Sick Chicks, Buried Treasure, and the Conclusion of the Vaccination Saga…

Last week began with the monthly meeting of the teacher farmers. Hot topics at the meeting included revamping the vaccination program as well as choosing those farmers most in need (such as old widows) for whom Shona and I, with help from some others, will be building coops. The new village executive officer of Ilima attended the meeting and we were very grateful that he explained to the teachers that although we would help some of the most in need to build coops, teachers should be willing to help out those less fortunate in their community even after Shona and I are gone.

Now we’re nearly done our visits with all 76 student farmers! It’s been great experience meeting with them all and we’ve learned a lot along the way (such as the 9 million ways to greet someone in the Nyakusa language!)

One of the discoveries we made last week is that some farmers are not taking the proper steps to prevent external parasites. We’ve heard a common complaint about “wounds around the eyes.” At one of the farms we visited we examined some chicks that had some black around their eyes. On closer inspection we saw that their faces were covered with fleas. Most of the farmers use an insecticide powder, but this particular farmer was using an herbal remedy that just wasn’t working. All of his chickens were infected, the young chicks most severely. We explained that the fleas have a negative impact on the health of the chickens, especially the chicks, and that in addition to spreading amongst his population of birds, they could spread to other birds in nearby farms when the chickens free range.

We’ve suggested to some farmers the option of doing post-mortem exams on some of their chickens. Adamson Mwakayaga told us that she had lost 30 chicks to disease recently. She said the chicks had swollen necks and were coughing. Shona and I considered gapeworm as a possibility, but explained that coughing could be a sign of a lot of different diseases. We looked at one of the sick chicks, but did not find anything significant besides a mass on the neck. We’ve discussed the idea of doing some post-mortems with Ngaga, the field extension officer. We figured it would be good to determine, as in Andamson’s case, what is killing so many of her chicks and what are some of the common diseases in the village. It will also be good to show the farmers what exactly a post-mortem exam is and how it can be a valuable tool. And oh yeah… it would be quite fun for us!

Last weekend we camped at Lake Masoko, about an hour away. Once again we went through the Rungwe Tea Tour Company who put us in touch with a local guide named Joshua. Joshua was absolutely hilarious! He used to be part of a popular band that toured all over Africa back in the day. Hes and his brothers are tall and skinny with ‘fros (think Jackson 5 but much much older). Being the grandson of the village chief Joshua knew a lot of the legends surrounding the lake. He regaled us with stories of cursed treasure and magical snake dragons. During World War II German soldiers were stationed at the lake. They dumped coins and trucks in the lake before being forced to evacuate after the war. Joshua, being a diver among many other talents, had managed to find some coins in the lake which he showed us. However, there is a chest of money in the lake which no one has been able to reach: it is believed to be guarded by chains that turn into snakes. Joshua showed us a big hole in the ground where more German treasure was believed to be buried. Digging had stopped because the workers had seen zombies and snakes! We saw the grave of a German soldier who had unsuccessfully attempted to slay the multiple-headed snake dragon that guarded the lake.

Shona and I had the opportunity to get to know Joshua’s daughter Zeba pretty well. She told us stories of her family that were just as colorful as Joshua’s stories of the lake, but much more heartbreaking involving murder, betrayal, and HIV. Zeba lived in China and studied in the UK, so although she was very much Tanzanian she also has the prospective of an outsider. One of the things we talked about with Zeba is the problem of education in Tanzania. Many parents just don’t see the importance of sending their children to school, particularly their daughters. Joshua and Zeba told us about a man in the village, who we had met briefly, that had enough money to buy alcohol all day everyday, but was not willing to pay for his daughter to go to secondary school, despite her strong desire to learn. She is currently age 14 and pregnant. Zeba was great to talk with and we hope we’ll be able to see her again. She’s also interested in raising chickens so hopefully we can help her out!

This week Shona and I along with the village chair James, the vaccinators, the teacher farmers, and Alan Minga (who is the one that gets the vaccine and brings it to the village) have reached a final decision as to how vaccinations are going to occur now. Previously two farmers appointed as vaccinators would vaccinate all 82 farmers’ chickens once every three months. After speaking with over 50 farmers we found that they were not happy with the current vaccinators, accusing them of not showing up, using expired vaccine, and not vaccinating properly. The teacher farmers came up with a new plan: each teacher would be responsible for vaccinating their own students’ chickens. All money collected (25 Tanzanian Shillings per chicken) would go to James, who would then give the money to Minga so that he could use the money to purchase the vaccine for next time. All of the teacher farmers and all of the student farmers we talked to were happy with this new plan. But before “firing” the vaccinators we needed to hear their side of the story. The vaccinators claimed that the farmers were not always home when they came to vaccinate and that many of them did not pay. They also said that they were giving the money they collected to Alan Minga so that he could buy the vaccine, but this was not the case. When we all met with Minga, who has been involved with this project for years and in whom we all trust very much, he said that he was not receiving ANY money from the vaccinators. So we decided to go with the new plan of the teacher farmers doing the vaccinations. We thanked the vaccinators for their hard work, apologized, and tried to explain that vaccinating was just too much work for two people, and the current system is clearly working so we have to change it and try out something new. We hope that this new plan will be much more effective!

P.S. Unfortunately the internet is too slow here to download pictures to the blog 🙁


Post #3

Since I last wrote we have sadly lost one of our team members. Dr. Laura has returned to Canada. We thank her for all her hard work and guidance she gave in the first 3 weeks. She is very devoted to the project, having returned for the 3rd time. It is apparent how much the communities appreciate her as they express their sadness when we inform them she has left. Jerome, Scott and I have been continuing the work and progress is being made. We have been visiting our beneficiaries, searching for vaccines, and conducting paravet training.

