Cricket Farming Knowledge Spreads to Khammouan Province

By Emma Dobson

Emma Dobson is a volunteer in Laos with Veterinarians without Borders/Vètèrinaires sans Frontiérs Canada

Last week 20 farmers from seven villages in Xaybouathong district, Khammouan province had the chance to experience cricket farming first hand. Through a project with Agronomes et Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (AVSF), farmers interested in starting their own cricket farms made the journey north to learn more about this opportunity through a hands on learning experience. The hosts for the day were the villages of Phonthong and Naoh in Bolikhamxay province, who have been participating in a cricket-farming project with VWB since April 2015.

The day began at Phonthong with a welcome and some brief introductions. Next, it was time to see the insects in action. The first stop was a home that had been incubating cricket eggs. Farmers learned how to store the eggs, when they were ready to hatch, and what materials are best for eggs to be laid in. The next stop was a home with a cage of young crickets. Here, farmers learned about cage setups, pest control methods, proper watering techniques, and different foods crickets can be fed. As they approached the third home, cricket songs could be heard for the first time. This final stop in the village had a cage full of the sound-producing adults. Here, farmers learned about the final stages of production, harvesting techniques, and had any final questions answered. After a delicious lunch together in Phonthong (which included crickets), the farmers said their thanks and goodbyes and were off to the next village.

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Farmers learning about eggs and the initial stages of cricket production.

In Naoh, farmers had a similar experience with the chance to visit three more cricket cages in various stages of development. At one home they were even able to see the egg laying take place. Many farmers came away from the visit eager to begin their own operation, with several of them inquiring about acquiring cricket eggs. After more thanks and goodbyes, the visiting farmers made the long drive back to their homes in the south.

Visiting six different set-ups in two different villages, farmers saw different approaches and techniques, and could ask the host farmers what was successful and what was not. Farmers from both host villages were keen to share their knowledge, and the visit gave them a chance to show what they had accomplished.

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Farmers getting a close look inside a cricket cage.

Joining the farmers on this tour were four government officials from the Thakhek Provincial Agricultural and Forestry Office (PAFO), as well as two trainers from the Extension and Cooperative Department of the Boulikanxai District Agricultural and Forestry Office (DAFO). The following day these groups met at the Boulikanxai DAFO office where the trainers provided a session on how to prepare farmers to raise crickets. Topics included life cycle of crickets, cage design and construction, rearing and harvesting techniques, and well as effective ways of delivering the training to farmers. The hope is that with the help of AVSF, these government officials will conduct training sessions on cricket production to the farmers from Xaybouathong to help them begin their own cricket farms.

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Government officials from Thakhek learning how to train cricket farmers.

Overall, the farmer-to-farmer exchange visit and training of trainers was a huge success. All participants came away from it with new knowledge and hands on experiences. We wish these farmers well in starting up their own cricket farms!

Life at the Cattle Camp — A South Sudan Photo Essay

By John Julian

In November, thousands of cattle, and their minders, are on the move in South Sudan, heading for swampy areas where there is  enough water and grass to sustain the herds through the long dry season. After days or weeks on the move, they assemble in mobile cattle camps that will be home until the rains come again in April or May. The camp featured here is in the Thiek Thou region of Warrap State.

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The camp is largely inhabited by young people — adolescent boys and girls and young men — who rig makeshift mosquito nets and sleep in the midst of the tethered cattle.  Most of the older men and women stay behind to look after the homesteads.

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There are a few elders about — providing leadership and guidance.

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And there are also children.  Even toddlers are sent to the camp.  Milk is the one food that herding people can count on, and most inhabitants of the camp live on little else.  Parents know that their children will not go hungry if they stay close to the cattle. Children too small for other duties — such as this little girl  — are in charge of the little ones.

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Milking is the responsibility of the older girls who move though the herd with their gourds, milking cows where they stand.

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Children gather the manure and spread it out to dry.  It is burned in smoldering fires designed to keep mosquitos and the tsetse fly at bay.  The many fires scattered throughout the camp mean that life is often lived through a smoky haze.

 

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Young men take great pride in their animals — particularly the bulls they are given to raise when they are boys. Those special bulls are trained to respond to specific songs, or to follow their masters through the camp to the sound of a drum.

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Cattle raids are a right of passage for young men. But the deadly firepower available from successive waves of conflict in South Sudan has made the raids much more lethal, raising the body count for combattants and for bystanders, including children and animals.  In January of 2016 camp leaders in the area along the border between Warrap and Unity States agreed to a cattle raid truce.  The agreement was still holding in mid-March, though young men remained armed and vigilant.

