Protocols, guides, handbooks, and manuals…

Capacity building is a major component of the HALI project.  While our US partners at the University of California play very active roles in HALI, the project is quite literally managed and implemented by our team at the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA).  Through Harrison Sadiki, our HALI Lead Coordinator, and Professor Kazwala, our Tanzania Principle Investigator, the majority of day to day decisions, activities, and tasks seem to appear and then disappear from the To-Do Lists on Basecamp, all good signs of project productivity.

One of the MBOMIPA Game Scouts (Photo by Mara Weisenberger)

A lot of the HALI activities, however, are not handled directly by our SUA veternarians.  Our Game Scouts from MBOMIPA, the community willdife management organization independently identify wildlife sampling opportunties and report sample collection events to our headquarters in Iringa, where our field assistants like Muhiddin Salehe record the information and then venture out to Ruaha to trim the samples, and prepare them for lab analysis.  Collecting and preparing biological samples is highly specialized work, and potentially dangerous, as these activities are part of our wildlife disease surveillance work for HALI and PREDICT.  Training and capacity building then, form a foundation of all HALI project activities, as we must communicate new protocols and instructions not only to our highly trained technical coordinators and investigators like Harrison, but also to our community Game Scouts like Shukuru.

PREDICT for example, has prepared a wonderful series of guides for animal capture and safety, bushmeat sampling, bat and rodent sampling, and non-human primate sampling.  These guides, however, were geared towards our PREDICT coordinators and veterinary staff, and were quite frankly difficult for our field assistants and Game Scouts to interpret and understand.  With Liz, HALI’s exceptional new Staff Scientist and recent epidemiology PhD graduate from UC Davis, HALI has taken these guides and re-formatted them into a content approachable to a wider range of HALI personnel.  Likewise, through our USFWS Wildlife Without Borders program, Deana Clifford of UC Davis and the California Department of Fish and Game is developing a handbook for recognizing disease, and safely sampling animals in the community wildlife management areas for use by the Game Scouts.

Comic used for disease education and awareness by the HALI team

Developing these materials is a dynamic and participatory exercise, where we are constantly learning what works and what is effective for each of our target audiences.  For the Game Scout handbook, we are experimenting with a combination of text and almost flip-book like imagery to produce a “how to” manual for specific situations.  As part of my master’s study through HALI on calves and zoonotic fecal/water-borne pathogens, I produced some outreach materials on disease awareness and education using comics.  When we piloted the comics at a few households in October, there was much more enthusiasm for the message, and more stakeholder interaction on the implications of the master’s study for herd and household health.

Essentially, what we are learning is that we like developing protocols, guides, handbooks, and manuals, and our stakeholders really like reading and digesting the material.  When I return to Tanzania in February, I’m excited to meet up with the Game Scouts near the Mbomipa Gate and ask to see their copy of the Game Scout Handbook.  I hope it’s a dog-eared tattered mess by then, and that the Scouts are as happy to have their own manual developed with input using their knowledge and experiences as we are to produce it.

Stay tuned for the release of the Game Scout Handbook in early 2011.

The PREDICT protocols for field teams deveoped by Liz Vanwormer are still in draft form, but will be released soon.

The comics for David’s Master’s project can be found here (Swahili, English).

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