KAT Centre Strategy Session

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

Rabies Clinic in Kathmandu

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

 

 

 

 

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

Cheers,
Colin

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

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

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

  Cheers for now,
 Colin

The yak trail to Tibet

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

 Cheers for now,
 Colin

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

Sheep? Patagonia? Sure, I’m down.

We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. Other than the vague concept that we would be dealing with sheep and knowing that we were spending the day across the ocean inlet, we literally had no idea of how the day would unfold.

As we stood under an awning at the ferry pier, I wondered how we managed to drag ourselves out of bed at 6:00 am. It was raining out and I was dressed in my warmest and most rain-proof gear. I dreaded the idea that we might be working in pouring rain for the entirety of one of our first days off and a small part of me hoped that Dr. Juan Francisco Alvarez, one of two veterinarians working with SAG, would just not show up so I could go back to my warm hostel bed. We had arranged this ‘outing’ with SAG after our group’s press release with Puerto Natales’ mayor and some members of the council. The media was there to film and photograph the four of us Canadians and our Chilean counterparts being publicly welcomed into Puerto Natales, our home for the next three months. SAG is Chile’s equivalent to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), although I’ll admit that I cannot translate what SAG stands for. Their responsibilities are similar to those of the CFIA, which of course include having veterinarians on the payroll for monitoring livestock welfare and quality. We had expressed interest in observing and helping out with any large animal veterinary-related activities in Chile to gain an appreciation and perspective on animal agriculture in a new country and culture. SAG has been a great supporter of our activities in Chile (including offering us a lab to run tests in) and they were very keen to have us tag along for a day.

When we arrived at the pier, it was still dark. The sun rises and sets so rapidly here that by the time Francisco arrived and we set out on the ferry, the sun had already risen somewhere behind the cloudy veil of a sky. Thankfully the rain let up with the arrival of day. On the ferry I wondered how ridiculous the day might become, as neither Andi or I speak Spanish.  Francisco, whom we had only met once before, gave the impression that he didn’t speak any English. Fortunately Andi’s previous French experience and week-long exposure to this language, was sufficient to communicate with Francisco’s rather decent understanding of her Spanglish.

A truck was waiting for us upon our arrival at the other end of the sound. The owner of the farm was an older Chilean gent who wore a traditional Chilean beret-like hat. Instead of taking us along the clearly defined road, we immediately took off along an almost fresh-looking trail. The hour and a half long trip to the farm was a unique one. Off-roading would be one way of putting it, but rather it was almost like a poorly built carnival ride. Some of the trail was so poor that we crawled over large rocks, through shallow streams, and along a coast of small pools where any discernable path was washed away regularly. In the back seats, we were tossed back and forth, barely being able to hold on to the handles. At times our vehicle was going up a 45 degree incline or tilted 45 degrees to the side.

We arrived at the farm, situated in a small bay off of Last Hope Sound, tucked away from the rest of Patagonia. The landscape was absolutely amazing and the family there was extremely welcoming. Decked out in disposable white coveralls and white rubber boots, I entered the tattered tin barn to find the hundreds of sheep in separate pens. Turns out we were there to tag, age, and assess the body condition of as many sheep as we could during our visit. Andi and I both learned quickly how to age and judge their body condition score and I also wrestled down and tagged a number of them myself. Part of my job was also to shout out the numbers as I tagged, forcing me to learn to count in Spanish. I suppose that’s a good place to start on my path to learning this loco language.

We were fed a feast of slow roasted beef and potatoes for lunch and traditional arroz con leche (rice pudding) for desert in their old, quaint house. I excused myself after drinking down my instant coffee (which they tend to love here in Chile) to take some photos of their farm and the amazing Patagonian backdrop. We returned to the barn for a couple hours, before packing up to head back to Puerto Natales.

For some unknown reason (or at least to us) the owner decided to switch things up a bit and make our return trip a little more exciting by driving a 1970 white-topped, red Land Cruiser. Andi and I were packed with our supplies in the back, sitting in side facing seats with, of course, no chance of seatbelts. It felt like we were on a safari, which made me imagine how our VWB comrades in Africa may very well be enduring this every day. To go along with that safari mentality, we managed to view a few flocks of flamingos and the massive caracara birds of Patagonia. No guanacos yet, but I’ll find one soon enough.

In the end it was an unforgettable experience. I’m sure it won’t be the only during our time in the deep south of Patagonia.

VWB@GDS

Last week the Ontario Veterinary College hosted the Global Development Symposium at the University of Guelph, Canada as part of the celebrations for its 150th Anniversary.  Delegates came from all over the globe to share their experience in research and development that centred largely around the Ecohealth concept.  Among those delegates were VEVEP veterinarian Anne Drew and program co-coordinator Malavanh Chittavong who flew from Laos and Sweden respectively to share their experiences of the rabies vaccination campaign and poultry project that VWB have carried out in Lao PDR over the past 12 months.

Keynote speakers included politician and diplomat Stephen Lewis, Brian Evans, Chief Veterinary Officer of Canada and Dominique Charron, leader of the Ecohealth program at Canada’s International Development Research Centre and Veterinarians without Borders-Vétérinaires sans Frontières Canada’s own founding president, David Waltner-Toews.

Possibly more exciting than the presentations and speeches were the opportunities to chat with delegates about the great research and development programs happening worldwide such as Andria Jones-Bitton’s work on knowledge translation and research dissemination with Inuit in Iqaluit, Carol Zavaleta’s work in Peru on vulnerability of indigenous Amazonian communities to climate change and Karen Morrison’s work on ethics in population health research.  It was these conversations that were the most inspiring to keep on doing what we do!

Let’s hope that OVC makes this symposium an annual affair!

By Blanaid Donnelly

Pitch for Progress: Homemade pesticides to combat pest problems in rural Uganda

I have just returned from an enlightening four days at the Global Development Symposium in Guelph, Ontario. I had the pleasure to help represent Veterinarians without Borders at this conference. The schedule was jam packed with inspiring keynote speakers, including Mr. Stephen Lewis, and scientific presentations of exciting work that is being conducted around the globe.  It was extraordinary to see the passion towards positive sustainable change that transcended throughout the conference.

Amongst the key note speeches and scientific presentation there were ‘pitches for progress’ (pfp). A pfp was a presentation that was intended to present an idea that would change the world. Ideas ranged from creation of ‘one health’ networks, integration of one health into curriculums, and using homemade pesticides to combat pest problems in rural Uganda. The latter pitch being my own. I had the opportunity to present this pfp and receive valuable feedback that will strengthen my application and evaluation of the program.

I came up with the idea while talking with past volunteers of the Ugandan goat project. After discussing the current issues facing the farmers of the region, I was presented with the fact that their crops are being affected by pests, especially the borer worm. The Ugandan goat project works in coordination with the Foundation for Aids Orphaned Children (FAOC). FAOC has been developing a chick pea program in response to severe protein deficiency in the south west region of Uganda. Thirty-eight percent of children under five are chronically malnourished or developmentally stunted, 16% are underweight, and another 6% are acutely malnourished during illness or drought. The local diet is primarily starch based; consisting of plantains, cassava, or maize which is served with simple vegetables and sauce. Animal protein is too expensive for the majority of the farmers and only served on special occasions. The chick pea program was developed to address this issue. Using local chick pea varieties, farmers are encouraged to harvest their crop and sell a portion to increase income but retain the majority to increase their family’s protein intake. Chickpeas are known for their high quality of protein and relative ease to grow in tough conditions.

The scourge of pests is greatly decreasing the farmer’s chick pea yield.  While chemical pesticides are available, their use is unrealistic. These products are sold in bulk and are too expensive for the average farmer. These villagers often have no reliable means of transportation to obtain the pesticides. It is also not uncommon for these products to be tampered with, either watering down or adding chemicals that can be harmful to the people and animals. These chemicals are also very damaging to an unhealthy soil bed affected by years of monoculture plantain production.

