Sabana Grande, Nicaragua
Sabana Grande is a rural community situated in the northern mountainous region of Nicaragua and the site of our student-run One Health project. My involvement in the project focused on exploring how a One Health approach to community development emphasizing educational partnership and community empowerment could be utilized to develop a sustainable program to improve poultry health and production in Sabana Grande, Nicaragua. Poultry have contributed to human health and well-being for millennia and in many communities throughout the developing world, like Sabana Grande, small-scale poultry production continues to play an essential part in household economies. The potential of poultry health to affect human health can also be considered in terms of zoonotic risks, especially where backyard flocks are maintained in close proximity with living and cooking spaces. As such, there is great potential to contribute to human health and welfare through backyard flock improvement programs.
After MUCH preparation throughout the year, in June 2013, myself, a fellow DVM student, and our poultry expert (and wonderful faculty mentor) Dr.Gallardo traveled to Sabana Grande to address the need for improved poultry preventative care and husbandry practices. We conducted educational workshops aimed to promote the connection between poultry health and community welfare, and to provide information about poultry diseases, food safety, and poultry husbandry. An important theme that emerged was the presence of Newcastle Disease within flocks and the need to empower community leaders and organize vaccine protocols. Workshops also explored the potential to improve production and food safety through the construction of nest boxes and perches. Pilot models were constructed in collaboration with community members to head start the husbandry improvement aspect of the project. We also conducted community surveys to further our understanding of the existing conditions of backyard flocks and the main constraints to poultry management.
It was only with the support of the UC Davis SVM International Programs that I was able to participate in this student-run One Health project in Sabana Grande, Nicaragua. First and foremost, this experience was not only extremely valuable for my development as a veterinary professional but also as an individual within our increasing global community. I will never forget my homestay experience in Sabana Grande—my family not only opened their home to me but also their hearts. I feel like for a moment I was able to experience life from a different advantage point. Professionally, the project provided the opportunity to gain experience practicing rural veterinary medicine and to learn about community capacity development and the intricacies of implementing an international program. In addition, it was amazing to share in this truly collaborative experience emphasizing cultural awareness and sustainability with my fellow DVM classmates and the community of Sabana Grande.