Fridays with Feddy

By Shauna Thomas,  VWB intern and OVC veterinary student.

Feddy Nambooze, widowed at 32 years old without even a high school degree and five children to look after. For any woman across the globe this sounds like a terrible situation, made worse in countries where widows are stigmatized and out casted from society as failures. The unfortunate reality in Uganda is that this situation is far from the exception to the rule; one could go so far as to say it is normal. In our time here in Isingrio district, Uganda, we have met countless widows who have worked unfathomably hard to provide for their family, and fight against the stigma so unjustly cast upon them. From the moment we met Feddy, we could tell she was something special and every encounter since then has only grown our respect and adoration for her. Fortunate for us, she invited us to her home one Friday night to talk and spend the night as her guests. A captivating women, humble by spirit and hardworking by nature, this is her story……

Photo 1Feddy Nambooze, 60 years old.

Although modern day Ugandan society is still highly oppressive to women, it has made moves in a positive direction. Thirty years ago, however, Feddy, a 14 year old girl having just completed grade seven, was coming home to the reality that she would no longer attend school no matter her drive or desire to learn. A family of 9 children, five girls and four boys, her father (as most men at the time) felt that it was a waste of money to educate girls and only the boys would complete high school.  At the age of 20, Feddy was married with one child on the way. After 12 short years and five daughters, her husband passed away leaving her widowed and the sole provider for her children. At the time, her family was living in a town called Ibumbo in a house built the local way. Made out of mud, sticks and grasses, her two room house would leak and wash away when it rained. When asked about her mindset at the time she admitted it was hard to feel anything positive, saying it was “the worst time of her life”. Thankfully, she persevered and was able to move herself and her children to her current location in a village named Kyabutoto.

All too happy to move on from talking about that time in her life, Feddy described to us in detail the steps she took to get from a bare, hilly plot of land to the concrete, decorated house she has now. To begin, she innovatively decided to dig up the hills to use the clay for bricks and to flatten the land at the same time. At this time her family had built another temporary local grass house until they could afford anything more. As an early member of the women’s group in Kyabutoto, she was one of the first people to be a recipient of the goat pass on project (2006). She explained how she sold the initial goats to pay for her daughters’ school fees, as many of our beneficiaries do. What has separated her from many others in the project is her forward-thinking. Using her group’s revolving fund (microfinance scheme), she invested in four more goats, selling and buying as needed after this. Although many people in Canada may interpret this investment strategy as the obvious/logical next step; it is not often the first choice made by women in rural Uganda. For people who live so day-to-day due to extremely limited funds and resources, the idea of taking out loans and investing in something long-term like goatherds is a challenging concept. This initiative allowed her to have enough money (although nothing extra), to support all five of her daughters through high school and then each into a trade (tailoring, salon etc). The way she spoke about putting her daughters through school was very matter-of-fact; for her, education was not a question, it was fundamental to a successful life.

Photo 3Feddy’s house to the left with the Isingiro district in the distance.

By this point in the conversation I had already lost count of the number of times she spoke of and emphasized how thankful she was to have been a goat recipient from the VWB pass on project.  From the start of her goat rearing time she had one goal: to have a home with electricity. She explained how room-by-room from 2006 to today she built the beautiful three-room concrete home we were sitting in. We were fortunate to get to take this walk down memory lane with Feddy, seeing her facial expressions and tone of voice change as she recounted her successes as well as her shortcomings. Especially notable was the look of pride she emitted when she pointed us to the light bulb in the ceiling and said all her hard work had paid off.

As a humble person by nature, it was harder than expected to get Feddy to talk about all of her training and current positions. The key to that box was when she pulled out a notebook and we started asking specific questions about the notes she has written and instructions in the book.  The secret to it was that she clearly didn’t want to talk about herself, but if asked about what she did for other people or the work a group she led was doing, she had endless things to say. A great leader is someone who is confident in themselves but focused on the greater good of a group. A list of the leadership position Feddy holds follows: Kyabutoto chairperson and Paravet, Nyamuanga secondary school board member, Parish co-ordinator, PTA representative, Village health team worker, Kakona health center nutrition facilitator, social worker trained in child protection and most recently a councellor for Kaberebere Town Council. All of these responsibilities she has on top of being the sole provider for herself and Rosette, the grandchild she looks after. It took me a few moments to pick my jaw off the floor after hearing just how many roles of responsibility she holds. Prior to this, I just believed she was a hardworking woman with some serious drive and a good head on her shoulders; when really she is the female version of Superman! Maybe a tad dramatic but when you see first hand how someone has worked so hard from the ground up all the way up to the top, you can’t help but be heavily inspired.

Photo 4Genuine conversations, genuine smiles.

Flipping through her training books, we stumbled across a chart with traits listed and a scale of 1(best) to 5 (worst) beside them. Feddy explained how every night she sits down and rates herself on each of the traits. She reflected that, “You can’t be 100% at everything, but you can certainly try.” We were shocked to see how low she had ranked herself in many categories such as empathy, confidence and availability. Thinking about it now, It has became clear that this is part of the key to her successes; never being completely satisfied forces her to seek education when possible, seize every opportunity given and continually expand her horizons. Alternatively, she says her key to success is always putting into practice what you learn, for many of us this is easier said than done. This 60-year old woman, without so much as a high school degree, is my definition of a life-long learner.  Throughout the entire conversation with Feddy, I was searching for her to slip some word or phrase that would capture her personality and move any reader the way she has inspired me. In reality, this wasn’t possible. To try to capture someone; their struggles, their triumphs, their complexities, in a few words strung together would only take away from their story. As we were wrapping up to leave Feddy’s, her youngest daughter (a 20-year-old named Claire), piped in that the only role model she ever needs is her mother. It struck me then that someone dosen’t have to be well known to accomplish great things, something as simple as being a single person’s role model is one of the greatest legacies you can leave. So many strong women across the world are examples of these everyday unsung leaders. A simple conversation on a Friday evening allowed me to meet one of these very special women, and her name happens to be Feddy.

Photo 2Feddy’s list of qualities and her ranking of herself in her reflection journal.


A Kenyan Veterinarian’s Work

Text and photos by Katy White, UCVM 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.

This week we spent a day with Patrick, one of the veterinary technicians from the Wakulima Dairy. In Kenya, veterinary technicians have extensive training and are licensed to treat animals so long as they work under the indirect supervision of a veterinarian, reporting on the cases they have seen each week. Dr. Auyub is the lead veterinarian at the Wakulima Dairy, and there are two other technicians that work under him.

