2015 Rabies Campaign Success!

Primary Animal Health Workers (PAHWs), 3rd and 4th year veterinary students, teachers from the Faculty of Agriculture, staff from local government offices and VWB team worked together to deliver the annual rabies vaccination campaign to dogs and cats in 11 villages outside of Vientiane, Laos. A total of 1160 dogs and 110 cats have been vaccinated and additional counts are still coming in. At the end of the primary campaign, we celebrated the success as a team with a group dinner and certificate presentation to all of the students who helped.

The success could not have been possible without the help of the owners of the cats and dogs. They are concerned enough about this deadly disease to bring animals that are not used to be handled to the vaccination site. All transportation means were used: rice bags, all sorts of baskets, motorbikes, tractors, fish nets, sweaters, cars, boxes, buckets, bicycles, wheelbarrows… and of course ropes used as leashes! PAHWs are still doing some follow up vaccinations for animals that were sick or too young at the time of the campaign and we are looking to achieve 80% vaccination coverage this year.












rabies celebration1

rabies celebration2

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.

IMG_6158  IMG_6166

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  – https://ecohealth.vetswithoutborders.ca

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

Update on Laos Activities

Project teams in Laos have been very busy with the Animal Health Monitoring project and the Insect Farming project. Recently, our vet Margot  conducting a refresher training for Animal Health Monitoring for several local veterinary students. Several teams of about 5 students participated in a quiz that focused on clinical examination and infectious diseases in large animals. The first team who had the answer would stand and give their answer, in case it was wrong the second team who stood would have a chance to give their answer. With the right answer they would get 1 point, we had around 40 questions. Extra explanations were given if the students’ answers were not clear. IMG_3994IMG_4008IMG_3999

Students were motivated through the whole session, and we rewarded the first three teams, with packs of sweets or chocolatethat they carefully and evenly shared between the members of the team. Next up will be a learning course for 3rd year vet students on basic epidemiology and the big rabies vaccination campaign next week!


The Cricket Farming project held an event that included the visit of 25 exchange master students from Thailand, Vietnam and Laos with a background in public health. The exchange program was organized by the University of Health Sciences, Vientiane. Our cricket farmers participated to link the topics of health and nutrition with crickets as a nutritious source of food. The students were accompanied by Aj. Vasana form the UHS, and a lecturer from Thailand. Prior to the visit, our project manager, Thomas, briefed them at the faculty about the background and the rationale of cricket farming from food and nutrition security perspective. They then met the cricket farmers at their community house, where the students asked questions. After this, the students visited several households to have a look at their cricket farms. During the visit the students were very interested and asked many questions with regard to cricket rearing techniques, income generation, consumption habits, food processing etc. The farmers were happy that the students showed that much interest in their activity. Moreover, many of the students bought frozen and alive crickets from the farmers – one participant even sold all her crickets.

During the visit, we also gave posters to the participants with photos that documented the project progress and activities. The participants received 2 big posters for their community house, and a set of small posters for their home.


Job announcement: Vet epidemiologist, Laos

Vets without Borders is recruiting!  Please share the job announcement with friends and colleagues!


Application deadline: 11 January 2015


Start date: March 2015


We are looking for applicants qualified to at least MSc level in veterinary epidemiology or a related field to lead the detailed planning and implementation of a four-year livestock-based climate-sensitive disease surveillance and dissemination project, as well as to support VWB’s long-term livelihoods and food security program in the Southeast Asia region. The project is funded by the CGIAR Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) program,

The role will include partner liaison and coordination, project scoping and fundraising, project design, management and budget oversight, monitoring, and collating and writing up data with the purpose of reporting and scientific publication.

Please see the job announcement link below, which contains all information regarding the application process.


Laos vet announcement_2015_FINAL


Graduation Success for Lao Veterinary Student!

One of the veterinary students at the Faculty of Agriculture, National University of Laos is Bouachan Chantalard.  She has been involved in numerous project activities. That’s a reason why she managed to get a long term training through one of the project activity: she studied the impact of newcastle vaccination on antibody-titre in chickens and on the mortality rate of chickens in two villages (one village where the project implement monthly vaccination campaign and one control village where no vaccination are done).

SAM_4479  Lab - Phonemany recording sample names and filling up micro hematocrit tubes

Four other students joined project activities for their long term training: Amphone worked on the impact of Fowl cholera vaccination in the same two villages, Phonemany studied the prevalence of  blood parasites in large animals in four villages and Syphong did a survey on the prevalence of faecal parasites in the same area.


