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.

making boxes1
making boxes2
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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!



Zoetis sponsored this year´s program by donating products (Dexdomitor, Clavamox, and Revolution) and sending a qualified Veterinary Doctor colleague who shared her knowledge and skills with these communities in need. Veterinarians Without Borders sponsors many projects throughout the world, including two initiatives in the northern reaches of Canada. This year, Dr. Carolyn Hours traveled to the Sahtu region in the Northwest Territories, serves a group of 5 isolated communities located along the southern edge of Great Slave Lake, which are exclusively accessible by plane except during the coldest winter months when transport is possible via the « ice highways ».   Below Dr. Hours shares her personal account of this experience,


The extreme remoteness of these northern communities helps explain the lack of access to even the most rudimentary veterinary services, such as vaccination and sterilisation. And, as rabies and parvovirus are relatively frequent among the canine population in the north, the risk of transmission to human populations—passing from wild animals to domestic animals to humans—is high. It goes without saying that the absence of a sterilisation program causes a rapid expansion of the canine population, leaving many uncared for dogs free to roam at their will. The result? Human populations live in fear of attack by aggressive dogs.


Since 2008, two professors from the University of Calgary, Drs Susan Kutz (Parasitology) and Frank van de Meer (Virology), have organised an annual veterinary clinic with the help of 3 final year veterinarian students. The goal of the program is to vaccinate and deworm local canine populations, and provide sterilisation clinics, general consults, and home visits in the communities of Norman Wells, Tulita, Deline, Fort Good Hope, as well as Colville Lake (the most isolated of the destinations, located only 50km from the arctic circle!).


Back row, left to right: Jessie (student RVT), Dr van der Meer and the 3 students of veterinary medicine: Jessie, Kylie, and Andrea. Front row, L to R: Tanya (RVT) and Dr Kutz​

Education plays an important role in the expedition. During evening workshops and presentations in schools, Dr Kutz and her team speak about the importance of proper veterinary care, canine behaviour, and the right diet (a locally shared view holds that a dog should be “thin”).

The equipment required for the expedition—including sterilisation and anesthesia equipment, the veterinary pharmacy, and everything else that will be needed (bandages, fluidotherapy, cages, etc)—is transported by a convoy of three Northwest Territory government pick-up trucks.


Since its creation, a number of companies have sponsored Dr Kutz’s program and for a second consecutive year, Zoetis participated by donating products (Dexdomitor, Clavamox, and Revolution) and by under-writing the presence of a Zoetis staff veterinarian.


Dr. Carolyn Hour, Zoetis experienced first-hand how rewarding it was to be part of this annual journey:

I had the great privilege of participating in this northern adventure, supporting the veterinary students during surgery as well as lending expertise during clinical consults and home visits.

The first community I visited was Colville Lake, a grouping of 150 people on the shores of Colville Lake.


In the 1960s, this community experienced a hunting-related economic boom and a number of families from Fort Good Hope, including the missionary Bern Will Brown, established a permanent settlement, which included the creation of a school and a church, « Our Lady of the Snows ». Mr Brown and his wife Margaret—to this day, an active member of the community, raise a pure breed race of white Huskies, the « Colville Lake Huskies ».



During our visit we were able to vaccinate and deworm 100% of the canine population. Dr Kutz’s team provides these patients with basic and anti-rabies vaccinations following a 1-year protocol. A 3-year protocol is judged un-practicable due to the number of wandering dogs and the frequent change of dog ownership (which, confusingly, is often accompanied by a change to the dog’s name). Ovariohysterectomy is a hard sell in this community in which children want to have puppies. Sterilisation of males is, for the moment, inconceivable. Nevertheless, our team was able to spay 4 females from our temporary clinic in the village gymnasium.


Despite an evolution over the years in the acceptance of veterinary services, Colville Lake remains the most fixed in its ways. The home visits allowed the team to check up on limping dogs or animals with other conditions that might otherwise never receive treatment.

Our next destination, the last stop on the tour, was Fort Good Hope, home to almost 500 people. In Fort Good Hope, we set up our clinic in one of the classrooms at the Chief T’Selehye School, which provides schooling from primary through to post-secondary (junior and senior high) levels and prepares students for technical training.


The cases and the animal population were more varied in Fort Good Hope compared to Colville Lake. They included: the castration of a small cat, the dental intervention on a Chihuahua, the ablation of a sebaceous cyst, dog castrations, and some ovariohysterectomies. Students were allowed to observe the various procedures throughout the day, helping promote the importance of veterinary care for the wellbeing of animals.