Over the course of our day, we saw some very interesting cases. The day started with a case of foot rot, as common an ailment here as it is in Canada. In Kenya, it is especially common in cows who do not have an adequate resting stall. Without somewhere clean and comfortable to rest, the cows spend more time standing on hard ground or in manure, making them prone to foot rot. In this case, we treated with topical and intravenous (IV) antibiotics, pain control, and advised the farmer to keep it as clean as possible.

Blog 7 - 01Julia, Patrick, Ephraim, and Katy after a successful day of veterinary work in Mukurwe-ini.

The first farmer we saw had also had cases of East Coast Fever and babesia on his farm in the last year. Both of these are tick borne diseases that are seen more commonly in Kenya than Canada. Tick borne illness is especially common in cows that graze out where they might be in contact with wild animals. However, in the Mukurwe-ini area most cows are zerograzing, meaning they stay in their stalls all the time and farmers bring forage to their cows. It is suspected that cows here get tick borne illness from hay that is harvested in higher risk areas and then sold to local farmers.

Blog 7 - 02The lead legged tick, seen here, can be a vector for diseases like East Coast Fever and babesia.

We had follow-up visits with two other farmers who had cows that were recently diagnosed with East Coast Fever. The cows presented as pale, depressed, anorexic, and with decreased milk production. Their temperatures were over 40oC. They also had petechiae (small internal bleeds presenting as red dots) across their gums. The lymph nodes in front of their front and hind limbs were significantly enlarged. Successful treatment depends on early diagnosis and luckily in these cases the treatment Patrick had offered 48 hours earlier was enough to make significant improvements in both cows. For future prevention, applying a tick-killing spray (such as permethrin) every seven days will be essential.

Blog 7 - 03Julia attempting to carry a load of Napier grass similar to the weight of those we mentioned in last week’s blog.

Two other farmers we visited were part of the youth farmer project we are running. On our second visit to their farms, we perform physical exams and California mastitis tests (CMT) on farmer’s cows. When we find positive CMT results or any other abnormal findings, we recommend follow-up with local veterinarian professionals like Patrick. The prevalence of mastitis is much higher in Kenya than in Canada. The majority of the farms we visit have at least one cow with subclinical mastitis. When cows have mastitis they give less milk, the milk is of poorer quality, and farmers have the added expense of treatment. Prevention through proper hygiene is one of the main things we are educating farmers about on our visits. An intramammary antibiotic given in the affected teats helps to prevent an increase in severity of the infection and stops spread to other quarters. We are currently working with the dairy to ensure they are using appropriate antibiotics to treat infections and prevent antibiotic resistance.

Another common thing we have to educate farmers on is the importance of mineral feeding. Though most farmers are feeding mineral, they are often feeding it inconsistently and in inadequate amounts. Cows are often getting less than a third of what they are recommended to receive in a day. As a result, farmers here struggle with their cows not coming into heat, low milk production, and illness associated with mineral deficiency. In addition, dry cows (those who are not being milked in the two months before calving) are often being fed milking cow minerals resulting in milk fever. Through the course of our day, we saw a calving cow presenting with milk fever and vaginal prolapse, as well as a mineral deficient heifer. By helping to educate farmers on proper mineral feeding hopefully we can prevent the need for emergency veterinary visits like the one we had to assist on.

Blog 7 - 04Another successful seminar, where we discussed mastitis prevention, reproduction, nutrition and cow comfort.

We also responded to a call from a farmer who reported a difficult calving. When we showed up it was evident that the cow was in the middle of an abortion, and needed assistance to pass the fetus. Once the fetus was pulled we estimated that it had stopped developing at the 7-month stage of pregnancy, likely due to an intrauterine infection caused by a natural bull breeding. Most farmers here use artificial insemination (AI) to get their cows pregnant but some still have their cows bred by a bull making them prone to infection and injury.

AI is performed by a veterinary professional and with Patrick, we visited 3 farms for AI. Without ready access to internet, it is hard for farmers to know which bulls they want to breed to, so they trust the veterinarian to make the decision for them. Patrick choses the sire based on conformation, genetics, and owner preference for imported or local semen. He makes his decision on the farm after talking to the farmer about their cow. To time the breeding, the veterinarians rely on farmers to recognize signs of heat. This is something we work with farmers on during our seminars. Occasionally when a farmer is struggling to get their cow pregnant, the veterinarians will use hormones to help time breeding but for most farmers, that option is out of the budget.

Blog 7 - 05Patrick performing AI on an Ayrshire cow.

Through the course of the rest of the day, we also saw a dog with kennel cough and dewormed each of the animals we saw. We also talked to a farmer about a recent anthrax outbreak in her area that had resulted in one human death. This was tragic news for everyone involved, but it is because of the support of Patrick and the other Wakulima Dairy veterinarians that the outbreak was handled before it turned into an epidemic. Spending the day with Patrick really highlighted the importance of veterinarians not just to animal health, but also to human health. By helping people keep their animals healthy, the veterinarians here are directly improving the health of the farmers and their families.

Blog 7 - 1Katy and Julia with two slightly unhappy puppies after a tandem deworming!

Blog 7 - 06Katy and Julia  at Chania Falls in Aberdares National Park where they took a chance to explore on their weekend.

Kenyan Dairy Farms

Text and photos by Katy White, UCVM Veterinary Student and VWB Intern
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.

This past week Kelsey Goodick, a FHF intern, visited us from where she has been working in Naari. It was nice to have an extra set of hands as we had a big week full of some challenging construction projects. While on a walk one afternoon to the nearby river Sagana, Kelsey asked us what surprised us the most about being in Kenya. At the time we both remarked about how many people live in the “rural” area of Mukurwe-ini. It was a surprise to us to be living in such a populated area, when we expected something more rural. Of course in a country smaller than Ontario with a larger population than Canada, rural has a bit of a different meaning. Over the course of the week, and a visit to Nairobi, I think this question highlighted some of the other differences we have noticed here in Kenya and got us thinking about them. Specifically, the way an average dairy farm works is much different than in Canada.

Blog 6 - 01Julia, Katy, and Kelsey at the river Sagana, a beautiful place for reflection, and an important water supply to the Mukurwe-ini area.

The average farm we have encountered in the Mukurwe-ini area has only one or two cows, and is managed by a single person or family. It will often have other animals such as chickens, goats, sheep, and dogs or cats. The cows are housed within wooden cow sheds. Within a typical cow shed there would be a feed bunk area, a resting stall, a milking stall, and the cow’s open “alley way”. The cow’s manure and urine is often collected and piled or pooled outside the cow shed and composted.  One farmer we met, Solomon Waribu, was in the process of installing a biogas system whereby he could use his cows’ waste to produce gas to use in his home.