We had the opportunity last Saturday to take part in the FAOC Day of the African Child celebration. The Day of the African Child is an international celebration to remember over 200 children who were killed during the South African apartheid when they stood up for their child rights. The day focuses on advocating child rights throughout Africa. This years theme was Children with Disabilities. The intention was to bring awareness to the high prevalence of disabilities in Uganda and the challenges these children face. The event included a parade, speeches, demonstrations, music, and games. It was a huge success and we were happy to be a part of the program.

This week we had our first paravet refresher training. Paravets are local men and women who we have trained in basic animal husbandry, nutrition and medicine. They have been trained over the past years by previous volunteers. We held a refresh training course to review important concepts and answer questions. The individuals are very keen to learn and show great initiative. They asked great questions and were engaged the whole day. We ended the session with case studies regarding typical situations they might face. We presented a case of a goat with ‘flu’ (pneumonia) and had the paravets ask us questions as if we were the owners. This helped to review history taking, common diseases, treatments and husbandry/nutrition recommendations. It was very interesting for me to see how they interpret the situations and their medical approach. This was my favorite part of the summer so far. I really enjoyed interacting and learning with the group.

We are now working to set up vaccination days with all our parishes. We are hoping to carry this out over the next month. Beneficiaries are busy building goat pens and once they are complete we will be holding our second pass out. For those interested, Brian has been discharged from the hospital. We returned him to his home last week. It was difficult to send him back home as I am unsure if he will receive the care he needs. We checked on him on Friday and he seems to be doing well. We provided him with a matress and mosquito net to make him more comfortable.

We are meeting new people every day involved in exciting work across many disciplines and from many different countries. We have booked a trip to Rwanda next weekend to visit the Genocide Memorial and experience the different culture. I am hoping to meet up with the two vets that I met in Guelph before leaving that work with the Mountain Gorilla project. We are about half way through our trip and we realize everyday how much still needs to be accomplished in such little time. Motivation is still high as the staff at FAOC have been very supportive. I am excited to see what the second half of the trip has to offer.

All the best,

Dr. Steve

Parler la langue locale

Parler la langue locale, c’est parfois être confrontée à des idées bien arrêtées et défavorables à notre travail de contrôle de la population canine. Parfois, ce serait plus facile de prétexter ne pas parler espagnol pour m’éviter des conversations qui, visiblement, ne mèneront à rien. En effet, que puis-je répondre à mon interlocuteur s’il est convaincu que la stérilisation est un crime contre les créatures de Dieu? J’aurai beau user de tout le tact du monde pour expliquer qu’il y a des limites aux ressources que la ville peut offrir aux chiens errants, tout sera rejeté en bloc. Même lorsqu’il est question d’éviter la misère et la souffrance à de futures générations de chiens, la stérilisation est à proscrire aux yeux de ces individus. «La maladie fait partie du cercle de la vie et il faut l’accepter. Et ce n’est pas aux humains de décider de la vie ou de la mort. En stérilisant ces chiens, vous en tuez des centaines d’autres.» C’est difficile d’accepter ce genre de discours. L’envie est grande de continuer à argumenter, mais ce n’est ni l’endroit ni le moment.

Parler la langue locale, c’est aussi devoir trouver les bons mots après avoir été sollicitée pour des conseils vétérinaires ou pour réaliser l’examen des trois chats et des deux chiens de la maison ou encore la stérilisation de cette chienne qui en est déjà à sa troisième portée. Il faut apprendre à dire non, même après avoir écouté ces gens nous raconter leur histoire et nous expliquer qu’ils ne peuvent payer les services d’un vétérinaire.

Heureusement, parler la langue locale, c’est également avoir accès à plein de choses merveilleuses : comprendre le panneau publicitaire devant lequel je passe tous les jours, rire d’une blague à la radio avec les gens assis dans le même colectivo que moi, remercier mes hôtes après avoir été invitée pour un cafecito, expliquer aux enfants dans la cour d’une école que le chien est filmé pour les fins d’une étude et non parce qu’il est la vedette d’un nouveau film, demander à des passants éberlués s’ils ont aperçu un grand chien brun portant un collier rose avec une antenne…

Mais parler la langue locale, c’est avant tout avoir l’immense privilège d’écouter les confidences de tous ces amoureux des animaux que je croise au cours de mes journées. Tous ces gens qui, de près ou de loin, côtoient des chiens et entretiennent des relations bien particulières avec ces derniers.

Cette semaine par exemple, en traquant l’un de mes chiens au centre-ville, je suis tombée sur une dame qui faisait religieusement chaque matin le tour des rues avec de grands sacs remplis de restes de table, des denrées qu’elle distribuait aux chiens du quartier. C’était «une façon de faire sa part», disait-elle. Puis, une fois sa besogne terminée, elle repartait d’où elle était venue.

Je ne peux m’empêcher de penser également à ce chauffeur de colectivo qui me racontait avoir eu deux chiens qu’il aimait profondément : «Je leur donnais de la nourriture, ils dormaient dans ma maison, ils ne sortaient que pour faire leurs besoins. Un jour, ils m’ont volé le plus jeune. C’était un beau chien. Puis, mon autre chien, il a été frappé par une auto. C’étaient mes compagnons et maintenant, je suis seul. Mais je ne veux plus d’animaux, ça fait trop mal quand on les perd.»

