The PAHW final evaluation !

The Lao project team is not always busy in the field- from July 21st to the 24th- they were very busy in the classroom!

Together with Dr Bounmy Xaymountry from the Division of Veterinary Services, the Department of Livestock and Fisheries, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, we evaluated 26 of our PAHWs (Primary Animal Health Workers). Sisavath, Chantha and Margot were also part of the evaluation committee and we had worked together on preparing the exam.

Dr Bounmy, Sisavath and Margot filling up evaluation grids:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The exam was an oral examination and all PAHWs did completed it with success! It included a review of the last sick animal they had seen and review questions on the topics we trained them on previously. We were very impressed with how many small details they remembered- even the number of spoons of salt and sugar to use to prepare oral rehydrating fluids and the exact protection period of the different types of haemorrhagic septicaemia vaccines or the dosages of antibiotics.

Ong, PAHW from Palai, ready for the evaluation:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The next step for them is now to get their certificates, as well as scoring attestations, signboards and even a T-shirt, so that they are completely equipped to promote their work in the village.  A small ceremony for this will be held in the beginning of September.  Because of their success, we are looking at extending this training to other areas of Laos so that animal health services can reach more farmers.

Phomma, PAHW from Nakhao, answering the committee’s questions:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES Amphone, our project assistant explaining the evaluation process to Por Tor, a PAHW from Somsamai:


Somsanook, a PAHW from Sanoudom, in front of the evaluation committee: Dr Bounmy, Chantha and Margot:


Cattle and buffaloes ready for the rainy season in Houychiem community, Laos

In May 2015, PAHWs and village chiefs from Houychiem community gathered together with staff from the Faculty of Agriculture and from Vets without Borders to plan the next Hemorrhagic septicemia vaccination campaign for cattle and buffalo. Hemorrhagic septicemia is a fast evolving fatal disease that occurs mainly during the rainy season; it can kill more than 50% of cattle and buffalo population and it is very difficult to treat and is best prevented through vaccination.

Village chiefs have been involved in announcing and promoting the usefulness of the campaign, while PAHWs were responsible for counting the animals whose owners were willing to vaccinate, supplying the material and vaccines from the Rural drug vendors and delivering the campaign.

During the actual campaign, which lasted several days in each village throughout June, farmers were charged 6000 kips (less than $1) per head for the vaccination. PAHWs were recording the number of animals vaccinated, as well as the total animal population in the village so that we can assess the vaccination coverage (we are aiming for 70%). They were also giving out certificates to farmers to remind them to vaccinate again next year. Teachers from the faculty visited each village to make sure everything was going according to plan. Some vet students were also asked to participate to help PAHWs restrain animals, since very seldom farmers have crutches in their farm.By involving the village authorities in the organization of the campaign, we hope that PAHWs and village chiefs can work together next year to offer the same service to farmers.

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Zoonotic viruses in rural Lao: collaboration project between FoA, VWB and IPL

Circulation of zoonotic viruses remains largely unknown and under-investigated in rural Laos, although these viruses can have dramatic impact on human and animal health (e.g. SARS, Influenza and Ebola virus). This is why, together with the Institute Pasteur Laos (IPL), we decided to expand the on-going Animal Health Monitoring by testing the collected samples also for different viruses with zoonotic potential. Dr Maude Pauly from the Luxembourg Institute of Health joined the experienced local team (composed of 3rd and 4th year veterinary students, teachers from the Faculty of Agriculture and VWB team) during the sample collection in April 2015. Moreover, she gave lectures about laboratory analyses, risk factors for zoonotic diseases, and zoonotic viruses. A workshop was also organized for the staff of the Faculty of Agriculture at the IPL to provide basic laboratory skills. Dr Maude highly appreciated the motivation of the collaboration partners and of course also the beauty of the country and the kindness and hospitality of its population… and also loved the sympathetic and straightforward “Bo penh nyang”(i.e. “No problem” or “never mind”)-mentality and will certainly come back!

The first phase of the project was a great success and more collaboration projects are currently being launched aiming at surveilling emergence and prevalence of zoonotic viruses and at developing efficient intervention strategies in order to hopefully prevent epidemics in the region. This is of course an ambitious objective, but we are determined to combine efforts and experience to succeed!

Amphone and Bouachan, two graduated vet students, assisting Dr Maude Pauly in the labZoonotic 1


Amphone and Maude after a successful sampling visit

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Two third year vet students, Lattana and Phouddavanh, practising blood smears in the labZoonotic 3

A third year vet student, Khamxaixong, taking a nasal swab from a cow while the farmer restrains the animalZoonotic 4





Rural Drug Vendors in Laos

Part of Vets without Borders’ work in Laos involves training Rural Drug Vendors (RDVs) to help access to pharmacy services in rural areas. We’d like to take some time to highlight our 2 fantastic RDVs, Mr. Sisavath and Mr. Ong.



