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):

Allen Gimbi Julie Liz Ushirika 2

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.

Liz n Calf 1

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.

James Roger 5

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.

Liz LPS 1

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

IPP Team 3

Exit Report

It is very hard to believe that our twelve weeks with the Veterinarians Without Borders Tanzanian Poultry Project ends today.  Although there were likely moments that time dragged or felt like it stood still, it mostly feels like the time has flown by!  It makes sense that it feels like that since “time flies when you’re having fun” (and the saying must be a cliché for a reason).

Spending ten weeks living in Ushirika and working with the small-holder chicken farmers in Ilima and Lubanda was nothing short of life changing for us.  There were definitely some challenges adjusting to the change of pace that accompanied rural African life and the differences in daily life compared to Canada; however, putting our newly found skills into practice, every day became easier than the last.  We even came to enjoy some of the tasks that were once challenging like hand-washing all our laundry and cooking over a charcoal stove (although we don’t claim to have become good at them).

Although we faced slight challenges along the way, the rewards we received were plentiful and outnumbered the challenges a hundred to one!  Working with the small-holder farmers in Ilima and Lubanda was a true pleasure.  Their enthusiasm was contagious and got us excited to teach at every session.  They were eager to learn, engaged at the training sessions, and excited for the opportunity to learn more about their chickens and how to improve chicken health and productivity.  It was very fulfilling to see the discussions and questions that followed each training session and watch as some of the training material was put into practice by the farmers.  When we began, we were hopeful we would be able to make a difference in the health, productivity, and livelihood of the farmers and their chickens.  By the end of our time in Ushirika, we were able to see the beginnings of that difference – probably the greatest reward of all!

After ten weeks of the project, it was incredibly difficult to say goodbye to all the familiar faces in our small town of Ushirika.  We made some amazing friends and it was going to be a big adjustment not seeing them every day.  We were so thankful for the time we got to spend in Tanzania and everyone’s gratitude for our work in the villages was overwhelmingly touching.  When the time came to hold our final session with the small-holder farmers in Ilima and Lubanda, it was surreal.  We had spent nearly every day working with them and when we said our goodbyes we both thought “this isn’t really the last session” – it didn’t really kick in that it was until we were in Morogoro.


Our time in Morogoro the past two weeks has also been very rewarding.  We had the opportunity to visit the four primary schools in the district that have a chicken house project.  The chicken house projects were implemented two years ago by the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) to provide primary school students hands-on, learning opportunities with local chickens.  The classroom teaching and hands-on practical experience from the school’s chicken house project could be transferred into the homes of the students, improving poultry care and knowledge within the surrounding communities.  In addition to the knowledge and its transfer to the community, the chicken house also provides an income generating project for the schools.  The sale of chickens and their products helps support students living in poverty to offset school fees or uniform purchases, and provides money for school supplies like chalk, books, and soccer balls for the school.  Chickens and their products are also used as a reward for student academic excellence and as protein sources for child growth and development.  The chicken house model, referred to as the Teacher-Pupil-Parent (TPP) model, plays a central role in the IDRC concept note we submitted in May during our first trip to Morogoro.  If funding were approved from IDRC, the chicken house project could be expanded into a huge number of schools in the district and increase the health, productivity, and livelihood of the majority of the families and chickens in the area.

We were very excited to have the chance to visit the project schools and check out the chicken houses!  The Tanzania Poultry Project has a similar chicken house built at Ilima Secondary School that would function to achieve similar goals to the chicken houses in the Morogoro primary schools and also provide living accommodations for a few orphans in Rungwe district.  Unfortunately, land disputes at Ilima Secondary have put the implementation of the chicken house on hold currently.  Visiting the project schools here would give us an idea of what the chicken house could look like in the future at Ilima Secondary and also how a larger-scale project through IDRC funding could change things dramatically in the Morogoro area.  Each school was managed very differently but all of them were self-sustaining and made huge differences in the lives of the students and surrounding communities.  We visited nine other schools that could potentially house the project in the future, and talked about some of the key parameters that could be used to assess the success and feasibility of implementing a chicken house at the schools.  We both have our fingers crossed that through IDRC funding or other sources, the TPP chicken house project can expand to a wider region in Morogoro and maybe even to other districts in the country.  Perhaps you can keep your fingers crossed too…

