our project a success. 

Our team in the field consists of our translator Priscilla Muthoni, and our driver Ephraim Mutahi. We are so thankful to them. Without their help many farmers would not be able to understand us, and we wouldn’t have been able to navigate to the many different villages we travelled to. Together we have shared many laughs, and got to know each other well. They have become our Kenyan family and our days were made brighter by working alongside them.

 

Blog 9 - 5Image 5: Katy, Ephraim, Priscilla, and Julia with our trusty transportation “The Hustler”. Without these two, our work would have been a lot less fun, and a lot less productive!

We are very thankful for those who have made our stay in Kenya feel like a home away from home. Samuel Karanja is our wonderful chef who ensures we are well fed during the busy work week. In addition to experiencing his amazing meals, his friendship and company allowed us to feel as comfortable and as safe as possible. We are truly happy and thankful for his work. We also must thank Ruth Wathiha, a wonderful woman that hand-washes our laundry. She is very kind, sweet, and a loving mother of two boys. Her work for us is almost invaluable, as we work long days and get quite dirty on farms. We very much appreciate her work and the warmth with which she welcomed us to Kenya.

Blog 9 - 6Image 6: Julia, Samuel, and Katy on Julia’s last day in Mukurwe-ini. We are sad to say goodbye to Samuel’s amazing cooking and good company!

Blog 9 - 7Image 7: Julia, Priscilla, Ruth, and Katy. These women are inspirational both in their work and home lives. Their families are lucky to have such amazing women taking care of them, and we feel privileged to know them.

We would not have been able to travel to Kenya and participate in this service project without the support of the following charitable organizations: Veterinarians Without Borders Canada, Farmers Helping Farmers and The Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre. We are thankful for their partnership and support in facilitating the growth of student veterinarians, like ourselves, and One Health initiatives in developing countries. Finally, thank you to all of our friends, family, and donors that have supported our project during the last three amazing months. Please know that this project was more than we could have hoped for, and that your support helped make real change for the families we worked with here in Kenya. It is with hope that we look to the future and say not Kwaheri (goodbye) to Kenya, but instead Tutaonana (see you soon)!

Blog 9 - 8Image 8: Thank you to everyone who supported us on our journey to and time in Kenya! It wouldn’t have been possible without each and every one of you.