Veterinarians Without Borders in Tanzania – Dr. Gerry Smith and Dr. Amy Lowe

In September 2017, Dr. Amy Lowe and Dr. Gerry Smith arrived in Tanzania, bound for the southern highland town of Tukuyu. They were working with a partner of VWB, Africa Bridge, an organization that helps the most vulnerable children in rural villages in three wards: Lufingo, Kisondela and Kambasegela, in the Rungwe district, through supporting their families with agricultural co-ops. Africa Bridge has been operating for over a decade in this area and has made some real and sustainable difference in the wards in which they previously worked, but felt they could use some veterinary assistance in their livestock programs. Below is their story, written by Dr. Gerry Smith.

A waterfall above Matema with our guide Maika

We managed to have lots of laughs and fun along the way, something that is essential if you are to survive the challenges that come with working in contexts which are so different from what we are used to in Canada! There is no way to avoid the difficulties of working in an unfamiliar place: work culture, values, traditions, language barriers and isolation/homesickness are a reality, but we have tried to minimize those by embracing as much of the culture, language, food and drink as we could. Visiting the market, buying food, having clothes made and feeling the joy and zest for life that exists here is a fantastic antidote to seeing the desperate conditions and the daily struggles that families experience in the area where we work. We tried to explore the area on most days off, with hikes to various hot springs, mountains, rivers, rock formations and visits to lakes, beaches, coffee plantations and other local attractions.

Amy having a dress made in Tukuyu.
Ngozi Crater Lake

Some of the most rewarding moments have been listening to stories related to us by the participants in the programs; hearing the pride in a grandfather’s voice as he tells us that milk sales from his cow enabled his grandson to complete schooling and be accepted into University, the first family member ever to have done so! Or the three teenage grandchildren explaining that they do most of the work for the cow because their bibi has arthritis, but that it is OK because the cow is going to allow them to finish school and pursue their dreams. Or the single mother who has eggs to sell and plans to move her family out of the thatch/mud hut into a brick house that she can now afford to build.

Of course, the highlight of any day is interacting with the children, they find joy in everyday life and remind us to appreciate what we have. We all enter these types of projects with lofty goals of changing the world, but soon realize that the best we can do is change the situation for small groups of individuals, with the hope that if that happens enough times there will be lasting and systemic improvement.

Everyone loves stickers!
One of the first farmers we met, Neema, cares for her three grandsons, she was so kind and thankful

The most important initial steps in becoming involved in this type of project are to simply watch, ask and listen. We spent most of the first two months meeting with our partner organization’s staff, agriculture workers, veterinarians in Tanzania, government representatives, village leadership and other organizations doing similar work. We attended meetings and village visits with the Ward Steering Committees in the process of identifying families most in need of assistance, meetings with the Most Vulnerable Children Committee who are tasked with administering the program locally and training sessions with co-op members. We spent time evaluating data that had been collected on the livestock co-op production. Oh, and we also visited the farms, examined the animals and talked with the farmers – something that we thought we would spent most of our time doing as veterinarians, but which is actually only a small part of the project. We were always welcomed very warmly and thanked profusely for our participation. We were also able to hear about and witness first hand the challenges in this kind of work.

Examination and vaccination on a less than happy patient.

We worked off site for most of December and January, doing more research and consultation, compiling and organizing information to be included in the training programs and manuals, as well as developing the health program. We attended conferences and visited other veterinarians and projects in both Tanzania and Kenya. We also took time to travel and to take advantage of the amazing diversity in geography, vegetation, wildlife and people that exists in this country.

Dr. Amy had to return to Canada but continued to work remotely on the project, Dr. Gerry was able to head back to the area to finish the on-site work, returning to Tukuyu in February. We worked extensively with our Africa Bridge team to finalize the training curriculum and manuals, reviewed our recommendations for health and production and refined the data collection, monitoring and evaluation tools. The training manuals will be translated and implemented in the new ward, Kambasegela, as the project reaches that point in 2018. Other recommendations and tools will be introduced where and when possible based on timing, budget issues and cultural adaptation. The implementation of change will be a challenge, both for the project participants and the organization and will take some time, but we are confident it will make a difference in livestock health and production. The next group of volunteers will be able to build on, refine, assess and revise as needed the plans we have initiated.

Gerry leading a heat detection educational session in March near Kibsa

It was so wonderful to get to return to some of the villages, do some mentoring visits, participate in training sessions, reconnect with the warm and grateful people and be reminded of the reason we do this…to improve the lives of the children in need.


Closing the Gender Gap in Farming

How are women more vulnerable to climate change? Do women really make up the majority of the poorest around the world? And how can development programs best meet the needs of women and other vulnerable groups in agriculture?

Vets without Borders was able to join discussions on these topics amongst eminent leaders such as Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), and Prof. Sir Gordon Conway of Imperial College London, at a conference organised by the CGIAR and partners in Paris last week.

Mary Robinson talks about women and men in positions of power opening up space for diverse voices in this audio extract:

Other talks looked at the value of women’s empowerment indicators in evaluating impact (eg. see OECD’s discussion of gender empowerment measures ), and of the role women can play in innovative technology development around agricultural processing (Smallholder women’s empowerment through farmer-participatory design and user-led innovation of labour-saving tools in Malawi, Presenter: Una Murray, National Uni of Ireland Galway).

Ecohealth field building takes stock

More than half way through the Field Building Leadership Initiative, it is exciting to meet 50 of the regional researchers from China, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam who are spearheading Ecohealth research in their countries.

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From reducing hazardous pesticide use in China to developing herb-based alternative medicines for cattle in Indonesia, this research is looking at new ways of building sustainable and environmentally-friendly solutions to agriculture in urbanising environments.

