Interconnected Issues and Solutions in Tanzania

Mastitis. Empowering women. Antimicrobial resistance. Human nutrition. Nest boxes. School enrollment. Cow comfort. Human wellbeing. How are all these diverse topics related? During our time working with Africa Bridge, Vets Without Borders, and smallholder farmers in the Youth Volunteer Program, we gained a deeper understanding of these connections and got to know the importance of a One Health and One Welfare approach.

The Tanzanian farmers in the Rungwe district are quite new to farming, having only received dairy cattle in the last few years. As mentioned in our last blog, one of the topics of our seminars was mastitis. We tackled this topic using two approaches, advising on best milking procedures and improving cow hygiene by building stalls. The Co-op members were eager to implement some of the lessons to reduce the incidence of mastitis in their cows- but why is this so important? Though mastitis adversely affects the well-being of the cow, this disease impacts much more than the animal itself. Cows will produce less milk and the milk will be of poorer quality. This impacts the health, safety, and financial wellbeing of not only the farmers, but also their families and community members.

Milk diversifies the diet of Co-op families by providing minerals, essential vitamins, and nutrients that the average family may not receive from their everyday diets. This in turn helps improve family health. Healthy children may perform better in school and have more opportunity reach their full potential. If cows do not provide enough milk, the family must decide between consuming the milk themselves or making a small profit from selling the milk. Poor quality milk caused by mastitis is a possible source of pathogens that can contribute to food borne illness. The bacteria causing mastitis in cows and possible illness in people are found in the environment the cows are in contact with, so maintaining a clean cow shed and having a comfortable place for the cow to lay is a key part of the puzzle.

One aspect of our seminars trained on proper milking protocols to prevent mastitis. This consisted of a theoretical seminar explaining the importance and benefits of keeping cows mastitis-free followed by a practical session during which we demonstrated these procedures at local farms to help the farmers better understand this process in practice. The practical sessions also included the demonstration of the California Mastitis Test, which is a fast and simple test for the early detection of mastitis in the udder.

We explained the importance of treating mastitis using the correct dose of antibiotics but feel this is a great topic to expand upon in future years. Proper use of antibiotics by farmers and veterinarians worldwide is essential to reduce the occurrence of antimicrobial resistance, where bacteria evolve quickly to resist the action of currently available antibiotics. This has enormous impact on not only human and animal health, but also the environment. Currently, it is estimated that 700,000 deaths occur annually due to antimicrobial resistance but this number will increase greatly in the next 30 years, with a projected 10 million annual deaths by 2050.

Katarina Nedeljakova preforming a California Mastitis test with the Cow Co-op members of Kibatata Village.

The other aspect of our seminars explained to farmers how providing and maintaining stalls for their cows can minimize contamination of the udder by bacteria living in the environment. Not only do stalls keep the cows clean, but they also improve the comfort of the cow- meaning she will produce more milk! Producing more milk not only boosts human nutrition, but also provides economic opportunities to farmers. With profits from Co-op animals, farmers have been able to pay for school supplies, uniforms, or even furnish their houses with solar panels. Improved welfare for the cow will also improve the wellbeing of the Co-op families by increased health as well as greater economic and educational opportunities.

This is the principle of One Welfare, where just like One Health, the welfare of animals, humans and the well-being of the environment are interconnected. Though stalls are quite a large investment, we were able to train the extension workers from the villages in Kisondela Ward on how to construct the stalls. Once farmers have begun to profit from the milk sales through small improvements in animal husbandry, they can reinvest these profits to further improve the well-being of their cows. This is a positive cycle of profit and investment, with an eventual surplus that can be spent on family matters such as education.

Working together building a stall in Isuba Village!

The training of the Chicken Co-op members was another major focus of our summer. Like cows, chickens can also help diversify the diets of families. A healthy chicken can lay about 200 to 300 eggs a year, which either be consumed directly or kept with the hen to hatch chicks. Excess chickens and eggs can be sold for profit to support the Co-op members. Hen comfort is one aspect that contributes to egg production and hatching rates- the more comfortable the hen is, the more likely it is that she stays in her nest. Having a nest box in which hens can feel safe and comfortable is the first step to achieving this goal.

Our chick management seminars included practical sessions in which we guided Chicken Co-op members in constructing a nest box for their coop. In an unexpected turn of events, in addition to promoting animal health and welfare, gender equality also became a major theme of these seminars. During the nest box building sessions, men would automatically take the lead in planning and constructing the nest boxes while most of the women watched from the side. However, once they were given the opportunity to take part in the session most of the women were willing and enthusiastic to contribute to the project, from helping plan the nest boxes to hammering nails and sawing wood.

Chicken Co-op members Halima Noa and Noel Seme building a nest box in Ndobe Village.

 Again, One Health and One Welfare are shown to have a large impact on the success of international development initiatives as well as the well-being of smallholder farmers and their animals. Throughout the summer, we had the pleasure of being invited to the homes of many Co-op members and hearing how receiving the cows or chickens and appropriate training has directly impacted them and their families. Tabia Tujobe Mwakabuli is a Chicken Co-op member in Kambasegela Village who was gifted ten chickens last summer.

Tabia was selected by Africa Bridge as she is currently supporting her 19-year-old niece and her niece’s child. Now, she has 19 chicks and Tabia and her family consume the eggs for improved nutrition. Tabia is diligent in her animal husbandry and is determined to excel in the project. She hopes to start selling eggs and chickens for profit in the coming months to better support her family. We also had a chance to visit Chicken Co-op members Lupe Anudlele Mwakifumbwa and Ruth Lupe Mwakifumbwa from Lutete Village, who are currently supporting 7 children and one grandson. Though they started with four hens and one rooster in 2017, Ruth and Lupe now have about 40 chickens! They commented on how the seminars helped improve their animal care practices and how the profits they make through selling eggs and chickens contribute toward their childrens’ education.