The outcome of Sahtu Vet Clinics 2015 was positive for Dr Kutz and the team. There was a remarkable increase in the number of surgeries, especially in the community of Deline. Another bonus was the growing proportion of the population who seemed better sensitized to the needs of their animals and now look forward to the annual visit from the veterinary team. For the veterinary students, this trip was an enriching experience that allowed them to practice their clinical and technical (surgical) skills while developing communication skills by interfacing with animal owners and participating in community meetings (in classrooms and at community events).

The experience was equally enriching for me. It allowed me to measure the impact that our sponsorship can have on the wellbeing of animals, which is our primary preoccupation at Zoetis, a pharmaceutical company, which is strictly animal oriented. The trip was also an occasion for me to discover another Canadian reality, that of communities that are isolated for more than half of the year, living in an extreme climate and balancing modernity with ancestral ways.

As I admired the northern lights over Colville Lake, it was impossible not to be won over by the natural environment, as beautiful as it is wild. Faced by the immensity of the silence in this region, this Inuit proverb captured that feeling:

« The only masters are ice and time »

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.

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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  – https://ecohealth.vetswithoutborders.ca

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

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.

More than fun and games in Laos!

What makes us take health messages seriously? What motivates us to change our behaviour, since just knowing isn’t enough?

These are challenges facing the team in Laos when working on a host of issues related to human, animal and environmental health.  By collaboratively developing a series of games, presentations and videos, the team put together a health promotion package which allowed community members to see, read, hear, play and enact a range of learnings around community health.

Between July and August this year we held 11 Community Health Days in Houychiem community and received fantastic feedback from the villages, all of whom have asked for more next year!  The educational games were a popular activity, allowing adults and children alike to reflect on the value of livestock vaccination, malaria prevention and forest conservation.  A full evaluation of the Health Days and the most effective health messages conveyed is now being undertaken by Lauren Crawshaw, our field-based intern and will help us prepare even better next year.




Vaccination day in Paksapmai

Vaccination station

The first day of rabies vaccination in the Laos VEVEP Rabies Campaign was busy and productive. Eight students from the Veterinary (paravet) Program at the National University of Laos accompanied four faculty and VWB veterinarian Anne Drew, to Ban Paksapmei.  The three PAHWs – Primary Animal Health Workers – of the village met us at a corner store where a few villagers already waited with their dogs. Quickly stools and a table were set up to provide four stations. The first held the vaccination materials: muzzles and rope leashes, cooler with vaccine, needles and syringes, disposal containers for sharps and trash, and coloured neck markers for the vaccinated dogs. Then owners moved down a row providing recording and certificates, a short questionnaire on dog demographics and rabies awareness, and an information station where they received pamphlets in Lao and oral instruction. Emphasis was placed on what to do in the event of a dog bite and/or suspected rabies exposure: Wash the wound! Seek medical attention. Inform the authorities.

Lao dogs are rarely confined or leashed, but we had decided to require dogs be brought to a central location, rather than travelling house to house. This was due to time constraint – one day per village – and our feeling that given free vaccination, villagers could make the effort.  Some misgiving as to whether many would show up was quickly dispelled with the first rush between 8:30 and 10. Dogs came following their owners freely or carried in arms. Litters of puppies arrived with families of young children carrying one apiece. Some dogs walked, reluctantly, on ropes and chains. A number arrived by motorcycle – either in the basket carrier (loose!), or carried by a passenger. One lady even drove with her fully-grown dog clamped between her knees. The occasional upscale family brought dogs by car, and one gentleman had a wire cage on a traditional wooden handcart.

Dogs were vaccinated by a PAHW, under Faculty supervision, while students manned the remaining stations, and I circulated as troubleshooter. Although the vaccine is labeled for dogs over three months, in a rabies-control vaccination campaign it is recommended to vaccinate all dogs; research in Tanzania has shown that young pups mount a strong immune response. I’m personally less comfortable vaccinating under 4 weeks, so we chose this age as cutoff in our public announcements, but vaccinated any presented.

An occasional dog escaped when attempts were made to muzzle it, and the team is learning to make sure panicky dogs are well secured before proceeding. Lao dogs, though unused to restraint, are well treated and generally good tempered, and no one was injured. The team shared a lunch of chicken soup, papaya salad and rice, before proceeding to the afternoon location. In all, 148 dogs and 6 cats were vaccinated.  The Campaign will cover the remaining 10 project villages over the next 11 days, with a two day break for the Lao Boat Racing Festival, also the end of the three month Rains Retreat for Buddhist monks.

By Anne Drew