Week 2

First goat pass out at Demonstration Farm

I write this blog in great spirits after finishing a very rewarding day. I left off last time with aspirations of constructing a goat pen at our demonstration farm. Construction was started by Scott, Jerome, Laura and myself with the help of Joseph who is a FAOC extension worker. We had a great time starting the work but at the end of the day all we had managed was the frame of the pen. To ensure the rest of our summer would not be spent building the pen we decided to hire a local carpenter who  constructed a model pen. The past week has been spent finding goats to purchase for our beneficiaries. Goats are usually sold in small numbers (3-5 at a time), so we have been driving around to many farms in order to obtain the numbers we need. We have been conducting pre-purchase exams which includes a full physical plus Brucella testing. Brucellosis is a bacterial disease which is very prevalent in the area. The disease is responsible for causing abortions in the dams and infertility in the males. The disease is zoonotic (can transfer from animals to humans) so we have been working hard to decrease the prevalence in our goats. A blood sample is collected and  taken back to our lab for analysis. Unfortunately of the goats we tested, a large number were positive, making our work more difficult. The good news is we managed to find 35 healthy females for distribution. We transported the goats back to our newly constructed pen where they were ear tagged, dewormed, hoof trimmed, and sprayed for ticks.

Today was our first official goat distribution ceremony. It was a full day program which took place at the demostration farm. We began with reviewing the important points on goat husbandry, nutrition, and health. Scott then went over the principals of the pass on scheme. This is the foundation of the program. Each member is entitled to receive two female goats as a loan. Once the goat has kids, the member needs to then pay back the loan. A female kid is  given to a new member and a male kid is sold and the money enters into a revolving fund. The revolving fund functions as an internal micro-loan system. Members  take out loans with minimal interest to help with their buisness’, household expenses, and school fees. After the seminar we started to hand out goats where the 35 goats were distributed to beneficiaries who had constructed a pen and harvested Napier grass for feeding. This would not have worked without the kind donations from friends, family, and everyone at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. I was sure to mention where these donations came from which was met with cheers and applause. Thanks again to everyone who has donated!

On another happy note, we have been visiting Brian regularly and he has been improving each day. He was given antibiotics for current infections and started on a nutrition program. Unfortunately we were correct in assuming his HIV status, but he has started anti-retro virals which will help extend his life span enormously. We visited him today and saw him smiling, laughing, and even walking with some assistance. The aunts biggest concern was loosing income while staying in the hospital with Brian. We have supplemented her lost income for the month and donated some money to help with her children’s school fees. This all came to $30 Canadian. Brian will be in the hospital for another couple weeks and we will be visiting him frequently.

After a hard couple weeks of work we will be taking a short break to Lake Buyonyi, a favorite place of Dr. McDonald. After some rest and relaxation we will be ready to  start the search for more goats to pass out in the upcoming weeks. Today is my convocation day and I am sad to miss it. I wish I could be there with my fellow classmates to celebrate our accomplishments. Congratulations to the WCVM 2012 , I will be thinking of you all today.

All the best,

Dr. Steve

Ilima and Lubanda Poultry Project Update

First week on our own! It’s been nice to finally get things started in the village. I feel like we’ve made quite a bit of progress in the first week, though it’s been a slow start.

Monday was supposed to be our first day of work in the village, but due to a funeral it got postponed to Tuesday. Tuesday we went to the village finally! But it turned out the funeral was postponed to Tuesday. We didn’t get our interpreters text messages. Since we had nothing better to do we decided to walk the 20 km back to Ushirika and made quite a few friends along the way. We started talking to this old farmer in our broken Swahili, using our little Lonely Planet Learn Swahili books like the tourists we are, and then we met his friend, another farmer who was headed to Ushirika.  I’m pretty sure this guy was planning on taking the bus, but then maybe figured it would be more interesting to walk with us?  He only spoke Swahili and Nyakusa and was trying to teach us some along the way. The only two English words he knew were “tired” and “cross-country” haha. We saw lots on mbuzi, ngombe, and mlima (goats, cows, and mountains) as well as fields full of chai (tea) plants.  We also met two very giggly girls that walked with us for a while. What a group we were! One of the girls held my hand the whole time (people hold hands a lot here- it’s been hard to get used to!) It ended up taking us about four hours to get back to Ushirika .

Wednesday we had our meeting with the Lubanda villagers. The purpose of the Lubanda meeting was to explain the poultry project and see who is interested in being involved.  We are expanding the Ilima Poultry Project to Lubanda and using the same set-up (teacher farmers trained by us have groups of student farmers that they teach and meet with monthly.) Shona and I came up with a set of criteria we were looking for in terms of who could be teacher farmers: literate, must keep records, must have chickens, must have a coop or be willing to make one soon, equally distributed about the village, equal gender distribution, no one too old as it is a long term commitment, and only people that are willing to make the time commitment. With these criteria in mind we wanted the villagers to decide on ten potential candidates, whose farms we would visit. After some input from us, we wanted the people of the village to ultimately decide on who the five teacher farmers would be.  They ended up deciding right then and there who the ten would be: someone would stand up and shout a name and the crowd would shout in agreement. Much faster than taking a vote! Next week we start visiting farms!

Thursday was our first official day of work in Ilima FINALLY!  We met with our interpreter Juliana, a native of Ilima who is studying business accounting in Morogoro, as well as the village chair James.  We went to visit three of the six teacher farmers. Friday we visited the last three.  We took a look at their coops, their chickens, and their records and asked them a series of questions about feed, housing, whether or not the sell eggs or chickens, the health of their chickens, vaccinations, etc. I was pretty impressed by some of the coops that the farmers had, especially James. He had a place for young chicks, a nice dark place for hens to lay eggs, and a high-up perch box. All of this was within an enclosed bamboo pen. He also keeps his chicks inside until they are at least 2 months old, gives them mineral supplements, and vaccinates his chicks monthly. He’s definitely a model farmer and we wish they could all be like him! One of the big issues now is vaccinations. A lot of people have been having issues with one of the two vaccinators accusing him of incorrectly administering the eye drops and not coming to vaccinate certain farmers’ chickens. There has also been some confusion regarding payment for vaccinations. One of the student farmers, Leah, and James began discussing the idea of getting rid of the vaccinators and having the teacher farmers do it themselves. James could go pick up the vaccine and the teacher farmers could take turns vaccinating their chickens as well as all their student farmers’ chickens.  We would have to train them how to vaccinate first and they would need to charge their students 25 TSH per chicken and use that money to pay for the vaccine. They would also have to keep a tight schedule as the vaccine only lasts about a week when not refrigerated. All of the teachers we spoke with are in favor of this idea so it is something we are looking into. Another big issue surrounding vaccinations is that some people think that vaccinating once a month kills their chicks. We tried to explain that the deaths could be due to a number of things (improper vaccination and handling, other diseases, etc) but because our translator didn’t necessarily agree with us/knew the farmers were convinced the chicks were killed by the vaccine she decided not to translate this to the farmers for us, which was a bit frustrating. But all-in-all she has been a great interpreter and we’re lucky to have her!  This summer we are hoping to get someone who has training and experience in poultry production that speaks Swahili to do a workshop for all the farmers in both Ilima and Lubanda.  We want some kind of training session that involves all the farmers, not just the teachers, and we thought it might be helpful for them to be taught in their own language. We have two potential “experts” so far. Other plans and ideas for Ilima for the summer include visiting all the student farmers farms, making a handout  of basic info to give all farmers, helping some of the older widows build coops, attending meetings between students and teachers, and of course addressing the vaccine issue.