In addition to visiting the project schools, we got to spend some time with a veterinary class at SUA.  We accompanied them on their field practicals to some swine farms in the area.  We got to talk about the differences in veterinary medicine in Tanzania and Canada and they even taught us how to perform some minor procedures in pigs!  Yesterday, Thursday August 8th, was a national holiday known as “nane nane” (literally eight eight) that celebrates agriculture and farming throughout the country.  We visited the fairgrounds, explored the different pavilions, and learned all about different agricultural practices and advances in Tanzania.  Our two favourite exhibits were at the SUA pavilion.  The first was an urban farming display where we were taught about space-saving ideas for gardening in the city.  We’ll be bringing the ideas back to Canada and improving our home gardens with some of the designs!  The second was SUA’s faculty of veterinary medicine display.  We got to examine preserved diseased specimens, cool x-rays from various animals, and all the instruments they use in veterinary practice here.  Everyone at the display was shocked to hear us explain each item to the kids (we went to nane nane with our Morogoro family – the Gimbis’)… they didn’t realize we were veterinary students from Canada!


It is no surprise that twelve weeks has flown by with all the fun we’ve had here.  We made some friends, learned a ton, and explored the beautiful country of Tanzania.  Our next few weeks will continue that exploration as we set off together for some vacation time.  We plan to enjoy the exotic spices and white sandy beaches of Zanzibar, the wild animals and safari excitement of Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, and the beauty of Northern Tanzania.  We’ll part ways for the last week as Kellie returns to Canada and Jodi climbs Mount Kilimanjaro.  Our adventure has been such a rewarding experience and we’re so thankful to have had the opportunity to work on the Tanzania Poultry Project.  We appreciate your support throughout our journey and hope you feel our blogs helped you get a taste of the wonder Tanzania has to offer.

Kwa heri kila mtu (goodbye everyone)!

Goodbye Ushirika, Hello Morogoro

There has been quite a bit of time (and distance) since our last blog post for everyone.  We have finished our project in Ushirika, packed up our lives there, and travelled ~800km over 10 hours on the bus to Morogoro.  We are slowly settling into our new lives here – a drastic change from our lives in Ushirika – and we are very excited to share the end of the Ushirika story and the start of the Morogoro story with you!

A taste of what we’ve experienced so far

Food and Drink

We said goodbye to rice and beans and chipsi mayai in Ushirika and warmly welcomed back a homemade, balanced diet.  We are currently living with Gimbi’s family in Morogoro and his wife, Dorothy, has a PhD in nutrition (and is a lovely cook!).  We have been spoiled with fresh fruits and vegetables, three complete meals a day, and variety like we never had access to in Ushirika.  Everything is delicious and healthy!  We’re spending a lot of time in the kitchen (a real one…not just bending over a charcoal stove) and we’re learning how to prepare a lot of the traditional dishes.  Hopefully we’ll be experts by the time we head home!



For once, we can finally say that the weather is what we anticipated in Africa.  It is sunny and hot and beautiful!  We have not worn sweaters or long pants since our arrival in Morogoro and we’re not sad at all to have left behind the cold, rainy climate of Ushirika.  However, the rain seems to follow us wherever we go and despite being the dry season even Morogoro is experiencing some rain.  The locals refer to it as “mango showers” – a 10 day rain season apparently stimulated by the blooming of mango trees.  It only rains at night but sometimes the clouds last into the day (we don’t mind because it’s still much nicer than the weather we had previously).


