Saving cattle with a dip tank
By Anna Brettmann
In my Zambian village, I was known as Lumuuno which means peace. I was there under the Rural Aquaculture Promotion (RAP) Project and observed that cattle was the main source of livelihood for the people in my rural community.
A dip tank was something that my community talked about from the very beginning of my service. I moved into my new community in May 2018 and my family had 23 cows and oxen. By August, all of them had died. Corridor disease was spreading throughout my community and affected most of the farmers in the area. This didn’t just mean that families lost their herds, they also lost their savings, their financial security, and animal power for plowing throughout the planting season. The farmers whose cattle had survived were those that could afford the vaccine.
As a RAP Volunteer, I was supposed to help the community to increase smallholder farmers’ capacity to improve the productivity and sustainability of their integrated agricultural production. And so, in order for my community to find any kind of financial security, a dip tank was necessary to protect their assets and therefore their maize fields.
To complete the project, my community needed funding. The Department of Livestock was unable to provide assistance, so I applied for a grant on the community’s behalf after they had researched what would be needed to build a dip tank. Community members committed to providing labor and the local materials (pit sand, river sand, large rocks, small rocks, wheelbarrows and shovels). I used the grant money to purchase other materials that the community could not find locally.
After a little over a month, the project had almost reached completion when we got notice of the evacuation of all Volunteers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As luck would have it, in order to complete the project, we only needed to finish paying the builder and purchase the first round of the dipping chemicals. Before leaving my community - having barely told anyone about the evacuation - I went into town and made arrangements with a trusted counterpart to ensure that even without my presence the project could be completed. I proceeded to travel to Lusaka where I received a call from a counterpart. He told me that once the community had learned of my departure, they worked all day in order to complete the project. They wanted to finish the dip tank so that I could see pictures of it before I departed for the US.
My grant also covered funds to build a dip tank in my friend Bianca’s community. This community started construction later than mine, but a few months after returning to the US, we got word that the dip tank in Bianca’s community had also been completed. We were so grateful, as it can be a challenge to manage a project when one is not on site. We worked really hard to make this all happen, and had a lot of financial support from the US. Bianca and I were lucky to have such dedicated counterparts who persevered with the projects even after we had left.
Unfortunately neither of us will be around to see the long-term benefits of this project, but I find comfort knowing that there is the opportunity for the community to protect their cattle and finances instead of losing their animals to treatable diseases. It will take time for the farmers to grow their herds again, but these dip tanks should provide support to the community for years to come.