Chicken Co-op member Tabia Tujobe Mwakabuli of Kambasegela Village and her chickens.
Chicken Co-op members Lupe Anudlele Mwakifumbwa and Ruth Lupe Mwakifumbwa from Lutete Village with their chickens.

Overall, we are very grateful to have had participated in the Youth Volunteers 2019 Program. Working with Africa Bridge this summer, it felt like we were learning as much (if not more) than we were teaching. Coming back to Canada, we have definitely gained a new outlook on the meaning of sustainable international development and animal health practices worldwide. Though we will miss Tukuyu, we are eager to apply these lessons back home and continue participating in international development in the future!

Young Volunteers in Tukuyu!

The Veterinarians Without Borders young volunteer program in Tanzania has had a delayed start but everyone is finally here and eager to begin our work with the staff of the non-governmental organization, Africa Bridge. Now working out of Tukuyu, Africa Bridge has been operational since 2005 and works to empower and assist families with vulnerable and orphaned children.  Their methods not only include local district officials, but also the adults and children in each ward they work with. Obtaining local input in selecting projects specific to each area allows the families Africa Bridge works with to have a greater impact and hopefully be most sustainable in the future. Each family gets to choose which of the selected projects they personally wish to be a part of.  The current projects that have been chosen involve dairy cattle, chickens, and avocadoes…this is where we come in!  Katy and I will be here until mid August and Megan and Dr. Gimbi (pictured below) have been travelling and mentoring us for the first weeks to help us settle in and plan our work for the rest of the summer.

Our Vets Without Borders team at our arrival at Songwe Airport in Mbeya, Rungwe District Tanzania. Left to Right: Megan White, Nicole Burcar, Dr. Angaza Gimbi, Katarina Nedeljakova

By supplying families and schools with these farm animals, Africa Bridge creates a sustainable way to empower families and in turn help the communities. To ensure this project has a long-term impact, the families given donations from Africa Bridge pass on the first calf, clutch of chicks, or avocado seedlings to other families, increasing the livelihood of many village members. Currently, 156 cows and 8 bulls, 1545 chickens, and 4450 avocados have been given to households in six different villages in the Kisondela ward. In the Kambasegala ward, 550 chickens have been given out in three different villages.  Since recipients are typically new to the agriculture industry, Africa Bridge provides extensive training to help farmers best take care of their animals and in turn be more profitable. Our roles will be linked to this initiative- leading training seminars, creating fact sheets, and listening to the farmers individual concerns are just a few of the tasks we aim to accomplish this summer.

50 Grafted Avocado Seedlings are given to families with 4 hens and 1 rooster, otherwise families can receive 9 hens and 1 rooster.

he chicken coop of Mpaki Benad where he has many sources of food and water available for his chickens as well as the added enrichment of hanging greens, which also provide the chickens with essential vitamins.

We spent the first weeks of our placement getting to know the local communities and conversing with farmers to identify the current issues the villages are facing. Our first task was to help with pregnancy diagnosis of the Africa Bridge co-op cows. The reproductive status of the cows can give us a lot of information about challenges farmers may be facing. This is typically done here by rectal palpation 3-5 months after cows were exposed to a bull. It is important for farmers to know whether their cows are pregnant to optimize their reproductive performance, resulting in increased milk production and economic gain. We also had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to the communities before going back the following week for our mentoring visits.

Nicole Burcar performing rectal palpation with the help of Noel Msuha, the agriculture specialist at Africa Bridge.

After a few busy days of pregnancy diagnosis, we returned to the villages for mentoring visits. This involved visiting each of the villages to identify the full range of their successes and challenges, not only related to reproduction. We also visited some of the co-op chickens. This will help both us as a volunteer team and Africa Bridge better tailor training programs to be the most beneficial to farmers. We visited a few farms in each ward, then met with all of the co-op members and extension workers in each village.

Our first stop was the Kambasegala ward to visit families with chickens. When visiting these households our objective was to ask the farmers questions to assess their current situations. We found that though farmers had done a great job in the basic construction of their chicken coops, some construction modifications and adjustments in terms of management could be made to optimize their production. This becomes especially important to successfully  hatch and raise chicks. We found that our observations matched the concerns that were brought up in the village meeting, but the community members also brought up some additional concerns such as handling vaccinations for their birds.

A group of co-op members with our VWB and Africa Bridge team from Mbambo village in the Kambasegela ward after our mentoring visit.

Our next stop was the Kisondela ward, where Africa Bridge has given out both cattle and chickens.  Regarding the hens, there were some similar concerns in this ward compared to Kambasegela. It was interesting to compare and contrast the management styles between the two wards, and since we identified some similar challenges we have a better idea of how to make our teaching program more focused.  We also visited different families who had co-op cows to ask them more about the care of these animals and the progress they have made since being given these cows about 2 years ago. Again, we found some strengths and weaknesses in their management, but this is understandable as they are new to dairy farming. The infrastructure in the area also leads to challenges, meaning that both us and the farmers have to get creative in constructing more versatile solutions that are specific to this area.

Noel, Fele, Puri, Dr. Gimbi, Nicole and Katy observing the behavior of Fele’s cow as well as his stall and pen construction. His cow preferred to lie down in the outdoor portion since the soil is softer and comfortable.

Based on discussions between the Africa Bridge staff and ourselves after seeing the different farms and receiving feedback from the co-op members, we decided the topic that would be most useful to teach about regarding dairy cattle is mastitis. Mastitis is an infection of the udder, which can have a negative impact on milk quality and milk production. Cows all over the world can be afflicted with mastitis and it can be difficult to treat so we will be teaching about different ways to prevent mastitis. Farmers in both wards have noted this being a problem. We will train on proper milking procedures and we will also help farmers construct stalls for their cows. The cow pens we observed were mostly very clean but the stalls will also help keep the cows more clean and comfortable to not only reduce the amount of mastitis but also help them produce more milk. Cow comfort may be an issue that is overlooked even in Canada, but cows that are more comfortable and lay down more do produce more milk, which will therefore help create more economic opportunities for these families.  For the chicken co-op members, we have decided to focus the training seminars on chick management. This includes providing information on brooding and nest boxes, as well as chick housing and feed information. An increased knowledge of chick management will help farmers ensure high survival rates among their chicks and increase the productivity of their flocks.