Last week Bouachan defended her report in front of fellow students and a jury of three teachers. She prepared a nice presentation and explained about the laboratory analyses she did. To ensure that the test were working she had a control group, she followed chickens that were not vaccinated yet, she took blood samples from them before and 15 days after vaccination, all the chickens moved from a very low antibody titre to a high one- concluding that the vaccine was effective.

She was asked a lot of interesting questions and was able to answer all of them effectively. In the end, after making a few small changes to her report-  she successfully graduated.



On the same evening of her thesis defense, her friends, teachers from the jury and project staff went to celebrate her success in a small restaurant by the Faculty.  Next year, the project is hoping to host veterinary students again for their final term training !


Crickets Provide Food and Nutrition Security

The Vets without Borders Cricket Farming team has had a very busy fall season in Laos!

First, our Project Manager, Thomas, attended and presented at the AIDF Asia Food Security Summit in Jakarta on October 9th.  Thomas discussed cricket farming from a Food & Nutrition Security Perspective, as well as from a Sustainable Development perspective.   Insect farming and processing for consumption and sale is a growing trend in developing countries- building off of many eating habits that people in these areas already have had for generations. Being able to make the farms more productive and sustainable however, helps increase livelihoods for families and communities and boost nutrition for those who need it most.

Thomas’s presentation supporting insect farming summarized the following:

1. Malnutrition (both, protein energy malnutrition, as well as micronutrient deficiencies “hidden hunger”) are prevalent in Southeast Asia (SEA) and Laos due to disruptions in the Food/Nutrition Security dimensions of availabilty/accessibility/stability/utilizsation

2. Edible insects have a huge potential to address both forms of malnutrition, because a) they have high nutritional values, and b) they are widely consumed throughout SEA and Laos 3. However, there are barriers to insect consumption, because most insects are wild species and have limitations with regard to improving food & nutrition security 4. Insect farming is a sustainable livelihoods activity, which can address and overcome these barriers, increase insect consumption, and thus, contribute to improving community nutrition and malnutritionDSC00395

Later in October, Thomas and his team held a 2-day practical workshop on cricket processing with the Lao farmer counterparts and theFaculty’s Food and Safety Processing Unit. The workshop was really excellent! As you can in the pictures, the participants really enjoyed it, were proud of their own produce, and received a huge boost of motivation through the workshop!


The workshop was divided into several parts:

1. Introduction
As part of the introduction, Ajarn Thansamay pointed out that in order to sell unprocessed crickets to market vendors or restaurants, the size of the crickets has to be big enough. Accordingly, there has to be a selection process after the harvest. While too small crickets cannot be easily sold unprocessed, they can, however, be used without problems for producing cricket products, such as those in produced during the workshop (chips, noodles and chili sauce). Another advantage of crickets products is that they can generate more profit than unprocessed crickets, because they are mixed with cheaper ingredients, such as flour. And, of course, they enhance the nutritional value of common products.


2. Hygiene & Hand washing
Ajarn Sayvisene emphasized how important basic standards of hygiene are, especially, when the participants want to produce cricket products and sell them to other people. In addition to keeping working places clean, basic hygiene measures start with hand washing.


3. Processing of cricket chips
Chips or crisps are a popular snack amongst adults and children. Cricket chips have the potential to be sold either in the form of raw dried chips (need deep-frying at home), which have a shelf life of 1 year, or as deep-fried ready-to-eat chips, which can be kept between 1-2 months. Properly packaged, both products can be sold at markets, in shops, within the village, and to restaurants etc. Considering their enhanced nutritional value and popularity, ready-to-eat crickets chips could be sold at/nearby schools.

The production of the chips takes between 2-4 days as a sun-drying process is involved.
Processing Steps: a) Dry frying crickets in pan to dehydrate them b) pounding dried crickets c) mixing with rice flour and spices d) preparing dough e) wrapping chunks of dough into plastic foil c) steaming dough for 1 hour d) cooling & resting dough in fridge for 1 night e) cutting dough into thin slices f) drying slices in sun (1-3 days) g) deep-frying or packaging raw chips

After producing the chips together, it was obvious that the participants loved the taste of the chips – within a short time all chips were eaten. The young daughter of a participant was particularly fond of the chips, and asked for more until her mother stopped her.