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With so many people and animals living in such close proximity, an outbreak of disease could have deadly consequences for both.  With funding support from Veterinarians without Borders Canada,  a community animal health team from VSF Germany visits regularly and has vaccinated nearly all of the animals in the camp.   Below, Community Animal Health Worker Akot treats a sick calf.

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Animal health care in the cattle camps is just one activity in a program funded by Gobal Affairs Canada designed to improve food security in two regions of the country.  With the rainy season fast approaching VWB/VSF Canada and its partners VSF Germany and VSF Suisse are working hard to gather seeds and tools to increase the production of vegetables and cereals during the upcoming growing season. As many as 2.8 million people in South Sudan are facing food shortages this year — a direct result of the ongoing conflict in the region. The project includes the distribution of ox ploughs and training in their use so that small holders can substantial increase their crop acreage. Families will also receive chickens and training in poultry production. Monique Charron is VWB/VSF’s Senior Project Manager in charge of the South Sudan Project and John Bosco Wale is South Sudan Programme Manager.

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Farmers Group Introduces Innovative Cricket Products to the Lao Market

Farmers Group Introduces Innovative Cricket Products to the Lao Market

By Thomas Weigel

Together with the Food Processing Unit of the Faculty of Agriculture, our 16 cricket farmers have gone a long way to develop and refine cricket-based products. It all started with the idea to process frozen crickets into value-added products and generate some income during the cold season when the cricket production usually slows down or stops. An additional consideration was to make use of crickets which are of too small to be sold raw at the markets.

During initial workshops, which took place in the village, the farmers learned how to produce cricket chips and cricket chili paste with simple means locally available.

Pounding crickets & other ingredients               Making the dough for chips

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Steaming the dough           Slicing the dough               Drying the chips slices in the sun

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In order to sell the products, the farmers then decided to develop labels for the chips and the chili paste, use proper packaging, and do some product promotion.

Label for chili paste              Label for cricket chip                      Producer group label

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Product promotion poster (English version)

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As the raining season approached, which made the drying of the chips more difficult, the production was shifted to the faculty’s food laboratory.

Production of chips and chili paste in the food laboratory

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To assess the market potential, the products were then introduced to and promoted at markets and restaurants in Vientiane.

Products displayed at market stalls in Vientiane

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Through the feedback of the market sellers and restaurants, the cricket farmers learned that they had to adjust the recipes of the products more to the tastebuds of their potential customers: they reduced the spiciness of the chili paste and increased the salt content of both products. In addition to this, the producer group has to work with the faculty’s Food Processing Unit to increase the shelf life of the chili paste.

In order to ensure product quality and safety, the cricket farmers participated in a workshop on hygiene and food safety measures.

Workshop on Hygiene & Food Safety Measures

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The product promotion and the customer feedback showed that there is a demand for these cricket-based products. Since then, a larger restaurant has placed a substantial order for crickets and cricket chips, and is willing to introduce the cricket farmers and their products to a wider network of restaurants in Vientiane. However, challenges remain. To fully tap into the market potential, the producer group will have to develop further and also ensure a continuous supply of the products. In addition to further support from VWB and faculty, the Agriculture Extension and Cooperative Section under the Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office has agreed to assist the cricket farmers in the developing their business. We hope that in the near future, consumers in Laos will have access to their novel and nutritious cricket products.

Sharing and Learning on the Back Roads of Kenya

Dr. Bill Hazen is a member of the first group of volunteers deployed through VWB/VSF’s Volunteers for Healthy Animals and Healthy Communities project. In the piece below he reflects on a wonderful partnership with a local vet tech.

I am currently in the small village of Ex-Lewa with a team of volunteers with Veterinarians Without Borders in partnership with Farmers Helping Farmers, an NGO from PEI. There are no “veterinary surgeons” servicing the area on a regular basis, the primary care is provided by technicians that have taken a 2 year course and are taught the basics in veterinary care. My mandate on this trip was to travel with the vet techs, assess their skill level and offer suggestions to improve the level of diagnoses and treatment. There are 2 vet techs in the Ex-Lewa area and one of them has come forth and eagerly sought out new information and techniques to diagnose and treat livestock.
His name is Simon Muchoki, he is 38 yrs old, married and father of 2children. He has been servicing this area for the past 14 years, initially employed by the Ex-Lewa dairy co-operative and currently has his own business, Ebeneezer AI and animal health services, with an office in the Ex Lewa market. Here is Simon with his mobile vet services.

