What's happening...

Gearing up in Ntchisi!
(February 2015)

Setting the agenda - one group in session.

I like to boast that RPC has developed the best training package for community based poultry vaccinators in Malawi. Of course, I don't really know if that's true but I can say I have not yet been challenged on the claim.

Well this week we are going one better. We are doing something which I don't think any other institution, with the exception of Inter-Aide, has yet done. Having recently trained and supported over 60 community based vaccinators in the four EPAs in Ntchisi district, we have asked them to elect a few key representatives who can act on their behalf on a cooperative basis. These representatives will procure vaccines and any other needed poultry medicines for their colleagues. It does not make sense for every vaccinator to go to Lilongwe to purchase vaccine because the quantities required by each individual are really small. Transport costs would be several times the cost of items purchased. It is a classic case where cooperative action makes good sense. All this might sound pretty simple and straight forward to you and me but I can assure you that in rural Malawi, people need support to get such systems firmly established.

Of course, we could do all this purchasing and transport for them through the project, couldn't we, but where would that leave the vaccinators when ultimately we have to close up shop and leave? High and dry, I'm afraid. What we want is a sustainable demand-driven system, one that will withstand the test of time. We want communities to be able to continue vaccination independently of outside help. Our role will be to make the necessary linkages. We will take the representatives to Lilongwe and help them make the contacts they will need. We will show them all that is necessary to enable them to help themselves and their communities. For now, each EPA will have two representatives so we'll start with eight all together. That should be sufficient to serve the needs of the groups, taking into account the distances involved.

Wish us luck. I'll tell you more next time.

Pat Boland, 23 February 2015

Post-script - 20 March 2015:

What wonderful people we have here in Malawi! We took our trainees to the Central Veterinary Laboratory where the I-2 vaccine is sold, as well as four different commercial veterinary suppliers in Lilongwe. The good thing is that at each of these locations, there were well trained and articulate technical staff at the front counter. Those staff not only know their job and their products, they know how to convey relevant information to ordinary farmers. And our trainees were not just ordinary farmers, they were the more enthusiastic within their communities; that is why they were elected.

Overall, we were delighted with the response. At every location, we went overtime because there was so much enthusiastic discussion going on. Of course, it is too early yet to say how much difference this will all make but for certain both we and our trainees were very pleased with the visit.

Technicians and vaccinators discuss products.

Pat Boland, 20 March 2015

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