The annual meeting of the FBLI in Danang, Vietnam this February was also a chance to recap on the successes of Ecohealth capacity building, with Ecohealth now being taught in universities in China and Vietnam. The Ecohealth trainer manual produced by VWB in 2013 is also being widely used and will be translated into 4 national languages this year  –

See the attached flyer for a progress update! FBLI Brief_February 2015

Recruitment: Asia-based evaluator

RECRUITMENT: Veterinarians without Borders-Canada, with its partners, is seeking a mid-term evaluator for the project Improving Rural Livelihoods and Food Security in Laos and Cambodia (Foodlive Camlao).


The project aims to build animal health capacity in a total of 19 villages in Laos and Cambodia, through training and mentoring of animal heatlh workers/extension farmers, livelihoods support to farmers, and making linkages between human, animal and environmental health issues.

The evaluator will work closely with project team members to co-implement a review of project monitoring and evaluation processes, and to provide recommendations for assessing outcomes and impacts during and beyond the project. The evaluator should be based in Southeast Asia, ideally in Laos or Cambodia.

The mid-term evaluation will ideally be carried out in September-October 2014.

For terms of reference and application details, please contact Monique Charron,

Proposals are due on 5th September 2014.


Foodlive Camlao Terms of Reference FINAL_AUGUST 2014

World cafe Montreal

What’s the relationship between empirical evidence, learned knowledge, and values and intuition when working towards social change?

Must Ecohealth be integrated to other disciplines, or is it a field of its own?

Can we achieve Ecohealth learning through mainstream education, or by its very nature must we find alternative spaces and mechanisms for sharing with communities?

These and many more were some of the questions that got us all started at the Ecohealth conference 2014’s World Cafe, convened by Sonia, Carlos and Giang.

Sound like a brainteaser? follow the updates at

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Growing and greenhouses

After the first crop production training for Dounien village, 6 volunteer model farmers started planning their new activities.  Working closely with mentors, they have decided to start with Good Agricultural Practices :

“practices that address environmental, economic and social sustainability for on-farm processes, and result in safe and quality food and non-food agricultural products” (FAO COAG 2003 GAP paper)

This way they can build on their own experience in growing a wide range of vegetables which include onion, eggplant, spinach, morning glory, watermelon, papaya and cucumber.

At last weekend’s meeting, each farmer developed a cropping plan and the project mentors discussed with them the kinds of materials they will require and how to source good quality seeds. The next steps will be building a greenhouse and preparing the family plot.  Let’s see what happens next.


Going Organic : insights for dreaming big

Tasting organic long beans from the organic farm     Admiring water sprinklers at organic farm

The world of organic can be over-whelming: procedures, certification, testing. Not an easy-access option for small farmers keen to try new farming techniques.

That’s why Vets without Borders and FoA organised an introductory 3-day training for farmers in Dounien village to show them the ropes, explain what is meant by organic and ‘good agricultural practices’ (GAP) and experiment with making their own compost.

The visit to Ban Thaxang, a local organic farm set up 3 years ago and run by 20 households, showed what all this can look like in practice, and gave participants a real vision for dreaming big.

Trainer Ms Phimmasone said “The participants already have animals and some land, but they didn’t know how to make organic compost and use natural pest control. Now they have seen how others are doing it, it will help them to try it themselves”.

Co-trainer Mr Sayvisen added “The next step will be to actually try these new approaches in their own farms. We don’t want to just stop at training, we will help them prepare for new and growing markets”.

For lunch the workshop group tasted samples of fresh water spinach from Ban Thaxang and everyone got to take some vegetables home.

Over the new few weeks, group members will volunteer to work as model farmers to try out these new techniques in their backyards.

Rabies campaign 2012

Between November 23 to December 7, 2012, 1,393 dogs, 121 cats and 1 monkey were vaccinated against rabies.  According to the dog count provided, this means we vaccinated 75% of the dog population, in line with the 70% recommended for mass rabies vaccination campaigns.

Thanks to the team from NUOL, volunteer students, partners and the PAHWs for all their hard work!  And thanks to  photographers Ernest Goh, Chung Hua Siong and Ore Huiying for their wonderful photos!  We are excited that the Lao government is developing a Rabies Eradication Strategy and will be happy to share information from our campaign to support this initiative.

Rabies vaccination campaign. Top, Senoudom village. Bottom, Veunten village. Photography by Ore Huiying/ The Animal Book Co.

Meet Janet.


In Uganda, women are limited in their property and ownership rights. Goats are one of the few animals that women can own. For women and children, many of whom have lost husbands and fathers to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Vets Without Borders Uganda Goat Pass-on Project is providing an essential way for women to make a living and support their children through school.

Janet lives in Mbarara, Uganda. In 2008, she became the proud owner of a dairy cross goat thanks to her participation in the VWB/VSF Goat Pass-On Project, which helps to improve the health and well-being of Ugandan families. The program model provides a pregnant goat to a family and they keep first born goat kid, return the second born kid to the program for another household. With each additional goat kid born, the family can decide whether to keep the goat or use it to take out a micro-loan to use for school fees, medical bills or to start a business. This photo was taken in the summer of 2012, where Janet is proudly holding the latest goat kid addition to the family. For the last five years your donations have helped Janet to become a para-veterinarian, a model farmer for her community, secretary for the Goat Pass-On Group and Chairperson for the Micro-loans Group enabling her to better provide for her children and their future.

When you donate to Vets without Borders, give an eGift, or buy a goat tote bag or 2013 Calendar, proceeds go to programs like this, and people just like Janet, around the world.
You can help create healthy lives for animals, people, and the planet. 
Send your eGifts today and spread the love a little further.

To learn more about Janet and the Goat Pass-On Project, watch this video.