Aujourd’hui, j’ai rencontré cette vieille dame qui m’a appris comment le petit chien que je filmais l’attendait patiemment chaque matin à 6h30 à côté de son kiosque, les yeux brillants d’espoir de se voir gratifié de quelques bouchées de pain. «Il m’accompagne partout, parfois même jusque chez moi», m’a-t-elle expliqué alors que nous prenions un café dans sa cuisine, le petit chien blotti bien au chaud contre ses pieds. Bien entendu, ce qu’elle ignore, c’est qu’il a déjà un propriétaire. En effet, ce petit futé semble parfaitement conscient de sa tête angélique et use à tout casser de son regard de chiot pour faire fondre le cœur des passants ; il est passé maître dans l’art de s’attirer les caresses, les restes de table et les os frais de la boucherie du coin…

Ainsi, certains chiens ont eu la chance de tomber au cours de leur vie sur de bons samaritains qui récompensent leur fidélité et leur compagnie par un peu de nourriture et parfois même par un tapis pour dormir sous leur porche. Malheureusement, ce ne sont pas tous les chiens qui peuvent en dire autant. Ils sont nombreux à dormir roulés en boule entre les quatre murs de tôle froide qui leur servent de niche, en attendant que leurs propriétaires se souviennent d’eux et leur apportent les restes du repas : pain, pelures de pommes de terre, os… un abonnement pour un déséquilibre phospho-calcique et des problèmes de croissance. Parfois, s’ils sont trop faibles pour défendre leur nourriture, c’est le chien du voisin qui vient s’en emparer. Mais les maîtres n’ont rien vu et c’est le ventre vide que leur chien retourne se coucher.

En somme, parler la langue locale, c’est constater qu’il reste encore un grand travail d’éducation et de sensibilisation à accomplir ici. Les besoins des chiens en termes de logement, de nutrition, de comportement, de soins de santé et d’affection sont hélas encore trop méconnus. Plus que jamais, Rebecca et moi sentons la pertinence de créer des ateliers éducatifs dans les écoles…  À suivre !



Ilima Update and Matema Beach Adventure!

Last week was another busy week going from farmer to farmer. We have so far visited 24 of the 76 student farmers in Ilima. These visits have given us a chance to find out about any problems they’re having as well as those things that are going well. We’ve learned a lot from them and I hope that we were able to help them with some of their concerns.

One big issue seems to be predation, which is one of the many reasons why having a coop as well keeping chicks inside until they are at least 2 months of age is so important. Patison Majinja, a very excitable man and animated talker was telling us in rapid-fire Nyakusa about how salamanders were coming up the hill from the stream, going into his coop, and then eating eggs and killing chickens. These “salamanders” turned out to be monitors! Our translator was getting her lizards confused! Patison has a very nice, large brick coop in which his chickens spend most of their time. James saved the day by suggesting wired windows to stop the monitors while also allowing light and airflow. Sofia Msyania, who does not yet have a coop, said that monkeys have been taking her chicks. Another problem is that some of the older widows are unable to build their own coops. Both James and Margaret have a lot of student farmers that are old widows and we’ve discussed the idea of helping them to build coops while we are here. Since we are using all local materials money isn’t so much an issue, but time is. It turns out there’s quite a few widows and it’s probably going to take at least a day or two to build a decent coop complete with nest boxes and perches. And also we wanted it to be a project that the community is involved in, hoping that others would help us, perhaps the student farmers. This is something we’re going to discuss at the meeting with all of the teacher farmers next week. Another thing we have noticed is that some chickens don’t have access to water all day. Chickens that free range during the day or part of the day will have water outside, but very often there is none inside the coop or the house. And although most farmers have been very proactive about parasite prevention, we’ve discovered that some have been using insecticides meant for cattle that may be inappropriate for use with chickens.

Despite some of these issues and set-backs we’ve been very impressed by many of the student farmers. We’ve seen some fabulous coops, some hearty-looking chickens, and discovered that many students are incredibly enthusiastic about learning as much as they can. Emlike Kibona had a coop large enough for 5 of us to stand in with lots of space to spare complete with perches and nest boxes. Not many people have electricity in Ilima, but Emlike does and he has a light bulb inside his coop to provide warmth to newborn chicks. Gwakisa Mwasuka wanted to learn more about how to build the perfect nest box and provide a sufficient diet for his chickens. He also expressed interest in being more aggressive about vaccinating his chickens because he has noticed that some of his young chicks have died prior to being vaccinated. Others have shown interest in knowing what signs to look for in sick chickens and what they can do to help treat their chickens. However, because treating sick chickens is not always a viable option we’re focusing more on disease prevention. We’ve started spreading the word about de-worming and quite a few farmers are interested.

In addition to the fact sheets we made, we also delivered the farmers some very good news: an “expert” in poultry production has agreed to hold a workshop in both Ilima and Lubanda in Swahili. It will be great for them to be able to be taught by someone in their own language and we’re sure they will have lots of questions for him. The “expert” I’m referring to his the very friendly and funny Chris Chalange, who has studied animal science, wildlife management, and tourism and has had a lot of experience with poultry. Chris has his own large-scale poultry operation (700 chickens , down from 1,000 after recently selling some – and he started with day old chicks!) in Mbeya and he seems very excited to help out with the project in Ilima and Lubanda. Chris is a very enthusiastic individual, particularly when talking about wildlife, his two year old, and of course his chickens!

The farmers have been so nice and welcoming toward us. They’re always giving us oranges, avocado, and ground nuts. And they are very surprised when we use the occasional Nyakusa phrase – many will even start laughing and dancing!

We’ve expanded our horizons in terms of cooking – plantains with beef and vegetables, guacamole with all the avocados we’ve gotten from farmers, and we’ve even discovered that they sell spaghetti at the market! We’ve also spruced up our room a bit using some perfume samples from my magazines. They make pretty good air fresheners and now our room smells less like musty basement and more like Macy’s beauty department.

Last weekend we went on a getaway to Matema beach on Lake Nyassa a.k.a Lake Malawi. It was a four-hour drive by daladala (bus). And by bus I mean van packed to capacity with people with chairs not completely attached to the floors. The roads were pretty rough in some areas and falling out of the window seemed a legitimate concern. The lake was beautiful! Because it’s so big it’s very much like the ocean, complete with waves and sand and surrounded by mountains. We stayed at Crazy Crocodile Campsite 3 km from the village, right on the beach. It’s owned by a German man who greeted us with “Welcome to Paradise.” It was definitely a stark contrast to Ushirika – very quiet and peaceful with hardly anyone around. We were thrilled to have food with cheese for the first time in so long! We stayed in a bamboo hut and with the sounds of the waves crashing putting us to sleep and were very excited to have a tree shower and compost toilet! We spent our days swimming, exploring the beach, relaxing, and practicing some slack-lining. It was definitely hard to leave – but I’m also excited about getting back to the project!