Living in Ushirika, Tanzania

We’ve been adapting nicely to our living situation. Last Sunday was the first day of bucket showers. We’re right next to a church so all I could hear was choir singing in the shower.  The latrine will definitely take some getting used to…

Last Sunday night we had our first cooking lesson with the women of the house, and even Lucas and Simmeon (Zekeo’s other brother) helped out. A lot of the neighbors came to watch and laugh at us. Many people were surprised that we had never cooked on a kerosene cooker before. Although others, like Zekeo, know that we use electric ovens. I had some difficulty cutting a carrot and they found it pretty entertaining. Diana and Mary pretty much took over the cooking and we just kind of watched.  They peel tomatoes here! We made pasta (which is a rare commodity in rural Tanzania) and mixed in veggies. It ended up being really good and different from the way we usually do it. They also made us rice and beans. So far we have made wali (rice) and vegetables,  nyama (meat), and we even made the traditional dish ugale. Ugale is hard to describe – it’s made with flour and water and doesn’t really taste like much of anything, but you dip it in meat or vegetables .  Every night Lucas comes to check on us and see what we are making, sometimes he takes us to the market to show us where to get certain things, and then almost the whole house watches us cook. I now fully understand that old adage about too many cooks in the kitchen! I swear they must think we are helpless, but we just do things a different way from them sometimes (for example leave the skin on tomatoes).  But it’s always interesting to learn a different approach. And it’s really sweat that they worry about us. They are always very concerned if we leave the house without drinking tea.

Speaking of our housemates thinking we are helpless, the women of the house taught me how to properly wash clothes the other day. There’s quite an art to it. Unfortunately I struggle with this fancy technique. They did not approve of my biodegradable camping laundry detergent so they used one of their soap blocks. Tanzanian soap is amazing!  I will definitely have to bring some back.

We are also getting used to the insanity that is Tanzanian transportation. We went with Lucas, Zekeo’s younger brother, to see Zekeo in the hospital (he’s doing much better now and is back to his peppy self).  A friend of the family named Alice also joined us, as did Emmanuel, another teacher at Ilima secondary. We packed into a “cab” and right as we started going we hit a motorcyclist. He got up and looked okay, though. A crowd starting forming around and Lucas got out to look, but then another driver just hopped in and started driving! And of course the buses are an adventure.  They are big rickety old vans packed full of people, bananas, and bags of rice. They usually never quite come to a complete stop to let people on and off and I have yet to see anything resembling a seat belt.  Alphan, headmaster at Ilima Primary, has been a big help getting us settled in Ushirika. The other day we went to dinner at his house. He owns a van that is used as a bus. Other people drive it and he splits the profits with him. Right after telling us about he can’t drive, has no license, and just never learned, he jumped in the driver seat and drove us through the dark jungle of banana trees to his house along a windy, bumpy, dirt road that was barely wide enough for a vehicle.

Shona and I have done some more exploration of Ushirika the opposite way of the market and the main street.  It’s mostly farm land, some churches, plantain trees, chickens, a few cows. Sometimes there are a lot of people walking on the road: men dressed in button down shirts and blazers, women in colorful fabrics carrying baskets on their heads, many screaming children that run up to greet us. People greet us in Swahili, Nyakusa, and even some English. Other times the roads are quiet other than the occasional motorcycle (pikipiki) whizzing by.

We’ve met some interesting characters here.  Just as we were about to eat the other night there was a knock at the door. It was Noel Mahyenga, the Regional Director. We figured that he was the equivalent of the mayor in the US or maybe an MP in Canada. He wanted to check up on us, but also to tell us about potential investments. He had been urging Roger to invest as well. He has a lot of ideas relating to tourism and the exportation of livestock to the Middle East. We have no money as we are poor students nor do we know many people who would be interested.  He told us to ask our parents. He got our emails and phone numbers and has sent us two emails about all his ideas. Oh my! And we’ve started to compare many people we know to characters from The Lion King. The wise old Alan Minga is just like  Mufasa and the very helpful, clever James Magila reminds us of Rafiki.

One thing we have discovered is that Tanzanians LOVE their music. Early every morning we wake up to the sounds of either fast-paced, upbeat Swahili music meant for dancing or some kind of gospel music, which is also meant for dancing. We even saw a gospel music video being filmed in Tukuyu! So what else to Tanzanian listen to? Well there’s the occasional Bangrha song or even some Jason Derulo, but there is a nation-wide obsession with Celine Dion! Everywhere we have been, everywhere we go, and every time of day we hear Celine Dion.


Chilean Winter and Surrogate Mothers

Chile is cold. Yes, some parts are warm, but many people seem unaware that Southern Chile is neighbour to Antarctica (a large chunk of which is actually claimed by Chile) and that Cape Horn, the southern-most tip of the Americas, is Chilean. Being a proper Canadian, I’m very used to cold weather and so I casually assumed that winter here would be peanuts compared to the horror of winter on the Canadian prairies. Turns out, “peanuts” was the wrong word to describe a Patagonian winter.

Sunset in Puerto Natales

Every morning, Corinne, Graham, Andi, and I wake up and look out the windows of our cozy little hostel. We can expect to see one of the following: icy rain, heavy snow, or blinding sun accompanied by the whistling of a searing, deathly wind. Whatever the weather, we always get ready in the same way every morning: at least 2 pairs of socks, 3 pairs of pants, 5 shirts, a scarf, a hat (or 3 in my case), heavy mitts, and our Helly Hansen jackets (kindly procured as a result of Andi’s proposal to Helly Hansen). We then prepare our cameras, tripods, batteries, and memory cards for the day (one or more of which will inevitably break down at some critical moment of filming). After forcing our heavily-socked feet into winter boots still soaked from the previous day’s adventures, we make our way to one of the lively neighbourhoods of Puerto Natales and begin to film the dogs.

Depending on the whims of the dogs to which we are assigned, we may end up in any number of odd places or situations. If you were in Puerto Natales during the daylight hours of the winter of 2012, you might see us moping about in swamps and creeks, sprinting (and falling) through the “pampas” (large, seemingly endless fields), scraping our faces and cameras as we push through a jungle of thorny bushes, hiding in abandoned roadside vehicles, standing awkwardly outside your house, sliding/skating/falling on the ice-covered roads, or even in your own backyard or patio or garage or doorstop (probably without your permission). When you try to ask us what on earth we are doing, some of us may be able to give you an answer in Spanish, and some of us not, making life all the more interesting.

Understandably, the whole set-up leads to quite a lot of awkward moments, but also a lot of laughter. Only a few days ago, a man opened up his curtains only to find me filming a dog in the process of defecating on his patio. He immediately opened the door, and with an angry look on his face, asked me what I was doing. I explained in my intermediate Spanish about the VWB-VSF Chile project and my role in it, the whole while the dog straining and clearly constipated. The man’s expression changed from anger to delight, and my next challenge was trying to stop him from telling me all about his daughter in Holland, his in-laws, and his current lack of interest in his job.

Some people may also assume that we, as Canadians, came to Puerto Natales to help the deprived people living here, but it seems to be quite the opposite, at least in my case. Despite lacking in material wealth, the people here are some of the richest I’ve seen. They are rich in community, laughter, kindness, family, and neighborliness. In other words, they are rich in all the ways so many people want to be rich, but never really know it, or achieve it.

It seems that I look cold and lonely enough out on the streets to pull at the tender heartstrings of various Chilean mothers. Almost every day, at least one woman shoots out her front door at me to come in for “un café” before I freeze to death. I then reply that I must stay out in order to record the dog’s behavior fully.

“Your health is more important! Just a small coffee (cafécito) to warm you up!”

The coffees proceed to become smaller and smaller, and the time required to warm up shorter and shorter in order to convince me to come in and socialize. As I cannot feasibly continue to work while chatting over coffee, my final answer is that I will come in as soon as I am done filming. I always keep my promises.

