Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Goat Pass Out Ceremony

The goat pass out ceremony is certainly the highlight of our project. It's the Super Bowl for vet students working on goats in Uganda. Held at the FAOC demonstration farm, it is a day-long event that is meant to both celebrate the women's hard work in preparing to receive a goat and educate them on basic goat husbandry and the pass-on system. From our perspective it's a day full of promise and hope - hope that the women receiving the goats can use this opportunity to raise a small goat herd and generate some much needed income for the many children and grandchildren in their care.

A lot of preparation leading up to the pass-out ceremony has taken place in the last couple weeks. We've been visiting households in the communities to identify vulnerable women who could qualify as beneficiaries. Working with FAOC, we identified 21 women and 1 man who are the caretakers and providers for vulnerable and orphaned children. Almost all of them were widowed, often due to
HIV/AIDS, and most were subsistence farmers who work tirelessly to provide for the many children in their care. In addition, to qualify they must have built a suitable goat pen and demonstrated the desire and capacity to provide for their goats. We can't thank the dedicated staff at the Foundation for AIDS Orphaned Children (FAOC) enough for their hard work and long days in the community with us. And while our Runyankole is improving, their translation probably helped a bit, too.

Katie and Tara visiting the Kishuro group

Last week we began the process of selecting goats to purchase for the pass-out ceremony. Our main criteria were healthy Brucella-free young female goats. This would give our beneficiaries the best chances of getting their goats bred as soon as possible so they can pass-on and then start their own herd. We went to four different farms and took blood samples to test for Brucella - a leading cause of abortion for livestock in Uganda. We then arranged to purchase the Brucella negative goats - and also let the farmers know which goats are Brucella-positive so they can be culled from their herds. Dr. Joseph Ruhinda, a veterinarian working with NARO (the National Agricultural Research Organization in Uganda) was kind enough to take us through the steps of testing for Brucella and also provided the contacts for the many goat farmers we visited. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dr. Joseph (doctors are affectionately referred to by their first names in Uganda).

Devon drawing blood

On Monday we arranged to rent a truck and pick up our goats. Another interesting tidbit is that renting a truck in Uganda also means renting a driver for the day. This made things a little tighter for space than we hoped, but we long ago learned to just roll with the punches for these sorts of things. "Oh, we have another person to take with us all day. Sounds good". It could have been worse - we thought we'd need multiple trips to transport 35 goats in a relatively small pick-up. We were wrong again.

After taking taxis for the last five weeks in Uganda, we know exactly how they feel

We were also able to purchase some goats from the FAOC social business. The social business was started last year by FAOC and Dr. Steve Kruzeniski, a WCVM grad and Vets Without Borders alumnus. The social business arranges to purchase goats from our vulnerable beneficiaries to ensure they get a fair price for their goats since they often are forced into taking prices well below market value. We were very proud to be able to purchase goats from former beneficiaries!

Once we had all of our goats we brought then to the FAOC demonstation farm where we dewormed, vaccinated, hoof trimmed and spray for ticks. The goats then got to settle down for the night before the pass-out ceremony the next day.

 Hoof trimming
Stylishly vaccinating

When goats who don't know each other are mixed, there's often a lot of head-butting as they jockey to establish a new dominance hierarchy. While this is normal, sometimes it can lead to the small goats getting bullied just a little too often. That's when we step in to police them a bit. 

You have to speak their language

The goat pass-out ceremony began with a 90 minute husbandry training session. We covered the main issues that we want to beneficiaries to focus on - deworming their goats every 3 months, vaccinating yearly, spraying for ticks and providing enough feed and water. Whenever possible, we encouraged the members to teach each other good tips and husbandry practices. We also stressed the importance of using the paravet regularly to ensure their goats remain healthy. Preventative medicine is not ingrained in Uganda as it is for North American producers so we repeated over and over again how important it is to keep up with vaccination and deworming before the goats get "sick".