Side note: While in Nairobi this weekend we visited the Kibera slum, an area of four square kilometers with a population of 1.6 million people. Kibera has eight different biogas facilities that collect human waste to create fuel. For 40 KSH, people can hook up to the fuel created and cook their meals.

Blog 6 - 02An average dairy shed here in Kenya. We actually constructed the stalls in this shed from scratch!

The farms in Mukurwe-ini are zero-grazing farms, meaning that the famer has to harvest all of the food the cow eats and bring it to her. This helps to minimize parasite borne illness and ensure the cow’s daily nutritional requirements are being met. The farmer is required to grow, harvest, transport, and process the forage entirely on their own. Since the land area of a single farm is often quite small (about 1 acre), farmers often have to lease land elsewhere to grow their crops. Once they harvest their crop (using a machete) they have to transport the forages of foot or by boda boda (motorcycle). We are always in awe of the amount of forages or water that farmers are able to transport on their own. Walking several kilometres with 100 lbs of napier grass on your back is no small feat! In addition, water supply can be an issue. Some farms do not have direct water access so they must rely on rainwater collection tanks or travel to rivers to fill containers and bring water back to their farm.

Blog 6 - 03A local woman carrying napier grass to her cow back home.

To prepare for the dry season, some farmers are able to make silage. Indeed, this is one of the key ways a farmer can ensure that their cows’ nutritional needs are being met year round, and it is something we strongly encourage on our farm visits. This begins with a large harvest of maize and other forages, then everything is chopped into small chunks with the use of a chaff cutter and packed into silage bags. The protein and energy of the forage is preserved through the ensiling process making it an excellent feed for cows. Silage and other forage is then fed to the cow several times throughout the day. Farmers’ component feed their cattle here, meaning that forage is fed separately from dairy meal, minerals and other supplements. This is different from Canada where cows are fed a balanced total mixed ration containing everything the cows need in a day. While a nice idea, it would be very hard for a Kenyan famer to determine the proper balance of nutrients need in a TMR and so it is easier to ensure the cow is receiving everything she needs by feeding separately.

Blog 6 - 04Peter Ndegwa (a farmer in our project) preparing forage with a chaff cutter for the ensiling process.

Blog 6 - 05Finished silage bags ready and waiting to be fed to nearby cows.

Since this is all a very labour intensive process, farms with more cows often do poorer than smaller farms. The more cows you have, the less each cow gets to meets its daily energy demands. Making milk is a very energy demanding process, and so if a single cow is getting the proper amount of food she can make much more milk than several cows whose energy demands are not being met. A good dairy farmer in the Mukurwe-ini area is producing an average of 20L of milk per day. Milking is done entirely by hand and collected into stainless steel cans. Milking one cow from start to finish will typically take about ten minutes. The farmer will then walk with the full can or cans to the nearest milk collection point (up to a few kilometres away). Here the milk is weighed and collected into larger milk cans which are then transported to the dairy. Farmers are paid for their milk every month. The rate is about 35 KSH per litre of milk, that’s equal to 45 Canadian cents per litre of milk.

Blog 6 - 06Farmers wait with their milk containers for the afternoon milk pick up. There are two pick ups per area per day. One in the early morning around 5:00am, and the other shortly after noon.

Blog 6 - 07A milk collection station, you can see here how the milk is weighed before putting it in general collecting tanks for transport to the dairy.

The differences we see in Kenya highlight how dairy farming is a lifestyle here as much – if not more – than it is in Canada. In most cases it is more than a full time job, but when farmers are successful they can make a decent living off a small dairy farm. One that will allow their children to go to school, and ensure there is food on the table every night. Being part of a supportive dairy group, that ensures a steady income, makes all the difference for the families we work with. By helping them to increase their milk production even a little bit we are working to make that living even more worthwhile. Plus, we get the bonus of improving animal welfare on farms, making new friends, and working with passionate and hardworking farmers in the process!

Kenya Halfway Point Favourites

Text and photos by Julia Nguyen, VWB intern and OVC veterinary student, and Katy White, VWB Intern and UCVM veterinary student.

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.

It’s just over the halfway point of our internship in Kenya. We have visited 27 out of a total 40 farms. We have completed all three visits to 22 of the farms. The past two weeks’ work has been broken up by two adventures. We climbed Mt. Kenya, and travelled to Amboseli National Park to go on safari. This has given us some time to reflect on our experiences so far.

Blog 5 - 01Katy and Julia at the top of Point Lenana, the third highest peak of Mount Kenya. Point Nelion is featured in the background.

Blog 5 - 02Hippopotamuses and elephants seen during our Amboseli National Park safari!

One of our favourite moments about visiting farms (especially on the third and second visits) is seeing how the small changes we make are creating real improvements in cow comfort and milk production.  For example, on one farm we made the minor improvements of increasing lunge space and creating a softer stall base. On our second visit the farmer informed us that the cow has been resting more frequently, and that its daily milk production had even increased by one kilogram. This is the kind of news we love hearing. We can often see how much cleaner the cows are from not resting in the dirty alley way, or witness cows resting comfortably in their clean and dry stalls. In addition, to seeing and hearing about good changes to their farms, we have enjoyed getting to know the youth farmers within our service project. Most are very welcoming of us, and very engaged in learning better practices. One exceptional farmer, Solomon Waribu, has been elected Wakulima Dairy Director for his area since being in our project! We are looking forward to the remaining farms left in the project, and hopeful the work we are doing is engaging more youth and female farmers; improving their farming practices to have a healthier cow and a better livelihood.

Blog 5 - 03Here we are posing with the group of farmers who attended the seminar on our third visit to Solomon Waribu’s farm. Each has the dairy farming handbook and three calliandra seedlings we distributed.

Blog 5 - 04Two cows resting in their stalls on Tirus Mukuria’s farm.

Some of our favourite people involved in the project have been integral to its success. These very important people are: Priscilla our translator, Ephraim our driver, Gerald and the extension staff at the Wakulima Dairy, and of course Shauna our project leader. Without Priscilla, Ephraim, Gerald and the Wakulima extension staff our project would not be possible. Priscillia is an exceptionally friendly person and she makes each day brighter. She gets along really well with all of the farmers we meet, and helps to make sense of what we are teaching through clear translation. Ephraim is a real renaissance man. He helps us with anything and everything that comes up, whether that be hammering in a tricky nail, calming down a temperamental cow, or getting “the hustler” safely up steep muddy roads that seem impossible to climb. Gerald helps us coordinate all of the small details that can be hard to organize, especially when you don’t know the area or the language well. He worked for years at the dairy and with the extension staff of Wakulima has helped connect us to all of the farmers in our project. We are very lucky to have such hard working and welcoming people to work with here in Mukurwe-ini. Ruth (the wonderful woman who does our laundry), Samuel (our amazing chef), and Jeramiah (our trusty back up driver), are also all integral in ensuring that our days run smoothly. Each one of them brightens our day every time we see them. They have made it feel like home away from home.

