In Zambia ticks are responsible for 80% of cattle tick-borne diseases. To many rural Zambians, loosing cattle (sometimes up to a ¼ of their herd annually) is a normal occurrence. For a group of people who do not have access to the formal banking system, cattle act as an informal savings account. One smart farmer asked me if I have ever found a commercial bank that could double your investment in a year like a cow giving birth to calf could. Point taken!
Anyway, since these cows are worth between $188 and $312 CDN having a cow die, is in essence the same as a significant part of your banked savings being lost or stolen every year! Now imagine the impact on a farmer who lives on less than $2 a day.
The organization I work with, BDSA looks for private companies who are interested in working with rural farmers for example, and supports them to build a program that helps their client/beneficiary right into their business model! BDSA believes this model of development (shared value) can be sustainable if companies can see the program as beneficial to their bottom line.
So back to cattle, what has BDSA done?
We partnered with a local cotton company who already worked in cattle rich areas. They built 6 spray races (see below for photos showing the system) which you can think of as car washes that spray tick prevention chemicals on cattle. The cattle walks through the system weekly and gets coated in a thin layer of chemicals that prevents ticks from settling on the cow and transferring their deadly diseases.
Weekly sprays of cattle is not enough to prevent all of the diseases that a cow in rural Zambia faces. So we have also hired a veterinary assistant extraordinaire to vaccinate, deworm, and give vitamin and mineral treatments to the cows.
So where do I come in? I am simply the coordinator of project, ensuring that everyone’s needs are heard and addressed.
One of my favorite parts of the job is spending time with farmers and our veterinary assistant during our numerous training sessions. Since we cannot expect farmers to adopt new animal husbandry processes over night!
We try to make the program as holistic as possible, by anticipating and addressing the needs and limitations of the average small holder farmer. Knowing that asking a farmer to spend $16 per animal every year to care for its health is a huge burden or simply impossible on $2 a day. So we are busy planning a cattle selling day in April for all of our farmers. To help them with the process of selling, and to a legitimate buyer who has offered the best price in the region. Once they sell we will support them to use that money to pay upfront for a year’s worth of treatments, small business opportunities, and if I can manage it, even school fees for the year.
If you would like to know more details on our program, please just let me know! I have come to love to talk about cows 🙂