One of the paravets explaining how to use the dewormer
Joseph, one of the FAOC extension workers, speaking to the beneficiaries

We also explained how the goats we are giving out are not "gifts" and that it is the responsibility of the beneficiaries to pass-on to keep the project going. Once the beneficiaries have given one kid to another group member and sold one to provide money to their group's revolving fund they can keep all future kids and increase their herd size. The community's revolving fund is basically a small-scale micro-finance fund that provides the women access to small loans to cover everything from school fees to loans for goat care or other business opportunities. Many communities have very successfully build up their revolving fund from selling goats from the pass-on.

   Tara explaining the pass-on 

We arranged for one of the paravets to cook lunch for everyone in attendance and after a much larger than expected plate of matooke, beans, sweet potato, and posho (maize meal) we were ready to pass out the goats!

Finally handing over the goats to the women was an unforgettable experience. I couldn't be happier to have shared the experience with such a hard-working team as Devon, Ilse, Katie, Tara, and our dedicated FAOC staff workers Vivian, Joseph and Shafiq who we worked so closely with in the field over the past five weeks. And to see these hard-working and always cheerful women finally receive their goats was truly something special.

We would like to sincerely thank all of you who donated money to purchase goats - and a big thank you to Barbara Souther for coordinating all of our fundraising. This project is something special and we are very grateful to have the support of friends and family back home. Many women in the communities around Kaberebere, Uganda have all been given a real opportunity to provide for their grandchildren thanks to you.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

In addition to Devon’s blog entry, here is a little recap of our last day with Dr. Siefert:

June 13th, 2013
Today we have officially been in Uganda for one month. The time seems to be passing very quickly while at the same time it feels like we've been here for much longer. We were able to join Dr. Seifert tracking lions today and the mission was to find a lioness named Bridget to treat her for a potential eye infection. With help from James, Dr. Siefert’s field assistant, we were able to find her without too much trouble lounging in the shade of an ant hill. Bridget is one of the radio collared lionesses in the pride that Dr. Seifert monitors regularly.

It was interesting to learn about the technique that is used to dart gun lions. Dr. Seifert showed us the combination of Telazol and Medetomidine, calculated according to an estimation of Bridget's weight (120kg). After preparing the dart gun and equipment Dr. Seifert darted and anesthetized Bridget smoothly. She was quite startled at first, jumping up and looking for the source of the " bite"' but then calmly walked away a distance before lying down. It was explained to us that this is a normal reaction and many lions think they’ve just been bitten by a large tsetse fly!

We had about an hour to work without risk of her waking up. Since she had gone down in a very sunny spot, we rolled her onto a blanket and 6 of us carried her to a shady spot to work. Dr. Seifert applied local Oxytetracycline antibiotic to her eye and gave an intramuscular injection of long acting Oxytetracycline. We were all eager to help with monitoring, physical exam, and TPR (temperature, pulse and respiration). We also removed a number of ticks and Ilse drew blood to bring back to the lab. Blood, tick and saliva swab samples will be assessed for a number of diseases including but not limited to Rabies, Filariasis and Babesiosis.
Once we were finished working, cold water was poured over Bridget to cool her down and she received an injection of Atipamezole to reverse the sedation. We retreated in the land rover to a safe distance and watched to ensure she safely woke up. After about 10 minutes she sat up with the towel that had been placed over her eyes in her mouth. It was very cute! Convinced that she was now awake enough to defend herself against any other wildlife we left her in the shade of the trees and began our drive back to the main road. All in all a very interesting and exciting day!

Day of the African Child, June 14th, 2013
The next day we caught a taxi (matatu) back to Mbarara where we helped with Day of the African child in the afternoon. Day of the African Child,, is an annual event throughout Africa. It occurs during the month of June and NGOs and partners celebrate children and raise awareness for child related issues in Africa. The message this year was “Eliminating Harmful Social and Cultural Practices Affecting Children: Our Collective Responsibility”.
There were a number of activities and games for the children such as face painting, story time and a very brief soccer game. We discovered it is very difficult to organise a soccer game with hundreds of children and the ball popped within 10 minutes, but they had fun while it lasted! The children loved our cameras and were very eager to have their pictures taken with everyone. There were songs and skits by the children to demonstrate some of the issues they face, and an awards ceremony to acknowledge all the partners involved. We all really enjoyed being part of this special day, thanks to FAOC and partners for organising such a successful event! 

