The large bull was not in a cooperative mood and snorted loudly as we approached. Constantly keeping a nervous eye on the group of strangers approaching clutching notebooks and a roll of measuring tape, he jumped and charged while his owner Bhigu Konwar tried to calm him.
Bhigu Khonwar and his bull
It was early Wednesday morning in Seujia Pathar, a remote village in Assam in northeastern India and we are here with the Machkhowa Block veterinary surgeon Dr. Changmai. We’re initiating WSPA’s long-term response to the floods that ravaged the village between July and October this year. WSPA was first here in July providing food and conducting mobile veterinary clinics along with Dr. Changmai and his team of veterinarian assistants (you can read more about WSPA’s response here and here). Now that the immediate danger has passed, our response turns to reducing the harm from future floods.
Hansen Thambi Prem is part of WSPA’s team in India and focuses on breaking the disaster cycle for animals and their human communities. Hansen is working with residents of the village in a series of participatory exercises over four days. Together, they’ve mapped out an historical record of disasters that affected the village since 1950 and the impact on animals. They created a village map – identifying homes, roads, ponds, pastures, the number ofpeople and animals in each and safe evacuation routes for villagers to take in the future. They charted out a calendar of the year – noting periods of rainfall, planting, harvest and occurrence of diseases.
This morning, we took measurements of animals to establish baseline health information to compare and understand the impact of future disasters. Trying to convince an anxious bull, a jittery goat or a recalcitrant pig that wrapping them in measuring tape is for their own good is one of the more unique challenges of the job!
Hansen records health information for one of Bhigu Konwar's cows
Hansen relates, “We are working along with the community and local government – giving them a tool in their hand – so they can use it to help their animals in future disasters. If we succeed, during the first thirty minutes following a disaster, the villagers will be able to take action to help themselves before outside help can reach them.”
Diarrheal animal diseases are endemic here. Yesterday, despite the efforts of veterinary paramedic Mr. Sonowal, a young goat died in front of us while his owner Prativa petted and spoke to him softly -- hoping in vain he would recover. While stories like these are all too common in this part of the world, overall the animals are looking good in Seujia Pathar. Bulls and cows graze languidly in green fields from which the village takes its name. Healthy looking goats, pigs and chickens are everywhere. A surprisingly large number of them wandered in and out of the WSPA-sponsored workshops conducted in the shade of the village temple.
Numal Sonowal works to save a young goat suffering from diarrheal disease by administering saline as the goat's owner Prativa Bura Gohain looks on. Saujia Pathar village. Dhemaji District, Assam, India.
The community faces annual flooding as does the Machkhowa Block in which it is located. WSPA will continue working with the village and our partners in the Dhemaji district to help ensure that next time, they have a plan and a way to cope with floods and their animals remain healthy and safe.
Healthy looking pigs - recepients of food and medicine from WSPA in July.