What I proposed in my pfp was to experiment with different homemade pesticides using local products. From my research I came across effective pesticides made from marigold leaves, chilies, onions, garlics, and neem leaves or oil. These ingredients are boiled in water for 20 minutes or alternatively stand for 3 days. The solution is combined with soapy water and applied to the plants along with wood ash. This application is not new to Uganda. These methods have been successfully implemented at a small sustainable farm, St. Jude’s Family Projects, in central Uganda. I will be visiting this farm during my first week in Uganda to gain a better understanding of homemade pesticides and other sustainable agriculture solutions in rural Uganda.

I was nervous presenting this idea as it is beyond my formal training. When I discussed this idea with others they were often confused as to why I would address this issue and not something related to veterinary medicine. My response was always the same. Under the concept of eco-system health we are not bound to our professional limitations. Our goal is to realize a healthy population of people and animals while sustaining the environment. The pest and pesticide issue is of concern to the famers I will be working with and so I consider it my responsibility to do what I can to address the problem. A healthier chick pea crops and soil will lead to greater yields. Greater yields will improve childhood nutrition and family income. Greater income and nutrition will increase opportunities for childhood education and result in healthier immune systems, decreasing disease prevalence. Increased income will also result in more disposable income which can be used for animal vaccines, better shelters, and increased nutrition. Our animal health problems cannot be addressed by focusing on a single problem but rather by looking at the bigger picture. Healthy people and healthy environments will lead to healthier animals and more productive agricultural systems. For this to happen it needs two things. One is for people of different disciplines to explore beyond their profession. While my background is not in alternative agriculture, it did not take much for me to research potential applications for small hold farmers. The second is collaboration. I am not an expert in these techniques; my research has only scratched the surface on a vast body of knowledge. But through this research I was able to connect with people at home and abroad that are experts in this field. It is these contacts that will ultimately drive a successful project.  By collaborating with other professions, I can focus on the goats, while the experts I bring in or consult with will help to solve a problem that will further increase the health of the community.

 

The pitch itself flew by, but the research and preparation was extremely educational. The questions and comments from the audience created further contacts and options to explore. The entire conference had a very welcoming atmosphere. There were people from a variety of disciplines that came together to present and collaborate on One-Health. I feel very fortunate to have been able to attend and present at this conference and hope it becomes an annual event. I would like to thank VWB for their support.

 

First Day at the KAT center and the tour I didn’t know I was on

It turns out I have by no way mastered the Nepalese language/accent. The Kathmandu Animal Treatment (KAT) center is located on the road to Budanilkantha. It also turns out there is a town in the exact opposite direction of the Center which sounds a lot like “Budanilkantha.” Needless to say we were slightly late for our first day.

Upon arrival at the center we were greeted by the warm, smiling faces of the employees and volunteers and numerous wagging tails of the KAT center’s residents. The KAT center is an extraordinary place. The main focus of course is animal birth control – – the success of which I have already witnessed in the numerous ear notched dogs walking the streets. Dogs spayed at the center are given an identification tattoo, ear notch and red collar. The people of Kathmandu recognize that these dos have been vaccinated and spayed and are far more willing to care for them. When I first heard the center spayed and vaccinated strays and often released them back onto the streets, I was skeptical. With the success rate of adoptions and lack of stray dogs we experience in the Western world, it is hard to understand how people who clearly care about the well being of these animals can release them onto the street. But Nepal is not Canada. For starters, the center always releases the dogs back to the same neighbourhood from which they came. Often these dogs know where to get food and shelter in their home area. Some of them even have “owners.” Furthermore, in a given year the KAT center is lucky to adopt out 50 dogs. The city has over 20 000 stray dogs. In order to effectively reduce to stray dog population in Kathmandu it would be ridiculous to only spay the number of dogs they could find homes for.