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I have spent the last 2 weeks with Simon and have 1 week to go. I would not fit on his motorbike and with the state of the roads here, my degenerative spine would not be happy on a motorbike, so we have rented a car and driver. David is the car owner and driver and he not only drives us he is assisting us with restraint and in whatever way he can. Here we are getting ready to head out for the day.

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All Simon uses to make his diagnoses is a thermometer and a cursory physical exam, he does quite well, however, I am teaching him the value of additional information provided by a stethoscope such as heart rate, different lung sounds, stomach motility, and checking for a sternal grunt found in cows with hardware disease. I did bring stethoscopes donated by Dr. Wayne McDonnell a retired prof from the Ontario Veterinary College and have given one to Simon. Below is Simon checking the heart rate on a downer cow.

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When dehorning I noticed he did not provide analgesia using a nerve block ( the same way a dentist freezes your tooth) to minimize pain in the procedure. I reviewed with Simon the technique and we froze all the rest of the calves dehorned that day. Simon uses a large piece of iron that was part of a truck spring and put in the fire until it is red hot and uses it for disbudding small calves or cauterizing after wire sawing the big horns. I think we need to educate the farmers as well on the benefits to their animals , so they will ask the technicians to do this for their animals.

The next picture is a cow with East Coast Fever, this is a tick borne disease causing a high fever, cough and swollen lymph nodes. They respond well if caught early, treated with oxytetracycline. This cow had a temp of 106.6 F (41.4 C). Here Simon is commending the farmer on the good body condition of her cows, due to the fact that she is cutting her Napier grass at the best height for high feed value, and also advising her after cutting the forage to let it wilt for a day away from the cows so the ticks will leave the plants and not expose the cow and minimize further cases of ECF.

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One of the biggest impacts we have on milk quality is to reduce the incidence of mastitis and I have encouraged Simon to do a California Mastitis Test on all cows that are going dry. This is a very cheap and easy test, milking some milk onto a paddle and mixing with a soap-like solution, if there is subclinical mastitis the milk will gel. One of the biggest returns on investment is to dry cow treat these positive cows at dry off. We have supplied Simon with a CMT paddle and the solution is readily available here. The following two pictures are of Simon doing the CMT test and dry cow treating a positive cow.

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Many of the calls I attended with Simon were for fertility issues. Either no observable heat or the cow being bred many times and not getting pregnant. I taught Simon how to assess the repeat breeder cow, and introduced him to a simple tool we use called avaginoscope. The vaginoscope is a clear glass cylinder that can be passed into the vagina of the cow and you can visualize her vagina and cervix and any the colour of the mucus looking for abnormalities. The pictures below show him doing the vaginoscopy. The cow had a slight whitish colour to the mucus sitting in the vagina, indicating she has a uterine infection and probably the reason for her not conceiving. He is shown infusing the same cow with an antibiotic solution to get rid of the infection.

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One day we had a heavydown pour that turned the roads into a greasy slippery mess. We got stuck several times and had to push the vehicle, with help from others, to get going. The one time we were stuck on a grade and had to call a local ox team tow truck to pull us 200 metres onto level ground. It was interesting watching the bulls respond to commands of their owner, just like a well trained team of horses. The towing fee was 500 Kenyan Shillings about $7.00 Cdn.

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Simon has a strong bond with his clients and often will do what he calls a “sympathy call”. Heknows the owner has very little money and he will treat their animal for no remuneration.
We stopped in to one of his longest standing clients, Teresa Karioke. Simon has been working for her since he became a vet tech in 2002. He relayed a heartwarming story about Teresa, how she lost her husband when her children were small and how hard she worked selling milk to pay for school fees for her children. She now has one son that graduated as a mechanical engineer and is working at the Pickering Nuclear Generating station in Ontario, and another son that is an assistant to the minister of Revenue in the Kenyan government.
Below is a picture of myself and Mrs. Karioke, she gave me her sons cell number in Canada and I plan on sending this picture to him.

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It’s been a great joy working with Simon who is passionate about his work. We learned a lot from each other. I taught him some veterinary skills and he taught me veterinary medicine Kenyan style, as well he has re-enforced in me the importance of compassion, kindness and empathy for our fellow citizens that are less fortunate.We have developed a personal friendship that will continue after I leave next week. Asante Sana
Bill Hazen DVM
Milverton Wellesley Veterinary Clinic