South Sudan: Cattle keepers improve livestock health with basic veterinary techniques (FAO)

| October 9, 2017

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For many livestock keepers in South Sudan, a sick or injured animal is a hopeless cause. Marial Madit is from the Maraya cattle camp in Awerial County, in central South Sudan. He says, “If one of our cows was sick, it was either slaughtered or left to die because we didn’t know how to deal with sick cows.”  

But now, Mr. Madit has learned to identify and manage some of the common diseases that affect his animals. Along with 24 other young South Sudanese, Mr. Madit recently trained to become a community animal health worker.

In South Sudan, the death of an animal is the loss of an important asset. Cattle are used not only for milk and meat, but to pay dowry to the bride’s family before a marriage. 

Marco Makur Nyariel is an animal health officer with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, based in Rumbek, in South Sudan. He says, “If your livestock is sick, you may not be able to get good milk. You also may not be able to take care of your family.”

But despite the cultural and economic importance of livestock in the country, access to veterinary care is limited. Mr. Nyariel explains: “During the many years of fighting between the north and the south … the line of the education system within South Sudan was affected during the war.” He says this is why very few South Sudanese have been trained in veterinary medicine.

On top of that, many livestock keepers live in remote cattle camps, where bad roads and insecurity can make access difficult.
To help solve that problem, FAO is giving basic veterinary training to people who, like Marial Madit, live in cattle camps. FAO is also supporting the state and national Ministries of Livestock, Animal Resources, and Fisheries to address the gap in veterinary services.

Mr. Madit and other trainees from central South Sudan gathered in the town of Yirol for a two-week workshop in June. They learned about vaccination, as well as the prevention and treatment of diseases affecting cattle, sheep, goats, and poultry. The trainees also learned how to get rid of ticks and lice, which can transmit diseases that weaken animals. 

At the end of the course, the newly-trained community animal health workers brought their veterinary medicine and tools back to their communities and got to work. Within weeks, the trainees were already making a difference in the cattle camps where they live.

Ding Anyoun Gak lives in the War-Abyei cattle camp near Rumbek. He says: “With the training we had last time in Yirol, I have been able to identify the different diseases that have been attacking our cattle, and managed to treat some of these diseases.” 

Aborpei Gumwel is another community animal health worker in War-Abyei. He says: “We have been able to treat diseases and pests like ticks. Also, sometimes when the cattle come back from grazing, they have wounds that they got from animal attacks that we have been able to manage as well.”

Mr. Nyariel says that, in addition to caring for livestock, community animal health workers can help create a more peaceful society. Every time they treat an animal, they are also encouraged to talk to the livestock keepers about managing resources. Cattle raiding and disputes over resources like pasture and water often trigger fighting between cattle camps.

Mr. Nyariel explains: “We must cooperate and talk about how to manage our natural resources for the benefit of our livestock and to avoid conflict. The most important thing that you must put in your mind is that without peace, you will not be able to do treatment; without peace, you will not be able to do livestock vaccination.”

This story is adapted from an article titled “FAO trains cattle keepers in basic veterinary medicine,” published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. To read the original article, please see:

Photo: Marial Madit, from the Maraya cattle camp in Aweial County. Photo credit: FAO