Youth Participation in the Dairy Value Chain – Uganda

Esther Alumba is a Canadian Gender Advisor volunteer that has been in Ugandan since January 2017. She has been working with the Uganda Crane and Creameries Co-operative Union (UCCCU) to engage youth in the dairy co-operatives in Mbarara in the South-Western region of the country.

Profile pic - Esther Alumba

In accordance with one of the objectives of the Uganda Crane and Creameries Co-operative Union (UCCCU), Esther and the gender team are making sure young farmers’ groups are formed within various co-operatives through mentorship activities undertaken by the main co-operatives. So far six youth groups have been formed with more to come before the end of the year.

Ibadan Young farmers (3)Ibanda Young farmers association

The rationale for youth interventions is based on the fact that there are fewer and fewer youth interested in farming. As the older farmers age and become weaker, the younger ones (their sons) are expected to be taking responsibility for the farms. Instead they are not interested and more and more are growing up without the dairy farming skills, passion and knowledge their parents had. This gap is a threat to UCCCU and to dairy sector because there is no clear strategy for continuity and sustainability.

Some of the issues around dairy farming include:

  • The work is a challenge and there is no technology in place yet to make it easier.
  • There is reduced labor to milk the cows.
  • Farm workers are not motivated because they cannot earn as much from farming as they would like to.
  • Quality control of milk is a challenge with hired farm labour.

Given the above stated issues, there is a need for the government and partners in the country to have a strong strategy for the future.

Ishongororo young farmers (4)Itojo Young Farmers’ Association

What VWB/VSF is doing to enhance youth involvement in the dairy sector

  • Helping youth to understand the opportunities and challenges that are present in the sector so that they can be able to make informed decisions.
  • The youth are being encouraged to take lead in the dairy sector space, for instance being in cooperatives management. This will enable their voices to be heard and policies that favor their growth implemented.

Itojo young farmers groupItojo Young farmers association

Ishongororo young farmers (2)Ishongororo young farmers

Working with girls in Uganda

Part of VWB’s work in Uganda is to promote gender equality through female empowerment. In the picture below Dr. Laura McDonald poses in front of the hundreds of bras which she collected with the help of her friends in Canada. Some of these bras were given to young school girls as a thank you for attending a Women’s Empowerment Day which our team hosted.

Laura BrasSchoolAbove is the outside of one of the classrooms at Kihwa Primary School, the first location where the Empowerment Day was held.  We also followed up on last years “Pad’s Project” started by Sarah Zelinski which teaches girls to make their own reusable sanitary pads so they can continue attending class when they are menstruating.

The inside of school classrooms usually consist of attached benches/desks and a chalk board at the front of the classroom.  The students must bring their own pencil and notebook and take these items with them at the end of the day.  Here (below) we are teaching the girls about the importance of sexual health with the help of Vivian Namale (in yellow) who works tirelessly as our community liaison to organize and facilitate our community visits.

TeachingAfter spending the day with the girls it was most rewarding to see all of the smiles on their faces and to feel the appreciation that they have for our visits.  This picture truly captures the beauty and resilience of the young women in Uganda.

Two GirlsFinally our team poses for a photo with the headmaster and teacher of Kihwa school as we exchange our thank-yous and goodbyes.  This day has been a life changing experience for us and we leave the school with our hearts full.

Headmaster

From Uganda…

One of the highlights of our trip has been getting to know the team of technicians who work with SNV on the artificial insemination program.  The above picture was taken after a meeting that was held where we had the pleasure to meet the whole team.  These technicians were selected to be part of the program because of their strong work ethic and desire to improve their own business. 

AI meeting

We join the technicians during their service calls to the farm where we observe various practices that they perform for the farmers including, artificial insemination, synchronization, and pregnancy diagnosis.  In the above picture a technician, Mutemba Lawrence (seen in the photo below) assisted us with a pregnancy diagnosis on farm.

Hollyn CowNikki Cow

tree meetingHere we are having tea with farm owner Kekuruso Elly (seen in the yellow hat) after servicing his cattle with Mutemba Lawrence who is seen behind the tree.   Our coworker Olivia Tumukunde joined us on this farm call and is seen in the center of the photo. It is tradition to take tea or share food together with visitors as a sign of appreciation.  We always enjoy these gatherings because it gives us a chance to get to know the people we are working with.