Sorry my blogs are so long – not much else to do at night in Ushirika and we are running out of Downton Abbey episodes to watch on Shona’s computer!

Well another couple weeks have passed with many cows examined, many hands shaken, many stories exchanged and many memories made. It’s hard to believe an entire month has gone by and only two remain. At the beginning three months seemed like endless amounts of time and yet now it seems to pass by so quickly.

Since my last post Jen and I did manage to enrol all the remaining farms before the end of June for a total of 36 farms. It was a very busy and exciting week. Oftentimes we found ourselves driving from one corner of the region to another as we visited new farms, returned to farms that had calved and revisited farms that had already calved previously. We certainly gained a great deal of clinical experience performing yet more physical exams and withdrawing jugular blood samples from all the newborn calves. Since neither Jen nor I have had much experience with the technique before it was awkward and frustrating at first to hold off the vein while manuveering the needle into a comfortable position to hit he vein. However, with patience, and help from the farmers to restrain the calf, we became very proficient and for the last few calves it took us only one attempt. Once I even had an audience of 15 children peering over my shoulder as we collected the sample. That time there were a number of gasps when the needle was inserted and the vacuum container filled with blood. Eventually these blood samples will be sent off to a lab and tested for plasma protein and selenium concentration. It is theorised that failure of passive transfer of immunoglobulins is a large contributing factor to high pre-weaning calf mortality rates here. Unfortunately we experienced a couple such mortalities in our study. We sadly have lost four of our calves despite our best efforts – two perished within hours of birth while the remaining two were weak from the beginning, one being a month premature and the other having a very sick mother during gestation. While it represents a complication for the project I feel the greater concern here is the loss to the farmer. As for many of them these animals make up their livelihood I can only imagine the disappointment they must feel. Hopefully, we will not encounter any more deaths over the course of the project.

Fortunately there have been some successes to balance out the misfortunes. For a number of our farms the milk production is increasing up to 20L (for Kenyans cows this is a very good yield). In addition a number of the farmers have taken our recommendations regarding cow comfort and housing to heart and have made improvements to their structures- cleaning them out, providing dry bedding and adjusting stall parameters to match the cow’s requirements. It is rewarding to see such efforts being made towards improvement and I commend these farmers for their hard work and dedication.

In more cheerful news Jen and I have now been joined by Silvia and Pauline from the University of UPEI. Pauline is a third year student enrolled in the veterinary program and Silvia is a graduate student who will in fact be using the data we collect for her master’s project. It seems that the University of Nairobi has the only veterinary program in Kenya, although that could change in the next couple of years. We are curious to hear more about how their veterinary program compares to our own and to share experiences with them in the field. We are glad to have them both as part of the project and as roommates at the house. They provide wonderful company and their skill and knowledge has been invaluable thus far both on the farm and in terms of getting around and getting to know Kenya.

So far we have had quite a few little adventures on the farms and in between. For instance just this week we encountered a bit of car trouble on the way to one of our farms. One of the taxi drivers we have been using, Fredrick, is perhaps the sweetest and most content individual I know but his car is quite the character; it must be at least 30-40 years old and looks like it’s had a few rough times. Furthermore it is a standard. Given the uneven and bumpy roads here I am amazed the car has survived this long. Anyways one of the farms Pauline and I visited this week was at the bottom of a big hill. Once we finished we climbed into the vehicle and Fredrick made a gentle attempt to climb the hill. We made it only about halfway and at that point the car puttered to a stop. We put it in neutral and slid back down. Then Fredrick shifted up a couple gears, revved the engine, floored the gas pedal and we tore up the hill for the second time. This time we made it about 2/3 of the way before we lost momentum and all upwards progress. Again we put the car in neutral and backed down the hill. I was sure the third time would do it as we backed an extra 100m to gain more speed but yet again after a mad dash the car just couldn’t manage the ascent. Pauline and I climbed out of the car to try and push it up the remaining 200m but the car would not budge! Five strangers walking along the road noticed our struggle and put down their bundles to throw their weight against the car as well. Still it would not move! Fredrick decided to try one more time climbing up the hill without us in it. So we watched him back up yet again, heard the roar of the engine and watched his poor car bump and bounce up the slope. This time he made it! However as Pauline and I approached the car to get back in we could not help but notice that the exhaust pipe was hanging little lose from the rear end. When we finished at the next farm Fredrick was closing the hood of his car and wouldn’t you know it, but the exhaust can was sitting in the back! Poor car…

Another of our farms is also located at the bottom of a hill bordered by a school yard. Don’t worry Fredrick’s car did not suffer any further abuse on this hill. Rather Jen and I had a rather unique experience. This last week as we finished our work and climbed the hill back to the car the children from the school were at recess. Whenever Jen and I go out we are often the subjects of curious looks from children who often giggle and whisper as we pass by or shout “muzungo” and wave energetically. Anyways as we climbed the hill, I waved to a group of children and shouted a greeting before turning to take a picture nearby. I heard shouting behind me and when I turned back around suddenly I was swarmed by a hundred children, smiling from ear to ear with hands extended and whispering “how are you”. I must have shaken at least 50 hands (some more than once) and exchanged many more greetings before we finally waved goodbye and ventured onto the next farm. Never before (and maybe never again) have I seen so many individuals so excited to meet me.