Another mentoring visit in Ndobe Village where we took note of the farmer questions and concerns regarding their chickens and cows.

We have spent time making a plan for the rest of our time here and we hope to visit each village again to train on chick management and mastitis. We feel like these will be manageable expectations and hopefully we will created training seminars that farmers will remember and they will be able to apply those lessons on their farms.  That’s all for now, in our next post we hope to be able to share the progress of our seminars with the co-op members here in the Rungwe district of Tanzania. We look forward to meeting more farmers and learning more about the agriculture industry in this district.

About the authors:

Nicole is also a student veterinarian at the Ontario Veterinary College. Nicole completed a BSc (Agricultural and Environmental Sciences) at McGill University. She is interested in practicing bovine medicine in the future and hopes to be able to use her experience with livestock to make some positive impact in the Kambasegela and Kisondela wards but also learn about the practices and challenges of small holder farmers in this region.

Katarina is a student in her final year of completing a BSc in Plant Biology with an embedded certificate in Sustainability Studies at the University of Calgary. When not studying plants, she spends her time hanging out with goats at a small farm outside of Calgary. In the future, she hopes to further study sustainable agricultural methods both in Canada and around the world.

Animal Health Training in Rural Tanzania

Hi! My name is Adrien Nahayo, and I have been volunteering as a field veterinary adviser with the support of VWB and by Mr. Ponciano L Edouard, Mr. Kelvin,  and Mr. Noel at local  partner Africa Bridge in the Rungwe district of Tanzania. I have been working to build capacities of the farmers and Africa Bridge staff by providing training sessions focused on animal feeding, diseases control, and farm management.

I visited the villages of Kambasegela and Kisondela wards and held discussions with farmers and paravets working with Africa Bridge to assess and identify the skillsets of community members. Through these discussions I was also able to identify knowledge areas and skills training I could lead to improve the productivity of their chicken and cows. To build capacities of the poultry farmers, the seminars were delivered in Kisondela wards, village of Bugoba and Lutete. Under this building capacity we managed to discuss and lead training sessions the following;

  • Basic chicken feeding
  • Adults chicken nutrition
  • Chicks nutrition
  • Laying hen and chicks nutrition
  • Chicks and eggs management
  • Common poultry diseases control
  • Farm record keeping

The attendance record was impressive. In total 140 farmers; 69 from Bugoba and 71 from Lutete village. The were more women than men at these training sessions, which was great to see. In total, 41 women in Bugoba and 33 women in Lutete village attended with men present were 28 and 38 respectively.

Adrien leading a training session in March.
Adrien leading a training session in March.

A key topic discussed was poultry health, and ways to detect animal illnesses. I was able to provide a seminars on poultry health and provide key ways to identify diseased poultry versus healthy poultry to farmers. A central issue was nutrition, which is linked to animal health.  Leading session on nutrition,  a nutritious recipe for poultry feed was provided. Additionally, a calendar for vaccination schedules and a template for farm records was provided alongside training sessions to assist farmers in best animal health practices. Before giving these documents to the farmers, they were also translated in Swahili by Africa Bridge.

At the end of training sessions on animal feed and nutrition, the farmers were convinced that there is enough animal food resources in their regions, which was great to hear. They were also keen and committed to keep farm records to better manage animal health moving forward.

I look forward to the rest of my time here in Tukuyu with Africa Bridge and VWB to support local farmers and  increase local capacity on animal health.

Wrapping up our time in Tanzania

It’s hard to believe that our time in Tanzania is almost over! Throughout July and the beginning of August, we have continued our calf management seminars with the Africa Bridge team in Kisondela ward, educating co-op members in all six villages. We found that the farmers were particularly interested in learning more about calf housing and the numerous benefits it provides.

Fortunately, we were able to return to 3 of the villages, Isuba, Mpuga, and Bugoba, to facilitate calf pen building sessions. Many co-op members gathered at one farm in each village, and over the course of the day, built a calf pen according to the directions we provided during our seminars. They were able to build these pens using local materials such as bamboo for the floor and walls, and grasses and leaves for the thatched roof. It was very rewarding to see co-op members putting the training they’ve received into action, and we hope that they will continue to build these pens throughout the rest of their farms and villages. Calf health is essential to Africa Bridge’s calf pass-on program, and these pens are an important step in ensuring the animals will have a good start to life and be beneficial to the families who receive them.

In addition to our calf management training, we have attended and taught at a few of Africa Bridge’s other sessions. We taught the empowerment workers, para-vets and school teachers in Kisondela ward about heat detection, breeding and abortion in dairy cattle, with the goal of obtaining higher conception rates and shorter calving intervals.

In addition to our calf management training, we have attended and taught at a few of Africa Bridge’s other sessions.  We taught the empowerment workers, para-vets and school teachers in Kisondela ward about heat detection, breeding and abortion in dairy cattle, with the goal of obtaining higher conception rates and shorter calving intervals.

Attendees of our heat detection, breeding and abortion seminar in Kisondela ward. We were very excited to have so many people attend! They were all very enthusiastic learners.

Aside from our work in Kisondela, we provided practical training sessions on chicken nutrition and nest box building to co-op members in Kambasegela ward and taught about the importance of establishing a vaccination program for Newcastle disease, a viral disease endemic in Tanzania that can easily kill entire flocks of chickens if adequate preventative measures are not taken.

Chicken co-op members in Katela village in Kambasegela ward gathered around their newly completed nest boxes. Nest boxes provide a safe and comfortable place for hens to lay their eggs. When nest boxes are provided, hens lay more eggs, which results in more income for the farmers and better nutrition for the people, helping to build a stronger community!