We were sad to bid Shauna goodbye as she recently left to return to Canada. She was an excellent teacher and made every day of work fun. We both felt lucky to have learnt from someone so passionate about the work they are doing. Her research here has found sustainable solutions for dairy farmers that can be implemented easily, while providing real returns for the farmers and their cows. It was obvious how happy the farmers were to work with her based on her easy rapport with everyone we met. We are excited to continue on the work she has been doing, and look forward to a future reunion. Good luck with your last chapter Shauna, and thank you for all your support!

Blog 5 - 05A group shot from Shauna’s last day in Mukurwe-ini. From left to right: Jeramiah, Ruth (and her son Travis), Ephraim, Shauna, and Priscilla.

Blog 5 - 06We also have wrapped up all of our school visits! Thank you to the class 8 students (pictured here) at Gikondi Primary school for hosting us and letting us teach them about zoonotic disease, proper biosecurity on farm, proper cow handling, and dog bite and rabies prevention. They were our last school visit of the summer.

A Day in the Life — VWB Uganda: Part 2

Text and and photos by Jamie Neufeld, VWB intern and WCVM veterinary student, with Kyla Kotchea, Shauna Thomas, and Veronica Pickens

In this second installment of “A Day in the Life” Jamie Neufeld shares more stories from the Goat Pass-on Project in Uganda.  The biggest day of the year for the project — goat pass-out day — is coming up on July 20th and the Uganda team is looking for donations to help purchase the goats.  If you would like to contribute, look for the link at the bottom of this post. Editor

photo8Unique and her unnamed puppy beside the goat pen in the backyard.

Unique, granddaughter to Akatete chairperson Margaret, is one of he many children who has benefitted from the goat pass-on project. Her family is able to afford school fees and she eats three meals every day. We were able to spend time with Unique when Margaret prepared us a delicious lunch that included matooke, groundnut sauce, posho, rice, chicken stew, pineapple, and watermelon. Outside of school hours, Unique plays soccer and helps tend to the goats and chickens.
Photo caption: Unique and her unnamed puppy beside the goat pen in the backyard.

photo9In Uganda, many schoolchildren share their soccer field with goats that are out grazing for the day. Here, Shauna draws blood from a goat held by Veronica while inquisitive students from Kihwa Primary School watch the action.

So far, we have taken blood samples from over 700 goats in 11 of the 16 communities we hope to visit. We test the blood samples for Brucella abortus and Brucella melitensis. Brucellosis causes abortions in goats, therefore negatively impacting the farmer’s livelihood, and is zoonotic, meaning it can be transferred to people and cause infertility in women. Normally, we would advise vaccinating the animals that test negative and culling the positives. However, due to an East African shortage of the vaccine and additional legality issues with importing it, we are unfortunately unable to vaccinate for Brucellosis this year. Instead, we will emphasize the importance of culling positive animals and continue vaccinating for clostridia.
photo10New WCVM graduate Dr. Kyla Kotchea guides Jane, the paravet for Kikokwa, through the process of drawing blood from a young goat belonging to Kakazi Vangi while Veronica restrains. Vivian holds supplies and young Moses catches me with my camera out.

Each group has a paravet, which is a group member trained to perform basic veterinary services to goat owners for a fee. Having paravet services not only provides a business opportunity for members, but contributes to project sustainability by having a person educated in goat health who is capable of draining abscesses, deworming, castrating, and treating illnesses to keep the herds healthy. Throughout the summer, we involve the paravets as much as we can to develop their skills and solidify their reputation as capable, skilled individuals. When Dr. Claire Card arrives in July, there will be a training day to further educate the paravets and expand their skill set.
photo11The seventh grade class from Kihwa Primary School performing a song that sang:
“Give the children freedom,
Freedom gives the children peace,
Please give the children peace.”

On June 16th we celebrated Day Of The African Child at Kihwa Primary School. It was a beautiful and informative day filled with games, singing, dancing, poetry, acting, and speeches. This holiday celebrates children, how far their rights and education has come, and promotes awareness to the child abuse still occurring in Africa, including kidnapping, child sacrifice, incest, malnutrition, abandonment, and rape. The performances by the children felt especially powerful, as in the western world our elementary school assemblies are often light-hearted and comical, while the second grade Kihwa class recited a poem about protecting the children from child abuse. One part of the poem said, “Stop kidnapping us, stop raping us, and stop hurting us… God made you and God made me, so just let me be me.”
Photo12The start of the 400m girls sprint at Kihwa, which was won by Florence, the girl in the skirt.

Nine times out of ten we come home from the field exhausted and covered head to toe in dust, only to take a short break before entering data, filling out paperwork, or testing blood samples. The days are long but our hearts are full. It has felt surreal to work on an established project and see firsthand how it betters the lives of people, and has been humbling to be so graciously received and welcomed by the community members. Plus, I think we all love goats at least a little bit now, and there may or may not be talk of opening small ruminant practices in the future.
photo13Kids are quickly moving up in the rankings for cutest baby animal, but have yet to outcompete kittens.

photo14We had a lot of fun taking blood from Kakazi Vangi’s goats with Vivian, paravet Jane, and Vangi’s children, Jimmy, Inna, and Moses. In this photo, she was laughing at how we were rocking the kids and singing to them like babies (it was the end of a long, hot, day).

In conclusion, we have seen how two goats plus education about animal care can make the difference between two and three meals a day, having a water tank, being able to afford a solar panel, and paying for school fees. If you have felt inspired by this project like we have, we would like to invite you to purchase a goat, or put money towards one, for the goat pass-out on July 20th. Each goat costs about $60 Canadian, and our goal is to pass our sixty goats this year. If you donate before the pass-out day, you will receive a photo of the beneficiary with your goat, and information about the individual’s household.

100% of the money you donate will go towards purchasing goats:

With sincere thanks,
Jamie, Kyla, Veronica, and Shauna

A Day In The Life – VWB Uganda: Part 1

Text and photos by Jamie Neufeld, VWB intern and WCVM veterinary student, with Kyla Kotchea, Shauna Thomas, and Veronica Pickens

photo1cOur dining room, office, and lab in Mbarara.

While in Uganda, we are based out of Mbarara, a dusty town in the southwest of the country. We are renting an apartment at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology residences that triples as our office and laboratory. This photo features Veronica, Kyla, and Shauna with several VWB intern essentials: water, sunscreen, coffee, bananas, books, and beetroot smoothies.photo2An under-construction pen – do you reckon the goats will appreciate the view?

