Do you know the difference that modern veterinary science can make in countries like Haiti?
In the US, when we think of veterinary medicine, we tend to think about our pets. That’s completely understandable as one of the primary roles of veterinarians here in North America is to help return our companion animals to health when they are sick. In developing countries like Haiti, veterinary medicine plays a much different role.
In Haiti, livestock such as goats, pigs, chickens, and cattle are essential to the lives of those who live in rural areas. Although few own large holdings of livestock, many families have at least a few animals to barter with and possibly eat. For these animals to remain useful as both a food source and as a means of financial support, they need to be kept in good health. Attention must also be paid to the important role that animal health plays in public health. For there to be healthy livestock in Haiti for the future, modern verterarian techniques must be brought to rural areas.
As sustainable rural development is our goal at uFondwa, we have developed an integrated approach to our academic studies. Our three academic programs, Business Management, Agronomy, and Veterinary Medicine are all key components of teaching our students how to revitalize rural economics and bring wealth to their impoverished homes.
The Recent History of Livestock in Haiti
In the recent past, many rural farmers and other folks relied on livestock to improve their lives. Although they were often financially impoverished, the animals they raised, kept, and sold substantially raised their general standard of living.
Historically, one of the most popular kinds of livestock in Haiti were pigs. There were literally millions of pigs kept on the island by peasants and farmers alike. These pigs were well-adapted to the environment, grew reasonably quickly, and ate almost anything. They were just about the perfect animal for rural life. However, things took a turn in the early 1980s when African swine fever infected much of the pig population on the island. Farmers killed thousands of infected animals to prevent the illness from spreading further, heavily depleting the pig population. Eventually a government eradication program was put into place that almost completely wiped out the remaining pigs. Many farmers and other peasants were not compensated for the loss of their animals, further depleting the level of wealth in rural areas. To make matters worse, new breeds of pigs that were brought into Haiti to replenish the population were not well adapted to the Haitian environment. These events led to the closing of thousands of small farms across the country, driving previously prosperous families into poverty.
Although the pig population was decimated, there were other popular animals kept as livestock in Haiti such as goats, which grew in popularity after the pig slaughters of the 80s, and poultry like chickens or ducks. Unfortunately, tragedy struck repeatedly throughout the 90s and 2000s as environmental disasters like Hurricane Ivan and more recently Hurricane Matthew flooded rural areas, killing thousands of animals and further damaging rural economies.
Why is Veterinary Medicine So Important to Haiti?
The health management of livestock is a crucial part of the rural economy of Haiti. Not only are animals an important source of income, they are also an important source of, well, food. For rural areas to thrive, knowledge of modern veterinary medicine needs to spread throughout the country. Our students and graduates spend much of their time teaching rural farmers and peasants new, environmentally-friendly methods of animal husbandry and how to prevent, diagnose, and treat animal illnesses.
Veterinary Medicine goes beyond simply the wellbeing of animals in rural Haiti, as our students and graduates are on the front line of public health as well. They have to work to educate rural areas about the dangers of zoonotic diseases and illnesses spread from animals to humans. They can help fight these illnesses through vaccinations, promotion of good animal hygiene, and community education.
The Importance of Education in Haiti
Tragically, many people from rural areas in Haiti are denied a post-secondary education due to their location and economic status. The expense of university is often far beyond the means of Haiti’s rural population. With only 1% of university-aged men and women able to attend a post-secondary program, it’s important that we get that number up. And that’s what we do at uFondwa. Nothing taught at uFondwa is theoretical. 70% of our students and graduates are out there every day, learning and teaching practical skills and knowledge, including veterinary studies, that can truly help improve the economic conditions faced by rural Haitians.
Through the donations you make to uFondwa, we are able to give scholarships to the young men and women of rural Haiti, giving them the chance to change both their own lives and the destinies of their villages. It’s easy to donate, you just need to pick if you want to make a one-time donation, or donate on a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis. With your donation, you aren’t just giving an individual their education, you are contributing to positive change all across the country, helping to lead Haiti to a brighter future! Please donate today!