Who Wants to be a Veterinarian?

Although we’d prefer to only have healthy chickens here in Tanzania, we went out to see two sick chickens with Gaga at two farms – one in Lubanda village and the other in our hometown of Ushirika.  Both farms raise chickens very differently but had the same disease in their chickens.  We thought we’d issue a challenge to everyone to see how good your veterinary deduction skills are!

Farm 1: Lubanda

–          Free range/scavenging chickens that come inside the home at night.

–          Vaccinated for Newcastle disease, supplementation with water and corn.

–          10 chickens in total – all mixed together.

–          One dead chicken (died that morning).

–          One sick chicken – with diarrhea and coughing.

Farm 2: Ushirika

–          Intensive system (the only one we’ve seen in Tanzania to date) – hanging feed and water dispensers, nest boxes, electricity in the coop, and perches.

–          Vaccinated for Newcastle disease and Fowl Pox, routinely dewormed with Piperazine every 3 months, supplementation with water and commercial layers mash.

–          259 chickens in total – all layers, housed by production stage (with separate housing for chicks with hens), sick chickens isolated from others.

–          Two sick chickens – one recovering, other very ill.

–          Very ill chicken – with shrunken pale combs and wattles, hunched posture, swollen eyes that were shut, ruffled feathers, and white pasty diarrhea.  The chicken was hock sitting and not moving and we saw lice on its neck.

We performed post-mortems on both chickens and know definitively what disease they have.  Can you tell?


We’ve officially passed the month mark – it has been 31 days since we boarded our plane in Toronto to set off for Tanzania!  Since arrival, we’re had some great experiences, met some great people, and enhanced the Tanzanian Poultry Project a great deal.


A taste of what we’ve experienced so far

Food and Drink

Since we attempted our first cooking session, we’ve had the pleasure of being taught how to improve our African cooking skills.  Our good friend, Gaga, was nice enough to invite us into his home for an unexpected day-long marathon of cooking lessons with him and his sister, Stella.  The day started cruising through the market to get all of our ingredients.  First up on the menu: our breakfast staple, mandazi (donuts).  We were taught how to make the dough, knead and roll it out, cut it, and fry it to perfection.  The process is similar to making donuts back in Canada, but the addition of cardamom adds a new flare to our mandazi!  Second on the list was fresh juice!  Gaga really enjoys making juice for us and previously made us the most delicious avocado juice.  This time, he whipped up a tropical fruit juice made of pineapple, passion fruits, and bananas.  Alongside our juice, our third cooking lesson was kitimoto (pork).  Gaga showed us how to prepare kitimoto in a tasty tomato and green pepper sauce.  We then sat down together to enjoy our feast – the hard work (and 5 hours of cooking) paid off!



As we experimented with cooking for the first time last week, we enjoyed the hot sun and attempted to get tans (despite only a corner of our courtyard getting sun, we were pretty successful).  The rest of the week has been very cold.  We’ve been wrapped up in sweaters most of the time and Kellie has busted out her wool socks every day!  This is not what we expected African weather to be like…


Daily Life

After spending the week hard at work, we took yesterday (Saturday) off.  We planned a trip to a nearby beach but unfortunately our plans fell through when our friend’s car unexpectedly broke down.  We spent the day relaxing and enjoying the sun anyways though!  Since we’ve spent all our daylight hours working on the project this week, it was nice to spend a full day outside.



At the beginning of the week, we had an unexpected guest come to our house to check in on us.  It was Jeffery, a teacher at Ilima Secondary School, wanting to know if we were safe and well.  He graciously invited us to dinner at his home and we joined him, his wife, his mother, and his 3 children the next day.   We enjoyed a delicious meal together.  Jeffery even went out of his way to ensure our favourite beers were present (and cold!).  After dinner, he invited us to join the family the next night at a wedding ceremony.  We obviously had to accept the invitation – when else were we going to go to a Tanzanian wedding?  The ceremony was very nice but not what we had expected.  Compared to a wedding in Canada there were some similarities but definitely some differences too.  For example, there was a cake cutting ceremony (similar to Canada) but the sharing of the cake between members of the bridal party and the family of the groom played a very important role.  It was an interesting twist on what we’re used to back home.  Despite not understanding anything said during the ceremony, we were able to participate and have a great time!



