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Dr. Ingrid Van der Linden, left, and her daughter Dr. Shauna Thomas, right. Submitted photo.

Veterinarians Without Borders volunteers assisting farmers in west Africa

Two veterinarians from the region are taking their skills to a different part of the world.

Dr. Ingrid Van der Linden and her daughter Dr. Shauna Thomas of Russell are in Ghana from January to February 1 volunteering with Veterinarians Without Borders (VWB).  Much like Doctors Without Borders which assists people in parts of the world where medical care is not easy to access, VWB assists farmers in places where livestock health and nutrition practices where those services are not as accessible as they are in developed countries.

In Ghana, Drs. Van der Linden and Thomas are in Ghana to help farmers increase their income through better feed formulation, animal housing, and the control and diagnosis of diseases in poultry and livestock.  Another priority is to help build a strong network of farm communities and capacity for women farmers.

Dr. Van der Linden said the Canadian chapter of VWB started in the 1990’s.  Dr. Thomas first found out about the organization as a student at the University of Guelph in 2016 and became involved with it then.  She graduated as a veterinarian in the spring of 2019 and is working at a mixed animal practice in Almonte.  Dr. Van der Linden works at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in Ottawa.

“They’re both very supportive,” Dr. Thomas said of both her and her mother’s employers with respect to their trip.

According to Dr. Van der Linden, they are working primarily with poultry and small ruminant farmers in northern Ghana where livestock are mostly free-range but independently owned.  They are helping farmers, especially farm women, use small business practices in farm management.

“It’s really focused on improving their annual production through management practices,” said Dr. Van der Linden.

By adopting different health and management practices, the farmers in Ghana will possibly be able to move beyond subsistence farming and earn additional income from agriculture.

While many people associate the work that veterinarians do as all about the physical health of animals, the work VWB is doing goes beyond that.

“It’s about ensuring production through good health management,” said Dr. Van der Linden.

She added that their efforts in Ghana will improve food security and allow women to have a source of income because they are often the breadwinners and responsible for animal care on their farms.

Dr. Thomas said women in Ghana often have a significant amount of responsibility in farming but do not always have access to the training male farmers there have.

James Morgan

James Morgan is a freelance contributor. He has worked for several print and broadcast media outlets. James loves the history, natural beauty, and people of eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

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