Most mornings begin with picking up our translator and dear friend, Vivian, and driving out to one of the sixteen community groups we work with. The groups are scattered throughout the countryside near a small town called Kaberebere, where we often stop to pick up chapati for our lunches. Chapati is made out of flour, baking soda, water, salt, and oil. It is fried in a large pan and resembles a crepe or big piece of naan.
The area of the country we work in is incredibly beautiful, to the point where our translators may becoming tired of our enthusiastic exclamations about the hills, streams, and species of plants that are foreign to us. The red dirt roads provide a scenic contrast with the diverse, lush greenery, and banana plantations take over the majority of the countryside.photo3The Kahenda Widows Group meets once a month. At their meeting we learned about the troubles the women are facing with theft in their community and accessibility to cervical cancer screening and treatment.

The VWB goat pass-on project has been in country for ten years, with the University of Saskatchewan and the Foundation for AIDS and Orphaned Children (FAOC) being major partners. The project focuses on impoverished women, many of them widows and the only income contributor in a household of 8+ people. Livestock and land ownership favours men, but it is acceptable for women to raise goats. Goats are hardy and manageable animals, making them ideal for empowering these women by giving them the means of going beyond goat farming to provide for their families, pay for school fees, buy mattresses, electricity, pots and pans, clothing, menstrual pads, and much more, like moving beyond agriculture and owning/operating small businesses. In the short amount of time working alongside these women we have heard many awe-inspiring success stories.photo4Vivian (right) translates the conversation between us and Margaret, chairperson for Akatete.

The project wouldn’t be possible without our Ugandan translators who are passionate and knowledgeable about the women’s groups and goat pass-on. Their relationships with the women and community members are invaluable while traveling from home to home to chat with beneficiaries, or needing directions along the way. The language spoken in this area is Runyankore, which is one of the 40+ languages spoken in Uganda. We have learned the local greetings and pleasantries, which is most often received with much delight.
photo5A newborn kid belonging to Innocent, whose mother originally received goats from VWB. He has taken over the goat care since his mother has become less mobile.

On July 20th we will be passing out goats as loans to beneficiaries who have demonstrated need for the animals, knowledge of goat husbandry (which we will happily teach them), and have built a proper pen. When a member receives a pair of goats, the loan must be repaid by passing a female kid on to another member in the group, and selling a male kid with profits going into the revolving fund, which functions as a bank. The groups meet once or twice a month and pay a small fee (about one Canadian dollar) per sitting that goes into the revolving fund. The money is loaned out when members have medical expenses, fall short on school fees, or want to improve their homes, and is retuned with interest.
To reiterate, the member receives one or two goats, passes on at least two goats, and then has a pair to make profits from. The groups that have embraced the pass on scheme have succeeded with goat husbandry and become a more sustainable community. Several groups have accumulated enough money in the revolving fund to buy all the grandmothers mattresses or chairs, pay school fees for every child, or invested in sewing machines or big sauce pans to either rent out or utilize as another income generating source.
photo6Rose stands proudly next to the pen she built, tick spray in hand. Rose has a strong pen with a door and a lock for the necessary security measures, but we advised she clean under her pen every day to prevent respiratory distress in her animals.

We work with many women like Rose from Kyenyangi. Rose farms goats, chickens, beans, maize, matooke, and an assortment of fruits to provide for her household of eight people, plus her eldest daughter’s postsecondary education in Kampala, where she is studying to become a lab technician. Before Rose joined the project, her home did not have electricity, she was without a cell phone, and was able to feed her family twice a day. Rose received goats from VWB, repaid her loan within one year, and has succeeded in raising goats through vaccinating, spraying for ticks, and deworming. Her home now has a solar panel for electricity and her family eats three times a day, sometimes four. Rose has been a member of the FAOC/VWB project for over five years and gave us full-hearted thanks for how the project has enriched her family’s lives, which should be passed on to all of the previous volunteers, interns, and project supervisors.
photo7Under the shifting shade of a few trees, Kandabe Gaude sorts through freshly harvested beans to take to the Monday market.

73-year-old Kandabe Gaude from Kyera enthusiastically rounded up her grandchildren so they could practice their English when I asked about who lives in her household. She supports five grandchildren and four of her own children by selling goats, beans, matooke, mango, avocado, and oranges. Four of the people in her care are HIV positive, so a portion of her income goes towards transportation to pick up medication and attend medical appointments.
Veterinarians play an important role in global and public health, as the wellness of people, animals, and the environment is all interconnected. The goat pass-on project is a people-first approach where animals are farmed as a means to bettering the livelihood of families. We spend more time speaking with members than practicing medicine, where we learn about individual and community challenges so we can continue improving how we work together.
After a wonderful meeting under the shade of a few trees, Gaude poured 1/2 kg of these hand-sorted beans into my camera bag as a gift to take home and soak.
Watch this space for Part 2!

Seminars and Sunshine

By Julia Nguyen

The week began on a foggy morning, with grey skies and cooler temperatures. Later that day it became so hot that the only relief was to find shade. This type of weather was a common occurrence the whole week. We only had one farm seminar scheduled that Monday afternoon. The morning was spent travelling to pick up 800 of the total 1600 Calliandra seedlings we plan to give farmers. At every farm seminar, in addition to a dairy farming handbook we give out three seedlings to each farmer that attends and 10 seedlings to our host farmer. Calliandra is a high protein fodder shrub that farmers are able to harvest tofeed their cows, providing an inexpensive source of protein and energy. Research done by the World Agroforestry group has shown that Calliandra is cost effective and well suited to the agro-ecologic zone we work in, making it a good choice to recommend to farmers here. On a side note Shauna would like to thank her dad Allan Richards for donating the funds to buy all 1600 Calliandra seedlings for the farmers – “Thanks Dad!”
Blog4 - Image 1 (1)Calliandra shrub (left)
The rest of the week was spent conducting on-farm seminars. Each seminar takes about two hours but some visits go longer. The longer seminars are thanks to some farmers being so engaged and having so many more questions about topics related to, or unrelated to our seminar topics. The questions and bouts of discussion are a good sign for us to know that the farmers are listening and want to learn more about dairy cow management. On Tuesday, our afternoon seminar visit was longer than expected because after the seminar had ended, three lively female dairy farmers had more questions to ask Shauna. Their discussion was so energized that at one point all three farmers were talking at once, and over each other, and Shauna in the corner smiling cheerfully waiting to chime in.
The common stand out points of discussion among farmers is realizing that they should improve their current feeding practices and understanding the concept of standing heat. Farmers often think the best sign to breed their cow is when she is mounting other cows. Though mounting other cows may indicate the cow is in heat it is not the best sign for breeding, if the cow stands still to be mounted by another cow and does not walk away, it is the more reliable sign that she is ready to be bred. For farmers that have only one dairy cow, we emphasize good observation of all other signs of heat and record keeping skills to watch and time when best to breed their cow.Overall, the rest of this week’s seminars went well. We often gave a red “My Veterinarian is Without Borders” bandana to our host farmer and a couple of them used them on their heads immediately! So far we have visited 27 out of our 40 farms, and completed all three project visits on eight farms.
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The main topics of our seminars are: cow nutrition, reproduction, mastitis prevention and cow comfort/hygiene.