A lot of new things have happened with the project since our last update!  We spent all of last week meeting with teacher and student farmers in Ilima and Lubanda.  We didn’t expect it but some of the houses were far apart and on mountain sides so we definitely got our exercise!  It was great to see everyone’s coop and talk to them about their chickens.  After meeting with all the farmers, we took the information we gathered and sat down with Gaga to discuss our next steps.  We were all on the same page about what would be most useful and we excitedly planned our training sessions for the villages.  This week, we have been busy writing out the training materials and planning our lessons. Our sessions will touch on: the advantages of keeping local chickens, coop building, preferential care for chicks and hens, complete nutrition, disease and parasite control, vaccination, selection and breeding, proper record-keeping, and marketing of chickens and eggs.  After they are translated into Swahili, we’ll be teaching both villages with Gaga’s help – we can’t wait!



We made a friend in Ushirika’s centre named Godlove.  He is a motorcycle driver who is very keen on improving his English and teaching us Swahili.  He has offered to drive us to various local landmarks to see what the Southern Highlands of Tanzania has to offer.  Since we are often looking amongst the motorcycles of the town to say hello to him, we’ve begun to notice a lot of unexpected items on the backs of motorcycles.  We thought we’d share our list with you.

Crazy Things We’ve Seen on the Back of Motorcycles in Tanzania:

  1. Too many people.
  2. A pig strapped to a board.
  3. A pile of no less than 20 large, plastic buckets stacked on their side.
  4. A loveseat.
  5. Chickens (both in cages and free).
  6. A 9 foot long metal door (we’re not even exaggerating)
  7. A bedframe – complete with head and foot boards.


Swahili word of the day

We’ve learned that Swahili is incredibly literal.  When saying goodbye to someone, we frequently say “Tutaonana” (“See You”) as we depart.  Often people will ask you to specify when they will see you.  For example: “See You Later” is “Tutaonana Baadaye” and “See You Tomorrow” is “Tutaonana Kesho”.  Since everyone always asks, we just started to say whatever we could remember at the time.  It turns out, people get really worried when you say you’ll see them later and you don’t actually show up later.  We’ve had many people track us down to find out if we’re ok and to determine where we were.  Who knew?  That was unexpected!

The Spice of Life – With Jodi and Kellie

Today (Sunday, June 9th) we made our first attempt at cooking, the Tanzanian way. In our opinion, we were quite successful; whipping up both a delicious pilau (spiced, fried rice) and a tasty vegetable stir fry. We even had enough charcoal left at the end to boil some water for tea!

While cooking we decided to issue a challenge to all of you at home. If you’re up for the challenge of cooking like we have to, here’s how to do it!

  1. Buy your standards: garlic, onions and ginger.
  2. Purchase two types of vegetables, probably carrots and peppers, because that’s all that is available at the market.
  3. Cut everything using a large chef’s knife (there are no pairing knives here) in the palm of your hand (there are no cutting boards either). Even the garlic… No cheating!
  4. Using one burner, on medium-high heat ONLY, cook your rice, and all your stir-fry vegetables. Don’t forget to check your charcoal level halfway through to make sure you have enough!
  5. Add the minimal spices you can find, mainly salt and “Pilau Masala Seasoning”, which consists of cloves, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon and cardamom.

Enjoy your meal! It only took you 2 hours to make it.

Uganda 2013 – The adventure continues

I must first apologize for how long it has been since I last wrote!  A lot has happened since then so I will try and give you a taste for what we have been up to in the last couple of weeks.

To start, I will let you all know the lesson I learned about rolling up mats.  We were visiting past beneficiaries in the village of Kikokwa one morning, and one of our first stops was at a lady named Vangi’s house.  When we got to her house she rolled out a bamboo mat for us to sit on.  After our discussion we got up to go check on her goats.  Thinking I was being helpful I began to roll up Vangi’s mat for her and asked her where she would like me to put it.  All the while Vivian (FAOC) and Vangi were giggling.  I handed Vangi the mat and asked Vivian what was so funny.  She informed me that rolling up somebody else’s mat means that you never want to come back and see them ever again!  I felt so bad and a little embarrassed.  Vangi on the other hand found it quite funny and at the community meeting later that day, Vangi would catch my eye and giggle some more.  Thank goodness Vangi took it as a light hearted mistake!

Meet Vangi, my new friend.