Inside, instant coffee is poured into a ceramic mug and some kind of hot snack is waiting on the table. On occasion an entire meal is included with the coffee. There is no point trying to protest, even if you’ve eaten already; you will be told you are too skinny (even though it’s not true) and that you need to eat something before you vanish. I’m usually then asked all about my family, which is the most important thing in the lives of the people here. The time reminds me I have to return to work outside and the conversation ends with an invitation to stop by whenever I’m cold or hungry.

My most memorable Mom thus far is Señora Teresa. I was filming one of her many dogs, Rocco, and apparently I looked cold. I was actually sweating from running after her dog for an hour and so had removed some of my many layers. This was no good. I was ushered in and given coffee and offered a meal. We talked as I sipped away and when I left she stood me in her front entrance and personally dressed my in her scarves and hats as though I were a 4 year old until only my eyes were visible. I put my glasses on and they immediately fogged up from my trapped breath. Teresa nodded her approval and sent me out on the condition that I come back for a coffee as soon as I was done. I did and brought the whole team with me. Señora Teresa was thrilled and took out her camera to capture the occasion. Her two young sons were part of the party and greeted the women in the traditional way, by kissing the right cheek, and by shaking Graham’s hand. Teresa also showed us the set of “overalls” she made for her dog, Canella, to wear when she was in heat so that she wouldn’t become pregnant. After a wonderful evening, we all went home.

Once inside the hostel, I took off my jacket only to find one of Señora Teresa’s seat covers stuck to my bottom. How it stayed there during my entire trip from her house to my hostel is a mystery, but there it was. She’d made the seat covers herself of a fabric depicting a horse head surrounded by a horseshoe, reminiscent of her previous days of rodeo. With the help of Angélica, I practiced in Spanish my explanation speech and put the seat cover in my backpack to give to Teresa the next morning.

First thing in the morning I went to Señora Teresa’s house and knocked on the door. She answered and ushered me in and I proceeded to explain how I came to acquire one of her seat covers and to apologize profusely. I took it out of my backpack, at which point, she started laughing so hard, there were tears in her eyes. She put the seat cover back on the kitchen chair I had sat in the night before, pulled the chair out and motioned for me to sit down.

“Sit down and have a coffee with me. You can’t possibly go out to work before having a warm coffee. And some ham. How the wind doesn’t blow you over is beyond me.”

I couldn’t possibly resist.

– Rebecca

Well we have officially reached the two week landmark since our arrival in Kenya! It’s incredible to look back on how much has happened in so short a period of time. Both Jen and I have commented that it feels like it
has been much longer than that. Due to some initial difficulties with internet, travel to other regions and a busy start to our project we’ve been unable to post until now. It would be impossible to do justice to the entire experience of the last two weeks (as that would take at least 20 pages or more) but I will do my best to summarise and highlight the key events:

Jeff and Maureen Witchel, professors from UPEI, joined up with us in Nairobi to supervise for the first two weeks and help get the project up and rolling. We will also be joined later on in the project by two students from the university of Nairobi; Sylvia and Pauline.

I suppose  our stay become official on May 15 when we settled into the chairman’s house in Ichamara.. The house is more than I was expecting in terms of comfort- it is quite cozy and well equipped with a flushing toilet (though no toilet seat), a hot shower (granted the power is on) and plenty of space. All in all I think we’ll have a pleasant stay here. In fact we have caught ourselves referring to it as home a few times now.

We have also begun work on our project and have made excellent progress so far.
To avoid confusion later on perhaps I will provide a brief summary here of what our project involves. This summer we will be conducting  a nutritional survey focusing on both cow and calf health in an effort to find the ideal combinations of the feeds available to these farmers. Ideal in the sense that it yields both healthier calves and cows. Healthier calves, will theoretically give rise to stronger and higher  producing milking cows or heavier bull calves to sell.  Healthier cows will theoretically produce more and better quality milk. Overall the benefit to the farmer will be increased income from enhanced milk production  and calf growth.

For the project we will be enrolling members of the Wakulima dairy cooperative due to calve within our critical time period.  The cow and calf from the farm will be randomised to 1 of 9 different nutritional groups consisting of 9 possible variations of 4 feeds. One is a dairy grain ration, one a calf starter mix, one a vitamin supplement and one simply milk straight from the mother cow to the calf. All of the feed for the treatment plans will be supplied to the farmers by Bora feeds( Bora means excellent in Swahili and is literally located 200 meters from our home at the Chairman’s) free of charge. So phase one of our project involves visiting each farm, gathering information (extensive information!) about the history of the cow currently pregnant, diet, health complications; you name it, we record it. Once we have gathered this info, we then do a complete physical exam on every cow on the farm, treating disease as we find it or have the means to. Those cows which will ultimately qualify for phase two of our study, must be confirmed pregnant and be determined to be expecting within the next few weeks. Phase two of our project will begin once the calf has been born. Weekly we will visit each farm for the next 60 days, doing physical exams on those cows and calves selected for the study and recording more info on how the feeding plan is going (seeing if it is being implemented as we have asked or if their are any problems etc.) and then eventually compiling all this data together, to see which feeds are most cost effective in terms of growth and production.  Next year, the study will be done on an even larger scale, hopefully following what we have found to be the best treatment plan (or, if need be a mixture of the plans if all foodstuffs are determined to be of equal benefit). Phew, so there it is! Not so brief but  for those of you following this, I promise it won’t be repeated!

As of now we have enrolled 29 farms in the project and have had 12 cows calve. Jen and I are getting lots of clinical experience conducting physical exams, testing milk, doing rectal palpations and drawing blood samples.
Since we are both fresh from our first year of vet school much of the techniques are unfamiliar to us but Jeff and Maureen from UPEI  have been great teachers. Their advice, support and their patience has been greatly appreciated!

The survey portion of the project has allowed us to also interact  with the farmers. Some of the stories they have shared are astonishing. Despite the hardships they face these farmers are some of the friendliest, welcoming and generous people I have ever met. Just last week one women sent us home with a bag full of at least 50 passion fruits and another farmer collected a dozen eggs from his chickens for us. Another woman promised to name her calf Morgan or Maureen if it is female!  I look forward to visiting with each farmer and hearing more about their lifestyle upon our weekly return visits to check the cow and calf.
From my observations so far Kenyan dairy farming is verydifferent from Canadian dairy farming. While in Canada a herd of 50 would be considered quite small most herds here consist of only two or three cows.
Most farmers here are limited in their growth by land availability. It is common for farmers here to own only 1-2 acres of land and rent another acre or two from a neighbour.  This limitation causes a struggle for many
farmers to gather adequate amounts of forage for their cows. The weather further compounds the difficulties as the fluctuation of wet and dry season brings alternating periods of shortage and abundance. There are also stark contrasts in housing, cow comfort, milking techniques and farm management.
We have also had the opportunity in our first week to tour around some of the other projects going on in Kenya with Melanie Boyd, the representative for CIDA. Our tour began with the Wakulima dairy cooperative,
the organisation our project is closely associated with. The story behind Wakulima still astounds me. The organisation began as a self help group for farmers with an initial daily milk yield of 32 L Since that time the group has grown into a promising company now collecting 40 000L of milk daily at their peak. In addition
they have acquired milk cooling tanks and are in the process of expanding into milk processing. It is truly a success story. During our tour we also visited a number of greenhouses and a school cook house sponsored by CIDA.   We also made a stop at the Muchuwi Women’s group where we were greeted by a welcoming song and dance! These women are quite the success story as well- they have become very proficient business women since the group started.
Other notable experiences thus far included experiencing our first torrential downpour (followed by many more since), our first power outage (also followed by many more since…) and getting stuck in the mud. The roads
here seems to shape around the land and are very rough and uneven. We had the misfortune to be driving through a very slick T-intersection during a heavy downpour. I was quite unprepared when the van dramatically slid and bashed into the bank along the road, tilting the vehicle to an awkward 45 degree angle.  A number of rescues were attempted by at least two different vehicles, each of which ended up also stuck in the mud along with us and four other vehicles throughout the intersection. Luckily 20 or so farmers appeared out of no where and pushed us back onto the road. What an experience!
Well I think that about wraps up the first two weeks. Jeff and Maureen are departing today, leaving Jen and I to take charge of the project. We will miss them dearly and wish them safe travels home and abroad.  Hopefully, next time you hear from us Sylvia and Pauline will have arrived and all 36 farms will be enrolled in the project!


Morgan and Jen

A day in the life, if there were such a thing

Originally I thought it would be a great idea to write about “a typical day at the KAT center,” but very quickly I realized there is no such thing. Never, has one day at the center been repeated the next – – and I am very thankful for that. That being said, our days do all the start the same. We open the gate to the familiar sight (and smell) of our twenty-two house dogs greeting us with lolling tongues, wagging tails and muddy paws. Often, we then walk the dogs first thing. From then on, however, the day is “a box of chocolates”. Usually, myself and other “technical volunteers” perform the daily, morning treatment off all the dogs which require such. These consist of anything from IV fluids to medications to bandage changes. Everyday though, different animals arrive in desperate need of care. Today, for example, I arrived at the clinic to find a puppy no more than a month or two old who had fleas and demodex so bad it had scratched its head to the bone, and was covered in open, festering sores. The puppy however was just happy to be held by a human and gratefully received treatment. We cleaned the wounds, applied anti parasitic, topical treatment and administered both local and subcutaneous antibiotics. As well, the puppy received an e-collar (those giant plastic cones around the neck that threaten the animal of drowning if he looks up during a rain storm – you know the ones) to prevent further scratching. It really does amaze me how easily these street dogs, dogs which in most cases are lucky to receive garbage food from humans let alone contact, are willing to accept our treatment. It is extremely rare for any of the animals that come in to so much as growl at a human when really, they have every right to do so. At home, I don’t think I ever worked a day at a clinic where a few “Cujo’s” didn’t walk through the door each day, eye up my jugular and try and may mince meat out of me. Here, however, these dogs are so starved for attention they’ll let you poke and prod them, jab them with needles, apply ointments and all the works, so long as they get a pat on the head at the end of it. It kind of reminds me of the children here whose faces light up when you so much as give them a balloon. Both animals and people here have so little and are so grateful for even the smallest amount of compassion it makes you realize how spoiled we really are in Canada. Anyways, I digress. Learning and performing veterinary medicine here I would kind of equate to moving to a small town in Spain to learn Spanish. I am completely immersed in it, far out of my comfort zone and have no choice but to try my best, ask as many questions as people will answer and learn from my mistakes. We lack essentially all diagnostic equipment– we cannot analyze blood, take radiographs or look at ultrasounds. Essentially, we take our most educated guess and treat accordingly. It isn’t perfect, we know that, I know that. But at the end of the day our best guess is a hell of a lot better than the dogs’ other option – – nothing. At the KAT center I feel as though I have played the role of bother teacher and student.  I’ve learned to place catheters, perform intramuscular injections, perform blood transfusions and place casts. At home, we spend so much time reading text books and watching the vets perform that we forget, or don’t get the chance, to really do things for ourselves.  However, we bring a knowledge of first world medicine and bio security that goes a long way here. As well, my recent course in veterinary neuroscience has proved more useful than I ever expected as day after day dogs come in with different neurological issues and we have to try and determine the issue at hand. Sometimes, however, even localizing the lesion doesn’t change the poor animal’s outcome. Other times we see miraculous recoveries.   
     Yesterday, we arrived at work to find a two day old kitten someone had found and brought in. The kitten has not left the arms of a fellow volunteer since and has accompanied us to dinner and spent the night with her, being fed formula every two hours. So far, the kitten seems to be doing fantastic and we all look forward to “Everest” opening his eyes. 
  Anyways, that is just a little bit of the type of work we are doing. Some days we arrive to hear devastating news of dogs succumbing to injuries or disease overnight, while other days we arrive to see a sick puppy or kitten we treated the day before up and about, ready to take on the word as though it had never been sick. That’s the way it is. That’s medicine . But I have to say, if two days were ever the same this may not be the gig for me. But they never are, and so I believe I am on the career path to the best job in the world.

  Cheers for now,

First 10 days

First village meeting in Kyabitoto

We arrived safely in Entebbe, Uganda on May 17th. The two days of travel were tiring but Dr. Laura, Jerome, and myself were excited to arrive. After stepping off the plane I was instantly welcomed back to Africa with the familiar scents of fresh humid air, earth, and a hint of burning garbage. Due to lost luggage we had to spend a couple extra days in Entebbe. We met with Scott Hitchings, a former U of S political studies student. He will be helping with the group dynamic and micro finance portion of our project. The first few days were spent orienting ourselves to the culture, arranging cell phones, organizing supplies, and adjusting from jet lag. We left Entebbe to Mbarara on the 20th after picking up luggage from the airport. The drive from Entebbe, through the capital city Kampala, and on ways to Mbarara quickly brought me back to the reality of driving in Africa. Speeding buses, enormous potholes, jay-walking goats and many, many people made for a stressful drive.

We arrived into Mbarara in the early evening and were welcomed at the office by the FAOC staff and a magnificent feast. It was great to finally meet the people I have heard so much about from Laura in the past few years. The staff was extremely welcoming which made us eager to start work the next day. The past week has been spent in meetings, reading, and setting up our new lab. We have made it into some of the villages to interview our beneficiaries and health check some goats for purchase. The program has expanded to service over 20 villages and hundreds of beneficiaries so we have our work cut out for us. The village visits are always my favorite. Mbarara is a decent sized town that is swarming with people, animals and boda-boda (motorbike) taxis. The lush green and peaceful country side is always a welcome escape.

The week took an unexpected turn when we were called out to a village by a staff member to check on a sick child. The child belonged to one of our beneficiaries. His mother had been sick for over two years so he had been left in the care of his aunt. The aunt has six other children to care for so she would often have to leave for days at a time in order to produce enough money to feed the children. Due to this, the child (Brian) had been neglected and severely malnourished. He appeared to be no older than 6 months of age, but was in fact closer to three years. He could not walk, talk, and was severely emaciated. This is a harsh reality for many children where resources are spread so thin. Protein malnutrition has distended his stomach and left him severely underdeveloped both physically and mentally. Unintentional neglect has left him severely depressed and unable to smile. The aunt had been working tirelessly to be able to afford transportation into Mbarara to seek health care. After tracking her down in the field, we drove her and Brian into Mbarara hospital to seek care. A blood count revealed a severely weakened immune system which likely indicates a positive HIV status. Brian and his aunt will be staying at the hospital for one week while he receives treatment. It is unfortunate that even if he responds to treatment his current living situation will make it impossible for him to recover. We are currently seeking other solutions but it can be difficult to intervene if the family is unwilling. I will be checking on him this weekend, hoping to see an improvement and hoping to see a smile.

While difficult, this experience has made me realize the importance of my work this summer and the potential impact we can have. Talking with beneficiaries whose lives have been greatly improved by the project is very uplifting. Even though their lives consist of struggles which are foreign to most back home, their positive attitude and strong worth ethic is always inspiring. I am excited to get the project in full swing. We will be visiting farmers this week, ensuring they are ready to receive a goat, and also visiting farms for pre-purchase exams. On Sunday will be building a new goat pen at our demonstration farm which will be a good chance to get my hands dirty and appreciate the amount of work that is needed to construct one. We have a great team and I am expecting great things from this summer.

All the best,

Dr. Steve

The yak trail to Tibet

When I first learned that there was no tourist bus to Langtang, and instead only public transportation  which took approximately ten hours to reach the base of our trekking adventure, there should have been a few doubts in my mind. Images of the public bus we take to work everyday should have immediately jumped into my head. The buses here are extended passenger vans which comfortably seat about twelve people but cram fourty-five. Nothing starts off your day quite like a sweaty mosh pit of strangers in the blistering heat that is Nepal. A smart man would have heard “public transportation” and said no thankyou. An even smarter man would have looked up the distance this ten hour bus ride traversed – a mere 115 kms – and considered walking, biking or any other means of transportation. Colin Taylor on the other hand stupidly smiled and said “sign me up!”
     The bus turned out to be a step up from those taken to work everyday, as we had assigned seats and therefore retained some of our personal space (a concept which fails to exist in Nepal). That being said, make no mistake  the bus was always well past what we would consider “capacity”. People crammed into the aisles and onto the roof, and bags and supplies were stacked wall to wall. At one point we had a woman with a child in one arm and a rooster under the other squeezed into the mix. Myself, I was wedged between sacs of potatoes and garlic and was only a few drops of sweat shy of a Colin stew. It was at that point , the point when I feared that a few more degrees celsius and some salt and pepper and travelers would be coming towards me at the back of the bus, ladle in hand, wondering what that formidable scent was, that I decided the roof of the bus seemed like a good idea. 
     Riding on the roof was exhilarating, and it answered the question, how can it take ten hours to drive 115 Kms? Besides the numerous stops, the answer to that question was the road. We meandered along a single laned, dirt road using the bus horn at each bend to announce our presence to oncoming vehicles. If we did meet a bus coming in the other direction, one of the vehicles would have to reverse to a point where the other could pass. At points the road was no more than six inches wider than the bus on which we sat atop, laughing and taking pictures and videos of the view.  I gotta say I never expected potatoes to save my life. But as we rounded 90 degree turns looking down at nothing but a thousand foot drop, I was certainly glad I had twenty pound sacs of tatters to cling to. 
     Hours later we arrived in Sering Busey (not spelled even remotely right but I can’t locate the correct spelling) where we grabbed a bite, found a room, battled a few spiders and crashed for the night, ready to take on the Himalayas come sunrise. 
In the morning we registered at the army post on our way into the mountains, snapped a few pics of our smiling, nieve selves and crossed the 100 foot suspension bridge which marked the start of our trek. That was the last point of the day of which we were on the correct trail. 
After about twenty minutes we were surprised by the difficulty of the trail. It was, to put it nicely, hell. The route consisted of a pine-needle covered rocky ninety degree razorback, a zig zag of unyielding  hills. After each “zig” we prayed we would take a turn and see a “zag” of even remotely level land, but we were instead always confronted with a natural, dream-crushing staircase of rocks. Why would someone other than a masochist attempt such a feat? The short answer – they don’t. We were on the wrong trail. In fact, we were on a yak trail to Tibet.  Somehow we had immediately gone in the wrong direction and only decided to consult the map and guidebook after a few hours of hell and the realization that we had not heard or seen another soul in the entire duration of the trek.  The guide book described the first few  hours of the trek as an “enjoyable, scenic stroll past frolicking monkeys as the sounds of numerous local birds floods your ears.” Unless this was a typo and by “frolicking monkeys” they meant you will lose the will to move and by “sound of numerous local birds” they meant you will hear only your own ragged breaths and gentle sobs as you dodge yak faeces, then we were not on the right track. I always loved the idea laid out by Robert frost to “take the path less traveled”. I could be wrong, but I bet ol’ Rob probably wasn’t referring to the ninety degree death march towards Tibet that would have made lance Armstrong say “no thanks, I’m good,” when he wrote that poetic gem. Of course I exaggerate, but not by much.  Our first day on the Langtang trek- – well, just off the Langtang trek I should say –was by far the most physical exertion my body has ever endured. Yes, I am currently out of shape, and perhaps eating little more than Nepali “momo’s” (similar to dumplings) and popping Imodium like tic -tacs for the week before the trek may not have provided me with the precise energy balanced diet required for such a journey, I still maintain the trek was hell. When we came across a small village after eight hours of climbing we were so exhausted we had to collapse onto the stony mountain face just minutes from the village. Chests’ heaving, hearts’ pounding, wise cracks long gone for the day we laid on the face of the rocky outcrop for about twenty minutes before gathering enough morale and energy to make the last steps into the village where we were welcomed into the home of what I can only believe was in angel. Keep in mind that at that altitude this is not too unlikely.
We were fed some incredible Sherpa stew and provided with a warm bed to sleep in and I could not have been more grateful. It wouldn’t be the last  time a Nepali family saved our lives on this trek, but that story is for another time. That night, with food in our stomachs and clear minds we were able to locate our position and figure out how to meet up with the proper trail. From then on the trekking was everything I hoped for – -unbelievably scenic, challenging but doable and just an overall cool experience. Personally, I loved when the trekking was done for the day and I got to sit outside a small teahouse in the middle of the Himalayan mountains drinking tea and reading a book or just taking it all in. 
     During our trekking I found there were two main types of people on the trail (with our trio of two chain smoking, yet outdoorsy Americans and the out of shape Canadian as a stark exception.) The first of the two character types to which I am referring was the fourty-year-old, trekking gear clad woman carrying little more than a purse and a vitamin supplemented water who strolls by at a brisk pace stating a pleasant “Namaste” as two sweat and dirt covered porters lag along behind carrying packs stuffed so full they must contain what I can only imagine is her living couch  and bedroom suite. The second prominent character type I discovered on the trail (and my personal favourite) was the dude (and I choose this term appropriately) who never left the seventies. He would stroll up to you with his smile as wide as his pony tail was long and ask how much you were loving life. He wore round glasses and  a tight t-shirt and acted as though any question he could answer of yours was the sole reason for his existence. I loved running into this type of person and was always happy to hear his (or sometimes her) unbelievably positive outlook on travel and on life in general. It is a pretty cliche and obvious statement, but it is the people that make travel so worthwhile, so enjoyable and o so memorable.  So far, there has been no shortage of that in Nepal. From the employees and volunteers at the Kat center to the crazy Himilayan mountain folk who have been oxygen deprived too long and just look at you smile, stick out their tongue and spit, I have met some truly extraordinary people, and my adventure here has just begun. 
For those of you looking through my Facebook photos, waiting to see the  very top, looking for that picture of me standing on the snowy peak, smiling down at the world, it isn’t there. Our journey ended just three hours shy of the top. It is not my place to describe online why we stopped short. I will say that there is a remarkable and heroic family that lives in the mountains at Langtang, and if  anyone ever plans on trekking there please contact me for their information.  But that story is an  adventure all to itself.

 Cheers for now,

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little  corner of the earth for all one’s lifetime.” -Mark Twain

Tanzania Update 2012

Sorry we haven’t been posting. We haven’t really had internet access. But here is everything we’ve been doing…

Wednesday May 16, 2012

So we arrived at our hotel in Dar Es Salaam with no problems whatsoever!  For me it was a seven hours journey from Boston to Amsterdam, where I met up with Roger and Shona.  I had a five hour layover in Amsterdam (so plenty of time to walk around the airport looking at wooden shoes and tulips). Next was a 10 hour flight to Dar Es Salaaam via Kilimanjaro. When we stepped out of the plane onto the runway it was so warm and humid. Palm trees were scattered around the runway …as were some pretty decent size cockroaches! A friend of Dr.Minga, a very nice woman named Angela, drove us to our hotel.  We rode along the lively streets of Dar listening to some sweet tunes from Michael Bolton and Whitney Houston. We were shocked at how many people were out and about selling things by the light of torches along the street.  There were also so many people running around weaving in and out of traffic.

The place we are staying is pretty nice. One of the last hot showers I will have this summer! We watched a Spanish soap opera (yeah I know…random), had a beer, and know I’m ready for some much needed sleep.

We are only staying here a brief time then headed to Morogoro a few hours away, a safari, and then finally to Ilima, which is about a 12ish hour drive along some rough roads.  Tomorrow Shona, Roger, and I will be visiting Open University of Tanzania along with Dr. Minga, a professor at the Open University who has been with the Ilima Poultry Project from the very beginning.

Friday May 18, 2012

This morning I woke up at 5am to the sound of praying outside the window.  It was actually pretty cool to listen to. The water was still not working in our room in Morogoro’s White House Inn, but thankfully they left a bucket of water outside of the room so we could wash up a bit…yay bucket bath! We eventually got our rooms switched to the building next door. Now I have a lovely view of some backyard chickens and goats! We figured we should enjoy having running water for the next few days while will still have it, because once we go to Ilima we will be back to buckets!

This morning we left for the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, which has a veterinary college. It’s quite a big campus right underneath the mountains – such a beautiful view! We ended up spending all afternoon at the University. We met with Dr. Mellau, the head of the dept. of veterinary medicine and public health. We talked to him about what the Ilima Poultry Project was all about and  told us everything about the veterinary college.  We then went on a tour of the entire vet school with one of the anatomy lab technicians. We saw the anatomy lab, PM room,  the small animal clinic, the virology labs, etc.  It was interesting to compare to this school to the OVC. In some ways the schools are so similar yet also worlds apart.  They still use halothane and manually develop radiographs by dipping them in the chemicals.  On the other hand, they have a PCR and a sequencer. I found the virology labs the most interesting, especially in regards to our poultry project. The virologist we spoke with was telling us about how they are making Newcastle Disease Virus vaccines with strains isolated from local chickens.  He explained that the commercial vaccine is not always effective in these local chickens and in addition is more expensive. The vaccine made at the school is given to the farmers for free or a small amount of money.  The new virology lab is made out of two storage containers stacked on top of one another.  Despite its external appearance lab was very impressive! They have equipment donated from USAid including a PCR and an instrument which converts RNA to cDNA ( probably should know this, but I totally forget what it’s called).  Some of the Tanzanian students have recently come back from training at UC Davis and a phD student named Ava from UC Davis is there for a few months to oversee the project at Sokoine University. She is involved with an organization called “Predict” which focuses on predicting emerging diseases. Right now the lab is focusing on RNA viruses. Since they are still such a new lab they send many of their samples to an older, more established lab in Uganda to confirm.  It ended up being a great tour and we were thankful that so many people took time out of their day to show us around! We had lunch at a restaurant on campus right under the mountain. Like all the other restaurants we have been to so far it was open on the sides with just a roof. Angela met up with us there and we went to a place called “Rock Garden” with the slogan “We will rock you.” We followed rocky paths around mountain streams and saw so many monkeys (tumbili).  We searched a couple of bookstores in Morogoro for the Tanzania Atlas that students at the Ilima and Lubanda village primary schools use. Ilima Primary only has one atlas for all the students to use. However, it’s one of the most important books because so many questions from the exit exam come from it. While Roger was in one of the bookstores Shona and I waited in the car with Angela and we made some friends. These two guys wanted to show us around town and later jokingly offered Roger a dowry of 200 cows for both of us. Not even 200 each! After a visit to Angela’s house we went out to dinner with both her and Dr.Gimbi’s wife , Dorothy, as well as Angela’s very quite nephew and Dorothy’s two very energetic daughters. We are lucky to have so many connections in Tanzania!

Saturday May 19, 2012

Saturday was one of my favorite days here in Tanzania so far. We spent the day on safari at Mikumi National Park, which is only an hour from Morogoro. It turned out to be quite the adventure. On the way there Angela got a speeding ticket – there were police at the edge of the road with a radar gun. The ticket was 30,000 shillings (the exchange rate is about 1,500 TSH per 1 USD). However, the policewoman accepted a 10,000 TSH bribe, something which is quite common here. What’s hilarious is that Angela practically became best friends with this police woman. On our way home from the safari we saw the same woman there and Angela stopped to say a quick hello!  Even before we got to the park we saw lots of baboons (nyani) along the highway, even some babies!  When we got to Mikumi we decided to do it without a guide. It was Roger, Shona, Angela, Angela’s nephew, and I in our rental van. Roger was pretty familiar with the park as he had gone there before and also said the routes were pretty well-marked. However, the roads ended up being a bit treacherous. Some were nice flat dirt roads whereas others were pretty rough and full of puddles, mud, and big ruts, covered in rocks, or just tire tracks in the tall grass. Actually I’m sure a few of the paths we probably weren’t supposed to be on.  We ended up making some of our own paths when we had to go around big puddles or ditches. And also you are not supposed to get out of the car, but we decided not to follow that rule. It was a big enough place and no one was around most of the time. Plus, we needed to get to figure out how to maneuver the van around obstacles, to move rocks, and to take better pictures of the animals of course!  We saw seven hippos (kiboko) in one of the ponds, along with a group of men cutting down plants. These guys were actually IN the water not too far from the hippos. The hippos would stay under water and then stick their heads up every once and a while to get air, snorting with their ears twitching. They were so big!  We saw some wildebeest (nyumbu) and there were impala (swalahala) everywhere including a HUGE heard of them. We estimated that there were a few hundred of them.  We also saw a group of about six warthogs (nygiri) very close up. After the nygiri we saw giraffes (twiga) and zebra (punda milia). You could tell that many of the animals were accustomed to having cars close to them because they allowed us to get so close. We found a path that led to some empty buildings and saw about eight elephants (tembo), including babies!  Angela was terrified of the elephants, especially because they were so close to the road and even crossing it right in front of us.  We decided it was best to hang back for a while so mama and baby elephant could get a little further from the road. We did one last 30 km circuit hoping to see some water buffalo (kifaru). We ended up seeing a huge herd of them right before we left. Also on that last circuit we saw elephants, but Angela got freaked out and gunned it past them (It was pretty hilarious).  That last path had the worst roads and we almost tipped over into a ditch! We ended up being very impressed both with Angela’s driving skills and the fact that the van made it through our safari. Other than the lions, we ended up seeing all the big species of animals at Mikumbi, not to mention all the birds, lizards, and guinea fowl.

Monday May 21, 2012

So we are in Tukuyu now, which is only about 20 minutes from Ilima, the village in which we will be working.  We had a 10 hour journey here yesterday. Angela is not with us anymore, but we are now joined by Dr. Gimbi. We tried visiting the veterinarian for the region, Dr. Kibona, today, but he was away all day. We’re hoping to tag along on some of his farm calls. We figured it would be good veterinary experience as well as a way to potentially see poultry farms in other villages. Although Kibona was not there, we did meet another man named Mpunda at the DALDO (District Agriculture and Livestock Development Office). Mpunda is head of the DALDO. He told us a little bit more about Africa Bridge, an NGO working in nearby villages. They mainly work with those people affected most by AIDS. They deal mainly with cattle. They had distributed swine, but there was an outbreak of African Swine Fever (Shona and I were very excited that we remembered this from virology)so they are no longer working with swine and possibly interested in poultry.  Mpunda also told us they he owned a dispensary innTukuyu and carried Newcastle vaccine – this could be a close and reliable place to get the vaccine.