VWB assisted 2 rural drug vendors (RDVs), Mr. Sisavath and Mr. Ong, to set up their shop for animal health-related drugs and equipment by providing economic support in the form of interest-free loans and co-financing. With this support, the 2 RDVs were able to purchase veterinary drugs and vaccines, a counter for storing and displaying their products, a fridge for storing temperature-sensitive vaccines, and an  advertisement sign to promote their business.Sisavath&PAHW_signingReceiptSisavath_drug_counter

In addition to this, the RDVs participated in trainings on basic bookkeeping and business skills development, drug stock management, and drug application. Now they are ready to run and improve their business and become sustainable beyond project support. Moreover, the RDVs are a key element for a functioning and sustainable community-based animal health service system, which VWB assisted to set up in 11 villages in Xaythany district.Sisavath_Sign

In addition to local livestock farmers, the main customers of the RDVs are the 27 primary animal health workers (PAHWs) in the target area. The PAHWs, which have also been trained by VWB and the Faculty of Agriculture, can now purchase the drugs and equipment needed for providing animal health services in their villages at the RDVs shops.

More work for Cricket farmers after the IFN visits

After the farmer exchange visit, where the participants of the Insect for Nutrition project (IFN) visited different cricket farms in Vientiane Capital province, they participated in a cricket farming training in their villages. The training was delivered by our local partners from Bolikhan District Agriculture and Forestry Office, who had been trained before by our team. Two students from the Faculty of Agriculture’s livestock department assisted in the training.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESTheory1

The training took place on the 16th and 17th of May in the 2 IFN project villages in Bolikhan district, Bolikhamxay province. In the first part, the participants learned about the life cycle of crickets, the rearing techniques at the different life cycle stages, and about the cage and its equipment. Due to the prior farmer exchange visit, the participants knew already a lot and were eager to show their knowledge, and actively contribute to the training.CageConstruction01SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

In the 2nd part of the training, the participants constructed together with the trainers and the students 1 model cage. While the rough design and size of the cage was set by the project, the participants were free to find the best construction solution by themselves. There was a lot of discussion on which design would be the best! But, finally, the model cages in the 2 villages were constructed. In each village, the design was different, but the result were 2 excellent cricket production cages, which can serve the other participants as a guiding model.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

In the final part of the training, the trainers showed how to burn rice husk and mix it with the right amount of water. In this rice husk mix, the crickets will lay their eggs. The correct preparation of the rice husk mix is crucial for the success of the coming production cycle. If the mix is too dry or too wet, the cricket eggs will be spoiled and a new generation of crickets will not hatch. As the trainers explained, an alternative to burned rice husk is saw dust.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

After the training, all participants start the construction of their cricket cages, and will start their own farming by the end of this month.

Lao cricket farmers participate in a Insect for Nutrition visit!

Following the Training of Trainers (ToT) of our local partners from Bolikhamxay province, 20 project participants of our Insect for Nutrition (IFN) project visited other crickets farmers in Vientiane Capital province as part of their training on cricket farming. Former experiences showed us that farmers learn best from other farmers – this was proven again during this exchange visit!

After arriving from Bolikhamxay on May 9th, the IFN participants visited 16 cricket farmers in Xaythany district, which have been running small backyard cricket farms with the support of VWB since 2014. The IFN guests were very excited to see the farms – none of them had seen a real cricket farm before. And as they will start soon farming their own crickets, they eagerly inspected the cages, the equipment, and the crickets, and had many questions to ask about cage construction, rearing, feeding and harvesting practices. And, as can be seen in the photos, our cricket farmers really enjoyed being in the centre of attention and to share their knowledge and experiences with the guests!

After this, we visited another cricket farm, which is located in the immediate vicinity of the Vientiane, and close to insect trading markets. From this farm, VWB had purchased the last batch of cricket eggs to restart the cricket production of the 16 cricket farmers from Xaythany district after the cold season. This farm operated on a little bit bigger scale with 6 cages and a total production output of  nearly 100kg per production cycle. Here the IFN participants, had the opportunity to observe a slightly different farming system, which made use of 2-story cages.

Finally, we closed off the visit with a small sightseeing tour to the Patuxay monument in Vientiane. For some participants it was the first time to the capital city!

The exchange visit was an excellent and exciting learning opportunity for all! Not only the IFN participants were able to get more insights into cricket farming, but also our local partners, who have joined the ToT, and will conduct the cricket farming training in Bolikhamxay, agreed that is was a great experience for them!

Cricket farming Training of Trainers and Farmer Exchange Visits

On May 7th, our local partners from the District Agriculture and Forestry Office (DAFO) in Bolikhan district, visited our office at the Faculty of Agriculture in Nabong, to participate in a Training of Trainers on cricket rearing. During the training, which was facilitated by Faculty member Ajarn Bounpheng, the DAFO officers learned how to train local farmers on setting up and managing a small scale cricket farm. Two agriculture students from the faculty joined the training as well, which is part of their project practicum with VWB. Together with the DAFO officers, they will train and support the participants of VWB’s Insect for Nutrition project in the neighbouring Bolikhmamxay province.