Last week Jen and I also ventured into the market of Murkurweini for the first time accompanied by Sylvia and Pauline. I thoroughly enjoyed the fresh air and exertion of the leisurely45 minute walk along the side of the road although I must say the cars oftentimes drive a little closer to the shoulder than I’d like. In fact it seems to be common practice here to drive wherever is most convenient on the road- whether that be on the opposite side or halfway into the shoulder! Anyways, we made it to town intact and strolled through the market, admiring the fresh fruit displays and sorting through piles of fabric and clothing. I think a good deal of the clothing is imported as I saw more than one familiar label such as Old Navy and Columbiana. I was very surprised to encountered winter jackets and toques amongst the mounds of clothing. They claim this 20-25 ᵒC weather is their cool season. Jen and I find are quite comfortable in t-shirts and capris but we cannot help but note the large number of children walking to school with wool toques and men on motorcycles in huge heavy jackets. How ironic would that be to buy my winter jacket and toque in Kenya!

We have also ventured into Karatina by local transport (matatu) for market day. One of our taxi drivers was telling me it is one of the largest outdoor markets in all of Africa (not sure how accurate that is). Pauline is form around Karatina so she was able to find us the best stores to gather supplies for the following week and then she took us through the market area. There certainly was a vast array of stalls displaying everything from clothing, to shoes, to electronics. Jen and I both bought a couple brightly coloured head scarves to wear on the farms. I think I’ll have to work on my bartering skills and my kukuyu before we return again though. When we grew tired of shopping and wandering around Pauline took us to visit a restaurant run by her brother. He warmly greeted us and welcomed us in. At first I was a little hesitant to order simply because I didn’t know how it was prepared and I feared that I might get sick afterwards. However the restaurant seemed very clean and respectable so Jen and I both ordered a meat pie. I must say it was delicious (for the record I did not get sick either!) and the the service was excellent. We will definitely be returning there before the summer is finished.

I think that about wraps it up for now,


KAT Centre Strategy Session

Yesterday I sat in on a strategy meeting for the KAT centre lead by Sarah Vallentine of the Word Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). The majority of the staff, the founder Jan Salter, some long term volunteers, as well as donors and one or two board members were in attendance and discussed the direction, focus and hopeful future of the centre. Sarah pointed out the importance of establishing goals, and then outlining objectives to carry out such goals. As someone just entering the jungle that is NGOs, I found the meeting extraordinarily helpful for both my understanding of such work as well as for the future of the centre. It is so easy to get lost in the day to day treatment and sterilization of animals, but forget the big picture. We are here to improve the welfare of the street dog population of Nepal, and in doing so, the welfare of the people. During the meeting we recapped the four main, shall we say areas of desired impact, of the KAT center. Such areas include education, government support, animal birth control and treatment. As a team it was decided that “education” was in need of the biggest push. Sarah used the analogy of the KAT centre only performing sterilizations as the equivalent of trying to bail a boat with a leak in it. Now matter how hard we bail, that leak still needs to be plugged. Without education, unsterilized owned and abandoned dogs will continue to flood the boat that is Kathmandu with wave after wave of dogs. Furthermore, it was decided that rather than just sterilizing and replacing dogs in their familiar territory we will work to discuss our work with community members both before and after treating the dogs. Ideally, we would like to provide a local with an information card for the dog with our phone number so that if they see the animal in distress they can call us. Hopefully, we can work to establish a sense of responsibility for the welfare of community dogs by members of the community. Of course, the usual education of the importance of sterilization, rabies vaccinations, and proper care of dogs needs to be maintained or increased if possible. 
      Sarah presented the idea of establishing a “Logical Framework” (log frame) for the KAT center. A “Log Frame” is essentially a glorified table containing each major problem we want to address, objectives i.e. what we want to achieve, the purpose and outcome of such objectives, indicators i.e. if objectives are being achieved what it would look like (ex. a reduction in street dogs by x percent each year), results, risks, budget, time frame and so on and so forth. In summary, a “Log Frame” is a framework of what we want to achieve and how we are going to measure it. 
      During the next few hours each area of emphasis was discussed. Jan mentioned the triumph of having the government stop the controlled poisoning of street dogs and how, in Nepal especially, it was so important to focus on what the government has done for us, not what more they can do. That being said it was decided that a push for government provided rabies vaccines at the very least, and possibly desired legislation, an employee or funding would be ideal. 
     Even the possibility of acquiring microchips and microchipping each dog we treat was discussed. The implications could be massive as we could learn anything from average life span of a street dog, average distance roamed, if the dog has an owner and of course the medical historyof each canine. Normally, the possibility of acquiring and effectively using microchips in a country where the average income of a given person is less than $200 Canadian dollars a year, is essentially nill. However, the center may be fortunate enough to procure the required tools at a significant discount, and therefore be one of the first impoverished countries to begin such a project. All attendees of the meeting agreed that such a project would take time before we really saw the benefits, but like any great idea, it has to start somewhere. 
    Finally, the KAT team was divided into groups according to areas of expertise to establish “Log Frames” for the four areas of emphasis. By this 
point I think the collective brain power of all in attendance was drained and the sauna that was the visitors room started to become unbearable. It was then decided the “Log Frames” would be properly constructed next meeting. The meeting did not conclude without discussion of the success of other similar NGO’s around the world, and how we could work to mimic such successes (and avoid lack there of). For example, the organization “PAWS” (Philippines Animal Welfare Society) is currently doing a remarkable job to alter the image that having a pure bred dog is a sign of upperclass, while adopting a street dog is for the lower class. This concept is mirrored in Nepal, and something we would very much like to change. Almost daily we have failed attempts to adopt dogs because the potential adopter decides he or she would rather pay thousands of rupees for a pure bred Labrador, a “symbol of wealth”.
     As a veterinary student whose desired future is a collage of NGO and shelter medicine work, it was a remarkable learning experience to be part of such a strategy session. As a (semi) long term volunteer, I felt it was important to sit in on such a meeting and voice what I see on a day to day basis. As a human being, its nice to know that extraordinary, passionate people are working so hard every day to solve problems that could so easily be described as insurmountable.
   Cheers for now,

La première distribution de 35 chèvres.

