FORWARD OPERATING BASE APACHE, Afghanistan – Para-veterinarians from Zabul Province traveled to Qalat Sunday for a three-day workshop on livestock care held by a Mississippi Agribusiness Development Team.
The classroom-based workshop included hands-on training of basic veterinarian practices essential for the prevention and detection of diseases, as well as the treatment of illnesses.
“It’s important because this is an agriculture based country,” said Col. David Powell, an Army Veterinarian Corps Officer from Terry, Miss. “When you increase the sustainability of their skills and practices, it increases the country’s economic development as a whole.”
The Agribusiness Development Team, known as Zabul ADT 4, works with Afghan farmers and Para-veterinarians on a broad range of issues. Most notably, those issues are drought tolerance, water irrigation, and the monitoring and treatment of diseases among crops and livestock.
Livestock production is a key profession for most Afghans in rural populations, but there are only a handful of veterinarians in the country and even fewer veterinary facilities. Animal needs are met mostly by Afghan Para-veterinarians – animal caretakers who have practiced the profession for years, but have little training from the Afghanistan Veterinarian Association in Kabul.
Despite this lack of training, Powell said he was surprised at how healthy the goat and sheep population was. Of the 10 villages he visited, eight of them were already vaccinating their livestock and using deworming medication. This is proof that Para-vets are communicating the training they receive from the AVA and ADT’s with their local villages. This leads to an overall healthier livestock population in the area. As a result, Afghanistan will start to see increases in their livestock and crop production.
After livestock and crop production increases, the exporting of crops and livestock to neighboring countries will likely increase as well, Powell said. If this happens, it will be crucial that Afghans detect diseases and mitigate them.
“The more we teach them to recognize these diseases and prevent them, the better the world is as a whole,” said Powell.
One of the diseases Powell mentioned that could be present in Afghanistan is Aphthae epizooticae (foot and mouth disease). It’s a contagious virus among livestock which causes a high fever followed by blisters in the mouth and on the feet. Those blisters can then rupture and cause lameness. However, the disease is containable with vaccination and strict monitoring.
The workshop ended with Powell demonstrating some useful restraining techniques for medium to large sized-animals. The Afghan Para-vets learned that even wild animals could be subdued single-handedly with only a rope.
“They seem very engaged,” said Powell. “They had questions for me and responded to mine.”
Afterward, the ADT and the Para-vets discussed future training sessions. Next time, the ADT will give a more in-depth class on detecting different diseases, as well as taking blood samples from the livestock.