After the training at the faculty, the ToT participants visited together with the project manager, Thomas, a cricket farm for more practical learning experiences. They used the opportunity to ask the cricket farmer many questions about rearing techniques, feed, and cage equipment.

On the following day, the ToT participants developed together training materials and conducted a test training with Ajarn Bounpheng and Thomas. As a final part of their ToT, they will join a farmer-2-farmer exchange visit and see two more cricket farms.






On May8th, VWB conducted a business training for the Primary Animal Health Workers (PAHWs). The PAHWs learned basic bookkeeping skills, such as using a cash book, calculating the pricing of products and services, and keeping track of loans. These bookkeeping skills will help them to manage their business more effectively, increase their incomes, and improve animal health services in their villages. In the next training module, the PAHWs will learn how to use a cash flow plan, and how to promote and market their business.





Primary Animal Health Workers in Laos learn the importance of antibiotics

In Laos, the Primary Animal Health Workers’ (or PAHWs) favorite learning topic is pharmaceuticals because they know how important preventative and live-saving injections can be for farmers to be able to give to their animals.  Because prevention and disease management is so important, PAHWs need to know a lot about  the medical drugs the administer and also about the contra-indications and possible side effects of drugs.   Some farmers believe that antibiotics cannot be used in very young animals or that vaccines cannot be used in pregnant, so PAHWs work hard to educate the farmers about the the safety of vaccinations and some life-saving medicines so that they can care for their sick animals.

Last month, the VWB team in Laos had a PAHW training where all of those topics were covered. PAHWs were very enthusiastic in joining all sorts of activities, from plenary discussions, to group work, to individual presentations to card games.  Education saves both animal and human lives!





Vets without Borders’ work in Laos slated for future years and additional projects!

Isn’t signing a new Memorandum Of Understanding with the Lao government the best good way to celebrate Pii Mai Lao (Lao new year)??

That is what happened to Vets without Borders in Lao in early April!!

Faculty members and project staff gathered to listen to the project coordinator update on project advancement, were asked for their feedback.  It was discussed that sustainability of our activities was the most important discussion point.


To close this meeting, Pr Fongsamouth Southammavong, on behalf of the ministry of Education and Sport, and Dr Margot Camoin, on behalf of Vets without Borders, signed the MOU and shook hands. This MOU will allow Vets without Borders to continue to implement different projects in Laos.


A small pre-Pii Mai party was organized afterwards to celebrate this success !


Raising crickets during Laos’s cold season

In the cold season of Laos (December – March) the cricket production ceased.  When temperatures drop, cricket growth slows, and eventually stops if it stays too cold. This timing was a good opportunity to review  the last production cycles with the project participants and get some project feedback. Overall, the participants were happy with their production and thought the process was very easy. All farmers want to continue raising crickets with the beginning of the warmer season and as soon as fresh cricket eggs are available. The group leader is happy about this activity as the smaller children in her household love to eat crickets, and, since she started to farm them, they are now easily available.

The cricket project raised the interest of other people inside and outside the village. Again the group leader said that her daughter, who lives in another village has also started cricket farming after being given cricket eggs. The participants also reported that other families in the village started raising crickets on their own. Moreover, 1 new participant, also female, joined the project!

The temporary stop of the production also gave us the opportunity to check the condition of the cricket cages. We realized that many of the cages need to be repaired as the plywood has been affected by the weather. The joint decision was to look for a more suitable material than plywood and then, rebuild the cages and improve their design based on the previous experiences. To test new materials and an improved design, the project manager, Thomas, built a test cage.


The cage construction was reviewed with the participants to provide feedback and suggestions for further improvement, and to finally guide the reconstruction of the new cages. On March 12, the participants received the materials for the new cages. As can be seen on the photos, they were really excited and very eager to restart their production. Everyone also received a new batch of cricket eggs.

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Cricket farming however, is not just about the farming practices- must research and collaboration is happening to discuss nutrition and how the successes of this pilot project can expand to other parts of Laos. In January 2015, the preparatory field activities for this research project started with a stakeholder meeting in Bolikhamxay province and the pre-selection of potential project villages. In the stakeholder meeting, the project partners, comprising of the VWB team, representatives of the Faculty of Agriculture (including the Vice Dean), nutritionists from the University of Health Sciences, and representatives of the District Agriculture and Forestry Office (DAFO), District Health Office and Women’s Union, discussed and reviewed the project conception, and agreed on the selection criteria for the pre-selection of potential project villages. In February, village consultation visits were conducted with the same team (plus the Dean of the University of Health Sciences, a senior nutritionist). Two villages with 10 households per village were selected (i.e. total of 20 households). In addition to this, 2 control villages were selected for the research. On March 20th, a test baseline survey was conducted with 15 households in Xaythany District, Vientiane Capital. The purpose of this activity was to test the developed questionnaires and improve them for the baseline survey in the project villages at the beginning of April. The baseline survey focuses on capturing the nutritional status of the research households, especially of women of child-bearing age and children under 5 years.  We look forward to continue this work and help to improve the nutrition and income of families in rural Laos!