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A spoonful of molasses June 24th, 2014 by

“Here, donkeys do not have the same social status as horses and therefore they are not given the same type of attention and care,” says Betty Khoury, from Nawaya, a local NGO in Egypt. Betty was writing a fact sheet and a video script on controlling flies in donkeys and horses. The flies are attracted to moist areas on the animal’s body, such as the eyes or open wounds, and while feeding there, the flies transfer a parasite to the animal. The parasitic worms infect the eyes, causes summer sores, and can cause lung abscesses and when large numbers of worms end up in the stomach it blocks the passing of food. The animal weakens and becomes vulnerable to other diseases.

After doing their basic research, the team tested the first version of their fact sheet with people working at Al Sorat Farm, a sanctuary for neglected donkeys and horses. We expected it to be a rich experience, as farmers from nearby areas visit Al Sorat Farm for general advice and healthcare, and recently its mobile vet clinics also started servicing farmers in an area of 20 kilometers.

The owner, Maryanne Stroud, turns out to be an enthusiastic woman from southern California who has been living in Egypt for more than 20 years. Maryanne and her local staff are passionate about improving the living conditions of donkeys and horses. Her four young workers have all been trained by veterinary doctors to perform general healthcare, and they build up a wealth of practical experience. As not all of them can read Arabic, our colleague Hani Adel reads out the fact sheet to them. The young men’s faces show that they are listening attentively and at times they interrupt to give their feedback. None of them have ever heard of habronema, the scientific name of the parasitic worm. The young men suggest ways of simplifying the language of the fact sheets, while giving the team new ideas to include practical prevention measures.

By washing the donkey’s face with a damp cloth every morning, you can prevent the tear ducts from getting blocked, which causes tears to run over the face. As flies are attracted to overflowing tears on the donkey’s face, the parasite starts its infection there. The four men also give us advice on how to treat the donkey after it has worked the whole day: “The gear should be taken off the donkey or else it can get wounds. And you need to wash the gear and the donkey, as the sweat attracts flies.”

After we thanked the men and let them get back to their work and we talked some more to Maryanne. This proved another eye opener. While local veterinary doctors promote commercial deworming products, Maryanne had noticed that the horses did not like the medicine and often spit out half of it. The inert material that is added to the active ingredient has a disgusting taste. So Maryanne started to buy bottles of the active ingredient ivermectine and then mix it with molasses, which the animals just love. With a 50 ml bottle she can treat 10 horses or 20 donkeys and it is at least 25 times cheaper than using the commercial dewormers. She says that local vets have started to shun her because the advice she gives farmers is effective, yet eats into their business.

Washing a donkey’s face, adding medicine to a spoonful of molasses: these are just the kind of ideas we need for our farmer training videos, the ones that have been tested with farmers, that are effective and affordable.

Hani Adel is from the NGO ACDI/VOCA. He and Betty Khoury and others are taking the short, practical course offered by Agro-Insight on writing fact sheets and video scripts.

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