We also attended meetings in Kambasegela ward to discuss ideas for a new project aside from the dairy cattle, chicken and avocado farming projects that Africa Bridge currently has available. Some ideas mentioned included fish farming, dairy goats, cricket farming and beekeeping. It’s important to implement a project that co-op members are interested in and passionate about, to help ensure good participation and a positive outcome. We are sure that whatever project the Africa Bridge team and the members of Kambasegela ward decide on, it will be of great benefit to the community.

On our last day working with Africa Bridge, we travelled to the city of Mbeya to attend the annual Nane Nane festival. This yearly exhibition is attended by thousands of people from across Tanzania. Its purpose is to provide education about various agricultural practices and products throughout the region. Farmers and companies bring animals, crops, machines, tools, and other products for displays and demonstrations. There was a lot to see at the festival and we were very impressed by the large variety of plants and animals on display. We hope that as Africa Bridge’s programs grow, they will be able to expand their projects to include some of the farming practices and products we saw at the festival.

A chicken and turkey shed hanging over a fish pond at the Nane Nane festival. Known as “integrated livestock-fish farming”, this technique allows poultry manure to fall directly into the fish ponds. At the right dosage, the nutrients in the manure give an enormous boost to the growth of plankton in the ponds, which are the main food of fish such as carp and tilapia. According to the farmers, the practice has helped to increase fish yields by up to 40 percent!

As our time in Tanzania draws to a close, we would to thank the wonderful team at Africa Bridge for their knowledge, kindness and willingness to collaborate with us. We have learned so much from them, not just about farming, but about Tanzanian life, culture, and customs. We look forward to keeping in touch with them, and hearing about the continued success of their projects. We are very thankful that Veterinarians without Borders chose this organization to be their in-country partner, as we believe there have been many valuable teaching and learning experiences during this partnership. We will always remember the wonderful times we’ve had and the friendships we’ve made during our time in Tanzania, and we hope that we’ll be able to come back again one day.

Us with the amazing team of Africa Bridge staff. We are so grateful for them allowing us to be a part of their life for these past three months, and we are proud to call them our friends. (Left to right: Ponsiano, Noel, Megan, Brent, Kelvin, and Tedy).

This project is made possible by funding from Global Affairs Canada.

Hello from VWB’s Team Tanzania!

Since our last update, we have been hard at work in the villages of Kisondela ward, holding calf management seminars for the members of Africa Bridge’s dairy cow co-op. We have found that calves are sometimes overlooked in favour of cows because they are not yet producing milk and generating an income for the farmers. The goal of our seminars is to educate farmers on the importance of investing in and caring for their calves while they are young, to set them up to be healthy, high-producing animals in the future.

Our seminars have focused on the importance of giving the calf a good start to life by making sure it receives adequate colostrum and milk, clean, fresh water, and comfortable housing. We have provided the farmers with a weaning schedule that will help them transition from feeding milk to feeding grain and grasses by the age of 12 weeks. We have found that giving advice on these simple, attainable changes that farmers can make is an effective way to improve the health and welfare of the calves and to ensure healthy, high-producing cows in the future.

With a calf we met after our calf management seminar in Lutete village.

We have also had the opportunity to join the Africa Bridge (AB) team in the field, performing pregnancy diagnosis on cows belonging to members of the AB dairy cow co-op. This is an especially important service provided by AB, as the calves that are born will be passed on to other families in need. By taking good care of their animals and having their cows’ pregnancies diagnosed, farmers will be able to provide a healthier calf to their neighbours sooner, resulting in a more productive, stronger community.

Brent performing a pregnancy diagnosis on a heifer in Isuba village.

While AB’s work is ongoing in the wards of Kisondela and Kambosegala, another ward, Lufingo, recently completed their five-year partnership with AB, and graduated from the program. We were fortunate enough to attend the graduation ceremony where hundreds of community members were present, celebrating the progress that has been made in their villages thanks to the programs instituted by AB. We visited a few farms, saw the improved living conditions of the animals there, and heard from farmers about how having these animals has positively impacted their lives. Farmers have used the money earned from their animals to build new houses, purchase clothing for their children, pay school fees and even to buy more animals. We are optimistic that Kisondela and Kambosegala wards will see similar results by or before their graduations from the program.

Farmers and community members from Lufingo ward gathered for their graduation ceremony.

We were able to further explore Tanzania by spending a weekend on a safari in Ruaha National Park. It is Tanzania’s largest national park, and home to many animals including lions, elephants, giraffes and hippos. We were lucky enough to see these and many other animals on our short trip to the park, and to explore the nearby city of Iringa. We have noticed many differences between Tukuyu and Iringa, allowing us to appreciate the diversity of cultures, landscapes, climates, and traditions throughout this beautiful country.

Lions resting on the edge of the Great Ruaha River in Ruaha National Park.

We are looking forward to continuing our seminars for farmers, and hope to broaden the range of topics taught to include ones we have received many questions about, such as heat detection in cows, mastitis prevention, and mineral supplementation. We are excited to continue our work with AB, and to collaborate and teach with the great people at this organization.

This project is made possible by funding from Global Affairs Canada.

Veterinarians Without Borders in Tanzania – Dr. Gerry Smith and Dr. Amy Lowe

In September 2017, Dr. Amy Lowe and Dr. Gerry Smith arrived in Tanzania, bound for the southern highland town of Tukuyu. They were working with a partner of VWB, Africa Bridge, an organization that helps the most vulnerable children in rural villages in three wards: Lufingo, Kisondela and Kambasegela, in the Rungwe district, through supporting their families with agricultural co-ops. Africa Bridge has been operating for over a decade in this area and has made some real and sustainable difference in the wards in which they previously worked, but felt they could use some veterinary assistance in their livestock programs. Below is their story, written by Dr. Gerry Smith.

