Tuesday, July 29, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

UCD dairy training aims to boost Rwandans’ health

Rwandan family with cowW

Dairy cows provide a vitally important source of nutrient-rich food for Rwandan families. UC Davis Global HealthShare/Courtesy photo

By
From page A1 | June 20, 2014 |

In Rwanda, the expression “have milk” — “gira amata” — is not part of a milk-mustachioed marketing campaign. It’s a wish for prosperity.

And prosperity is what a team of UC Davis scientists hopes to help the small African nation achieve, by improving the health and increasing the productivity of its dairy cows.

Dairying is a centuries-old enterprise in Rwanda, but production levels are quite low, and the milk is often contaminated with bacteria that pose health risks for cows and people.

“The underproduction of milk in Rwanda is heartbreaking,” said professor Ray Rodriguez, executive director of the UCD Global HealthShare Initiative.

Rwandan cows now produce just 5 liters of milk per day. The same cows, when healthy and well cared for, should be producing 25 to 40 liters per day, he said.

UCD’s Global HealthShare Initiative is coordinating the partnership between campus scientists, students and their colleagues in Rwanda. They’re teaching Rwandan veterinarians, veterinary students, university faculty and government officials how to improve the health and productivity of dairy cows and the safety of milk. They’re also teaching these individuals how to provide this training to a nation of smallholder farmers.

Faculty members on the team are Rodriguez and Jim Cullor, a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine and director of its Dairy Food Safety Laboratory.

They teamed up with Somen Nandi, co-founder and managing director for Global HealthShare and principal investigator for its Rwanda project, and several graduate and undergraduate students.

“It’s about feeding the kids,” Cullor said. “It’s the children of Rwanda who are our customers.”

The project also is a reminder of the international aspect of modern health issues, Rodriguez said.

“All health is now global health; we can’t just look at our health in the U.S. in isolation,” he said.

The team is focusing on mastitis, a bacterial infection of the cow’s udder and the most common dairy cattle disease in the United States. In Rwanda, mastitis reduces milk production, causes milk to be unfit for sale and may result in the cow’s death.

During the past year, the UCD team has provided training to 40 Rwandan veterinary students, university faculty and government officials, teaching them practical techniques for preventing mastitis and identifying the different types of bacteria likely to be found in milk.

The success of the Rwandan program relies upon developing a collaborative partnership with the Rwandan government, and identifying technologies that are appropriate for that country.

For example, sophisticated laboratory tests used in the United States are not economically practical for Rwanda. Instead, the team is training the veterinary professionals and students to prepare petri dishes on which microbial cultures can be grown.

“It’s not low-tech; we call it ‘rural tech,’ ” Cullor said.

When an autoclave for sterilizing the laboratory instruments proved to be prohibitively expensive, a pressure cooker was purchased to serve the same function.

“We don’t come with big money, however, we can make small but important changes,” Nandi said.

The team is passing on the dairy dynamic management techniques, developed through the Dairy Food Safety Laboratory and implemented through the Global HealthShare Rural Tech program. This on-farm training is designed to improve animal health and well-being, ecosystem health, food safety and the economic well-being of Rwandan smallholder farmers.

To make sure that the benefit of the training spreads, the team is training the Rwandan veterinary students so that they can go into local villages and train farmers on how to raise healthier, more productive cows.

Underproduction of safe milk presents a serious human-health dilemma, as well as an economic challenge, for Rwanda.

“We’re trying to emphasize that because the milk is loaded with bacteria, there is a food safety issue,” Rodriguez said. He noted that some bacteria in milk cause intestinal infections in children, and repeated infections leave the child unable to adequately absorb nutrients.

Nearly 60 percent of Rwandan’s live below the poverty line — 40 percent subsisting on less than 90 cents per day, according to the U.S. Aid for International Development. And 44 percent of Rwandan children under the age of 5 suffer from stunting.

“Nutritionists use the term ‘the first 1,000 days’ — that window of time when nutritional interventions can prevent permanent damage to the body,” Rodriguez said.

“And if children are raised on contaminated milk during that time, their cognitive development can be permanently damaged as adults,” Nandi said

There is a particular poignancy for the team to be introducing the dairy program and its promise of health and prosperity to Rwanda during the 20th anniversary of that nation’s tragic 1994 genocide, which resulted in the deaths of more than 800,000 Rwandans.

They were pleasantly surprised to find that Rwanda today is a safe, stable, almost litter-free country, with a strong commitment to civil society and civil obedience.

“The country is safe, and the people are very hopeful,” Rodriguez said. “They want Rwanda to be the gem of Africa.”

The UCD team hopes that, in some small but important way, the dairy program can help achieve that goal.

— UC Davis News

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    That’s the ticket: Mondavi gets dynamic with pricing

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Tickets, sponsorships available for 10th annual Village Feast

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Ramco launches innovation center outreach effort

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Bob Dunning: Just be glad we don’t want fingerprints

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    House to vote on slimmed-down bill for border

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Crews make gains on foothills wildfire

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Groundwater expert will speak in Woodland

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Pets of the week

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Fair entries due soon for veggie, flower exhibitors

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Forum will explore injured veterans’ issues

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Humphrey Fellows share tales from their countries

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Hear Julie and the Jukes in the park

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Square Tomatoes celebrates its anniversary

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Exchange program seeks host families

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Forum

    Our own policies do us harm

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Pat Oliphant cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A4

    It’s all the ecologists’ fault

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4

     
    Refrain from generalization

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4

     
    It hurts, but not as much as the truth

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    Accusations tear family down

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    .

    Sports

    Thorpe named UCD head softball coach

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Republic sets attendance record

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Cats let win slip away in Tacoma

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Houston continues to be a problem for A’s

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Lawrence Okoye preparing for the NFL

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Pirates plunder S.F.

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 (set 1)

    By Creator | From Page: B5

     
    Comics: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 (set 2)

    By Creator | From Page: B7