  

A warm welcome to Uganda

One of the great joys of an international placement is the opportunity to experience another culture. The VWB/VSF volunteer team recently experienced a warm introduction to the culture of western Uganda  (editor).

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As we continue our placement, we visited Annah Kabateraine’s mixed farm. In the above photo she is seen in the red along with our team and many others who work for her including her son Emanuel and nephew John seen on the right in the photo. She received a bronze medal for national agricultural micro finance management for highest yield in mixed farming. Annah also promotes agro tourism on her farm.

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Dipping is one of the practices that Annah uses on her farm to prevent the common problem of tick born disease. The cattle impressively swim through an 18 foot deep trough filled with water that is mixed with pesticide.

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Whilst on the farm we ran into mechanical trouble with the community tractor that Annah shares with 6 other farms and was financed by the government. Shortly after it broke down we had many people from nearby villages come to help fix the problem. We are learning first-hand about Uganda’s strong sense of community.

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Annah’s son, Evan Toras, took us to a traditional Ankore wedding and helped us rent the proper attire so we would fit right in. The people commented that “we looked smart” which is a common saying/compliment in Uganda.

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In Ankore culture milk is kept in the pots seen above; they are smoked after each use to clean the pot and flavor the milk. Yogort and “ghee” which is a fermented butter are also made in the pots. Momma Annah gave us our own pot to use whenever we visit her as a token that we are now like her daughters.

Meet the Uganda volunteer team

“Agandi” – Hello how are you? Greetings all the way from Mbarara Uganda!

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We would like to introduce you to the Veterinarians without Borders Uganda team. From left to right Cassia Michel, Nicole Sheedy, Michelle Mak, and Hollyn Maloney. In the middle is Dr. Ludwig Siefert, one of the veterinarians who oversees the health of wildlife within the Queen Elizabeth National Park and leads the team of the Uganda Carnivore Project. (www.uganda-carnivores.org) Cassia and Michelle are working together on VWB/VSF’s goat pass on and school milk projects. Nicole and Hollyn will be working on a new project in partnership with SNV a Netherlands based organization. The project is called TIDE (The inclusive dairy enterprise).

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Edison Ntwazza is a trained technician performing artificial insemination (AI) on a local farm. Edison is one of the technicians working with SNV to improve the success of AI in the district of Mbarara. He has been operating his own AI business in the district for many years and is one of thirteen technicians to join the TIDE project in 2016. We have been travelling with Edison to local farms in the community to observe the challenges and successes that the people of Uganda experience when developing their dairy farms.

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This is Sister Antonia Tibareka, one of four sisters who run a successful dairy farm in Rubindi, Uganda. She has a herd of 30 Holstein cattle and has been using the AI services for 8 months with good success rates. One of the challenges she faces is providing sufficient water for her animals during the dry season. This year Uganda has experienced a drought which has made access to water during the dry season a serious issue. Sister Antonia solved the problem by building dugouts, including the one below. She sold 7 cows to pay for the construction. Each cow is worth approximately 1,000,000,000 ($376 CDN) for a total investment of nearly $2,700 CAD.

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Along with her herd of cattle sister also raises pigs and goats to diversify her income. She has constructed raised pens for both the goats and pigs so that the manure can be collected and used as fertilizer elsewhere on the farm.

Sister Antonia is appreciative of the partnership she has begun with SNV and Veterinarians without Borders, and is looking forward to continued support for the development of her farm.

One Health in Uganda

By Jamie Neufeld with Kyla Kotchea, Veronica Pickens, and Shauna Thomas

Photos by Kris Chandroo and Jamie Neufeld

July was by far our busiest month working on a variety of projects. We rarely reached home before it was pitch black, and the sun seemed to rise earlier and earlier with each passing day. Along with our vaccination campaign, we had two reusable menstrual pad training days, two community wellness education days with our nursing and nutrition colleagues from the University of Saskatchewan, paravet training day, and the goat pass-on, which we have been working towards all summer.  Thankfully, July also brought project supervisor Dr. Claire Card to Uganda, which provided us interns with invaluable learning opportunities in the field and help with organizing paravet training day and the goat pass-out.

PHOTO 1Dr. Claire Card with our friends from Vetoquinol.  From left to right: Vik Nimbkar, Claire Card, Kristopher Chandroo, and Kelsey MacNeil.  Photo courtesy Kris Chandroo.