A waterfall above Matema with our guide Maika

We managed to have lots of laughs and fun along the way, something that is essential if you are to survive the challenges that come with working in contexts which are so different from what we are used to in Canada! There is no way to avoid the difficulties of working in an unfamiliar place: work culture, values, traditions, language barriers and isolation/homesickness are a reality, but we have tried to minimize those by embracing as much of the culture, language, food and drink as we could. Visiting the market, buying food, having clothes made and feeling the joy and zest for life that exists here is a fantastic antidote to seeing the desperate conditions and the daily struggles that families experience in the area where we work. We tried to explore the area on most days off, with hikes to various hot springs, mountains, rivers, rock formations and visits to lakes, beaches, coffee plantations and other local attractions.

Amy having a dress made in Tukuyu.

Ngozi Crater Lake

Some of the most rewarding moments have been listening to stories related to us by the participants in the programs; hearing the pride in a grandfather’s voice as he tells us that milk sales from his cow enabled his grandson to complete schooling and be accepted into University, the first family member ever to have done so! Or the three teenage grandchildren explaining that they do most of the work for the cow because their bibi has arthritis, but that it is OK because the cow is going to allow them to finish school and pursue their dreams. Or the single mother who has eggs to sell and plans to move her family out of the thatch/mud hut into a brick house that she can now afford to build.

Of course, the highlight of any day is interacting with the children, they find joy in everyday life and remind us to appreciate what we have. We all enter these types of projects with lofty goals of changing the world, but soon realize that the best we can do is change the situation for small groups of individuals, with the hope that if that happens enough times there will be lasting and systemic improvement.

Everyone loves stickers!

One of the first farmers we met, Neema, cares for her three grandsons, she was so kind and thankful

The most important initial steps in becoming involved in this type of project are to simply watch, ask and listen. We spent most of the first two months meeting with our partner organization’s staff, agriculture workers, veterinarians in Tanzania, government representatives, village leadership and other organizations doing similar work. We attended meetings and village visits with the Ward Steering Committees in the process of identifying families most in need of assistance, meetings with the Most Vulnerable Children Committee who are tasked with administering the program locally and training sessions with co-op members. We spent time evaluating data that had been collected on the livestock co-op production. Oh, and we also visited the farms, examined the animals and talked with the farmers – something that we thought we would spent most of our time doing as veterinarians, but which is actually only a small part of the project. We were always welcomed very warmly and thanked profusely for our participation. We were also able to hear about and witness first hand the challenges in this kind of work.

Examination and vaccination on a less than happy patient.

We worked off site for most of December and January, doing more research and consultation, compiling and organizing information to be included in the training programs and manuals, as well as developing the health program. We attended conferences and visited other veterinarians and projects in both Tanzania and Kenya. We also took time to travel and to take advantage of the amazing diversity in geography, vegetation, wildlife and people that exists in this country.

Dr. Amy had to return to Canada but continued to work remotely on the project, Dr. Gerry was able to head back to the area to finish the on-site work, returning to Tukuyu in February. We worked extensively with our Africa Bridge team to finalize the training curriculum and manuals, reviewed our recommendations for health and production and refined the data collection, monitoring and evaluation tools. The training manuals will be translated and implemented in the new ward, Kambasegela, as the project reaches that point in 2018. Other recommendations and tools will be introduced where and when possible based on timing, budget issues and cultural adaptation. The implementation of change will be a challenge, both for the project participants and the organization and will take some time, but we are confident it will make a difference in livestock health and production. The next group of volunteers will be able to build on, refine, assess and revise as needed the plans we have initiated.

Gerry leading a heat detection educational session in March near Kibsa

It was so wonderful to get to return to some of the villages, do some mentoring visits, participate in training sessions, reconnect with the warm and grateful people and be reminded of the reason we do this…to improve the lives of the children in need.


Going Together in Tanzania!

There’s a saying here in Africa that “If you want to go quickly go alone; but if you want to go far, go together”. We could not agree more. We have been blessed to meet such hardworking and passionate individuals who are all dedicated to the betterment of Tanzania. From the team at Africa Bridge who consistently go above and beyond what is expected, to the small holder farmers who have warmly welcomed us into their homes and patiently taught us Swahili; Tanzania undeniably puts the T in TEAM.

20347935_10212070947704330_1618285891_oNot to be biased but Isuba may be our favorite village. Only four people were required to attend our calf care training but we had over 20! We guess even learning is more fun with the support of your entire village.

DSC02427The A-Team. Front to back Left: Wema, Martha, Angie, Kevin, Yona, Davis. Right: Fred, Cheyenne, Abed. We feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from this inspiring and dedicated group of individuals of Africa Bridge.

DSC02398Ponsiano (black jacket) and Cheyenne discussing cow management with Maria Moses (turquoise shirt). When talking with villagers, it helps to have someone who can double as translator, like Ponsiano. We’d be lost without him, that’s for sure.

DSC01773Here we are getting our hands dirty as we learn pottery, a true Tanzanian craft, at Matema beach with the help and guidance of the local villagers.

20632348_10154710979972483_464730040_nWhen you’re not used to village life it can get the best of you. Our mentor Dr. Roger was always ready to have a little fun and put a smile on our faces.

20370531_10154680540537483_977058630_nActivities such as distribution of cows need support from both private and public authorities. Seen here is Alfred (Brown sweater), the Ward Executive Officer of Kisundela ward handing a cow to one of the caretakers of most vulnerable children in Isuba village.

DSC02291All hands on deck as Cheyenne collects milk from Edward Sanya’s cow (light blue shirt) for mastitis testing, while Godwin Makasungo helps restrain.

20170804_124008What is there more to say? We would be lost without Dr. Gimbi. No Tanzanian placement will be complete without this amazing veterinarian. He was a big help to us and has taken care of several other groups of VWB/VSF students in the past.

DSC02192From the peak of Mount Rungwe, Team Tanzania thank all of you who have joined us throughout our journey. The support we felt here was amazing, and the things we learned will stay with us for a long time. Asanteni sana (thank you all) and badayi (till we meet again).

This is Team Eggplant signing off!

