Animal health camps conducted to diagnose and treat ailing domestic animals in flood-affected villages in Sarlahi have allowed farmers to reclaim their sources of income as well as learn more about animal health in general
Ram Saugarat Raya recalls many a sleepless night when his cattle started showing signs of illness even as the floodwaters that had entered his village in Sarlahi in August of last year had begun to recede. “They were refusing to eat or drink, and had abscesses on their feet, among other problems,” says the Dhangadha resident. “Their eyes were swollen and inflamed, but we could not figure out the cause.”
Except for a small piece of land for farming, these two oxen, one buffalo and one cow were all Ram had in the name of property. Losing them would mean losing the main source of income for his family. What left Ram worried, in particular, was the thought that he would not be able to plant any crops unless he could use his oxen to plough the land.
Ram tried out various local medicines, but the condition of the animals only worsened over time. “I was at a complete loss as to what to do,” he says.
It was precisely for the benefit of farmers like Ram that UNDP’s Community Infrastructure and Livelihood Recovery Project (CILRP) had decided to run free animal health camps in the area in partnership with the District Livestock Services Office (DLSO). In view of the potential outbreak of diseases among domestic animals in the aftermath of the flood, such camps were conducted in five villages in Sarlahi including Dhangadha.
The food shortages and plant toxicity caused by the floods had led to a range of health issues in animals, from dehydration to infection and other diseases. Foot problems were a major concern for livestock considering the long periods of immersion in water that they suffered or having to stand on wet and muddy grounds.
When Ram took his animals to one of these camps, they were quickly diagnosed by experienced veterinary doctors. “The vets administered vaccines and gave them some medication, and they recovered quickly after that,” he says. “I’m happy to say that they’ve had no problems since.”
The five villages had been selected in consultation with local authorities, and there were plenty of takers. And according to officials of the Rural Development Society (RDS) in Barathawa, the NGO that had partnered with UNDP on the project in Sarlahi, Ram was among 500 farmers who had sought assistance at the animal health camps in Dhangadha alone.
“As animals were checked and provided the appropriate medical treatment, the confidence of the villagers visibly improved,” says RDS general secretary, Shubha Lal Raya. “They were reassured that they won’t have to deal with these problems, at least for another year.”
Common among the treatments at these camps was vaccination against Haemorrhagic Septicaemia and Black Quarter (HSBQ) diseases, and medication for foot and mouth (MFD), colibacillosis, bovine ephemeral fever and liver flu, among others. In some cases, artificial fertilization services were also sought, according to Dr Sunil Kumar Yadav, livestock officer at the DLSO.
Besides treating animals for existing conditions, DLSO officials say that the camps have had the added benefit of raising awareness among locals about animal health in general. “A big contribution of the health camps was in imparting information about the kinds of diseases likely to affect domestic animals in the wake of floods,” says DLSO technician Raj Kishor Yadav. “This is helpful for farmers to better recognize symptoms of different illnesses and seek appropriate treatment.”
Appreciating the intervention, local government officials requested that such camps be run in flood-prone areas regularly in the post-flood season. “The health camp was very effective, and there has been a lot of demand from farmers for similar initiatives in the future,” says Kamal Shah Kalwar, chairman of the Basbariya Rural Municipality in Dhangadha.
The health camps and the significant fall in the number of animals falling sick since, according to Kalwar, have also encouraged many in his village to take up animal husbandry as a viable livelihood option. “Even though a lot of people lost their cattle in the flood, they have also been convinced to persist in the effort, which is great,” he says.
CILRP was launched in response to the extensive damage and displacement caused by the 2017 floods in Nepal’s southern plains. Eastern and central Terai districts experienced the heaviest rainfall recorded in the past 60 years, which took the lives of 134 people, destroying over 43,000 houses, partially damaging 192,000 houses, and displacing tens of thousands of people. Over 80 percent of land in the southern Terai region was inundated. A post-flood assessment conducted by the Government of Nepal found that 1.7 million people were affected by the disaster.