On the weekend of June 1st we learned that it was a long weekend due to a holiday, which Vivian informed us was (what we thought we heard at least) ‘Mother’s Day’.  When it came to Monday, June 3rd there were TV programs on the streets broadcasting large celebrations and gatherings for this day.  It was also a day where the majority of people went to church.  Ilse was making conversation with a local that day and asked “Do you have a Father’s Day as well?”, but she received a confused look and no answer.  We thought maybe it was because he didn’t know much English.  Later on that day we met up with Vivian who asked us all if we had gone to church that morning.  We were surprised and didn’t realize that we should have gone to church on Mother’s Day, since it is not something that is commonly done in Canada.  At the end of the day as we discussed our Canadian Mothers Day and how it was different from here, we noticed online that Uganda was instead celebrating “Martyrs Day”!  Oh dear, yet another language barrier mix-up!  It was quite funny for us all and it made much more sense once we realized what was actually going on that day.

For the past week we have been in Queen Elizabeth National Park.  Our first day was spent in the field tracking lions!  We were with a fellow named James who is Dr. Siefert’s assistant. Dr. Seifert is a wildlife veterinarian who is deeply involved in community work in Uganda.  He is dedicated to improving the protection of wildlife species within the park by getting the community involved and finding ways for humans, livestock, and wildlife to coexist.  James used telemetry with radio collared lions we managed to find seven lions that day!  It was incredible to see them so close.  While in Queen, our dorms that we stayed in were right inside the park. On our second night there we realized what this really meant. Within a time span of one hour we saw a leopard walk beside our house, a herd of elephants walk right outside out door, and a huge hippo grazing behind our rooms!  It was certainly a night to remember!  We also saw water buck, wart hogs, banded mongoose, and water buffalo on a daily basis.

An unexpected visitor 🙂 Queen Elizabeth National Park

For the next three days at the park we helped out Dr. Emmanual and Dr. Zeyhle (a medical doctor doing his PhD and a parasitologist, respectively) with their research on Echinococcosus.  Echinococcus is a tapeworm and the lifecycle involves a definitive host (dogs) where eggs are produced by the adult tapeworms and an intermediate host (sheep, goats, or swine) where the hydatid cysts are formed.  People become infected by ingesting the eggs found in dog feces.  Humans are an ‘incidental host’, which means that we cannot pass on the parasite but can develop the hydatid cysts, which can cause issues as the cysts can grow very large.  We set up at different medical clinics and screened people using ultrasound to look for hydatid cysts.    It was interesting work and we were able to screen almost 400 people.

Sibling love

On our last day in Queen, we were lucky enough to spend the whole day with Dr. Seifert.  There was a radio collared lioness named Bridget that has been experiencing an eye problem, so our goal for the day was to find her, check to see if her eye was still sick, and dart her if needed to give the necessary treatments.  We located her within an hour and she was nicely in the open!  Dr. Seifert used his binoculars to get a really good look at her eye; he confirmed it needed treatment.  We drove a fair distance away from her to get the supplies ready.  We were shown how to load the dart with sedative and ensure the dart gun was in working order.  Once set up we drove back to find beautiful Bridget; she had moved but luckily was still in the open for us.  We parked 15 meters from her and Dr. Seifert then got set up in the front seat of the vehicle with the dart gun and aimed for her thigh muscles.  He made a perfect shot and when the dart hit she vocalized and looked around confused, wondering what might have bitten her.  She then walked slowly away and went down about 200 yards from our vehicle.  We drove up to her and after waiting a safe amount of time, Dr. Seifert ensured she was fully sedated by throwing a water bottle in her direction and then proceeding to poke her with a stick.  We rolled her onto a hammock and carried her to a shady area to perform our physical exam.  What an amazing creature!!!   After covering her eyes with a cloth, we took her temperature, checked her mouth, protracted each claw to check for infection, and examined her eye.  We also collected ticks, swabbed her mouth, and took blood (Ilse performed the blood sample) to check for Babesia, Rabies, and Filaria and Lechmaniasis, respectively.  Dr. Seifert gave her a long-acting antibiotic for her eye, so hopefully there will be improvements.  Once we finished checking her over, we moved her once more to a protected area in a thicket, poured water on her to ensure she didn’t overheat, and administered the reversal so she could wake up.  We drove a distance away to observe her coming out of sedation.  When she first lifted up her head she was holding the towel in her mouth that we had used for covering her eyes, it was a very cute sight!  All in all Queen Elizabeth National Park was a wonderful experience.