4_mixing ingredients with rice flour



4. Processing of cricket noodles (Khao piak jingleed )
Khao piak noodle soup is extremely popular and ranks probably amongst the most often sold dishes in Laos. During the workshop the participants produced these rice flour-based noodles enhanced with cricket powder. As the noodles have to be consumed fresh within 1 day, they are limitations when it comes to selling them. However, they are a good means to improve the nutrition of the participants and their family members.
Production steps:
a) Pounding of dried crickets b) preparing dough out of rice flour & tapioca starch & other ingredients, c) flattening the dough d) cutting the dough into noodle slices e) cooking the noodles

The participants shared the noodles, which they produced during the workshop, with their family members (some shared their noodles with 8 family members).

3.3_flattening & cutting the dough

5. Processing of Chili Paste with Crickets (Jaeow jingleed )
Chili paste or Jaeow is a popular spicy dip when eating sticky rice. At the workshop, the participants learned how to produce Jaeow jingleed, which can be packaged nicely in a small plastic container and sold at local shops or the market at similar prices to conventional Jaeow.

Production steps:
a) roast garlic & shallots over fire to intensify the aroma, b) pound dried crickets together with dried chilies, garlic, shallots and other spices until it becomes a paste c) heat the paste to increase shelf-life d) eat or package into bags/plastic containers

The participants got really excited after they had produced the paste and packed it into small plastic containers. They were already thinking about their own label and selling them as a special chili paste from HVK. On the group photo, it can be seen how proud the participants are of their workshop results, showing their produced cricket chips and Jaeow!


6. Demonstration of Packing Methods

Ajarn Sayvisene also showed the participants how a simple bag sealer can be used to have an appealing packaging of products and to improve shelf-life and food safety.

On both days all the participants, and trainers/facilitators enjoyed lunch together. On the 2nd day, the self.made Jaoew and chips were part of the lunch. After the workshop, the participants sat together with Sayvisene and me and had a lot of fun singing a self-composed cricket song together!

After the coming harvest, the Ajarn Sayvisene and Thansamay will visit the participants again and try the cricket chips and chili paste, which they will do on their own. Having learned how to process crickets into simple products, the participants will also decide, if they want to produce some of the crickets products for sale. 

Vacuum packaged fresh crickets


Eating Insects Makes Sense!

Farmers’ vision for poultry

This week’s poultry mentoring was an inspiring reflection of how farmers are learning to improve poultry raising to suit their lifestyles and resources, whilst investing time and effort in getting better results.


Every farmer we visited had his or her own vision for how s/he wanted her chicken farm to develop. Ms Nan and her husband from one of the poorest households are intent on building a new and bigger pen with more ventilation, more sunlight, and more space to acquire new chickens. They already sell some of their chickens in the village and want to sell more

– in the past two months alone they sold 15-20 chickens!


They have set up a great water container, important now that the dry season is in full swing, and have been giving papaya skins and other additions to supplement the chickens’ diet.

Dounien Nov 2014_comp

Mr Kam, also one of the poorer participants, has an impressive set up, with newborn chicks, young adults and full grown chickens all cared for separately. This is quite unusual in the extensive mode of farming common to local chicken raising. Although he and his wife can’t read and write, their daughter helps them keep records every month to track numbers.

In the past few months most participants have sold chickens for income as well as eating them for household nutrition.  They all have plans to improve the housing, feed practices and increase their income over the next few months. We’ll be continuing to provide regular support for vaccination and technical advice to help them develop self-sufficient and reliable production.

Bounlerth showing examples of good chicken houses on smartphone app
Bounlerth showing examples of good chicken houses on smartphone app

Dounien Nov 2014_comp 2

Large Animal Health Monitoring Updates in Laos

The latest report from Veterinarians without Borders in Laos is how busy the team has been with Animal Health Monitoring activities.   For an entire week, 2nd and 3rd year veterinary students went to 4 different villages to visit large animal farmers in the evening (when the animals have returned back home after spending the day grazing). At each farm, the students would ask farmers questions regarding the management of his farm such as-  new animals born or purchased, animals sold or culled, changes in feeding or housing practices, and any preventive measures applied. All information was record in a carbon paper book so that the farmer can keep one copy of the record. The were also able to select 2 animals to practice a thorough clinical examination and sample collection (blood and faeces). This is not always an easy task, because as you can see in the pictures, the animals are not used to be handled, they are just brought to the field to graze every morning and brought back to the house in the evening by their owner or the farmer’s children. So sometimes, particularly for buffaloes, only the owner can handle the animal, thus he was asked to check the colour of the mucosal membrane in the mouth or to check the temperature because the buffalo would not let the student do.

