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Operating in Tandem
Chinese experts in São Tomé and Príncipe cooperate with local farmers to raise medical standards in the breeding industry
By Li Jing | VOL.10 December ·2018-12-06
Zou Rui treats a pig surrering from a hernia (COURTESY PHOTO)

Santomean pig farmer Simão Vicente was hopeful when he came to ask Zou Rui for help. His pig was suffering from hernia, and Zou, a 42-year-old Chinese agricultural expert working in São Tomé and Príncipe, was the only person on the island who could provide emergency surgery.

Swine hernia is a common disease in São Tomé and Príncipe, with an incidence rate of 12 percent. However, due to backward medical standards in the archipelago's breeding industry, many sick animals cannot be treated in time. This results in unnecessary deaths of animals and huge financial losses for farmers.

In order to assist the country to develop and raise medical standards of the breeding industry, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs dispatched a high-level Chinese agriculture and livestock experts' group to the archipelago at the invitation of its government. On April 12, Zou, a breeding expert, set foot in São Tomé and Príncipe for the first time. He will spend two years there as part of the assistance mission. Before coming to São Tomé and Príncipe, he had worked in West Africa.

"I worked in Nigeria for four years, which has given me a deep affinity for Africa. That's why I am taking part in this project. I can use my professional skills to improve medical standards in São Tomé and Príncipe's breeding industry," Zou told ChinAfrica.

Prior to joining the team, Zou was employed as the head of veterinary drug monitoring at the Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Bureau of Wuchuan Gelo and Miao Autonomous County, in southwest China's Guizhou Province.

Zou Rui trains local technicians to raise chicks (COURTESY PHOTO)

Life-or-death issue

Having asked Vicente a few questions about his pig's condition, Zou immediately went to work. However, the lack of drugs proved to be a problem.

"I crisscrossed almost the entire island of Príncipe to purchase anti-inflammatory drugs such as penicillin and iodine from veterinary pharmacies," Zou told ChinAfrica.

But finally, they got everything. Together with colleagues and a translator, Zou performed the operation on October 13. After more than an hour's work the operation was a success.

Vicente and his family were relieved. "This little pig is our hope. Thanks to Zou and the Chinese experts for their help," he said. He invited Zou and the group's other members to visit his house to thank them ceremoniously.

It was the third time Zou had performed a swine hernia operation in São Tomé and Príncipe. The first, done on June 7, was also the first of its kind in the country and big news in the farming sector.

Alfredo Delegado, Director of the Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Bureau of Príncipe, expressed his satisfaction with the Chinese experts, saying that São Tomé and Príncipe lacked practical experience in relation to swine hernia surgery. He hopes the Chinese experts will be able to help professionals in the field to master skills and reduce the incidence of this challenge. In addition to three successful swine hernia surgeries, Zou also helped local farmers perform pig vaginal prolapse surgery, in addition to hundreds of pig castrations.

Training a priority

To pass on his skills, Zou provides training to local farmers, in addition to treating sick animals.

"I hope I can share my knowledge with local farmers to really help them raise medical standards in their livestock sector," he said.

Shortly after his first swine hernia operation, Zou launched a training program for local veterinarians and technicians, explaining the root causes of hernia, surgical measures to be taken and post-operative care.

In addition, Zou gave several training sessions on artificial pig insemination by conducting on-site demonstrations at the invitation of the local Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Bureau. He spends approximately three to four days a week in each of the island's many villages, where he conducts research and gives training.

It is during such training, on August 18, that Zou welcomed a distinguished visitor, Wang Wei, Chinese Ambassador to São Tomé and Príncipe. The latter praised Zou's technical skills, saying that Chinese experts like him would continue to share their techniques with Santomeans. China will continue to support the development of São Tomé and Príncipe, he added.

Zou is also trying to address other issues that hinder the development of the local breeding industry, including the acute shortage of animal feed. Due to high costs of growing maize and beans and the lack of technology for processing imported foods, the only way to feed animals is to import processed fodder at great cost. Poverty also forces many farmers to reduce their animals' fodder consumption, which causes malnutrition and diseases.

According to Zou, the key to finding a way out of this vicious cycle is to develop local resources, in addition to using imported foods. The local approach to raising animals needs to be reviewed and improved.

"Prevention is always better than medical treatment. Local farmers need to pay more attention to maintaining the health of their animals and preventing disease, rather than asking veterinarians to save their animals when they get sick. Many diseases are preventable, but cannot be cured, and some medicines are not available here," said Zou. Faced with a shortage of medicines, he had no choice but to stockpile some of the most common drugs to treat sick animals in time.

"These animals are an income source for farmers. We can even say that their animals also carry their hopes. I want to use my knowledge and do my best to help them," said Zou.

(Comments to lijing@chinafrica.cn)

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