Hier nous avons complété la première distribution de 35 chèvres. Celle-ci s’est déroulée comme on pouvait s’y attendre, c’est-à-dire sans imprévu. Nous pensons distribuer un peu plus d’une centaine de chèvres au cours de l’été et cela ne représentera pas une grande difficulté en se basant sur notre première distribution. Les travailleurs de la FAOC effectuent un excellent travail pour repérer les chèvres à vendre. Nous effectuons alors une première visite pour confirmer que l’âge des chèvres convient, ensuite nous faisons un examen physique général et prenons un échantillon de sang pour tester pour la brucellose. Par la suite, dépendamment du nombre de chèvres à acheter nous engageons un transporteur qui possède un camion ou nous allons chercher les chèvres avec notre Suzuki qui peut en contenir environ 7. Avant la distribution nous effectuons quelques traitements sur les chèvres tels qu’une vermifugation, un traitement contre les tiques et la parure des onglons.  Les défis sont plutôt de trouver une solution afin de lutter contre le vol des chèvres distribuées, de s’assurer que les paravets sont suffisamment consultés lors de maladies chez les animaux et qu’ils peuvent répondre à la demande.

Les journées sont assez chargées, ce qui fait que les jours et les semaines passent vite. Nous nous sommes un peu établis une routine de travail et je pense que ça ferait du bien de voyager un peu pour changer le rythme et retrouver la sensation de voyage qui était plus forte un peu plus tôt et qui rendait le tout plus excitant, jusqu’à il y a environ une semaine. Nous allons probablement partir pour le  lac Bunyoni  (un des seuls lacs où l’on peut se baigner sans risque de schistosomiase, un parasite qui pénètre la peau et qui migre dans les viscères) demain. Ceci étant dit, les paysages sont très beaux et les villages dans lesquels nous passons la majorité de notre temps correspondent à l’image bucolique que l’on peut se représenter sans jamais n’être allé en Ouganda.

De plus, ce qui est frappant est l’intérêt porté aux blancs. Dès que l’on sort de la ville, tout les gens nous saluent, même lorsque nous sommes dans notre auto, parmi plusieurs autres autos. Les enfants sont les premiers à saluer avec enthousiasme et à crier Muzungu, Muzungu! (personne blanche), mais même les adultes semblent enthousiasmés par notre présence. Les femmes dans les villages viennent nous saluer et nous remercier avec souvent beaucoup d’émotion au début et à la fin des réunions auxquelles nous assistons.

Nous avons une très bonne équipe avec Laura, Steve et Scott. Nous sommes productifs et l’ambiance est détendue. Il y a aussi plusieurs voisins canadiens sur le campus où nous habitons. Par exemple, la semaine dernière nous avons fait une petite fête où nous étions plus d’une dizaine.


English Class, Indiana Jones Bridges, and Some More Chickens

We took a break from chicken farms on Monday to spend the day at Ilima Primary School. We even taught a couple of English classes. The school was very interesting, so strict in some senses (for example the children are hit on the fingers with sticks if they show up with dirty hands). On this particular day, however, the children were given a few hours of recess! There’s a big academic and athletic competition coming up and Ilima needed to choose their fastest runners and best soccer and net ball players to compete against the other villages. It seems like the kids didn’t know how to react to us at first, but then by the end we had them playing drums and jumping and dancing around.

This week we also started visiting the Lubanda farmers. The village chose ten farmers to be potential teacher farmers.  Eventually they will decide on only five. We went around asking the farmers questions about whether they would be willing to make the time commitment to attend training sessions, take on student farmers, and if they would be willing to vaccinate their chickens.  We asked that the farmers be equally distributed throughout the village and they certainly were! We climbed up and down steep hills, traversed vast fields of beans and groundnuts as well as swamp land, and made our way through thick jungles of banana trees to get to all the farms. The landscape of both Lubanda and Ilima is amazing – all you can see is rolling green hills and mountains in the distance. There’s also a huge plateau not too far away that is believed to have magical powers.  The last two farms were about a 45 minute walk down the side of a mountain. We walked (well I slid) down trails of slippery clay and mud. Most of our journey was spent out in the open in the hot sun, but there were times we were in the shade of the thick forest and we could hear waterfalls in the distance. When it was time to go back up the mountain I was surprised at how high it was! I took some pictures on the way, but they just don’t convey how awesome the scenery is.

On our first day visiting the Lubanda farms we were accompanied by two field extension officers that work with the regional veterinarian. They came to the poultry farms with us and we came along with them to check up on a mastitis cow along the way. The field extension officers go all around the different villages treating sick animals and providing some sort of agricultural assistance. They also perform post-mortems, which could be cool to do on any Ilima or Lubanda chickens that may die. Henry, one of the field extension officers told us that worms are a common problem with a lot of the chickens he has seen in the region, so this is something we need to look into. Many of the farmers have been treating for external parasites, but not internal ones. The de-wormer is relatively inexpensive and is something that could be shared between farmers. We also were told that infectious colitis is quite common and indeed we did see a few chickens with the disease at a few of the farms.

We decided to do something touristy on Saturday. Shona and I went with a local guide named Christoph on an all-day adventure to Kaporogwe Falls. We went through the tour company Rungwe Tea Tours. We took the bus to Tukuyu and met with the tour director, who looks like a thinner Samuel L. Jackson with leather gloves hobbling around on crutches. Apparently he had a bad fall on a trip to the big crater nearby. Needless to say he did not come along for the bike ride and hike. Anyway we talked to him about doing a few more trips to places nearby – like some of the mountains and Lake Masoka. From Tukuyu we rode our rickety old Chinese bikes along gravel and dirt/mud roads to the falls. We hiked down the side of a mountain to cross an Indiana-Jones type wooden bridge built around the time of World War I. We hiked back up to a large cave right behind Kaporogwe Falls. It was incredible to be right behind the waterfall! Although the mostly uphill three and a half hour bike ride back to Tukuyu was brutal, it was worth it just to see the mountains and the waterfall!

