Smartphones have changed the way we access, use and share information. “Apps” are a huge part of this technological revolution. It seems like nowadays you can find an app for pretty much anything- games, cooking classes, sports updates, language lessons, music, photography, gardening and everything in between. Well, we’re not about to be left behind as technology thrusts the world forward! Vets without Borders, LifeLearn and the International Development and Research Centre teamed up to develop an app that will help PAHWs improve smallholder poultry management in rural Laos.
The app was designed to be simple and user-friendly. Each section has tons of pictures, video and audio to make the app more interactive and interesting for farmers and PAHWs. Users can tap the screen with their finger to move through different sections and scroll up or down to see everything on the page. The app is a gateway to tons of important information on:
1. Selection and Reproduction
2. Nutrition and Feeding
Benefits of Good Nutrition
Improving Feed Quality (Energy, Protein, Vitamins and Minerals)
Improving Feed Practices
Benefits of Good Housing
Types of Housing
So how can the Poultry App be used in real life?
Pretend you’re a PAHW. You get a call from a farmer in your village. She’s worried because none of the eggs her hen lays are hatching. There are many reasons why this could happen so you meet her at her farm to assess the situation. She shows you into the chicken coop and points to eggs. You feel one of the eggs and notice that it’s soft. She also mentions that her chickens suffer from leg lameness. You know from your experience as a farmer and a PAHW that good feed quality is important for strong bones and shells. So you reach for your smartphone and tap the Poultry App. From the menu you select “Nutrition and Feeding”, then “Improving Feed Quality”. You check each tab and until you land on “Mineral Content”. Aha! The app tells you that chickens need minerals to develop strong bones, and to produce hard shells around the eggs. The app also gives you examples of mineral sources that you can use as ingredients in poultry feed. You share this information with the farmer using the pictures from the app. Now she knows that she can use her kitchen scraps to feed her chickens and make them healthier!
Want to improve poultry management for rural smallholder farms in Laos? There’s an app for that!
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We have finally been able do a preliminary smartphone field test of the poultry raising app with a sub-sample of 8 PAHWs!
Our initial aim is to determine whether smartphone-based knowledge mobilization can help build PAHWs’ capacity in animal health. If
successful, this method will contribute to sustainability and security of our overall objectives in Laos, which are to improve livestock-based food security, income and social capital. The current app is focused on best practices in poultryraising and covers topics such as ‘Selection & Reproduction’, ‘Nutrition & Feeding’ and ‘Housing’. With lots of photographs, ‘how-to’ videos, and easy to follow text, it is catching the PAHWs’ interest and offers them a quick resource to important information.
But while cellular phones are widespread in Laos, many of the PAHWs have never used a smartphone before. Project team member and
smartphone app expert Bounlerth from FoA did an excellent job guiding the PAHWsthrough the basics such as how to turn on and off the phone, how to swipe from one screen to the next and how to find all the information in the app. Everyone was eager to figure it out and caught on really quickly! Following this introduction, the 8 PAHWs got to test their app for one week, at the end of which they reported back to us on how easy it was for them to use the phone, the app and what they liked or didn’t like about the app and the information it provided. We have been very encouraged to hear that none of the PAHWs had a problem using the phone or the app itself!
So what is next? The team will make some final adjustments, download the app to all the smartphones and ensure their accurate performance… and then… then we are ready to launch the app and release it to all the PAHWs in our project! How exciting is that?!
Working closely with veteran and incoming members of the poultry project, the team has supported new farmers in the villages of Nakhao, Thachampa and Hat Viengkham to participate in Generation 2 of the project.
Since providing 6 days of classroom and practical training in February, the team has helped members build chicken houses to welcome their new chicks. Through experience, the PAWHs are also taking a lead in coordinating renewed poultry vaccination campaigns, essential to ensure the pass on chicks are healthy and in good shape to hand over to new famers. Generation 1 farmers feel proud to be able to pass on their chicks to new participants and are keen to continue receiving support and training from VWB and the PAHWs. This is guaranteed to help them with their long term success.
Mr Phomma and Mrs Mai of Hat Viengkham explained:
“We can gain a lot of knowledge on how to raise chickens while before we participated, we did not know much. The hens of improved breeds do not sit after laying eggs, so we need to keep the eggs with local hens or ducks. However, improved breeds can eat the same as local breeds but they can grow up faster than local breeds, they can adapt well to the environment. Also, improved breeds can lay eggs faster than local ones and produce more eggs”.
This month the Laos Village Ecohealth team and our Primary Animal Health Workers (PAHWs) have been working hard to ensure new chicks and adults chickens receive their vaccinations of Newcastle disease and Infectious bronchitis. With current cold spells it is all the more important to ensure that not only are poultry being vaccinated, but also adequately fed and housed.
On my recent field visits with the team it was impressive to see the PAHWs work hard to create an efficient vaccination system. Anne, Lampheuy and Malavanh have been preparing a comprehensive training program for PAHWs and for the participants of VWB’s poultry project, which we launched last year.
The chicks you can see in the photos include improved breed yellow chickens. The team is using action research to determine the productivity and resilience of the new breed, encouraging families to keep some eggs for household consumption, as well as gaining income from future bird sales.
This summer the Laos VEVEP team, in response to farmers’ requests, added a new livelihoods focus to the project in Laos. In addition to our regular support of Primary Animal Health Workers, we have now worked closely with 42 families in 3 villages to provide training in poultry management, and distributed chicks on a ‘give back to the project’ basis. The project supports mix-breeds and aims to allow farmers to grow healthier and more productive chickens, thus gaining income from increased sales, as well as increased access to chicken meat as and when needed.
Farmers have been keen to start good habits like vaccinating their chickens more regularly and ensuring good quality housing and feed. Through the ongoing support of the PAHWs we are developing a new project model to branch out to other villages next year.