Blog4 - image 4We were also able to visit two more primary schools this week to teach about zoonotic disease and dog bite prevention. We visited Tamabaya Primary school and Karaguririo Primary School.
For the weekend we headed to Meru were we hosted by Jennifer Murogocho. We visited the board members at the Dairy Co-op in Ex Lewa, and the Ngare Ndare forest. Jennifer is a long standing friend and partner with Farmers Helping Farmers and she was very sweet and welcoming to her home. As a member of the Meru assembly she was busy with the Deputy President’s visit to Meru this weekend, which brought excitement and funding to local schools.
The Dairy Co-op in Ex Lewa has been partnered with Farmers Helping Farmers for over two years, and is a much smaller dairy then the Wakulima Dairy that we are currently working with. The Ex-Lewa Dairy has around 300-400 members actively selling milk, compared to the Wakulima with over 6000 members. Since volunteers have worked with Ex-Lewa this past January and February, their milk production has increased from 600 kg to 1,500 kg per day! It was amazing to hear about the small changes the veterinarians and farmers have recommended already being implemented and making such an impact in the community. Their ambition to grow and willingness to improve the livelihood of their members is impressive.
Ex-Lewa Dairy is adjacent to the Ngare Ndare forest, so after our visit with them we headed out there with Salome, Charles, and Zablon (FHF employee, Jennifer’s brother, and park ranger respectively). We were able to relax by swimming at three waterfalls, lounging in the sunshine, seeing great views on the canopy walk and seeing a small family of elephants drink from the stream!

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Katy, Julia and Shauna enjoying some summer time weather (although it is technically winter in Kenya)!







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We saw this Masai giraffe (among other animals) as we drove out from Ngare Ndare forest through the Lewa conservancy.

Two Posts from Kenya

June 5, 2016

By Katy White, UCVM 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.

This was a long but interesting week. We had many farm visits, a school visit, two birthdays, and welcomed a visitor to our team. Emily, a veterinarian from Kenya who is starting her masters program with the Atlantic Veterinary College, came to see how the results of Shauna’s research are being applied. We had a series of unfortunate events that made some things more difficult than need be but thanks to the good humour of our team everything stayed fun! We have now finished more than half of our first visits on farms and have even completed all visits with our first farm. Here is a short recap of some of the more interesting moments of our week.


After visiting several farms for construction we were feeling good about the small but effective changes we had been making. As we came to our last farm of the day though we realized our construction skills were going to be tested. The farmer had put in a cow shed that was offering shelter but was challenged by the fact that it was on a hill. As a result, there was no cow stall and so the cow had no where dry and comfortable to rest. Faced with the idea of constructing a cow shed from scratch I think we were all a little nervous. However, with some direction from Ephraim, our appointed foreman, and a little hard work we put in a completely new stall. It was rewarding to see our efforts validated when the cow checked out her new stall shortly after  finishing it. I think we will all be excited to see how our efforts have paid off at the next visit.

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A happy Shauna, Julia, Ephraim, Priscilla, and Katy after completing a cow stall from scratch!


Another day of construction and some interesting veterinary cases cumulated with a lesson in cow handling. At our first farm of the day we saw lumpy skin disease. The cow was recovering and had been seen by a local vet but you could see the remains of nodules on her face. Lumpy skin disease is relatively common here and can be prevented with a vaccine and insect control. We also saw a case of endometritis, a uterine infection likely caused when the cow’s retained placenta had been pulled the week before. When a retained placenta is pulled it can cause damage to the uterus, making it vulnerable to infection. In this case the cow was not clinically sick, so supportive care was recommended and we educated the farmer on retained placentas. On our final farm visit of the day I learnt a lesson about heifers in heat. After giving a friendly heifer a scratch on the neck I diverted my attention to removing a low end board from her stall. Much to my surprise she decided she wanted a bit more attention and attempted to mount me. After a bit of a scuffle I came out with no more than a couple hoof prints on my scrubs, guess I will learn to pay more attention in the future!

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Shauna and Priscilla talk to some farmers about the benefits of the change in stall design we made for their cow.


This was a day of lessons in the trials of Kenyan transportation. The day started with Shauna being called early to check on a friend’s cow with milk fever. Unfortunately, on her way back to pick us up for our day of work they got a flat tire! Not only was the tire flat, but so was the spare. With Ephraim and Shauna stuck on the side of the road with two flat tires, we had a bit of a slow start to the day. After 3 hours our trusty ‘80s era Toyota corolla, endearingly named “Hustler”, was back on four tires and we were set to start the day. Shauna wanted to stay around to be able to check on our friend’s cow if need be so Julia and I were off on our first solo mission. Finally on the road we were anxious to get started. It took some work to find our way to the farm (with no address we sometimes spend a bit of time driving around on dirt roads asking for help), so we were relieved when we made it within walking distance. Too bad our car had another flat tire! Luckily, Ephraim had the foresight to get our spare patched before heading back out on the road and by the time we had completed our visit we were good to go again! I don’t know what we would do without Ephraim…

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Our trusty car: the hustler!


With the chaos of the day before we had to add an extra farm visit to this day. Luckily, we had an extra set of hands with one of Shauna’s friends from previous year’s work. Kamau works in a position similar to what we do helping farmers improve their dairy practises. Many hands make light work and he was a very helpful person to have around. Before we knew it another day flew by. Julia and Ephraim also demonstrated their athleticism when a temperamental cow decided she didn’t want us changing her stall any more. Once they were safely on the outside we finished the stall, and I think the cow was secretly thankful.

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A couple of calves looking their best for a chance at some Napier grass.

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Two tired but happy interns after another day of construction.



After a day of second visits educating farmers on nutrition and reproduction we visited a local all boys senior high school. One of the farmers in our project is a teacher there and asked Shauna to come teach the boys on cow comfort and care in Kenya. The boarding school has a small dairy and swine farm and boys from each year have classes in agriculture. We were slightly surprised when we showed up and they suggested that we might give a small talk to the whole school on the importance of education. “Don’t worry there are only 600 students!” Despite the practise we are getting in public presentations, I think we were all relieved when they decided to stick to the original plan of only 40 interested agriculture students. Shauna gave a great talk and the students were really interested and asked great questions. Many of their families have dairy farms and they all wanted to help their parents improve their practises at home. They also insisted on selfie before we left!

