The fun, challenges of animal health training to village farmers

I was recently invited to deliver a presentation at a workshop in Katutura, organised by the NBC Otjiherero radio service titled, “Is livestock farming in communal areas stagnating?”
This particular training was broadcasted live on radio where farmers asked questions.
The challenge for me was to use more acceptable words and phrases to the entire listenership.
Mind you, radio is the most used tool of communication, more so in rural areas. And it’s always scary knowing that my grannies and my in-laws listen attentively to every word I speak.
Imagine saying words like ‘vagina’ and ‘penis’ that we take as normal day-to-day words in veterinary language, without offending anyone!
Oh my, it is tough! You have to try smoothening things up a bit and rather use phrases than just single words.
For example, for the ‘anus’ or ‘rectum’, you just say “the feces organs”, otherwise, the audience will exclaim; that’s if they don’t stand up and just leave.
Another challenge is to keep farmers to one topic. During the training, everyone had their own issues and queries and just wanted to squeeze them in all at ones.
Seriously, it can be daunting to try and control the question sessions, for them not to bombard you with missiles of questions before you complete one topic.
One asked about how to treat an abscess while the other’s concern was about Pasteurella... and then you wonder how to proceed!
One thing I always do whenever I go for animal health trainings in the villages is ask them what they wish to know from me or what they wish to discuss.
Farming issues can be quite different in different areas and what’s pertinent in one is not necessarily relevant to the other.
The best way to go about any training session is preparation. Preparation! The trick is to have as many visuals as possible.
They say, “tell someone something and they will remember 30% but show them something and they will remember at least 70%”.
Thus, show them different medicines, disease pamphlets and posters and they will have a better picture than preaching to them.
In the village, I usually ask to slaughter a goat or sheep systematically whilst teaching practically what to look out for; disease signs and how to treat a sick animal (then we braai the meat after, of course).
And farmers bring as many diseased animals as possible and we work on them. At least the people will be relaxing outside, making jokes and enjoying the training.
Another aspect to consider when intending to achieve good results during trainings is keeping your farmers comfortable with not just the style of teaching but they should also be at ease around you.
At times, the farmers become apprehensive by this “educated” person coming to teach them.
What they don’t realise is that most trainers are at first just as intimidated by an expectant audience and we actually learn a lot of tricks from farmers themselves as well.
I was once at a village training in Ongongoro in Otjituuo areas where farmers were anxious about “what is the doctor going to eat? Where is she going to sleep?” kind of scenarios.
It became fun when they realised later on that their fears were unfounded as I was just as comfortable in the village as they were.
I’m “The Village Vet” mos. (And  of course you can’t come there with your high heels and short skirt. The best is to dress like a farmer or wear what I love the most; my green veterinary overall and my cowboy hat).
One thing that stands out of these trainings is that our farmers are usually hungry for information and wish to improve their livestock productivity.
Long are the days when our village farming was mostly traditional. Nowadays, livestock is rather treated as a business, than keeping livestock only for prestige and traditional rituals.
I urge our farmers to attend as many farming trainings as possible. Knowledge is power, mos.
Our farmers associations and co-operatives should prioritise animal health trainings on their annual calendars and seek experts in various farming fields. And yes, the season is here for the annual regional agricultural shows.
Get ready and be part of them, learn best farming practices.
Watch and learn from the experts in all kinds of livestock husbandry. And share with your neighbours what you have learnt.
This is imperative for farming not to go backwards or stagnate but rather flourish to especially reduce poverty in our villages.