Unique Ideas from Tanzania

You know how the saying goes “give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” Well in Tanzania if you teach a man to fish not only will he master it, but he will also find new and innovative ways of improving his craft. We’d love to share with you some of the unique ideas coming from some innovative people that we’ve had the chance to work with over the past two months.
Let’s start with something that is near and dear to both Cheyenne and Angie’s hearts, wildlife preservation. Over the years, human-wildlife conflict has drastically decreased wildlife population in Africa, especially in the Rungwe region. Farming lands has resulted in encroachment on wildlife habitats which increased human-wildlife conflict. For example more monkeys steal farmers’ crops. While visiting Mbeya we met Sylvanos Kimiti, who informed us that the Wildlife Conservation Society of Southern Tanzania has been working to resolve monkey-human conflict in a very innovative way: chili dung. That’s right, by mixing chili peppers and cow dung, and then smearing it over their crops monkeys are deterred from eating farmer crops. Less crop loss means a happy farmer and a safer monkey.

DSC01977Yellow baboons, like this one, are just one of the many species of monkeys who can live to close to farmlands and steal farmers’ crops. Along with the chili-dung method farmers can also plant garlic or avocados. Both of these are alternative crops that monkeys don’t like to eat.

Sticking to the topic of crops, we have had the privilege of ‘training the trainers’ about the “Millenials” favorite food, the glorious avocado, locally known as the parachichi. Avocados take 3 years to mature from seedling into a fruit bearing tree. Therefore, it is essential to make sure that young tree gets appropriate care, including weeding at least 2x a month. To help reduce weed overgrowth, Tanzanian farmers have also discovered that they can plant short season crops such as beans in between their trees. This helps reduce the need to weed and acts as an excellent source of food.

19867021_10211904882272798_1341041089_oAngie teaching at Iponjola village and discussing the benefit of plant beans (maharage) in between lines of avocado trees to prevent weed overgrowth as well as provide extra nutrient to soil. As you can see Cheyenne and Angie added their own flair to the avocado lesson with hand drawn visuals to keep the farmers engaged.

Next on our list is the most innovative of them all: the chicken farmer. Aside from disease prevention, management, and nutrition, we also teach farmers about proper housing for their chickens. We are always amazed at how creative they get with the materials they have available. When visiting Mpunga village we were amazed to see a chick brooder complete with lights to keep the chicks warm. Frequent power outages can be a big problem in rural Tanzania but don’t worry this farmer has it covered, he also has a backup clay pot that can be filled with charcoal to provide extra heat. The difference this makes? Zero chick mortality from this flock.

19885718_10211904805910889_802183513_oNo cold chicks here. The chairman for the most vulnerable children committee has been attending all of Africa Bridge’s training sessions and used this information to go above and beyond in his brooder, complete with heat emitting lights as well as a backup heat source (the charcoal filled clay pot in the corner).


We also cannot help but notice innovation even during our days off. Whilst in Iringa for a Safari we had the privilege of getting to know the staff and story of Neema Crafts. Neema is a local organization working to change the way society views those with disabilities. Employing over 100 workers, all with disabilities, Neema had an especially innovative start in 2003 when they started making elephant dung paper.  That’s right, by drying, dying and flattening elephant dung Neema has made beautiful paper that can be used for everything from post cards to journal covers.

19885717_10154633880792483_1956376470_oHere we see Raheri, who is working on making boxes which will later be covered in the dung paper. The different sheets of paper can be seen behind her to the right. The sheets can be dyed different colours and used for a variety of products.

19850972_10154633886087483_755943539_oOne of the beautiful elephants Angie and Cheyenne got to see on their Safari to Ruaha. All of Neema’s elephant dung is sourced from Ruaha national park. It is collected by volunteers, dried and then brought into the workshop.

Since coming to Tanzania we have spent a lot of time training farmers in livestock and crop management.  However, as much as we have been acting as teachers, we have also learned a lot.  We hope that through sharing these stories you also see that when faced with a challenge, Tanzanians will change it into an opportunity.

Tanzania young volunteers — one month in

Hello everyone, this is Angie, Cheyenne and Dr. Roger of Team Tanzania. We can’t believe it’s been a month since we left home to start our African journey. After a training session in Ottawa we landed in Tanzania and dived head first into international development in this beautiful country. We hope you can appreciate the diversity of the work we’ve been involved in for the past month. We’ve been a part of round potato planting to prevent soil erosion, taught secondary students about the opportunities involved in poultry keeping, and started a pilot poultry vaccination program.

These are our first month’s highlights, Enjoy!

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Figure 1: Mr. Ntajile of IADO showing farmers from ILEMBO USAFWA the importance of reducing chemical fertilizer by using more portion of organic fertilizer for round potato farming.

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Figure 2: Cheyenne and Angie distributing New Castle Oral Vaccine to chicken farmers of Idimi village. Clean soda bottles and 20L pails are essential when working in remote villages to distribute oral vaccines.

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Figure 3: Cheyenne standing with Riziki Samwel (grey dress shirt) and one of the local farmers in Lwanjilo village after successful vaccination.

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Figure 4: Prior to mass vaccination, every village receives training on basic poultry management and the importance of regular vaccination. Seen here is Dr. Roger (red VWB shirt), and two IADO staff Lusakelo (green striped shirt) and Ntajile (tan shirt) lecturing in Hapaloto village.

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Figure 5: Angie inspecting a kid (baby goat) for external parasites. After we finish distributing ND (new castle disease) vaccine in Hapaloto village, we had some downtime. This is one of the best ways to pass time as a vet student in Tanzania.

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Figure 6: Building a relationship and meeting with the village council is essential building block of sustainable international development. They say it takes a village to raise a child, can you imagine how many people it must take to run a village? (Seen here IADO team with Dr. Roger Thomson and village executive council of Ilowelo. From left to right, Steven Mengu (hamlet chairman), Yona Samwel (village executive officer, wearing blue suit)

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Figure 7: On our first weekend off since arriving in Tanzania we decided to take a breather from the buzzing city of Mbeya and enjoy a 2 hour hike through the rainforest to crater Lake Ngozi. Seen here are Cheyenne and Angie enjoying the view of the lake while snacking on fresh fruits.