The KAT center does have a decently equipped “surgery suite” but medically, the center is a long way away from a Western veterinary clinic (obviously). It is not the desire to perform top level medical aid that is lacking, quite the opposite, it is simply the diagnostic tools and supplies that are much needed. I think the medical supplies we brought with us will go to good use, as we have already torn open boxes of gloves and used some of the towels and drugs. Currently, the KAT center is well staffed with volunteers and veterinarians as it is tourist season. It is very neat to see how even routine procedures like placing a cast are done rather differently by vets from different parts of the world. After a dog chewed off its cast today a different vet tried her “American way,” to see if it would hold.

The level of Mange (skin disorders caused by parasitic mites) is Kathmandu is quite extraordinary. I witnessed more cases today of advanced mange then in the rest of my volunteer work and work work combined. It can be treated very successfully, however, and I am looking forward to seeing the transformation of some of these animals over the next three months.

Upon our return from the KAT center I decided to explore the streets some more. And by explore the streets I really mean play human frogger through traffic and say “No thankyou” a few thousand times to pushy, yet friendly store owners. Just as I took a quick turn down a backstreet in an attempt to dodge a flying 3-wheeled “tuck-tuck” (by flying I mean speeding, this land is magical yes, but not in that way), a well dressed, English-fluent man approached me, made an off hand comment about the crazy traffic and proceeded to walk the street with me talking about school life and asking me about my home country. Suddenly, we were in front of temples and old buildings and he was giving me history lessons about everything in site. Then, before I could say “Budanilkantha” I was on a rooftop and he was pointing at shopping squares and more temples. I was on a tour. I had not scheduled one. I had not asked for one. I had not even realized I was on one until it was half way over. In the end he wanted a lot of money, a few thousand rupees, and I gave him 500 rupees – – the equivalent of about 6 dollars. I had been swindled, somewhat, but I did get a pretty nice tour of Kathmandu for a reasonable price.

Cheers for now,

Colin

P.S. pictures will come – sometime

Touched Down In Kathmandu!

After two and a half days travel we have officially arrived in Kathmandu! I enter this first post huddled over in a darkened internet cafe, just off the busy streets of Thamel, Kathmandu Nepal. Despite a brief hold up in the Indian airport, travel went well, and finally we have reached our destination. It is a bit of a culture shock stepping out of the airport into the dusty streets of Kathmandu with taxi drivers yelling and forcefully “asking” for your business.


The majority of the population is in poverty here, and cows and dogs are more common lane dividers than medians. That being said, it is an incredible place, with almost a peaceful aura despite the craziness, and everyone is extremely friendly. I cannot wait to begin work at the KAT centre. Pictures will follow once I can get internet on my own computer and am not using a rental at an internet cafe.

Cheers for now,

Colin

Mobile technology research sheds light to efficient poultry feeding

As part of an innovative project to launch later this year, VWB is working with educational publisher & new media developer Lifelearn and the University of Calgary, to launch a mobile technology based training model.

There is global recognition that smartphones and new media technology can have a huge impact on smallholder agriculture, from sms updates on crop prices and weather, pest management to outbreak and emergency response.
Yet our investigations showed few examples of mobile phone based training at the village level.  In this ambitious project, project team members and NUOL faculty will train PAHWs to use smartphone-based apps as training resources to add to the mentoring and training resources they receive in person. PAHWs will also be able to sms each other about latest developments and upload photos of the cases they encounter.

 

Leah Stephenson and Erin Fraser will be discussing this exciting project at the upcoming

Global Development Symposium in Guelph, Canada (6-9 May)

and at the Technologies for Sustainable Development: A Way to Reduce Poverty? event, 29-31 May, Lausanne, Switzerland.

In researching topics for the mobile based training, our team was excited to learn about various methods households employ to feed poultry and use resources efficiently.  Anne Drew and husband Thom recently met a woman farmer who uses pickled banana stem, grasses and amaranth to prepare feed for her poultry.  We hope that through this technology we can help facilitate more farmers to share their learnings and techniques and train and support each other.

More information will follow later this year when the smartphone project goes live!

Thanks to the IDRC, Lifelearn and University of Calgary for their generous funding and in-kind support.