The reusable menstrual pads training day focuses on empowering young women and the value of education.  Before coming to Uganda, hearing that young women miss school every month when they have their periods was a concept that was difficult to grasp. How can something so natural prevent young women from receiving education?  However, hearing about challenges in the household made the situation a bit more sensible; some families eat one meal a day, have over five children to pay school fees for, and certainly cannot afford the disposable menstrual products that we take so for granted in the western world.  The objectives of this project, which was spearheaded by WCVM student and VWB 2015 intern Sarah Zelinkski, are to provide girls with reusable menstrual pads so they never have to miss school because of their menses again, to emphasize how education is directly correlated to making more money and having fewer, healthier children, and that girls can do everything just as well as boys – oftentimes even better! The training days took place at Kihwa Primary School and Nyamuanja Modern School and were received with much enthusiasm.  The girls learned how to sew their own reusable liners, care and wash instructions, and left with a liner and shield set that were sewn by friends and family members in Canada.

PHOTO 2 (1)Girls at Nyamuanja Modern School sewing their reusable liners.

We were incredibly fortunate to have University of Saskatchewan nursing and nutrition students in Mbarara this summer who were invested in the wellness of our community members. Because of their interest and efforts, we were able to provide community health days to two groups, Kahenda and Kishuro.  Kahenda is a secluded, difficult to access community where the population is elderly and cervical cancer and syphilis are of great concern.  Many children are malnourished, as many grandmothers raising grandchildren are unaware of the different dietary requirements between the two life stages.  Kishuro is a large community that asked for further education in nutrition and first aid training. For both days, our nursing and nutrition colleagues were right on target with providing pertinent training and education, consultations, and cooking demonstrations that used local foods to make tasty, nutritious dishes. To add to this One Health experience, many of the nurses and dieticians spent time with us in the field vaccinating, tagging, and deworming goats, graduating as expert goat wranglers. Shauna and I spent a day in the hospital’s labour and delivery ward and assisted with our first ‘human calving’, an experience that confirmed our pursuit of veterinary medicine.

PHOTO 3 (1)University of Saskatchewan nutrition students starting off the community health day under the acacia tree with the members of Kishuro.

Last but certainly not least, the goat pass-out. The five days leading up to the goat pass out day were some of the busiest days of summer. Pens of potential beneficiaries had to be checked, goats for sale needed to be located, tested for brucellosis, purchased, and transported to the FAOC site where the event occurred, and contracts and goat keeping records printed. Once all of the goats were on site, each goat needed to be dewormed, vaccinated, sprayed for ticks, and photographed for our records. The stress from transporting goats and mixing animals from multiple sellers made for a variety of physical ailments, so the animals were closely monitored and treated when necessary. We performed supermammary teat removals, trimmed hooves, and treated ringworm and deep corneal abscesses. We were happily joined by three people, Kris, Vik, and Kelsey, who were sponsored by Vetoquinol and present for the paravet training day and goat pass-out.  They enriched the experience with sincere interest in the communities and beneficiaries, knowledge of veterinary medicine, humour, beautiful photographs, and lots of help with the goats. After only two days together, we were sad to see them go.  At the pass-out ceremony, beneficiaries received one or two goats depending on level of need along with a notebook for goat record keeping.  Contracts outlining the pass-on scheme and proper goat care were signed, and the day ended with the spectacular site of red dirt roads speckled with traditionally dressed women and men walking their new goats home, some up to twenty kilometers away.

PHOTO 4All attendees of the goat pass-on day: Beneficiaries and their children, community paravets and chairpeople, VWB interns, University of Saskatchewan nursing and nutrition students, and our guests from Vetoquinol.  Photo courtesy Kris Chandroo.

PHOTO 5Hellen Tumwine from Rutsya with her new goat at the pass-out.  Photo courtesy Kris Chandroo.

In conclusion, success of the VWB goat pass-on project is rooted in working closely with the community members and trying to tackle the challenges they face, whether it be animal related or otherwise.  Upon starting our internship in May, we dove into a One Health experience that developed our interprofessional, veterinary, and communication skills.  We are thankful for this opportunity with VWB and to have had Dr. Card as our passionate and informative project supervisor, and for the generous donors who purchased the goats for pass-out day.  We owe so many thanks to our translators who became dear friends, and to the community members who graciously welcomed us into their lives.

thumbnail_PHOTO 6 (1)Ten-year-old Batorine with his sister, Lynette.  Batorine stays home from school to help farm beans, matoke, and fruit.  With the help of goats, we are hopeful that Lynette will have the opportunity to attend school.