This week we will start visiting the student farmers – there are 76 of them. We’ve made a fact sheet for them about basic nutrition, housing, parasites, vaccination, etc. that we’ve translated into Swahili with the help of one of our housemates, Lucas. Visiting all of them will give us the opportunity to look at their chickens and their coops and it will give them the opportunity to ask us any questions or concerns they may have. Looking forward to visiting some more farms and sliding down some more mountains!


One of the chickens of Lubanda. Who ever said chickens weren't photogenic?



Finally a post from Jen in Kenya!

Hi to all,

Sorry I have been lacking from the site! Morgan and I have had topsy-turvy and very expensive internet access, so with more than one blog to maintain we’ve been trying to each post something to them but this site wasn’t giving me much luck, until, maybe, now? Hopefully you’ll here more from me in the future, here is my blog from a few weeks ago, so many blogs to post saved on my desktop but such little time!



Days 3-6,

May 16-19th


After a few days of solid work, Morgan and I are beginning to feel much more like we can play the role we were sent here to fulfill vet-wise. Many of the things we do on a farm in the course of the day would not be skills we would even come close to mastering until 3rd or even 4th year, let alone get the chance to perform on an almost daily basis.  Maureen and Jeff have been truly endless in their aid, wisdom and beyond anything else, way of making us feel as though we are not only capable of being quick studies but are also peers who simply need a refresher course. Quickly things are becoming second nature which were before the kind of thing you would have to kind of wing for a bit. For example, when an instructor would ask, “So you can here the heart beat?” and you would nod in agreement, even though you had tried every possible way of hearing it and were coming up with nothing, simply to not feel like a fool. Now we can not only hear the heart beat (well, except for the times when the cow is so covered in layers of mud or manure that no tool could chisel its way through, let alone amplify sound), but capable of performing a RUMBA as Maureen calls it, an exam where we focus on the most important features of a cow’s unique anatomy that are liable to fail or give need for veterinary care.

First you do the rumen, you press down hard on the left back end of the cow over the rumen with your stethoscope and try to hear three full rumen rotations, which sounds something like a thunderstorm as it fills and an ocean tide receding as it empties. Next the uterus, of course this involves a rectal exam, often in our case to confirm pregnancy, but here in Kenya we have the luxury of being able to feel quite a bit, given the lower than normal packing of the insides of the animal with fat. Most cows we have dealt with so far are not cycling, meaning their ovaries are very tiny, so if we can manage to first identify some landmarks like these, we can slowly begin to feel our way around and negotiate the rest. Children, who are often the inevitable onlookers to our visits, get a real kick out of this, especially upon entry, as to be fair to the cow you really need to lubricate your glove, which outside of the clinic, far from vet supply stores, means covering your glove in the the most fresh, moist manure you can find on the bottom of the pen.  After this is complete, you move onto the next big anatomical site of concern, the mammary gland. As I am learning every cow’s udder feels different. Some have hard quarters and they all feel swollen and lumped together while others are soft and fairly supple. We are reassured that if one of the quarters were “hot” (a hallmark of Mastitis, a common sometimes subclinical but often in these kind of regions clinical to acute case of bacterial infection) we would be able to tell, but I will have just have to believe them on this one. One of the big struggles we face with this organ here in Kenya and really many places in the world is focused on the debate of how best to milk a cow. While stripping it roughly between your fingers seems to be the method most commonly used, it can cause serious and long term trauma to the teat canal within each teat, which can cause the teat to become compromised, allowing bacteria to invade easily and colonize. We (Farmers Helping Farmers) have produced various fact sheets addressing this issue, with small little drawings to demonstrate the method we recommend, but every cow seems to react differently to this stripping method. Some seem to suffer at its harshness while others are resigned to a more complacent attitude towards it. We try to lead by example the best we can, first pinching of the very end of the teat closet to the body with your thumb and forefinger, than slowly compressing the milk down the teat canal by systematically applying pressure with each finger until you draw with your pinky, although we cannot change everything, some compromises need to be made. The next thing to check is the bronchial tree, using your stethoscope and visually checking for signs of heaving or heavy breathing. You begin listening directly behind the scapula region and then move back in a line towards the end of the lungs, constantly going back to your first point of listening to have a means of comparison. As the lungs are pretty long in the cow, this is one of the longest parts of the exam really, and in my opinion, the most likely part for you to miss something. Every cow breathing sounds quite different, but the major thing to watch for is weird background noises (swishy water sounds) or being able to physically hear expiration (as it should be passive, hence, soundless). Last is the all allusive abomasum, a funny little organ that can become displaced and can be detected using the ping method. Literally listening with your stethoscope while you ping around it with your thumb and forefinger, listening for a higher pitched ping in return. The higher pitch is obtained by the abomasum being displaced, presenting an area of gas to fluid interphase, which resonates when you ping it.  We have yet to hear anything of this nature yet but Maureen is dead set that if it was there, and we were able to hear it, it would be the kind of diagnostic tool (in this case, noise) you would never need to be taught again. It must be quite the sound to hear, so we hope (but also of course being animal lovers), hope not to hear. Of course we do a lot of other things before we let the cow off the hook and call it within normal limits, but enough of that for now.


