Over ten million people in rural Uganda live in abject poverty, surviving on less than $1.25 per day. Vets without Borders is working in Uganda to help rural communities raise healthy livestock that can benefit families, communities and entire villages.
Uganda continues to struggle with some significant challenges, including the devastation caused by more than a quarter century of HIV/AIDS infection and the aftermath of a conflict that caused massive social and economic disruption in the northern part of the country. Agriculture continues to be the dominant industry in Uganda, accounting for 82 per cent of the workforce and 90 per cent of export earnings. While large commercial farms – often foreign owned – are beginning to control large swaths of land, more than 2.5 million smallholders continue to be the backbone of the industry, providing food for themselves and their countrymen. The HIV/AIDS epidemic and the conflict in the north left many widows, yet rural women face a range of obstacles to their full participation in the agricultural economy. Laws and traditions generally favour men, and many women have little or no access to land ownership, livestock , financial services, or agricultural inputs.
Small Steps to Great Solutions
VWB/VSF’s work in Uganda is centred in the Southwest of the country in the area around the community of Mbarara. In that area there is little or no access to veterinary care, resulting in high livestock mortality. The area also suffers from environmental degradation as a result of overgrazing. Through Volunteers for Healthy Animals and Healthy Communities, VWB/VSF is partnering with SNV, a Netherlands-based development organization to improve dairy farming in that area. Volunteer veterinarians have focused on dairy breeding and animal health, including the problem of tick insecticide residues in milk. SNV, working with the National Agriculture Research Organization, has established Practical Dairy Training Farms where smallholder dairy farmers can come to learn best practices that can be applied to their own farms. Volunteer veterinarians have focused some of their efforts on thedse farms, training staff and farmers to better care for their animals. Another important element of this initiative focuses on providing opportunities for women to benefit from livestock production and particularly dairy farming. VWB/VSF volunteer gender specialists are working through a national association of dairy co-operatives – the Uganda Crane Creameries Co-operative Union—to engage and train women and youth.
For many years, VWB/VSF has also supported a project which instructs women and orphans in goat production, and provides stock to help them get started. That project is continuing through the efforts of VWB volunteers, including veterinary students.