Next we stopped at Rungwe District Office and met with Mwansasa, acting director of the region (the actual director, Mahyenga, was away). Then we went to yet another book store to try to find the elusive Tanzanian Atlas for Ilima Primary School. We managed to get four copies in Morogoro, but Roger was hoping to get a lot more. We also checked out some veterinary drug dispensaries and the internet café. I was quite disappointed with the internet café – we are not allowed to use flash drives nor are we allowed to bring our own laptops. It Seems like blogging is going to be an issue and as well as printing materials for farmers.

We visited Ilima secondary school, which started in 2006 and has grown quite a bit since then. When Roger first came to Ilima in 2003 there was no secondary school and kids from Ilima had to walk pretty far to go to other schools. Thus, many of them did not even attend secondary school.  There are now over 500 students at the secondary school and eleven teachers. The layout of the school is interesting…picturesque, but quite impractical. Classrooms descend along a large, steep hill with now stairs or walkway. We imagined that many students must just slide down this hill to class in the rainy season. One of the main purposes of our visit was to find out how the chicken house is progressing. Funds were acquired by Roger to build a poultry building at the school so that the students could learn about poultry management and sell eggs. Mr. Pimbi, the headmaster, will soon be living on school grounds, so there will be someone there full time to look after the chickens.  We saw that the poultry building was not yet finished. We met with Mr. Pimbi and Zekeo, the academic headmaster. Zekeo is originally from the area and returned after his studies to teach – something that is apparently very rare hear. Initially there was rapid fire discussion in Swahili between Dr.Gimbi, Allen Minga, Zekeo, and Pimbi. They were discussing living arrangements for Shona and I and then what was going on with the chicken house – why wasn’t it finished? It still had no windows or doors, but construction had begun in 2007. So the deal with the chicken house is that it is on a plot of land belonging to the Moravian church. There are also two small houses on this land. The Ilima Ward community has an agreement with the church: they will build two similar houses on another plot of land belonging to the church, but use the plot on which the poultry building is situated for the school. The reason why construction has stopped, Pimbi explained, is because construction needs to begin on the church’s new houses first. Pimbi said they he was under a lot of pressure from the local government to begin construction on these houses, although it is technically the community’s responsibility and not the school’s responsibility. Once construction begins on the church houses, then construction can begin on the new house for the headmaster and the chicken house can be finished…hopefully. There is a meeting next week to decide when construction should begin on the church houses. Pimbi still seems very enthusiastic about the poultry building. It was, after all, his idea. We also discussed getting a photocopier for the school. They spend a lot of money on photocopies, so having their own would free up a lot of money for other things and they could also charge other schools a reasonable price to use it. Many of the students are AIDS orphans that live with their grandparents along with many other children and have limited funds. Most cannot afford to pay school fees.  Shona and I were invited to come teach a class or two – we were thinking maybe some stuff about basic poultry farming, sanitation,  stuff about North America, etc.

Tuesday May 22, 2012

Such a great day! We went to Lunanda primary school to find out a little more about the school, but not to discuss the poultry project…not yet anyway. We spoke with the headmaster, Mwahegaya, along with members of the school council. There are 220 students at the school, last year of 41 students in standard 7, only 28 passed and went on to Ilima secondary school.  They only have five teachers and are in desperate need for more. Another problem is a serious lack of books.  For some subjects they have just one book. They especially need books for standards 5,6,7 because of a recent change in the curriculum. The headmaster thinks that having five books per subject per grade would make a huge difference. That works out to be 315 books, which would cost around 1,890,000 TSH (about  $1200). There are no school fees, but the children must buy uniforms and school supplies. Yet another big issue at the school is that there is no lunch program. Some bring food from home, but most do not. Many eat before and after school, but go the entire day (like 8am to 5 pm) without any food. We have heard that at other schools in the area successful farmers will provide food to feed the students. And Gimbi told us that at his primary school there was a “self-reliance” program in which students grew their own food.  At the end of the meeting Roger gave the headmaster some notebooks and textbooks we had gotten in Tukuyu. It won’t solve the problem of not having enough books for every grade, but it will definitely help with students having greater access to books. Next we headed off to Ilima Primary school for the big celebration they throw for “Baba Rogers” (father Rogers) to welcome him back and thank him for all of the work that he and his wife have done for the school since they first came to Ilima in 2003. Our visit to Ilima primary was incredible! When we arrived there were hundreds of uniformed students on the side of the road waiting for us. They were all singing and waving tree branches full of leaves. They were singing a song about sweeping the floor for guest to welcome them (hence the tree branches). They were all so excited to see Roger!  And their singing was so good! Ilima primary is at the mountain of this steep, rocky hill. It took about  15 minutes to reach the school and the whole time the children were behind us singing. Another song in their repertoire was one one in which they sing “Karibu tena” (welcome again). On the way down I got a chance to speak with one of the teachers, who was actually a volunteer teacher. When we reached the school we signed their guest book. We have signed so many guestbooks in the past week. Every single place we go we sign a guest book. We went to look at the Roger Thomson building, which was still in need of windows and doors. Because of a change in price of some of the materials needed, construction was at a standstill. But they were at least able to use it for classrooms.  We went outside and there were speeches and more singing and dancing. Allen Minga and Dr. Gimbi were able to translate lot of it for us. What’s funny is that a lot of their songs were so literal, like when they sang about the termite problem in one of the buildings. Shona and I both gave a short speech introducing ourselves and even spoke a little Kiswahili. The assembly ended with roger giving a speech describing the history of his relationship with the school and the village as well as commending them for all their imorovements in academics. Ilima primary was first in the ward for the past 3 years in regards to students passing standard 7 and moving on to secondary school.  They invited us inside for a delicious lunch of nyama (meat), bananas, rice, and spinach. Over lunch I tried to explain to Allen what an allergy. He was very confused by the fact that he had given me all these groundnuts (peanuts) and Shona was taking them all off my plate. I found the word allergy in my Swahili book “mzio” and showed him. We also talked to Allen about our possible accommodations at Zekeo’s place (a teacher at Ilima secondary). Allen did not seem  happy with the place, so we made plans to take a look at another place, and to also have a look for ourselves at Zekeo’s place. After lunch we headed up the big hill to our car. We were accompanied by the headmaster and the teachers. I spoke once again with one of the volunteer teachers, Fred. He is originally from Zambia, but he in Nyakusa and speaks Nyakusa fluently. Nyakusa is the tribal language of Ilima. Although everyone knows Swahili, Nyakusa is still widely spoken, especially among the older people. We gave the teachers textbooks and workbooks we had gotten in Tukuyu and said our goodbyes. We then headed off to look for accommodations for Shona and I. Alfan, the ilima primary headmaster, Agnes, a teacher, Allen, and also Talita, the village executive officer of Ilima, all came with us to check out places in Ushirika. The first place belonged to Agnes’s mother. It was a small compound shared with other families  with a courtyard in the center. The room was kind of dark and small and a bit on the dingy side.  The shower room and latrine were quite a distance from the room, but there was a water pump nearby. We were much happier with Zekeo’s place.  It’s a little compound of sorts with a courtyard and a place to cook on the ground to cook with paraffin or charcoal. There’s a latrine and a place to take bucket showers. The room consists of a big bed, a table with two chairs, and an power outlet. There is a light bulb and a pink fluorescent light. A mosquito net hangs over the bed and the walls are painted blue and covered with sports car posters with fake flowers strung around the wall. The décor makes the room a bit brighter and happier. We chose this place hands down. Agnes, who lives just down the street, promised to cook us a chicken dinner our first night there with the chicken Roger was gifted at Ilima primary.