Bridget after being darted
Dr. Seifert teaching us his ways

Beautiful paws

Upon returning to Mbarara on Friday June 14th, we participated in an annual National holiday called the ‘Day of the African Child’.  Each year there is a new theme and this years was ‘Eliminating Harmful Social and Cultural Practices Affecting Children: Our Collective Responsibility.’  It is a day filled with activities, games, songs, skits, and speeches from different NGO’s and community members.  We had a lot of fun helping out with face painting, playing soccer, reading stories, and making friends.  The Foundation for Aids Orphaned Children (FAOC) along with their partners played a huge role in organizing the event and they did an amazing job.

Face paints!

Fun with the kids
Ilse and I receiving an appreciation certificate for VWB

If you want to read more details about Echinococcus and some of the social issues occurring in Queen Elizabeth National Park, please copy and past the link below to read Devon, Tara, and Elad’s blog: http://globalvetsuganda2013.blogspot.com/2013/06/hello-again-i-wrote-this-blog-post-in.html.


Until next time!

May at a Glance

We thought it would be nice, for you and for us, to write a blog to reflect on each month we’ve been here.  Looking back at a glance at May, we’ve had a lot of firsts, met with many different people, and visited a ton of places across Tanzania.  It’s been a great experience so far, as we hope you’ve gathered from our previous blogs, and it’s nice to be able to stop and reflect on where we’ve been and what we’ve done and exactly how it’s played into the progress of the project and into our lives here.

Settling into our Tanzanian lifestyle has been a definitely been a transition but we’re slowly figuring out how to combine our work life, our daily chores, and the limited daylight we have.  We’ve managed to navigate the markets, negotiate prices, master how to hand-wash our laundry, travel on buses, and speak basic Swahili.  Although our unwelcome house-guests (massive cockroaches and giant spiders) came as a surprise, we’ve managed to eliminate most of them and have developed plans of attack in case of their return.  We continue to develop our skills every day and we’re certain that eventually rural Tanzanian life will be a breeze!

Many of the meetings we had during our stay in Dar es Salaam and Morogoro got us involved with some of the universities and organizations working on interesting projects that address similar goals and objectives as the Tanzanian Poultry Project, directly and indirectly.  The conversations we had about One Health issues in Tanzanian gave us a really good perspective on how to tackle some of the concerns with our Tanzanian Poultry Project and how to approach working with the farmers to make the project a success.  Some of the connections we made also allowed us to work together on formulating a concept note proposal to the IDRC for future funding.  The ideas and potential direction that came out of that concept note may open new doors for the project and land us working on implementing the first stages of the project in August before we depart.  It’s a very exciting opportunity and we’re eager to expand the project and take it to new levels in Tanzania!

Travelling from Dar es Salaam through all the major cities to reach our home in Ushirika has also given us the opportunity to experience the beauty of Tanzania.  The landscape provides epic, picturesque scenery at every turn and the wildlife we met on our journey through Mikumi National Park will definitely be a lasting memory for us.  However, the greatest beauty of Tanzania has been its people.  The kindness, generosity, and appreciation from everyone we’ve met has been absolutely overwhelming.  The excitement of the children at Ilima Primary School as they sang and clapped when they saw us, the generosity of the school teachers and teacher farmers who provided us food at our meetings, and the warm and welcoming nature of everyone we’ve met has made the transition much easier on both of us.  We’re so thankful that our first month here has been filled with such positive experiences!

We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about our adventures thus far as much as we’ve enjoyed living them.  It’s great to be able to share our experiences with everyone and give all of you an idea about what it’s like to be here in Tanzania working on the Poultry Project.  If there is anything you want to know, please leave us a comment so we can give you the inside scoop – we would love to share even more with you!

Ushirika, Tanzania – A Place Where Small Victories Can Seem Huge

We are now settling into our home in Ushirika – we’ve transitioned out of the move-around hotel lifestyle and into our permanent African residence.  It’s been an adjustment but we’re managing well and getting the hang of life here.  This weekend, after unpacking and doing some organizing, we explored our new town (which takes about 5 minutes to walk through) – we found a few places to eat, made some new friends, and discovered what the Sunday market has to offer.  The highlight of the entire weekend, was finding peanut butter (siagi ya karanga) in the market; what would merely be a small victory, if even that, by Canadian standards.  However, after visiting more shops than we can count and having numerous shop-keepers and vendors look at us like we had six heads, we finally stumbled upon a vendor with 1000g of the liquid gold!  Let the delicious peanuty-celebrations begin 🙂

Uganda – The first 10 days!

