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The KYEEMA connection in Malawi: the story of Australian veterinarian Pat Boland.
Dr Pat Boland is the founder of the Rural Poultry Centre (RPC) in Malawi, and a recent addition to the KYEEMA Board of Directors. Originally a government veterinarian in Australia, he worked for the Malawi government in the early 1990s, raising his three children there, and then returned in recent times as a volunteer for the Small Scale Livestock and Livelihood Program (SSLLP). He saw the need to focus efforts on supporting village poultry farmers, particularly through control of Newcastle disease (ND). So in 2013, he continued the volunteer experience by setting up the RPC. The RPC has a Board of Trustees comprising people from the Malawi government, universities and NGOs, and is managed by a small working team of Pat as interim Director, and Mr Luka Tumbwe – a poultry expert now retired after a long career with the Malawi government.
Mr Tumbwe – the jovial other half of the RPC team.
Their office at the Central Veterinary Laboratory (CVL) in Lilongwe is hosted by the Malawian government, which is a huge support to the organisation. In return, RPC offers support to staff at the CVL who produce the I-2 ND vaccine. RPC also collaborates with a variety of organisations including SSLLP, InterAide, Land O-Lakes, Concern Worldwide and Peace Corps, who are all working with small scale farmers. RPC’s first significant work was in Ntichisi district, funded with generous support from GRM (now Palladium). The project trained village vaccinators in acquiring and distributing the vaccine as a business, as well as training them in improved poultry husbandry so they can disseminate this knowledge to farmers as a value-added service. To date, RPC has trained over 60 community based vaccinators, resulting in the vaccination of over 100,000 birds. They are now looking to expand their activities to Mchinji district and are investigating running an ethical tourism fundraising venture which would allow Australians to go on safari in Malawi and meet the program beneficiaries at the same time.
On a recent trip to Malawi, I had the pleasure of finally meeting Pat. He quickly became “Uncle Pat” to my 2yr old daughter. With a gentle and laid back, yet conscientious and no-nonsense nature, Pat is well respected here. I think this is a result of his unique personality and is helped by the fact that he speaks Chichewa fluently and shares the distinctive Malawian sense of humour. He is active in the community and in the Malawi Veterinary Association as well as the Government’s Animal Health Committee. His attitude towards the work of RPC is that 1) everything that they do must be done with the goal of setting local people up to continue on the work after the support is no longer there; and 2) relationships and advocacy are critical.
KYEEMA is honoured to have Pat on our Board, pushing our vision and mission forward in Malawi – he certainly is a man that lives and breathes our values. People like Pat, with long term experience in and commitment to communities, are invaluable. And indeed, it is our people that make KYEEMA stand out from the crowd.
Field report and photos by Eliza Smith, Communications Manager at KYEEMA.
Pat is the brains behind our latest #chickens4Africa photography competition campaign which has raised over AUD 4,000 for Malawi farmers and village animal health workers. It has also helped advocate for the work of Kyeema Foundation to a broader Australian backyard chicken-keeping audience.
Watch this space for the first edition of our KYEEMA Kuku podcast, coming straight to your device from our communities in Malawi.
Pat shakes hands with a local chicken farmer outside his khola (chicken house). The owner is explaining rather poetically the impact of a growing flock on his livelihood and nutrition -“money (from poultry) is dancing business”. In this photo they share a laugh about the fact that although the community vaccinator (lady in red hat) has encouraged him to use chicken manure for improving his crop production, he is too lazy to utilize it in this way.