Living in Tanzania has been quite the adventure so far! We have met some wonderful people, dedicated farmers and seen amazing views of protected environments. We can’t wait to see what happens next!

Canadian veterinary students in Tanzania

Julie and Liz’s much condensed adventures with Vets without Borders student placement program in Tanzania:

May, 2014

We had safely arrived in Morogoro at 6am and we were very happy to have a bed after two days of travel. Our first day had us driving to Sokoine University of Agriculture which has the only vet school in Tanzania. We learned that students out of high school come to this university, but that the program is 5 years instead of 4, as it is in Canada. They have about 600 hours of classroom time in a year and it is not as hands-on as the experience we have had so far in our schooling in Ottawa.  We had a tour of the labs, the surgery prep room and the animal handling facilities. All the equipment and facilities were very rudimentary. The one interesting thing they told us was that when they did surgeries, they only used an injectable anesthetic because their anesthesia gas machine was broken. They were also very proud to show us their new x-ray machine.

Our first hotel is in Tukuyu which is the closest city to where we are staying. We were introduced to bucket showers as the motel had only running cold water, and we only got hot water from the hotel in buckets. Also, only one of our toilets is a typical North American one and the other is just a hole which we affectionately call a “lily pad”. Tanzania is divided into regions, then districts, then wards and then each individual city or village. We are working in Ilima which is part of the Mbeya region, Rungwe district and Ilima ward. The Ilima ward has 6 villages and we work in Ilima, Lubanda and expanding the project to Katundulu. We had a meeting with Veronica Kessey who is in charge of the Rungwe region and other officials to discuss the project. Ms. Kessey is originally from Kilimangaro and has only been working in this area for a month. She seemed really keen on our ideas and she seemed like she will be great to work with.

We then travelled to Ushirika which is where Liz and I will be living for the duration of the project. We also met up with Gaga who is the Village Extension Officer. He is like a veterinary technician who is in charge of looking after the livestock in Ilima and Lubanda. He has been involved in the Ilima Poultry Project for three years. We also met Allen Minga who is another successful farmer who has worked on the project for several years. Roger said they ask for more chickens every year, but the local breed can do fine if the farmers practice proper animal husbandry. Roger explained that the project is not about providing money; it’s about educating the farmers so that when we leave at the end of the summer, they can continue with the project.

Roger and his wife have been contributing to the school since 2003, as well as helped build the Ilima Secondary School in 2008.  They started cheering and singing as they followed us to the school. It was amazing and the children were so welcoming! Roger talked about the project and how it was important in that it generated income for families in Ilima and provided them with more eggs. He emphasized the importance of education and that learning is best on a full stomach. After Ilima Primary, we traveled to Lubanda Primary. We had a meeting with all the teachers and the school and town council. We discussed the same issues and talked about the poultry project.

In late May, we were lucky enough to attend a National Torch Ceremony. Every year the National Torch drives around the country and stops in many cities. It is a symbol of peace and unity in the country. The ceremony was in a school field down the road. When we got there the torch wasn’t there yet so we had dinner in one of the dozens of food tents. It was pretty neat to see all the different booths and tents. It reminded me a lot of festivals at home. When the torch got there everyone crowded around to watch the ceremony. The whole town was there! We walked around a bit after and we played some ring toss games and Liz and Gaga also gambled a bit. We also looked at a very interesting booth with natural medicines. My favourite part of the festival was watching all the dancing. Music is a big part of the culture and it was neat to watch all the different tribal dances.

June, 2014

In June, went on farm calls with Gaga to see some pig raising facilities and help farmers with some problems with their livestock. We treated a calf in Ushirika with dewormer (Ivomec) and vitamins. I did the subQ injection for the dewormer while Liz did the IM injection of vitamins. Then we walked to Kayuki Girls Secondary School. There is a small farm on the campus. They had a pretty impressive pig raising facility. It has separate pens for different age groups, but they could be either inside or outside. We were giving piglets iron injections that day so Liz and I hopped into the pen to capture the piglets. It was pretty fun to chase them! We then met with a school teacher who has been raising chickens for a year now. She just had a bunch of her chicks die so she had to buy more replacements. She was interested in learning more about raising poultry and she asked us if we could teach her. She gave us a tour of her chicken coop and showed us the new one she was building which was pretty impressive.   For much of the remainder of June, we did a lot of work with chicken coops and teaching best practices for poultry raising.

This morning we went to visit the teacher at Kayuki Girls School. We brought her fowl typhoid meds with us as well as vitamins. We explained to her that the medication dissolves in the water and to only provide this water to all the chickens on the farm. We provided her with enough medication and vitamins for 5 days. Then we went to visit a farmer whose cow had just calved that morning. He said that the cow had calved twice before and afterwards “all the milk would move into her abdomen”. We didn’t think this was possible so we decided to look at the cow. There was definitely swelling in her abdomen and she tried to kick us when we touched it. Gaga said that she could always produce enough milk for her calves and that the calves were always healthy. We thought that she most likely has a hernia and that after the calf is weaned he should sell her for meat. The farmer invited us to see the calf which he bottle fed and kept in the house. It was so cute and friendly! Afterwards we drove back to Ushirika to pick up the chick Gaga had been taking care of. The chick had a lot more diarrhea around her vent and there seemed to be blood coming out of it. The chick also had picked a lot more feathers away. For dinner, Liz and I went to Happy’s and cooked “Canadian food”. We asked them if they had ever had spaghetti before and they said they had, but they only ate it plain with salt and oil mixed in. We made spaghetti sauce with tomatoes, garlic, onion and peppers. We were able to cook everything ourselves, but we were still not good at using charcoal. Everyone loved the spaghetti which was awesome. We were glad it turned out considering we had only had practice cooking spaghetti on a regular stovetop. Happy and everyone else ate the spaghetti like ugali which was pretty funny. They had the sauce on the side and then they picked up a handful of spaghetti and then dipped it in the sauce. Liz and I laughed and said we need to teach them to twirl it with a fork North American-style.