I have been in Uganda for 11 days now and it is a great experience so far. The first 6 days were spent on a safari with our new friend and guide Frank Atube (from Entebbe). Ilse wasn’t with us yet so it was myself, and three of the Global Vets students from WCVM, Elad, Tara, and Devon. Here is a very short summary: we did a walking safari to see white rhinos, game drive in Murchison Falls (saw the big 5 and several other species of wildlife, and hiked the falls – simply beautiful), tracked chimps at Kibale National Park, another game drive in Ishesha National Park (part of Queen Elizabeth National Park), tracked gorilla’s in Bwindi National park, and swam and canoed at Lake Bunyonyi. What a breathtaking experience! I would highly recommend all of the above to any persons interested in travelling to Uganda!
In the days following safari, Ilse arrived and the five of us embarked on our journey to Mbarara to begin our work on the goat pass-on project. On our way to Mbarara from Entebbe we stopped off in Kampala to visit the veterinary college at Makerere University. First we met Martha who is going into her 5th year of wildlife biology; she was so nice and stayed with us all afternoon to help bring us to people we wanted to meet and gave us a tour around the campus. We were able to meet Dr. John Nizeyi (the Uganda Coordinator), Dr. Sam Okech, and Dr. Nakanjako Maria Flavia of AFRISA (Africa Institute for Strategic Animal Resource Services and Development). They were all very welcoming and Dr. Nizeyi invited us to attend a One Health conference at the beginning of July. At this conference we will be able to listen to presentations by other groups and maybe get a chance to share our experience and progress on the goat pass-on project.

We then toured the pathology unit and the small animal clinic followed by a nice lunch at a canteen on campus. We had traditional chicken stew with Irish potatoes (boiled with parsley sprinkled on top), matooke (mashed plantain), and more of the delicious ‘Krest’ or bitter lemon drinks that Ilse had mentioned. After lunch we were lucky enough to have a meeting with the Dr. Ludwig Seifert, in hopes to set up a time to do volunteer work with him during our stay here in Uganda. Dr. Seifert is a professor at Makerere University, a wildlife veterinarian, and he does a lot of work with sustainable community development. He was very friendly and is willing to have us hang out with him for about a week to learn and help out with his work.

From the University, Frank drove us to the bus station in Kampala where we would catch our bus to Mbarara. It was not quite like a bus station back in Canada. We hadn’t even stopped the car and we had several drivers come up to us to find out where we were headed and told us to take their bus over the others. Once stopped, some men began to open the van doors to help us with our bags, we didn’t quite know which bus we were going to be taking at that time and some of our bags just about drove away without us!! It was a busy and fun experience that was saved by Elad when he stopped the bus with our bags on it. After a peaceful bus ride we made it to Mbarara after dark and were picked up by Vivian, the administrator and program director for Foundation for Aids Orphaned Children (FAOC). We had heard and read so much about FAOC and Vivian so it was wonderful to finally meet her.

We have now been in Mbarara for three days and we have begun to make some progress on planning and organizing our summer work. So far we have made a summer schedule of community meetings we hope to attend in which we will discuss any issues about the community members’ general well-being and problems and/or successes with the goat pass-on scheme and goat health. We also hope to do a paravet refresher training course in the third week of June to ensure the current paravets are happy with how their work is going and to provide continuing education and support with their veterinary services.

We have now ridden ‘boda boda’s’ several times, these are basically motorcycle taxis that can fit up to three passengers plus the driver, but we only put on two of us at most on one boda. It costs us 2000.00 shillings to get to town, which is about 0.85 cents, not bad! We are enjoying daily feasts of fresh mango, pineapple, watermelon, lemons, passion fruit, avocados the size of our heads, various breads, and cookies for a treat. The markets are quite fun to shop around in, selling everything from goat meat, live chickens for meat, shoes, kitchen ware, clothing, and much much more!

Although we have only been in Uganda for a short period of time, we have all noticed how welcoming the people are of ‘mzungu’s’ which means white people. We feel that we can ask anybody for help in the towns, and we are getting fare prices for produce. The children are a highlight of our days here as well. We usually don’t walk down many streets without hearing a young child calling out ‘How are you?, How are you?’, or ‘Mzungu! Mzungu!’, and sometimes just ‘Bye! Bye! Bye!’ with excited waving hands. The five of us are also trying to learn a few new words in the local dialect here which is Runyankole. So far we have gotten comfortable saying hello/how are you (Agandi), thank you (webare), madam (Nyabo), sir (sebo), and good morning (Oraire ota). We hope to be able to add a few words each day to our list.

That’s all for now!
Cheers, Katie

Below is a picture of our first boda boda ride!!

Devon, Katie, and driver