by Dr. John Vanleeuwen, Department of Health Management, Atlantic Veterinary College Dr. Jennifer Taylor, Department of Applied Human Sciences, Faculty of Science
“We sure have come a long way… from being overwhelmed by the bustle and chaos of a Kenyan market day, to knowing our main vendors, bartering prices, and greeting familiar happy faces from the dairy farms along the way. And we really enjoyed working with the Kenyan dairy farmers to make their cows healthy, productive and happy.”
– Hanna Hone and Chantel Doyle (AVC 2021) after their 2019 Kenyan internship
It was a busy year of Kenyan activities for faculty, staff and students from UPEI, University of Nairobi, and Kenyatta University (Kenya) who are winding down the first 4-year project, which improved human nutrition and cattle health, welfare and productivity in Kenya, and starting up a second 4-year project of the program entitled: “Integrated Innovative Research & Training for Improved Sustainable Livelihoods of Kenyan Farming Communities”. Both projects were funded primarily through the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships Program, with considerable support from the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre, Canadian and Kenyan pharmaceutical companies, and private donors.
The first project, worth $1.3 million, had 6 Kenyan graduate students involved in training and research projects successfully completing Masters (n=4) or PhD (n=2) degrees at UPEI, 14 Canadian undergraduate students (8 veterinary and 6 nutrition) from UPEI helping the graduate students with their Kenyan research projects, student supervisory committees, translators, drivers, and local people involved in logistics. Farmers Helping Farmers, a PEI-based non-governmental organization, was a partner on the project as well, and their volunteers and staff provided logistical support.
The direct beneficiaries for the project were the Naari Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society (NDFCS) and two women’s groups in Kenya. The 3 Kenyan veterinarians conducted research projects that identified the frequency, distribution and determinants of nutrition, reproduction and comfort of dairy cattle on smallholder dairy farms in Kenya. The 2 Kenyan nutritionists conducted research projects that assessed and enhanced the nutritional knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) of the farmers belonging to the NDFCS and the women’s groups. The projects also explored options for training farmers using cell phone messaging. Benefits included better human nutrition and diet diversity and improved cattle disease control, calf growth and cow reproduction, welfare and milk production through enhanced KAP.
The program team was thrilled to receive another 4 years of funding (2018-2021) for a second phase of research, worth $750,000. This second project involves 13 Canadian undergraduate students (7 veterinary and 6 nutrition) and 3 Kenyan graduate students scheduled to complete Masters (n=2) or PhD (n=1) degrees at UPEI. Their research projects in Kenya will explore the benefits and costs associated with: 1) vaccination for bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV and 3 other viruses); 2) prevention of mastitis in recently calved dairy cows; and 3) food-based nutrition education interventions incorporating nutritious crops from school gardens sponsored by Farmers Helping Farmers.
In May 2019, 2 veterinary students (Hanna Hone and Chantel Doyle) and 2 nutrition students (Julia Heckbert and Haley Mackenzie) from UPEI completed 3 month internships in Kenya. The veterinary students worked with Dr. Daniel Muasya in his BVDV vaccination project and trained farmers on better cattle health management. The nutrition students worked with women’s groups and schools to improve the nutritional quality of meals served. They also assisted Julie Oyoo who conducted a needs assessment for her school intervention.
It has been a pleasure and thrill to collaborate with so many people working enthusiastically to improve the lives of poor Kenyan farming communities. The changes are obvious and the improvements are gratifying. We thank all those who have been a part of it.
We started with a noteworthy quote and we end with another one…
“It has been a great learning experience and we have hopefully helped some schools along the way to make dietary changes in order to get the best possible meals at school, given the many challenges they face!”
– Julia Heckbert and Haley Mackenzie (NUT 2020) after their 2019 Kenyan internship