Flipcharts - feedback meeting farmers-comp

Checking mucosal membran colour buffalo

After collecting the blood and feces samples,  we went back to the laboratory to do analyses with the help of Phonemany and Syphong, two 5th year students doing their final term training on blood and fecal parasites. Some analyses required the parasites to be alive, so we didn’t finish until 10pm. However, even hungry and tired students were happy to learn this new technique: micro haematocrit centrifuge technic for Trypanosoma evansi, a blood parasite, that you can see moving under the microscope! Unluckily for the cattle here, we found quite a lot of this parasite as well as fecal parasites.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Syphong and Phonemany will then discuss the risk factors and the best prevention strategies in their final report so that we can feedback to the farmers. A new task for this round of Animal Health Monitoring, was delivering certificates by the faculty laboratory to farmers with the results of the analyses and advice on which drug to use to treat their animal. Thanks to that, Syphong identified some farmers who were interested in treating their animals and will be able to do comparison in fecal parasite egg counts before and after treatment to assess the efficacy of the treatment. At the end of August,  we had feedback meetings to the farmers in the 4 villages to update them on the evolution of the activity, on the results of the different data the students have collected and gave them advice on the problems that they might have encountered. For example, bloat in cattle at the beginning of the rainy season, cases of haemorrhagic septicaemia during the rainy season, improvement of pens (because during the rainy season the animals spend more time in them, since farmers cannot let them free range in the middle of rice fields), and emergency sales of animals for cash need versus regular sales for a more regular income.  We have been very impressed with the success of the farms and how engaged the farmers have been, especially during rainy season when it makes simple tasks just a little more difficult!

Students - clinical examination goat

Cricket Farming in Laos goes to the test kitchen!

The cricket  farming project in Vientiane Province, Laos, is moving right along! The crickets have been hatched, and our project team recently visited the farmers for some mentoring visits.   During the visits, a few hatch box problems were solved by replacing materials and upgrading materials (such as tape and wood) in order to better keep the crickets contained. The farmers do not want spiders or lizards to enter and eat their crickets!   In some instances, larger crickets were eating the smaller crickets, but the project team assisted the farmers and separated the different types of crickets so there was no further cannibalism.

Farmers and their families look in the cricket boxes to check on the status of their cricket farms:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Crickets grow quickly! These are full-size crickets just a few months after the beginning of the project:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The mentoring visits also included some instruction for how to properly clean the cages and make the environment more suitable for the grown crickets.  Growing crickets means that their appetite is increased, and their feces produced was something to consider. However, the farmers are able to use the cricket feces as fertilizer in their vegetable and flower gardens! Many of the project participants had such successful cricket farms that they ran out of the feed that was supposed to be more than enough for the first part of the project.  Farmers were able to supplement their cricket feed with vegetable scraps and leaves.   At the time of the visit, the crickets also started to lay eggs of their own for the first time, and farmers were taught how to provide for the new cricket parents by providing small bowls or plates of either sawdust or burned rice husks mixed with water as a medium for a place for the crickets to lay their eggs.

On August 20th, Veterinarians without Borders conducted a workshop and training for how the communities can process their grown crickets for consumption. The most basic and tasty way is to fry the crickets with herbs and spices.  One of the more experienced cricket farmers that is helping to lead the initiative, helped the other farmers prepare the crickets, step-by-step.  The participants were very excited- because the 2 kg of crickets processed were from their own production!  The workshop was fantasticand exceeded everyone’s expectations… the participants not only fried the crickets, but additionally cooked traditional bamboo soup (gaeng normai)  to which they added crickets, and prepared papaya salad and sticky rice.  See the video and photos below for a play-by-play of the processing day!

Cricket Farm Test Kitchen Day

After cleaning the crickets, they are added to a pot of heated oil for frying:


Frying kaffir limeleaves: 4_FryingKaffirLimeLeaves_resize

Fried kaffir leaves:


Adding spices to the finished fried crickets:

Other women prepare a soup to add the crickets to:





Everyone enjoying the finished meal!