Listening to Women
In March 2017 we launched our One Health project in two villages - Kolahalpur and Dwarikapur - in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. In Kolahalpur, our first task was to listen to Dalit women. Village women are the primary caretakers of dairy animals. Dairy animals provide nutrition for their families. The extra income they generate goes directly to the woman of the household. Having control of this extra income is a significant source of empowerment for women in rural India.
The women of Kolahalpur told their stories: Each cares for two or three dairy cows or buffalo. They cannot afford consistent veterinary care. They know from working and living with their animals that parasites are a major problem. Every woman we spoke with requested medication for parasites. These women understood the connection between parasites and the health of both their animals and themselves and their families. It became quickly apparent that their needs are more basic and dire than in other areas of India in which we’ve worked. For this reason, we have decided to focus on this general region for the foreseeable future.
Dairy Animal Clinics
Our dairy animal clinic in Kolahalpur (and later with goats in Dwarikapur) confirmed what these women already knew: Animal parasites are an overwhelming problem in these villages. Many of the cows and buffalo and most of the goats and calves we examined were severely under weight and showed rough hair coat characteristic of intestinal parasites.
Parasites can have significant effects not only on the health and milk yield of the affected animal, but also on the health of the villagers themselves as zoonoses – diseases transmitted from animals to humans. The women we talked with were well aware of potential zoonosis, often telling us that they and their children too were suffering from the same parasites as their animals.
Our conversations with these women about their most pressing needs, along with our physical examinations of their livestock, made clear the need for comprehensive parasite control. Our knowledge of livestock diseases, zoonotic potential, dairy nutrition, and village dairy production tell us that parasite control will make quite a significant, positive impact in these communities.
Treating parasites in livestock will yield immediate, measurable benefits:
- Prevent disease transmission to the livestock.
- Help the animals survive longer and produce more milk.
- Improve availability of essential nutrition
- Prevent the spread of some diseases (zoonoses) to the villagers who live so closely with their livestock.
Our plan is to start small. Mere Saathi will provide parasite medication and treatment training to selected members of the Kachhwa Community Outreach Team. We will first train team members to treat their own livestock which they keep in Kolahalpur and Dwarikapur. The success of this training can be directly measured at dairy animal clinics we hope to repeat in Kolahalpur and Dwarikapur later this year.
If this approach proves effective, the Community Outreach Team will then train women in their own and other villages to carry out correct and effective parasite treatments of their animals. Mere Saathi animal parasite training and education can be coordinated with and amplified by the human health training which the Community Outreach Team already provides in these villages.