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Selfie at the Kaheti High Boys School.



Today we had our first seminar. Shauna gave a talk on nutrition and cow comfort, Julia on reproduction, and myself on mastitis prevention. Every farmer who comes to the seminar gets a book on dairy farming in Kenya, and the hosting famer who we have previously worked with gets their cows dewormed. Overall, the seminar went really well and it was nice to see how our work can come full circle. The farmers who come to seminars work together to help each other improve their practises, and demonstrate how dairy farming can make an excellent livelihood. Engaged youth are creating a sustainable future for themselves, and in the end both the cows and the people benefit. A true example of One Health!

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Priscilla and Katy teaching about mastitis prevention at the first seminar of the project.

We finished our week by going out for lunch with our entire team to celebrate Shauna’s 30th birthday! The people we work with are amazing and truly make every day we spend here better than the last. I feel very lucky to get to work such a fun group of people and know that this project is better for having them all involved. Who knew work could be so fun? To add to the fun, we have a few adventures planned for the next month: a trip to Ngare Ndare forest for a canopy walk, climbing Mt. Kenya, and visiting Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya. Stay tuned for more!

May 27, 2016

Back to School and Second Farm Visits

By Julia Nguyen, OVC Veterinary Student and VWB Intern

This week we re-visited some farms for their second visit and continued to visit other farms for the first time. We also visited two primary schools to teach lessons on animal safety, the prevention of zoonotic diseases on farms, and on the transmission and prevention of rabies.

On farm, the second visits focused on how well the farmer is maintaining the stall and if any improvements needed to be made. Maintaining a clean stall is important to the hygiene and comfort of the cow as well as to the quality and quantity of milk production for the farmer. The discussion will then lead into proper cow nutrition as well as calf nutrition. We emphasize providing constant water and forage availability to their cow(s) as well as proper mineral and dairy meal supplementation according to their stage in lactation and milk production. Proper nutrition is the basis of bovine health, productivity, and will also allow the animal to show signs of heat more prominently thus allowing the farmer to continue producing a calf and more milk. At the end of our second visit to farms, we give farmers a dairy farming handbook to read over before our third and final visit where we would hold a seminar to teach about the basics of dairy farming, ideal management and what practices have worked well on that farm.

On two separate days, we visited Ichamara Primary School and Mweru Primary School. Both schools are twinned with primary schools in Canada, through Farmers Helping Farmers. Katy and I taught a one hour class on the prevention of zoonotic diseases with handwashing techniques, proper cow handling, and the transmission and prevention of rabies infection. All the students were so attentive, respectful and welcoming. The lesson first began with introductions using a game to get to know the students’ names and what animal they have at home. After the lesson, we passed out cases for groups of students to go over and answer questions about how a specific illness or disease transmission could have been prevented and why it occurred in the first place. All of the students picked up the concepts well and were able to apply them to the cases. We said our goodbyes and thank yous at the end, which were reciprocated with lovely applause and flower hands of appreciation.

The combination of visiting youth dairy farmers and teaching at primary schools this week has emphasized the goals of our work here in Mukurwe-ini, Kenya. Our goals being to engage youth and provide them with knowledge and practices that are in the best interests for community health, the animals involved, and future generations.

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A cow checking out her improved stall. The small changes make a big difference in how often the cow decides to lay down and her overall hygiene.

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From left to right, Priscilla (translator), Beatrice (farmer), and Shauna (veterinarian, PhD candidate) are discussing cow and calf nutrition during our second visit to Beatrice’s farm.

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During our second visit, if the farmer has any cats or dogs we also deworm them if the farmer allows. We dewormed this kitten as well as three other dogs on this farm. All deworming medication is generously donated by Vetoquinol pharmaceuticals and private veterinarians.

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Katy and I teaching at Ichamara Primary School in their grade seven class.

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Katy and I teaching at Mweru Primary School in their grade six class.

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Selfie from Ichamara Primary School

Learning the Ropes in Uganda

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

In March, four strangers all said yes to the same question. Two months later that answer landed them all on a different continent in 3 days old clothes with not a shower in site. Besides their poor appearance (and even poorer smell?), their smiles could be seen from a mile away. After a month of grueling final exams, eager fundraising, and last minute “Oh no I forgot!” shopping trips; they had arrived in Uganda.

I digress… as I’m sure you have figured out, these four strangers are this year’s Uganda VWB goat pass-on project interns. My name is Shauna Thomas, I am from outside of Ottawa going into my 2nd year at the Ontario Veterinary College. Two of the group are from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Jamie Neufeld, a Saskatoon local, also going into her 2nd year; and our resident doctor, Kyla Kotchea from Fort Nelson, BC who just finished her 4th year! Last but not least, Veronica Pickens is going into 3rd year at the Ontario Veterinary College and the sole American VWB intern this year from Philadelphia, PA.

We arrived in Uganda on May 12th after a week of training at Cuso International in Ottawa. The first weekend we arrived in Uganda, we landed in Entebbe and had four days there to adjust before travelling to Mbarara, where our placement would begin. That first weekend set the scene for how our time here would flow and how the four of us would get along. By this I mean that instead of taking the days to deal with jetlag, adjust to the local food and rest….we unanimously decided to spend three of the days on a safari in Murchinson Falls, 6 hours north of Entebbe. The weekend was a spontaneous start and we’ve been travelling awesome together ever since. Pic 1

Jamie got to fulfill a life-long dream of seeing wild giraffes while in Murchinson Falls National Park; seen here a bachelor herd on the savannah.Pic 2

Silas, our guide and good friend, stopped the car on the side of the highway because he knew four vet students would love to see the baby tortoise he spotted in the grass…he was right!  Above,  Veronica, Silas, and the tortoise.