Thursday came very quickly and all of the sudden we found ourselves being all too kindly invited to join our CIDA (one more time, Canadian International Development Agency) representative here at the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi, Melaine Boyd and her husband, along for a tour of some of the establishments and various organizations CIDA fully, or in part, helps support. While our travels for the next few days were many, I think it best for my counterparts who are posted in some of these organizations for the summer to speak to the nature of the programs much more deeply, so I have decided instead to present some poems and images with a bit of background which I wrote during this time. I will post them in the next blog along with an author’s note explaining the nature of the subject or what drove me to write it. I have decided to take some creative license with my poems, so they will be of various non-formal and formal forms, but for all those reading keep in mind I will sometimes be dealing with somewhat sensitive subject matters and because of the nature of my writing style, I will be sure to follow certain words choices etc. up with explanation to avoid any offence or confusion over my meaning. All writers kind of need this disclaimer, especially as I represent a few organizations and wouldn’t want there to be any mistakes understanding wise. Before I go for today, one story to recount from our travels at the end of this week.


We were asked to visit one of the smaller cooperative dairies we work with, Exlewa, and host an informational meeting/afternoon with some of the farmers who are members of the dairy. It was scheduled for eleven, a time I knew before we even left in the morning we would have no chance of meeting, and I was quite right. By the time we had finished with the Muchui Women’s group, visited a few schools, greenhouse operations and some other smaller venues, it was well past one o’clock before we rolled into the sleepy little town of Exlewa. Of course we were greeted with a lot of thanks, even though shortly after arriving we realized we had been keeping around thirty farmers waiting out in a field in the hot midday sun for over two hours. Even worse, somewhere along the line they had been lead to believe that we would be treating any sick animals, which of course we had not prepared for, so as we drove up to meet the farmers the street was lined with cows tied up or running lose, all waiting for hypothetical treatment even though we didn’t even have any medications on us. Sadly things proceeded to get worse both in regards to our feelings of guilt and also I imagine in the farmer’s feelings towards us (which of course was never outright displayed) as about ten minutes after we had opened up the floor for questions, a torrential downpour of rain began, sending everything living into hiding. No other venue could be arranged (one which could shield us all from the weather) so we were told, again pleasantly, to call it a day. Our drivers were extremely eager to get the heck out of this place, given that the roads are liable to flooding, although even referring to what happens to the roads here as flooding is a rather foolish understatement. Really what becomes of the road is more like a river and sure enough, we became caught up in it. Our car very slowly began to turn sideways and all of the sudden, regardless of how calm of driver Dominic was, our safari van was half flipped in the ditch. Quickly enough a little white car (presumably a 4-wheel drive) came rolling down the hill to rescue us, which subsequently ended up also sideways half flipped over in the ditch across from us. Shortly after, yet another vehicle came flying down the hill, which somehow managed to come to a halt in the middle of the road and as soon as it had stopped, about eight men poured out of it. Another 10-20 farmers were following the vehicle on foot and yet another dozen or more seemed to appear out of nowhere. They then attached a rope to the front of our car, which about a dozen or so men positioned themselves to haul on, while the rest of our rescuers got on the upside of the ditch hill and all at once, began to rock our van upwards. Rather quickly we were back upright and on the road, spinning down the hill, trying to swerve out of the way of other vehicles stuck. Finally we managed to get out of the town’s roadways and back onto the main road and all had a good laugh at how within one week in country we had already experienced one of what is considered the true Kenyan moments, which is being stuck in the mud exactly as we were. Who knows how many more “Kenyan moments” we will cross off of the potential list by the end of our time here, hopefully, many.

Back on the road, we stopped to confirm with Mrs. Boyd and her driver, who had been wiser than us, in addition to the fact that we had let them leave first, as they needed to be back to the embassy by dark ( a common thing here) which I highly doubt they were able to do. She had stopped on the side of the road to wait for us and seemed quite concerned, oddly, she was really the only one out of the entire party, both us and drivers, to be truly concerned, so we thanked her again for the trip and parted ways. We stayed on an additional night in Meru, a kind of crowded, dirty city really, but still alive with a lot of people. Meru is listed as one of the priority areas for the government aid wise, as it suffers from intense dry spells, which furthers the difficulty and poverty found in the region imposing upon constant life. Jennifer, our Meru godmother (she has opened her extensive house to us as an organization about 3-4 times a year for the last decade or so) was relieved to see us pull into the driveway, all be in, covering in mud, and as we sat out and had a lovely drink in her lawn, speaking of politics and what the new constitution ( a document discussed for a long period of time here in Kenya, but only finally granted last year) would mean in the coming year and the election in December. Carolyn, an education coordinator from PEI is concerned of the time overlap between the election and her students arriving, Jennifer is confident things will be ok but also is not blind to how long and difficult change in government can be (in any part of the world). Let’s hope for our peers coming here, or back here next year, things go well, only time will tell.

I’m off for now, look for my next postings soon, as I add this sentence to a blog made nearly 3 weeks ago now!




Rabies Clinic in Kathmandu

Last week the KAT center team put on a “rabies clinic”, during which time we vaccinated two hundred dogs in two days. We loaded into (and onto) the KAT-mobile and drove around Budanilkantha and surrounding areas vaccinating free roaming dogs and dogs with “owners”. In some case, the term “owners” in the western sense of the word is completely appropriate, although far more commonly, dogs here are fed by a community and have a local territory but no one human best friend with whom they sleep each night, play fetch and slyly receive food from the dinner table.





The clinic was a huge success in my mind. Numerous locals joined in the fun, children constantly ran up with their puppies, and we always tried to get locals to hold the animals for vaccines when applicable. To the best of our ability we worked to educate the locals although in many cases I left this part to the Nepalese workers, as it is difficult to mime the benefits of rabies vaccinations and sterilization. The day was exciting, fun and it felt like we were making a real difference, for both people and animals alike. People here are often taught to fear the street dogs due to rabies. I have to say this is a pretty valid teaching. However, when locals see dogs with ear notches and red collars they know they have received treatment from the KAT center and therefore have been vaccinated. These dogs are then more likely to receive food and warmth from their community.


P.S. pictures of the clinic are up on Facebook