For much of the remainder of June, we did a lot of work with chicken coops and teaching best practices for poultry raising.  Towards the end of the month, vaccinations really kicked into gear after farmers showed a strong interest in learning more about diseases and learning how to administer the vaccines. To prepare for this, we had a meeting first where Gaga discussed the vaccination process and went over the hand out. We also handed out the vaccination records and daily records to the teachers as well as a diseases hand out. There were 14 farmers who wanted their chickens vaccinated that day. They brought water bottles to put Gumboro’s vaccine in and they said they kept their chickens in a coop.  Every teacher practiced the fowl pox injection and the Newcastle eyedropper at least once. We were fairly slow at this farm, but picked up the pace as we moved from farm to farm.  We had successfully vaccinated 120 birds though! We were pretty proud of ourselves for the first day and we are sure we will be more efficient as time goes on.

July, 2014

In July, we spent a lot of time teaching the farmers about raising their poultry.  Due to Uganda’s climate, it is important that farmers do not hatch their chicks in the dry season.  We talked about nutrition and parasites, as roundworms are very prevalent in the area that we are working in. The farmers were very receptive and interested especially in the feed ratios!  Aside from the health of chickens, we talked a lot about poultry rearing financials. The main lesson being only keeping as many chickens as they could afford to feed. Sell the males and keep the females for laying. We spent a lot of time making a test for their poultry and wanted to get across a few main points such as; Don’t eat sick chickens; Don’t hatch chicks during the dry season; and Vaccination is the only way to prevent viruses.   Some reels of wire were provided to the student with the best exam score!

We also advised them to only raise 60 chicks a year (two clutches of 10 chicks at a time every three months excluding the dry season) and showed them what their costs and returns would be. We also showed them the cost of feeding half pumba (free maize screenings) and chick starter which is much cheaper, but the chickens will not grow as fast. We also demonstrated that they will still have a profit of 40% if their chickens die! We asked them if they think this is possible. They really liked the idea and said they would just need the money to start. They think if they sold a cow for example, they would have enough money to buy a bag of feed. The whole idea of the meeting is to encourage them to invest in the chickens and to get a much bigger return in the long run. There were many days that we spent vaccinating chickens at all of the farms that we could reach.    One day we managed to  vaccinate over 1000 birds!

Some photos from our travels:

Dr Gimbi from the Open University of Tanzania, Roger (Project Manager IPP Canada) ,Veronica Kessy, Executive Director for the Rungwe Dstrict in the Mbeya Region. Ilima, Lubanda, and Katundula are villages in the Ilima Ward in the Rungwe District.Veronica Gimbi  Roger cropped 1

We always meet with the director to inform them of our presence in the district and what our plans are for the poultry project. Ms. Kessy is new to the district and was very interested to hear about the project. She let us know that she was very supportive of the project and would make sure everyone in her department was on board to help the project move forward. We gave Ms. Kessy a T-shirt that we were bringing to the village teachers. All the teachers in Ilima will get one of these T-shirts. The teachers in Lubanda will get a  similar T-shirt in red with Lubanda on it instead of Ilima

Meeting with Allen to discuss the agenda for our week long stay in Ringwe. Allen farms in the ward and is a key player in the success of the IPP as he understands the local politics and knows of all the farm families that we work with. He also handles the small stipends that we pay to the teachers with utmost diligence and trust.

Allen Minga( Local IPP project coordinator),Julie (student), Dr. Gimbi(OUT), Liz(student):

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Liz trying to make friends with a week old calf at a farm in Ilima. The IPP is all about poultry but there are cattle, goats and pigs in all three villages that we work in.

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Ilima Coop. This is a typical small chicken coop that is prevalent in Ilima, Lubanda, and Katundulu. The farmers keep their hens confined at night. The interesting thing about this coop is the walls are made with fish net. The farmer told us he got the net from his grandfather. The net was used to trap monkeys that came to the farm to steal corn.

Ilima Coop Fish net

Chicken coop with bamboo walls. Bamboo grows wild here so it is an excellent building material. The down side is that the termites eventually ruin the structure and the farmers have to rebuild every couple of years.

Jumas Coop

Liz and Julie inspecting a local pig sty in Ilima

Pigs Ilima

Bus: This is typical of the transportation the Liz and Julie will use to travel to the villages from their home base in Ushirika. One cannot be faint of heart when boarding the local buses because they are always very crowded and you can always squeeze in another body or two. Note the man on top of the bus adding more goods.Bus Loaded Man on top

James Mgilla and Roger. James is the village chairman for Ilima and is a great supporter of the IPP. He helps organise the itinerary for the week we are in lima Ward.

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We also met with the teachers of Ilima Primary School (IPS). Many of the farmers in the IPP are on the school council so this is an important part of maintaining credibility in the village. I have just given James 160 workbooks and 160 pens for the IPS. He will deliver them to the headmaster as he was absent for our meeting. The Head master was  at a district education meeting receiving an award of excellence for the IPS for “most improved primary school”.  The IPP can take some of the credit for this success as income from the sale of eggs goes towards school fees for the students. Access to school fees means better attendance with simple tools such as paper, pens and school uniforms.

Lubanda Primary School: This is at a meeting with the school council and teachers at Lubanda. Again, many of the farmers in the IPP are involved with the school council . Liz with a group of students at LPS. This is a great ice breaker for the VWB students because they will spend the next 12 weeks working in the villages and now all of the kids will recognise Liz and Julie and welcome them into the community.

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IPP team on our last day in Tukuyu: Roger, Liz ,Gaga (Village Extenson Officer and Interpreter), Allen (Local manager) Dr Gimbi (OUT) Julie

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