VETS UNITED in Liberia
Ambassadors for animal welfare
60% of people living in Liberia work in agriculture, every third family owns cattle, sheep, goats and chicken. The care of these animals is often less than inadequate though. For one, there are barely any veterinary care staff (just around 20 para-vets and 4 foreign vets in the whole country). Additionally, the para-vets lack knowledge of agricultural livestock husbandry, diet, health and especially animal welfare indicators due to insufficient training. To improve animal welfare long-term, VETS UNITED has started a pilot project for para-vets at two educational institutions in the country in cooperation with the local animal welfare organization Liberia Animal Welfare and Conservation Society (LAWCS).
Background: Liberia, Africa
Area: 111.368 km2
Population: ca. 4.6 million
Official language: English
Ranked 181 of 189 in the human development index 2018
Around 1.6 million livestock (mainly chicken and goats)
Ca. 20 local para-vets, out of which 15 actively practice
No local vets (ca. 4 foreign ones)
The project partners, the Cuttington University in Gbarnga and the Lofa County Community College in Voinjama, already offer the course animal science. Graduates work as para-vets and advise animal owners on matters regarding husbandry, diet and well-being of their animals. Due to there being no local vets in Liberia, veterinary care is also part of their job – theoretically. The reality looks different: There are neither enough graduates to take care of all the existing animals, nor are the already actively working para-vets able to perform most veterinary jobs due to their absent training. There is a lack of experienced lecturers, good lecture materials and practical teaching modules. This results in barely any animal in the country receiving the veterinary care it requires. Time and again, animals die as a result of missing vaccinations and improperly treated, or non-treated, wounds – just to give two examples.
Thus, the goal of VETS UNITED in Liberia is to educate para-vets in animal welfare knowledge and practical skills during their training, and thereby improve the care of the animals long-term.
First Step: Define animal welfare as the common goal during studies
First, a foundation needs to be laid for the integration of animal welfare factors into the educational training of the prospective para-vets. To ensure this, local partners of the LAWCS and the respective educational institution will sign a joint letter of intent, which frames the inclusion of animal welfare relevant content in the lectures as a primary goal of the initially one-year pilot project. The basis for lecture material from VETS UNITED – this being lectures, educational videos as well as instructions for practical exercises for different animal welfare relevant topics – is also defined, in addition to which specific topics are of importance for Liberia and should be added to the course.
Improve the teachers’ expertise
As soon as the formal conditions are met, the project has intended for its first phase of training to start: The project supervisor Abdoulie Ceesay, an experienced para-vet from Gambia, together with LAWCS will guide all training and will first start by carrying out/conducting one-week animal welfare courses at the two educational institutions for the lecturers of the animal science department. Moreover, the local VETS UNTED coordinator in Gambia, Dr. Kebba Daffeh, will accompany those first workshops content-wise. He, for one, will introduce the course content of the programme in detail, and on the other hand describe his own experiences in regard to the implementation of the course, and its accreditation into the curriculum at Gambia College.
Integrate practical experiences into the course of education
Afterwards, “practical” months are planned on an alternating basis between the university and college over the course of numerous months, during which practical exercises are integrated into the timetable. It is intended for the current 40 students and their 10 lecturers, under the guidance of the supervisor Abdoulie Ceesay and the LAWCS, to visit the surrounding villages and use the opportunity to examine and treat the animals. Towards the end of each practical month, the lecturers and students will be asked to give extensive feedback. The collected findings will be discussed, assessed and possibly adjusted during a multi-day meeting with the para-vet, LAWCS and educational institutions.
Once the course content is successfully adapted to the curriculum of both Cuttington University and Lofa County Community College, the aim is to establish the project at other educational institutions across the country.
VETS UNITED is a joint programme of Welttierschutzgesellschaft (WTG) and Welttierschutzstiftung (WTS) with projects in The Gambia, Liberia, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda.