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Sustainable Livelihoods:

Capital Assets

Vulnerability, Complexity and Diversification

Training 'Barefoot Vets' to Treat Village Animals, Indonesia
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Introduction

Everybody knows that doctors are vital to the health of a community. But how about vets? Without them, sick animals die, investment in improved livestock is hampered and livestock-rearing communities remain poor. Yet in much of the world, trained vets are very thin on the ground.

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Defining the problem

And that was the case in the district of Minahasa, the most densely populated part of northern Sulawesi in Indonesia. In mountainous volcanic area, among the profusion of people, rice fields, vegetable patches and groves of clove trees, live large populations of animals. There are 500 villages, and in them almost every household has at least one pig, kept for slaughter at weddings and funerals, and a handful of chickens, ducks and geese. Many have cows that plough fields as well as providing meat, and a good number have working horses. A recent census put the total livestock at almost 5 million.

But, until 1997, they all had to share a single fully-qualified vet. "There should be someone to give animal health services in each village, living in the community," says government vet Cokro Leksmono ("Lexi"). Plenty of vets get trained, but few want to stay in the area.

This is partly because few communities can afford their high fees, and partly because most ambitious vets want to move on to places where they can make more money. For Lexi, the solution is to find a middle way -- to create community vets, rather as human health services create community nurses. Farming communities need local people trained in a few of the basic skills of veterinary science -- such as giving vaccinations, stitching wounds, treating common diseases, castration and artificial insemination. They need to be people living and working in the community and charging affordable prices.

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Taking action

And that was the case in the district of Minahasa, the most densely populated part of northern Sulawesi in Indonesia. Here, among the profusion of people, rice fields, vegetable patches and groves of clove trees, live large populations of animals. There are 500 villages, and in them almost every household has at least one pig, kept for slaughter at weddings and funerals, and a handful of chickens, ducks and geese. Many have cows that plough fields as well as providing meat, and a good number of working horses. A recent census put the total livestock at almost 5 million.

But, until 1997, they all had to share a single fully-qualified vet. "There should be someone to give animal health services in each village, living in the community," says government vet Cokro Leksmono ("Lexi"). Plenty of vets get trained, but few want to stay in the area.

This is partly because few communities can afford their high fees, and partly because most ambitious vets want to move on to places where they can make more money. For Lexi, the solution is to find a middle way -- to create community vets, rather as human health services create community nurses. Farming communities need local people trained in a few of the basic skills of veterinary science -- such as giving vaccinations, stitching wounds, treating common diseases, castration and artificial insemination. They need to be people living and working in the community and charging affordable prices.

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The cast

"I used to treat animals before using traditional medicine and a bit of modern medicine that I learned by reading the brochures that come with the medicine." -- Hengly Sondak, paravet from Kanongan Dua village.

  • Cokro Leksmono ("Lexi"), government vet and project worker
  • Brexi Roring, from Kawiley village, chairman of Paravets Association
  • Senfli Sondak, jockey, horse trainer and farmer
  • Syaniet Wallah, farmer
  • Jules Rumambi, trainee paravet

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Global Relevance

The new service gives villagers greater confidence in their livestock. One consequence is that they feel better able to invest in better breeds. Syaniet Wallah, for instance, says that formerly she was at a loss when her pigs got sick. She didn't know how to cure them and had no vet to call on. Mostly, they died. With paravet Hengly on call, she feels that sick pigs can be cured, so the risks she runs whenever she goes out to buy a new one are less. The result is that she has not just healthier pigs, but is prepared to buy "a better breed of pig," she says. And that is a lesson with a global message.

And more generally, the problem of getting access to modern methods of treating animals is one that exists throughout the world - and training paravets, or `barefoot vets', is being shown to be an effective way of beginning to tackle it.

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Thinking points

  • Community vets can be as important to a village as community nurses.
  • Traditional animal healers can be ideal candidates for training in modern methods
  • Farmers are more willing to invest in their animals if they are confident that they can be cured of sickness.

Training for paravets in Indonesia formed part of the Deliveri project, funded by the UK Department for International Development and the Government of Indonesia

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In the Field is a collaboration between the BBC World Service and the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich, supported by the Rural Livelihoods Department of the UK Government Department for International Development (DFID)

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