A Day in the Life — VWB Uganda: Part 2

Text and and photos by Jamie Neufeld, VWB intern and WCVM veterinary student, with Kyla Kotchea, Shauna Thomas, and Veronica Pickens

In this second installment of “A Day in the Life” Jamie Neufeld shares more stories from the Goat Pass-on Project in Uganda.  The biggest day of the year for the project — goat pass-out day — is coming up on July 20th and the Uganda team is looking for donations to help purchase the goats.  If you would like to contribute, look for the link at the bottom of this post. Editor

photo8Unique and her unnamed puppy beside the goat pen in the backyard.

Unique, granddaughter to Akatete chairperson Margaret, is one of he many children who has benefitted from the goat pass-on project. Her family is able to afford school fees and she eats three meals every day. We were able to spend time with Unique when Margaret prepared us a delicious lunch that included matooke, groundnut sauce, posho, rice, chicken stew, pineapple, and watermelon. Outside of school hours, Unique plays soccer and helps tend to the goats and chickens.
Photo caption: Unique and her unnamed puppy beside the goat pen in the backyard.

photo9In Uganda, many schoolchildren share their soccer field with goats that are out grazing for the day. Here, Shauna draws blood from a goat held by Veronica while inquisitive students from Kihwa Primary School watch the action.

So far, we have taken blood samples from over 700 goats in 11 of the 16 communities we hope to visit. We test the blood samples for Brucella abortus and Brucella melitensis. Brucellosis causes abortions in goats, therefore negatively impacting the farmer’s livelihood, and is zoonotic, meaning it can be transferred to people and cause infertility in women. Normally, we would advise vaccinating the animals that test negative and culling the positives. However, due to an East African shortage of the vaccine and additional legality issues with importing it, we are unfortunately unable to vaccinate for Brucellosis this year. Instead, we will emphasize the importance of culling positive animals and continue vaccinating for clostridia.
photo10New WCVM graduate Dr. Kyla Kotchea guides Jane, the paravet for Kikokwa, through the process of drawing blood from a young goat belonging to Kakazi Vangi while Veronica restrains. Vivian holds supplies and young Moses catches me with my camera out.

Each group has a paravet, which is a group member trained to perform basic veterinary services to goat owners for a fee. Having paravet services not only provides a business opportunity for members, but contributes to project sustainability by having a person educated in goat health who is capable of draining abscesses, deworming, castrating, and treating illnesses to keep the herds healthy. Throughout the summer, we involve the paravets as much as we can to develop their skills and solidify their reputation as capable, skilled individuals. When Dr. Claire Card arrives in July, there will be a training day to further educate the paravets and expand their skill set.
photo11The seventh grade class from Kihwa Primary School performing a song that sang:
“Give the children freedom,
Freedom gives the children peace,
Please give the children peace.”

On June 16th we celebrated Day Of The African Child at Kihwa Primary School. It was a beautiful and informative day filled with games, singing, dancing, poetry, acting, and speeches. This holiday celebrates children, how far their rights and education has come, and promotes awareness to the child abuse still occurring in Africa, including kidnapping, child sacrifice, incest, malnutrition, abandonment, and rape. The performances by the children felt especially powerful, as in the western world our elementary school assemblies are often light-hearted and comical, while the second grade Kihwa class recited a poem about protecting the children from child abuse. One part of the poem said, “Stop kidnapping us, stop raping us, and stop hurting us… God made you and God made me, so just let me be me.”
Photo12The start of the 400m girls sprint at Kihwa, which was won by Florence, the girl in the skirt.

Nine times out of ten we come home from the field exhausted and covered head to toe in dust, only to take a short break before entering data, filling out paperwork, or testing blood samples. The days are long but our hearts are full. It has felt surreal to work on an established project and see firsthand how it betters the lives of people, and has been humbling to be so graciously received and welcomed by the community members. Plus, I think we all love goats at least a little bit now, and there may or may not be talk of opening small ruminant practices in the future.
photo13Kids are quickly moving up in the rankings for cutest baby animal, but have yet to outcompete kittens.

photo14We had a lot of fun taking blood from Kakazi Vangi’s goats with Vivian, paravet Jane, and Vangi’s children, Jimmy, Inna, and Moses. In this photo, she was laughing at how we were rocking the kids and singing to them like babies (it was the end of a long, hot, day).

In conclusion, we have seen how two goats plus education about animal care can make the difference between two and three meals a day, having a water tank, being able to afford a solar panel, and paying for school fees. If you have felt inspired by this project like we have, we would like to invite you to purchase a goat, or put money towards one, for the goat pass-out on July 20th. Each goat costs about $60 Canadian, and our goal is to pass our sixty goats this year. If you donate before the pass-out day, you will receive a photo of the beneficiary with your goat, and information about the individual’s household.

100% of the money you donate will go towards purchasing goats:
https://www.vetswithoutborders.ca/uganda-goats-2016

With sincere thanks,
Jamie, Kyla, Veronica, and Shauna

A Day In The Life – VWB Uganda: Part 1

Text and photos by Jamie Neufeld, VWB intern and WCVM veterinary student, with Kyla Kotchea, Shauna Thomas, and Veronica Pickens

photo1cOur dining room, office, and lab in Mbarara.

While in Uganda, we are based out of Mbarara, a dusty town in the southwest of the country. We are renting an apartment at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology residences that triples as our office and laboratory. This photo features Veronica, Kyla, and Shauna with several VWB intern essentials: water, sunscreen, coffee, bananas, books, and beetroot smoothies.photo2An under-construction pen – do you reckon the goats will appreciate the view?

Most mornings begin with picking up our translator and dear friend, Vivian, and driving out to one of the sixteen community groups we work with. The groups are scattered throughout the countryside near a small town called Kaberebere, where we often stop to pick up chapati for our lunches. Chapati is made out of flour, baking soda, water, salt, and oil. It is fried in a large pan and resembles a crepe or big piece of naan.
The area of the country we work in is incredibly beautiful, to the point where our translators may becoming tired of our enthusiastic exclamations about the hills, streams, and species of plants that are foreign to us. The red dirt roads provide a scenic contrast with the diverse, lush greenery, and banana plantations take over the majority of the countryside.photo3The Kahenda Widows Group meets once a month. At their meeting we learned about the troubles the women are facing with theft in their community and accessibility to cervical cancer screening and treatment.

The VWB goat pass-on project has been in country for ten years, with the University of Saskatchewan and the Foundation for AIDS and Orphaned Children (FAOC) being major partners. The project focuses on impoverished women, many of them widows and the only income contributor in a household of 8+ people. Livestock and land ownership favours men, but it is acceptable for women to raise goats. Goats are hardy and manageable animals, making them ideal for empowering these women by giving them the means of going beyond goat farming to provide for their families, pay for school fees, buy mattresses, electricity, pots and pans, clothing, menstrual pads, and much more, like moving beyond agriculture and owning/operating small businesses. In the short amount of time working alongside these women we have heard many awe-inspiring success stories.photo4Vivian (right) translates the conversation between us and Margaret, chairperson for Akatete.

The project wouldn’t be possible without our Ugandan translators who are passionate and knowledgeable about the women’s groups and goat pass-on. Their relationships with the women and community members are invaluable while traveling from home to home to chat with beneficiaries, or needing directions along the way. The language spoken in this area is Runyankore, which is one of the 40+ languages spoken in Uganda. We have learned the local greetings and pleasantries, which is most often received with much delight.
photo5A newborn kid belonging to Innocent, whose mother originally received goats from VWB. He has taken over the goat care since his mother has become less mobile.

On July 20th we will be passing out goats as loans to beneficiaries who have demonstrated need for the animals, knowledge of goat husbandry (which we will happily teach them), and have built a proper pen. When a member receives a pair of goats, the loan must be repaid by passing a female kid on to another member in the group, and selling a male kid with profits going into the revolving fund, which functions as a bank. The groups meet once or twice a month and pay a small fee (about one Canadian dollar) per sitting that goes into the revolving fund. The money is loaned out when members have medical expenses, fall short on school fees, or want to improve their homes, and is retuned with interest.
To reiterate, the member receives one or two goats, passes on at least two goats, and then has a pair to make profits from. The groups that have embraced the pass on scheme have succeeded with goat husbandry and become a more sustainable community. Several groups have accumulated enough money in the revolving fund to buy all the grandmothers mattresses or chairs, pay school fees for every child, or invested in sewing machines or big sauce pans to either rent out or utilize as another income generating source.
photo6Rose stands proudly next to the pen she built, tick spray in hand. Rose has a strong pen with a door and a lock for the necessary security measures, but we advised she clean under her pen every day to prevent respiratory distress in her animals.

We work with many women like Rose from Kyenyangi. Rose farms goats, chickens, beans, maize, matooke, and an assortment of fruits to provide for her household of eight people, plus her eldest daughter’s postsecondary education in Kampala, where she is studying to become a lab technician. Before Rose joined the project, her home did not have electricity, she was without a cell phone, and was able to feed her family twice a day. Rose received goats from VWB, repaid her loan within one year, and has succeeded in raising goats through vaccinating, spraying for ticks, and deworming. Her home now has a solar panel for electricity and her family eats three times a day, sometimes four. Rose has been a member of the FAOC/VWB project for over five years and gave us full-hearted thanks for how the project has enriched her family’s lives, which should be passed on to all of the previous volunteers, interns, and project supervisors.
photo7Under the shifting shade of a few trees, Kandabe Gaude sorts through freshly harvested beans to take to the Monday market.

73-year-old Kandabe Gaude from Kyera enthusiastically rounded up her grandchildren so they could practice their English when I asked about who lives in her household. She supports five grandchildren and four of her own children by selling goats, beans, matooke, mango, avocado, and oranges. Four of the people in her care are HIV positive, so a portion of her income goes towards transportation to pick up medication and attend medical appointments.
Veterinarians play an important role in global and public health, as the wellness of people, animals, and the environment is all interconnected. The goat pass-on project is a people-first approach where animals are farmed as a means to bettering the livelihood of families. We spend more time speaking with members than practicing medicine, where we learn about individual and community challenges so we can continue improving how we work together.
After a wonderful meeting under the shade of a few trees, Gaude poured 1/2 kg of these hand-sorted beans into my camera bag as a gift to take home and soak.
Watch this space for Part 2!

Learning the Ropes in Uganda

By Shauna Thomas with Jamie Neufeld, Kyla Kotchea, and Veronica Pickens

In March, four strangers all said yes to the same question. Two months later that answer landed them all on a different continent in 3 days old clothes with not a shower in site. Besides their poor appearance (and even poorer smell?), their smiles could be seen from a mile away. After a month of grueling final exams, eager fundraising, and last minute “Oh no I forgot!” shopping trips; they had arrived in Uganda.

I digress… as I’m sure you have figured out, these four strangers are this year’s Uganda VWB goat pass-on project interns. My name is Shauna Thomas, I am from outside of Ottawa going into my 2nd year at the Ontario Veterinary College. Two of the group are from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Jamie Neufeld, a Saskatoon local, also going into her 2nd year; and our resident doctor, Kyla Kotchea from Fort Nelson, BC who just finished her 4th year! Last but not least, Veronica Pickens is going into 3rd year at the Ontario Veterinary College and the sole American VWB intern this year from Philadelphia, PA.

We arrived in Uganda on May 12th after a week of training at Cuso International in Ottawa. The first weekend we arrived in Uganda, we landed in Entebbe and had four days there to adjust before travelling to Mbarara, where our placement would begin. That first weekend set the scene for how our time here would flow and how the four of us would get along. By this I mean that instead of taking the days to deal with jetlag, adjust to the local food and rest….we unanimously decided to spend three of the days on a safari in Murchinson Falls, 6 hours north of Entebbe. The weekend was a spontaneous start and we’ve been travelling awesome together ever since. Pic 1

Jamie got to fulfill a life-long dream of seeing wild giraffes while in Murchinson Falls National Park; seen here a bachelor herd on the savannah.Pic 2

Silas, our guide and good friend, stopped the car on the side of the highway because he knew four vet students would love to see the baby tortoise he spotted in the grass…he was right!  Above,  Veronica, Silas, and the tortoise.

Ugandan solution to the car not starting in the morning…”everybody start pushing!” (below)Pic 3

A bit of a larger group this year, we’ve had to figure the ropes out ourselves as timing didn’t work out for Dr. Card (project leader) or Laura McDonald(a WCVM grad and 5 year project participant) to come over with us. After getting settled and meeting with the right people, we are well on our way. I’ll admit the first week here in Mbarara got off to a slow start, due to a combination of lack of meetings to attend that week and the adjustment to African time (a very very real thing). As of now we have attended three women’s group meetings out of a total of 17. Although we still have to meet the majority of groups, our June/July is filling up FAST. Our first day of work here we met with Vivianne, who is our translator/facilitator/local friend, and started to plan the next three months. About an hour in we realized that one of the women’s groups actually met that afternoon! We were eager to get started and decided to attend the meeting. It has become very apparent in these past few weeks that traveling from point A to point B means stopping at points C,D,E,F along the way. As such, we all piled into our trusty Toyota Rav4 and headed down the left side of the road (an adjustment for sure) to the meeting. On the way we stopped to meet with Boaz, the founder/head of the Foundation for Aids Orphaned Children (FAOC), the organization we work alongside here in Uganda. After a few more stops we finally made it to our first meeting. Although the meeting started at 3, we arrived at 4:30…and were still not the last people there -..…African time! To say we received a warm welcome when we arrived at the meeting would be an understatement; there were endless hugs and a chorus of “we prayed for your safe travels”. The more people we meet the more that the saying ‘Ugandans are the most welcoming people’ comes true.  Below, we posed we posed for a group picture of the Kyabutoto women’s group after the meeting.

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For those reading that are unfamiliar with what exactly the goat pass on project is, it is a development project aimed at rural Ugandan women to help empower as well as develop an income generating source. The ultimate goal is to provide them with the tools and means to improve the quality of life for themselves and their family. Each village we work with has a group of these women who meet once a month to discuss successes and short-comings in the past month as well as pay their membership fees. These fees (range from $0.30-$2 CAD) are pooled into the group’s revolving fund that accumulates month by month and is available to for members to take out loans to pay school/medical fees etc. Additionally, every year a number of beneficiaries (who have met the criteria for raising goats) are given a male and female goat as a loan. To repay this loan the beneficiaries must sell their first-born male kid and give that money into the revolving fund as well as pass on their first born female-kid to another member of the group.

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Kasande Benardette (above) a Kyabutoto member with grandchildren and a few neighbouring kids eager to jump in front of the camera.

The goals for our group this year are: continue to promote the vaccination campaign (chlostridia and brucella), test/gather information on brucella prevalence, carry out an impact study and expand the PADS project. More information about some of those will come in future blogs. Admittedly, we have taken on a lot this year; however, with each part so key to the sustainability and success of the project, our hopes are high for how much we can accomplish. Our first goal has already provided our first minor roadblock as there has been a country-wide shortage of brucella vaccine since January! We have begun looking to import it from neighboring countries (at a steep price increase), so we will update you on the outcomes of that in the future.

In the midst of our first weeks we found a few free days and headed south to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest -arguably the coolest name for a national park ever! Four hours of trekking through the untouched jungle meant we got to spend an hour with a troop of Mountain Gorillas!! Impressive animals at a distance and even more impressive when one slides down the tree next to you and stands not even a foot away! If the gorillas weren’t enough, the hike itself was amazing with the views and all the vegetation. We say that now, but had you asked us after we climbed 2 km of straight vine-infested uphill….I think we would have had a few other words for it.  Below,  two mountain Gorrillas from the Bitukura troop we tracked.Pic 6crop
Pic 7At left — a few Canadian Vet students looking a tad lost in the Ugandan Jungle.

As I write this; watching women walk by carrying the heaviest items on their heads and listening to the slew of flatbed trucks/boda-bodas hitting the speed bumps that plague Ugandan roads, I sit with a smile excited about the country and people lives we get to be a part of for the next little while.

Until next time,

Shauna, Veronica, Jamie, Kyla

Pic 8cropLeft to right — Jamie, Veronica, Kyla, and Shauna in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest,
P.S. If you are interested in helping with the pass on project and donating towards the purchase or sponsoring a goat ($50 US), please follow this link! All money contributed by July 20, 2016 will go directly to purchase goats for our women’s groups here.

https://www.vetswithoutborders.ca/uganda-goats-2016

 

Final Days in Uganda

Well, this will be our last blog post from Uganda. I honestly can’t believe it’s over already.

Our last day in the field was a really fun one and we spent it teaching the women of the Kahenda community how to make donuts. Kahenda is one of the first communities we started to work with way back in 2007, and it is also one of our oldest communities, comprised mostly of widows. Back in June when we attended their community meeting they asked if we could provide training on how to make donuts. Since the community is almost entirely made up of elderly women, the goat project wasn’t a great fit for them anymore; the physical labour in caring for livestock was becoming too much for them and they are often the target of thieves because they cannot protect themselves very well. They are hoping to use making donuts and other sweets as a new source of income. Kahenda is also a very far out and isolated community with little to no amenities or health clinic, so we also invited the U of S nursing students to come along and give them a health talk.

Frying up some tasty donuts:

Frying up some tasty donuts

The Kahenda women learning how to make donuts: The Kahenda women learning how to make the donuts

Upon arrival in Kahenda we were all greeted with the warmest welcome we have ever received in any of the communities! All the women came over and shook each of our hands and gave us hugs, thanking us for coming to see them that day. I had no idea they would be so excited to see us! After prayers and quick introductions, our nursing students from the University of Saskatchewan, Janaya and Anthony, were going to present on cervical cancer and STI’s. Back in June they did a placement in Rugazi and along with health care students from Mbarara they chose these topics to focus on in that community. A bunch of 80 year old widows might not make for the most appropriate audience for these topics but it’s what they had already been prepared for. Janaya discussed cervical cancer, which is the most common cancer in Uganda and talked about its relationship to HPV. The women were really interested in doing a cervical cancer screening so we’re hoping to organize an outreach camp to come to their community in the future. Following this, Anthony talked about all of the different STI’s that are prevalent in Uganda. Not realizing this is a community of widows, he also lectured on the importance of being faithful to your husband or wife… oops. Fortunately, they didn’t seem to mind. I was quite blown away by all the questions and openness the women had when it came to discussing any health issues they have been having. I can’t say I would be quite that comfortable talking in public about the spots that itch and the fluids and discharges that may be affecting my nether regions.

Janaya explaining cervical cancer:Janaya explaining cervical cancer

Finally it was the time everyone was most excited for – donut making! We hired a friend of Shafiq’s (one of our translators) to teach the group all that she knew about making the tasty deep fried sweets. The training went really well and the ladies got a chance at making donuts and we all sampled some of the finished product as well. I now know how to cut the shape of donuts using a cup and a bottle cap! The community also all came together and contributed to preparing a massive feast of traditional food for all of us as well. It was such a kind gesture and they were very excited to share it with us.

Katrina taking a turn at making donuts: Katrina taking a turn at making the donuts

Just as we were saying our goodbyes and about to leave, Katarina, the community chairperson, started to clap her hands and sing with the group joining in. I’m not sure if they were on a sugar high or just so thrilled that we came to visit them, but they all started singing and dancing. One woman even picked up a jerrycan to create a drum beat! It was absolutely beautiful and we all were almost tearing up a little before the performance was over. I was overwhelmed by how much this day meant to these women. It was the most perfect way to finish our last day in Mbarara.

Our farewell dance party:Our farewell dance party

The last few hours before leaving Mbarara ended up seeming a bit frantic as Brit and I tried to get everything organized for Susanne before we left. Despite being so busy every day working on our vaccination campaigns, Brit and I were not able to make it to all the communities for a second visit so Susanne and Joseph were going to finish them for us. We also had to say all of our goodbyes, which is always, always hard. Having spent two summers on the project now, leaving everyone is so much harder as I’ve grown close to all these wonderful people. It’s difficult to be excited for the next chapter of my life when I feel the guilt of leaving so many great people behind.

I think I can speak for both Brit and Lena when I say we will miss Uganda and the amazing people we’ve met; even the light switches that randomly electrocute you when you turn them on, and its seatbelts that come undone when you shift in your seat too much. However, Brit and I are both getting excited to see all our friends and family back home, and who knows, maybe we’ll be back again some day!

Well it has been one amazing journey and the summer of a lifetime. We hope you enjoyed the blogs and thank you to VWB for giving us this great opportunity! Webare munoga!

Thank you VWB!