Hello again!

I wrote this blog post in a few stages, but the main purpose is to summarize part of our week spent with Dr Ludwig Seifert, an excellent wildlife vet who has worked in Uganda for more than 30 years. To give a little background, we are staying in little student rooms on the Mweya Peninsula in Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is home to many species of wildlife. One memorable night this week we saw a leopard walking into the trees, watched elephants strolling a few meters from our door and opened the curtains to see a hippo munching some grass behind our rooms.
The first few days we spent time helping out with a human disease screening project, and I wrote some of the following paragraphs while I was waiting to enter patient data:

I am sitting in a warm room in the back corner of a run-down medical clinic in Muhokya, where we have been since 8:00 this morning. There are scuffed yellow walls with HIV posters hung up with band aids or masking tape, and a lineup of patient people waiting to receive an ultrasound. Tara is standing behind Dr. Eberhard Zehyle as he runs the ultrasound probe over a woman’s abdomen, Elad is taking notes while watching the ultrasound screen, Katie is drinking water to stay hydrated in this stuffy place, and Ilse and I are recording patient information. We switch back and forth doing different things and I am on the job of initial patient identification, which leaves a bit of time to write as there is a current back up at the “long survey” station Ilse is running.
Here is the typical scene - everyone with a job to do
This guy was my buddy when I was taking a water break, but when he came to get tested, he was terrified! Our translator said he was screaming "I'm dying!!!" while getting his ultrasound
Our 2 translators and Dr. Zehyle at the end of a long day, walking back from the medical center

The purpose of today is to screen for Hydatid disease, which is caused by a very interesting parasite called Echinococcus. I have copied a picture from our parasitology notes, courtesy of Dr. Polley at the University of Saskatchewan, to better explain why this is such a cool parasite to study, especially in this part of the world. The main route of human infection is through contact with eggs found in dog feces. Once the eggs are ingested, the larvae move through the blood stream and can cause cysts to form in various organs, but most commonly the liver.  Humans act as an "incidental host" which means they do not transmit the disease back to dogs like the moose (or Hartebeast of Water Buffalo), but they are still susceptible to cyst formation. If the disease is caught early it can be successfully treated with drugs, but later in its course, it requires surgery. Due to the presence of lions, leopards, and other carnivores in African countries like Uganda, some scientists speculate that these species could also transmit this parasite to humans. In addition, there are also many different herbivores including goats, buffalo, and countless types of antelope which could take on the role of the “intermediate host”. Such zoonotic diseases highlight the important relationship between human and animal health, often referred to as “One Health”.

Here is Dr. Polley's life cycle- I added a few pictures to the original
In working with a few villages in Queen, I have learned a lot about One Health. We are lucky that Dr. Seifert is so passionate about teaching students, not just about wildlife medicine, but also about some of the complex social issues which have a huge impact on wildlife conservation. I find myself very inspired by the people like Dr. Seifert who continue to work here to promote wildlife conservation and community development.

The people Katie and I collected initial information from while they patiently waited for their scan
We had a lot of fun - the women were very patient with our broken Ryankole (their local language)
It was a long day for these women, and we also made a new little friend

So after 3 days helping out with the ultrasound clinic, we saw about 400 patients and around 10 positives for Hydatid Disease. The doctors carrying out the study hope to organize treatment for these patients, and hopefully we were able to educate some people about how to break the disease cycle. Overall, it was a worthwhile experience and I definitely learned a lot about the human-animal health connection in the people living in Queen. Our last day spent with Dr. Seifert was very exciting, but I think I will let Tara tell you about our experience with “the lion man”.