Wednesday May 23, 2012

Today we went to Ilima to have a meeting with all the teacher farmers and vaccinators. Some student farmers were there as well. The village chair, James, facilitated the meeting. He himself is a teacher farmer and has been such a huge help. He is able to command so much attention and helps to keep order in such meetings. On the way to Ilima we picked up Talita, the Village Executive Officer (VEO), who accompanied us to the meeting. We also got a chance to meet Talida’s boss, the Ward Executive Officer, on the way. Talita has told us numerous times to call her if we have any issues and has even offered to teach us to cook. Our meeting with the farmers went pretty smoothly with Gibi translating for us and James keeping order. We asked the farmers to introduce themselves and to tell us what things were going well as well as any issues or concerns. I have a running list of thirteen issues that Shona and I should work in this summer. The first teacher farmer that spoke, however, said that he had no rpoblems and everything was going well. I was afraid all of them would say something similar. It’s the Tanzanian thing to do: tell someone want you think they want to hear. Some of the problems were: chick mortality, missing the October vaccine because it was expired (but they did not go back and get a new one so they went 6 months without vaccinating, as they vaccinate every 3 months), the issue of teacher farmers becoming older and not being able to perform their duties anymore, but don’t want to give up the job and the pay, they would like more training in the form of field trips to other poultry farms to see what other farmers are doing, and also there are some issues with feeding and coop construction. It was interesting to see during the meeting that there seemed to be drama amongst some people. If only we knew everything everyone was saying! One thing we discovered was that the farmers saw the correlation between higher mortality and skipping a vaccination. However, one teacher farmer thinks that the vaccine was responsible for killing some of his chickens.  We had yet another meeting outside – this time it was to welcome us to the village. When some of the villagers stood up to speak  they were pointing at us and seemed so angry. I was worried we did something wrong or that they didn’t want us there, but they were actually just explaining how happy they were to have us there and how they appreciate our help. Some ideas Roger Shona and I talked about:  Look into taking the teachers to Nane Nane (the big agricultural faire in Mbeya) or to some nearby successful poultry farms, help with coop construction, a new vaccine schedule, figuring out what the vaccinators are doing in terms of payment for the vaccine (it was expected that the vaccinators would charge the farmers for vaccinating and make a small profit), and also address the issue of teachers being too old and students that the teachers no longer want in their groups because they never show up to meetings.  We discussed the possibility of getting new chickens. Although everyone seems to want more chickens, I think it’s best to work on a lot of the management issues the farmers are having first.  Tonight Shona and I tried Konyagi for the first time, a strong Tanzanian alcohol that kind of smells like a pine tree, but it’s pretty good with bitter lemon soda.

Thursday May 24, 2012

Today we visited Uyole Ag College about an hour and a half north of Tukuyu. It was a huge, beautiful campus. Because the Ministry of Lifestock had split from the Ministry of Agriculture, the school had also split. There was a Lifestock Research Center, a Training Institute, and also an Agricultural Research Center – so there was some confusion about where we should go and who we should be talking to in regards to our project. We were able to speak with an animal health technician, who was in the middle of a cow necropsy with a bunch of students, about the possibility of animal health students doing a placement in Ilima. The issue is that due to lack of funds, many of the students to placement in nearby villages so they don’t need to pay room and board. It’s unfortunate that only neaby villages benefit from such institutions as Uyole. We also got a chance to speak to an old friend of Dr. Gimbi’s, a veterinarian at the Livestock Research Center. It was interesting to get some feedback from him about our project. He explained that exotic breeds, such as Rhode Island Reds, often require more management and are often more susceptible to disease.  He explained how it is difficult for farmers here to confine their chickens and he told us how combining free range with feed supplementation was something that is often done. He also talked about how it is best to confine young chicks until at least 8 weeks, once they are big enough to protect themselves from predators. We discussed the importance of focusing on housing, nutrition, and vaccination at the same time. We talked about Newcastle and how outbreaks tend to happen during the dry season. He gave us the name and number of a vet in Mbeya that supplies vaccine.

Friday May 25, 2012

Today we stopped by to see if Dr. Kibono, the region veterinarian was in…still no luck. But we did talk to an extension officer there. He gave us the contact information for lifestock field officer for Ilima Ward who lives in Ushirika (where we will be living). He could be someone who could check up on things in Ilima when we are not there.  We found out that Rungwe District consists of 37 wards and 167 villages and there are 2 veterinarians, 4 livestock officers, and 22 livestock field officers. We also discussed getting the Newcastle vaccine from Dr. Kibona, who orders it from Iringa. Possibly James or Allen could call Kibona and order it ahead of time. The extension officer also told us that Kibona offers diagnostic services so we were thinking of having him do some chicken necropsies. We once again stopped over at the Regional Director’s office and this time met Noel Mahyenga, who was back in town. He was incredibly friendly and welcoming. He said to let him know if we had any problems and said we could even come to his office anytime during the day to use the internet. We also had an interesting conversation with him about beekeeping, which seems to be becoming more common in the region.  We visited the Africa Bridge offices. They are an NGO based in Seattle, Washington. There were 4 local people working in the office: a project manager, accountant, children committee coordinator, and agriculture and livestock extension officer. We told them about our project and found out more about how they operate. Our meeting got a bit tense at one point when the children committee coordinator kept asking us about village involvement and seemed to be accusing us for not having enough of it.  Gimbi was getting quite annoyed with this man and was trying to explain to him that we involve the village at every level – Village Executive Officer, Village chair, etc. They suggested that maybe instead of sending  just the “teacher” farmers to train at Uyole, we could get someone from Uyole come to the village and train all the farmers. We were thinking this would be a good idea – for someone trained in poultry management to hold a workshop for all the farmers. We will have to look into who could do this and how much it would cost.  Africa Bridge deals with crops as well as livestock. They work in villages they have a high number of AIDS orphans, low economic status, and are not receiving aid from any other organization. The way their heifer program works is that the village chooses 10 families which meet certain criteria, such as a high number of AIDS orphans in the family. These families get heifers and pass the calves along to other families. Africa Bridge provides them only with 300,000 TSH and one type of vaccination, which does not really seem like enough. The farmers apparently have a revolving fund which they can borrow money from and pay back at a low interest rate. We are planning to go back to Africa Bridge and come with them to some of the villages they work in and find out more.  Next we headed to our meeting with members of the Lumanda village, which is located next to Ilima. We are hoping to expand the poultry project to Lubanda this summer. Our goal is to train 5 teacher farmers by the end of the summer. We are having a meeting on Wednesday to see who is interested in the program, who wants to be a teacher, who wants to be a student. Ultimately we want the villagers to decide on the 5 teachers, but we can help guide their decision. Roger suggested a requirement be that they can read and write. We would also like to visit all the farms of those interested in being teachers.

After our Lubanda meeting we went to buy rice in Ilima, a process which involved a solid 15 minutes of haggling and then a visit to someone’s house. Things take a lot longer here.  Then Shona and I moved in to our accommodation.  Before we said our goodbyes to Roger and Gimbi, they were going to give us a ride down the street to get food. While I was trying to figure out just how to close the latrine door, Zekeo passed out while Shona was talking to him. He was still breathing and everything, but completely unresponsive. When his brother carried him to our van his eyes were open, but he was still unresponsive. He is at the hospital now. We hope that he is going to be okay and that it is nothing serious.  We had planned to have a chicken dinner with one our neighbors, Agnes, a teacher at Ilima primary school, but she was also in the hospital with her neighbor who had gotten sick.  So for our first night of dinner on our own we had stale bread and mango juice! Our plan for tomorrow is to buy food and tools with which to cook.