Ugandan solution to the car not starting in the morning…”everybody start pushing!” (below)Pic 3

A bit of a larger group this year, we’ve had to figure the ropes out ourselves as timing didn’t work out for Dr. Card (project leader) or Laura McDonald(a WCVM grad and 5 year project participant) to come over with us. After getting settled and meeting with the right people, we are well on our way. I’ll admit the first week here in Mbarara got off to a slow start, due to a combination of lack of meetings to attend that week and the adjustment to African time (a very very real thing). As of now we have attended three women’s group meetings out of a total of 17. Although we still have to meet the majority of groups, our June/July is filling up FAST. Our first day of work here we met with Vivianne, who is our translator/facilitator/local friend, and started to plan the next three months. About an hour in we realized that one of the women’s groups actually met that afternoon! We were eager to get started and decided to attend the meeting. It has become very apparent in these past few weeks that traveling from point A to point B means stopping at points C,D,E,F along the way. As such, we all piled into our trusty Toyota Rav4 and headed down the left side of the road (an adjustment for sure) to the meeting. On the way we stopped to meet with Boaz, the founder/head of the Foundation for Aids Orphaned Children (FAOC), the organization we work alongside here in Uganda. After a few more stops we finally made it to our first meeting. Although the meeting started at 3, we arrived at 4:30…and were still not the last people there -..…African time! To say we received a warm welcome when we arrived at the meeting would be an understatement; there were endless hugs and a chorus of “we prayed for your safe travels”. The more people we meet the more that the saying ‘Ugandans are the most welcoming people’ comes true.  Below, we posed we posed for a group picture of the Kyabutoto women’s group after the meeting.

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For those reading that are unfamiliar with what exactly the goat pass on project is, it is a development project aimed at rural Ugandan women to help empower as well as develop an income generating source. The ultimate goal is to provide them with the tools and means to improve the quality of life for themselves and their family. Each village we work with has a group of these women who meet once a month to discuss successes and short-comings in the past month as well as pay their membership fees. These fees (range from $0.30-$2 CAD) are pooled into the group’s revolving fund that accumulates month by month and is available to for members to take out loans to pay school/medical fees etc. Additionally, every year a number of beneficiaries (who have met the criteria for raising goats) are given a male and female goat as a loan. To repay this loan the beneficiaries must sell their first-born male kid and give that money into the revolving fund as well as pass on their first born female-kid to another member of the group.

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Kasande Benardette (above) a Kyabutoto member with grandchildren and a few neighbouring kids eager to jump in front of the camera.

The goals for our group this year are: continue to promote the vaccination campaign (chlostridia and brucella), test/gather information on brucella prevalence, carry out an impact study and expand the PADS project. More information about some of those will come in future blogs. Admittedly, we have taken on a lot this year; however, with each part so key to the sustainability and success of the project, our hopes are high for how much we can accomplish. Our first goal has already provided our first minor roadblock as there has been a country-wide shortage of brucella vaccine since January! We have begun looking to import it from neighboring countries (at a steep price increase), so we will update you on the outcomes of that in the future.

In the midst of our first weeks we found a few free days and headed south to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest -arguably the coolest name for a national park ever! Four hours of trekking through the untouched jungle meant we got to spend an hour with a troop of Mountain Gorillas!! Impressive animals at a distance and even more impressive when one slides down the tree next to you and stands not even a foot away! If the gorillas weren’t enough, the hike itself was amazing with the views and all the vegetation. We say that now, but had you asked us after we climbed 2 km of straight vine-infested uphill….I think we would have had a few other words for it.  Below,  two mountain Gorrillas from the Bitukura troop we tracked.Pic 6crop
Pic 7At left — a few Canadian Vet students looking a tad lost in the Ugandan Jungle.

As I write this; watching women walk by carrying the heaviest items on their heads and listening to the slew of flatbed trucks/boda-bodas hitting the speed bumps that plague Ugandan roads, I sit with a smile excited about the country and people lives we get to be a part of for the next little while.

Until next time,

Shauna, Veronica, Jamie, Kyla

Pic 8cropLeft to right — Jamie, Veronica, Kyla, and Shauna in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest,
P.S. If you are interested in helping with the pass on project and donating towards the purchase or sponsoring a goat ($50 US), please follow this link! All money contributed by July 20, 2016 will go directly to purchase goats for our women’s groups here.


Getting Started with Wakulima Dairy

By Katy White, UCVM 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.

We have safely arrived in Mukurwe-ini with all of our luggage! Arriving at 3am in Nairobi the streets were very quiet. This was sharply contrasted 6 hours later as we ran some last minute errands in the city. The streets were bustling with people, motorbikes, and cars. As we were running on very little sleep it was nice to get out of the busy city for a change of pace. We stopped at the Starbucks Hotel in Karatina for a lunch of chapati, a Kenyan specialty fried flat bread. Upon arriving at our house we were presently whisked off for dinner at Gerald Kariuki’s house. Gerald is the recently retired coordinator of the Wakulima Dairy group. He is helping facilitate our work with them as well as many other Farmers Helping Farmers projects. We were very grateful for the delicious meal served, followed by chai, tea, and fruit. The chai tea is plentiful here and I imagine we will have had a lot of it by the end of the summer.

Kenya - 1The next day we organized some of our work materials, and met with some of the Wakulima dairy employees we will be working with. The dairy is quite impressive. Having started in 1980 with only 35 farmers producing about 36 kg of milk per day, today it is a busy cooperative of over 6000 farmers producing nearly 50 000 kg of milk per day. Both pasteurized milk and yogurt are sold from the facility and they are constantly looking for ways to expand further. We were impressed by the efficiency of the operation as we moved through from milk receiving and testing to pasteurization, packaging, and shipping.  At left Julia (left) and I are all dressed up for our tour of the dairy.

In our project we will be working with youth farmers of the Wakulima Dairy. We will be visiting 40 farms three times each over the course of our 3 month stay. The service project is based on research by Dr. Shauna Richards on cow comfort, hygiene, nutrition, and disease prevention on small scale farms. At each farm we will be helping them to alter their stalls to make them more comfortable for the cows. The more cows rest the more milk they make. We also help them to keep their stalls clean and go over milking practices to help prevent mastitis. We will help them improve their feeding practices to ensure that nutrition is optimized for milk production. On our final visit we will help the farmers teach a seminar to other youth farmers in the area so that they can also benefit from these practises. The hope is that in the future this new group will work together to continuously improve their dairy farming.

So far we have completed eight of our farm visits. The farmers have been very welcoming and eager to learn. Our team consists of myself, fellow intern Julia Nguyen, Shauna, Priscilla (our translator), and Ephraim (our driver and stall constructor extraordinaire). We have had lots of fun getting to know each other so far and I am excited for the rest of the summer!

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One of the milk trucks that delivers maziwa (milk in Swahili) from the Wakulima dairy. Their brand name is “Royal Fresh”.



Samuel, our amazing chef, purchasing vegetables for dinner at the market in Mukurwe-ini.


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Julia, Shauna, and Pricilla enjoying the sun after one of our first days of farm work.


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Taking a little break at one of our first farm visits.






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This was the first cow we got to see immediately enjoy the comforts of its new and improved stall.


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Julia ensuring all the calves are getting their fair share of Napier grass.