Ps. (This is a VERY critical paragraph for all our readers) I am starting to get concerned about Elad. Whenever I leave my computer open he writes flattering blog articles about himself. Although, he definitely did impress me today. He’s basically my mentor. I’m not sure what I would do without him. I’d be completely lost! Yep, he sure is the best.
Here we all are with Dr. Zehyle at the end of our 3 days of work

Lastly, I could not help putting up this picture I snapped while driving out to our work - we had a sort of a stand off with this guy. He did NOT want to leave the road, so he shook his ears at us and we had to back up the land rover for a km or so until he became more interested in the Acacia trees.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

How to cook grasshoppers in 8 easy steps

Now that we've settled in Uganda we've been able to explore a bit around Mbarara. In the past couple weeks we've been out to a few bars and clubs, spent an afternoon swimming at the local pool, routinely cram six to seven people in "taxis" to get to work, and are way too comfortable while weaving through traffic on boda bodas (and if we're overcharged by $0.20 we let them know).

But one of the most interesting things of traveling anywhere is the chance to try the local food. While eating local food out at restaurants is one thing we did right away, recently we've taken to trying our hand at cooking local food ourselves. The girls have refined their matoke recipe thanks to advice from Vivian, our closest contact at FAOC. We've recently had authentic katogo prepared for us by one of the women from Kahenda. And we had a surprise visitor drop by to make us Ugandan millet porridge. But one thing we hadn't tried yet was grasshopper.

Our first encounter with them was in the market in Entebbe. Tara, not knowing what they were, made the mistake of walking over to a big barrel of fried grasshoppers and pointing. She was offered a scoopful of grasshopper torsos to sample, and caused quite a bit of laughter when she refused. We resolved to try them, we just wanted to wait for "the right time". Well, our hand was recently forced. Grasshopper is seasonal (yes, they have a grasshopper season). And it's ending very soon; the best time of year to get them ends in May and starts up again in November, a couple months after the dry season ends. Realizing that our chance was going to get away from us (we weren't going to settle for imported grasshopper) Katie and I headed to the market this morning in search of grasshoppers.

Step 1: Buy the grasshoppers at your local market

It didn't take long for us to find them. There was a woman selling a basketful at the entrance to the market. It was a bit of an odd sight. They are captured at night using powerful lights to attract them. They are then funneled into barrels where they spend the rest of the night using up their energy trying to escape. In the morning their legs and wings are plucked and they are sent off to the market and sold alive. They are wildly popular and we were assured that no grasshoppers are left by the end of the day.

So Katie and I looked over the basket of wiggling torsos trying our best to look like grasshopper connoisseurs. "Yes, this looks like it will do. Ah, very fresh today". We went with the intention of buying fried grasshopper, but suddenly the chance to cook them ourselves seemed pretty appealing. In for a penny...
We bought one large, overflowing cup for 5000 shillings (about 2 dollars) and walked off with our wiggling plastic bag. We were pretty sure most of them were dead by the time we got home, but the girls voted to throw them in the freezer for a while just in case.
Step 2: Rinse the grasshoppers

We've been told this step shouldn't be skipped. So we dumped the bag of almost-certainly-dead grasshoppers into a pot of water and rinsed them several times, eventually working up the nerve to use my hands.

 Cleaning the little guys

 Step 3: Remove the excess water.

This step is less pleasant. Basically, squish the water out of them.

 Wet grasshoppers

Somewhat less wet grasshoppers

Step 4: Throw them in the frying pan.

We've been told several times that you don't need to add oil as they "make their own oil". Yeah.

 Step 5: Add onion, garlic, salt and pepper to taste.

Step 6: When the power in the building goes off, cover and simmer gently.

Step 7: When power returns 45 minutes later, add some olive oil and fry for 5 more minutes. Your grasshoppers will change colour when done.

 Step 8: And this is the most important, always enjoy them with friends...

 Just think of them as little shrimp
Our first bite (taken with the timer on my camera)
 Getting the hang of it

By the end we were actually enjoying them