Daily Life

We were very busy with project work as we winded down our time in Ushirika.  We visited the primary schools in both villages and taught the kids two English songs (Head and Shoulders and Crazy Elephant) and how to play Ultimate Frisbee.  We were able to provide each school with English textbooks, skipping ropes, chalk for teaching, and two soccer balls.  They were so happy!  We also spent a day with Ilima Secondary School (the high school for the ward) and taught them basic chicken health, zoonosis, and how to prevent disease spread.  We had a bit of fun with them too and played a game of Ultimate Frisbee together (after teaching them the basics).  They picked up the game very quickly and Kellie and I were able to create teams and compete head to head.  The winner was… everyone 😀



It was very hard to say goodbye to everyone in Ushirika.  We created a family of friends while we were there and it was sad to have to explain our time was up.  We made sure we were able to visit with everyone before our departure though.  We spent the day with all of the villagers in Ilima and Lubanda who made our time very special.  It was going to be quite the adjustment not seeing them every day for our training and lab sessions!  It was nice to know that they were excited about the knowledge we provided and to see some of the changes they were already beginning to implement.  They showed their appreciation by providing us with eggs from their flocks – 27 in total!  After saying our goodbyes to the villagers, we had a lot of goodbyes to say to the people of Ushirika who were staples in our daily lives.  It was very sad to know that saying goodbye meant we were no longer going to pass them every day and get to say “mambo”.



It is crazy to think that the Tanzania Poultry Project in Ushirika has actually come to an end.  It feels like yesterday we sat down with the farmers for our initial meetings.  10 weeks later, we were wrapping up all the loose ends and finishing our time in Ilima and Lubanda.  Our training sessions were a huge success!  We had great turnout, incredible participation and enthusiasm from the farmers, and we were able to see the information being put into action already!  The lab sessions were both fun and rewarding – giving everyone the opportunity to get hands-on experience mixing complete, balanced chicken feed and building chicken coops for hens and chicks.  Even the women took part in hammering in nails during our coop lab – it was such a wonderful thing!  They were also excited to see each others’ coops and talk with one another about chicken husbandry on our farm tour.  They all did very well on the tests we provided throughout the sessions and the final exam scores were incredibly impressive as well.  Our top 3 farmers in both villages managed to ace the course with over 90% averages!

Since leaving Ushirika, we’ve started working on a project with local chickens and primary schools in the Morogoro area in coordination with Sokoine University of Agriculture.  We will be visiting project sites in four primary schools as well as potential sites for new project schools in the district.  The current project schools have chicken houses to keep local chickens on school grounds.  The chickens are used for practical hands-on work for the students as well as income generation for the schools.  The students are given the opportunity to learn about chicken husbandry in class, practice those skills in the chicken house, and then bring the knowledge home to their families.  The hopes are that by educating teachers, we can educate students (the future farmers) and disseminate the knowledge of how to care for chickens into the local community.  We are excited for the chance to participate in the project and see what the school projects have been able to accomplish so far!



Our bus ride from Ushirika to Morogoro was quite the experience!  We left at 6:00am when it was still dark and arrived in Morogoro shortly after 4:00pm.  It was a long ride with few stops and little room.  Our driver only pulled over twice and he had no plans of waiting for anyone!  We had to take turns getting off the bus to stretch our legs at each stop because we weren’t certain he’d mind leaving us behind.  We luckily packed breakfast, lunch, and snacks because buying food would have been near impossible!  At some of the weigh scales, people would offer snacks through the windows – hoisting them up above them heads on buckets and surrounding the bus – but we wouldn’t have been able to sustain ourselves for the 10 hour ride on cookies, peanuts, pop, and bubble gum!  Our seats were relatively small and didn’t give us a ton of space to move; winding through the mountains made that very evident as we crashed and banged into one another around the twists and bends.  We made it in one piece though and were very happily greeted by Dorothy.


Swahili word of the day

We figured our last post about Ushirika should include some of the most common Swahili words we used during our time there – our chicken words!

Kuku – Chicken

Jogoo – Rooster

Tetea – Hen

Vifaranga – Chick

Mayai –  Egg (not to be confused with “my eye” – this has been an inside joke)

Banda – Coop

Lishe – Nutrition

Pumba – Maize bran (the main component of chicken feed available locally)

Maji safi – Clean water

Chanjo – Vaccination

Mdondo or Kideri – Newcastle Disease

Ndui – Fowl Pox